People talk a lot about accountability, but I often wonder how many of them could define it. As counselors, we frequently hear people say they need accountability in their lives. Whether they’re grappling with drinking, infidelity, overworking, dieting, or pornography, they say things like, “If I just had someone to keep me accountable, it wouldn’t happen again.” It’s especially prevalent in troubled marriages, particularly among men.
In simple terms, accountability is a protective measure. We call it that because it helps us protect ourselves from actions we’re likely to regret. To be effective, accountability requires the involvement of other people. Whether it’s a friend who has our best interests at heart, regular attendance at church, active participation in a small group at church, shared prayer, or even maintaining mindfulness in our marriage, accountability uses connections with others to help us become our best.
Some people are threatened by accountability, particularly men who have been raised to believe that independence and self-reliance are signs of masculinity. They don’t want to find that they “need” other men to help them get through life, and if those other men are part of their lives, they resist sharing anything that make them feel vulnerable and transparent.
Yet God expects us to hold each other accountable. There are plenty of examples in Scripture, beginning with the basic commandment to love each other in John 15:17. In Galatians, we’re told to “serve one another in love” (5:13) and “carry each other’s burdens” (6:2), while Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “be kind and compassionate to one another.” James 5:16 addresses accountability head-on by directing us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other,” while I Thessalonians 5:11 urges us to “encourage one another and build each other up.”
So accountability is something for men (and women) to embrace and treasure, instead of fear. As you become more accountable, you’ll discover that you view life in different ways, paying closer attention to your thoughts, your actions, and your behavior. As you speak honestly with others, you’ll discover that you’re not alone in your doubts and struggles, and instead of silently beating yourself up, you’ll work together to overcome problems.
How can you find the person or people who will help you become accountable? Prayer is a great way to start. Ask God to reveal people who can work with you. Get to know the people in your small group or Bible study at a deeper level by having conversations about something other than sports or the weather. You’ll discover people you trust and respect, and who regard you the same way. The more you talk together, the easier — and more powerful — accountability will become.
Struggling to understand accountability? One of our counselors can help you explore the roadblocks and misconceptions that are getting in the way, and help you find the accountability you crave.