We have all heard it, “You need accountability” or “Let’s get you an accountability partner for that.” As common as these Christian comments are, they are incomplete.
Let’s first understand something about accountability. I believe every Christian should have accountability in multiple areas of life. We are often the worst at seeing the worst in ourselves. Accountability helps us press into the areas we do not want to press into. It helps us confront and combat sin.
However, while accountability is great and accountability is needed, it won’t work if there is not vulnerability as well.
Vulnerability & Accountability
What do I mean by vulnerability? I mean being open and honest about all areas of your life with someone or a few people.
Does it seem overwhelming to think about sharing all areas of your life with someone? If it does, that means you have a healthy understanding that vulnerability is not to be taken lightly. I believe healthy vulnerability requires two important things: trust and time.
I think that on the surface, we know that trust and time are important, but do we give them a shot? Let’s look at the role that trust and time play in developing healthy accountability relationships.
Trust: The First Necessity for Vulnerability
Trust. We have heard it said that trust “is earned.” And that makes sense, since trust must be in place in order for someone to be vulnerable enough to share what it is they need accountability for.
Yet, there are many barriers to trust. Firstly, we live in a society in which trust is often broken. Therefore, our fear factor is elevated. We are worried that others will break our trust, which in turn means less vulnerability and less accountability. Secondly, I believe Christians are also scared to be vulnerable because we are scared of what others will think of us. We are fearful of the judgment that comes when we are vulnerable. We wonder how other Christians could be gracious and merciful—forgetting the grace and mercy of Christ that each one of us is called to model.
Should we not, as Christians lead the way in grace and mercy? Should we not lead the way in accountability and vulnerability?
As Christians, we need to press into the discomfort of these fears, share when it’s not easy, and trust others to have mercy and love us through the mess—even as we do the same for them. Trust is the glue that makes accountability work. It is what makes vulnerability ok. Yes, sharing with others is hard, and yes people are messy—things do indeed happen that break trust. Yet, I believe that more often than not, we err on the side of distrust when we should be trusting other Christians in our lives.
As a Pastor in Student Ministries, I push for our ministry to be a ministry of mercy. I want Student Ministries to be a place in which students from all walks of life can enter in and be on an equal playing field. I want these students to know that we are all broken. We’re all at the foot of the cross in need of Jesus. And since we all stand there together in unity, we should help each other in community. That means trusting one another. As we often say: “what happens in that Small Group room (or circle) stays in that Small Group circle.” Within the context of godly accountability, the establishment of trust is important.
Time: The Second Necessity for Vulnerability
Here’s one thing I don’t do when I walk into a Small Group: start off by sharing my deepest darkest struggles. Nope. That’s definitely not the first thing I do. The second thing I don’t do is share my deepest darkest struggles. The third thing I don’t do is share my deepest darkest struggles.
Get the point? Vulnerability takes time. This is the reality. It takes time to trust; it takes time to be vulnerable, additionally, it takes consistency with both time and trust for vulnerability to happen.
I have often told our Student Ministries Small Group leaders that consistency is the key to developing relationships with and between the students in the Small Group. The same goes for accountability. Consistently meeting, talking, praying, listening, and helping will help individuals feel safe to be vulnerable and, in turn, hold each other accountable. It is not necessary to have the most creative questions, the greatest coffee shop to meet at, or the greatest stories to share. What’s necessary is that you are both there and you are both asking each other hard questions about life, sin, and soul.
Who in Your Life Holds You Accountable?
So, I ask you: who is someone in your life who knows some hard things? Who is someone in your life who knows your rhythms and who can tell when things are not right? Is there someone in your life who knows when you need a phone call or a text message? Someone who is willing to call you out on something you should not have done or said?
The Christian life is not meant to be lived out alone. We need others to point us toward the cross to daily follow Jesus. That’s the goal. The goal is that through your vulnerability in accountability, you would look more like Jesus and be made more into the image of Christ—and that you would help others toward that end as well.