The word “accountability” puts a bad taste in the mouths of many Christians.
It makes us think of accountability groups, which can not only be awkward but are often havens of legalism. Self-directed personal accountability is often lumped in with this and suffers from these same issues.
But I think that most people don’t understand the beauty and the purpose of accountability.
Accountability is not about punishing yourself. Accountability is not about motivating good behavior by making bad behavior as guilt-inducing as possible.
Instead, accountability is about seeing yourself correctly – it’s your chance to see the truth.
Correct Vision and Next Steps
We have a remarkable ability to deceive ourselves, and we’re really good at ignoring things that are uncomfortable. Accountability is someone asking you (or you asking yourself) tough questions so you can accurately assess how you’re doing.
Then you can take the next steps – whether that’s spiritual measures such as repenting and reminding yourself of the gospel or whether that’s practical steps such as readdressing your schedule or changing habits.
Accountability gives you a chance to notice what’s wrong and then to change that.
Tony Schwartz Nails It
Tony Schwartz puts it well in The Power of Full Engagement:
Accountability is a means of regularly facing the truth about the gap between your intention and your actual behavior…
Holding your own feet to the fire doesn’t require judging or punishing yourself when you fall short. Negative motivation, as we have seen, is short-lived and energy draining. At its best, accountability is both a protection against our infinite capacity for self-deception and a source of information about what still stands in our way. If you are falling short in implementing a particular ritual or achieving the outcome that you are seeking, several explanations are possible. It may be that the ritual isn’t grounded in a value or a vision that is truly compelling to you. It may be the goal that you set is simply too ambitious and needs to be implemented more slowly and progressively.
And I think Schwartz says it best here:
Whatever the explanation, measuring your progress at the end of the day should be used not as a weapon against yourself, but as an instructive part of the change process.
Allow accountability to be a teacher, a friend, and a co-worker – not a harsh taskmaster.
Photo Credit: Caroline (Creative Commons)
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