“I’m doing really well.” The response had become my most common lie. Such responses are expected of Christian women, after all. The Stepford Wives quality unnerved me, but like a good little Christian girl, I fell in line. Keeping up the appearance of goodness easily becomes more important to me than being honest about my struggles. When appearances consume my life, there is little room for vulnerability and no room for mistakes, so I avoid honesty and accountability.
Yet I cling to my self-righteous appearance, lying to everyone who genuinely asks me, “How are you doing?” The plain truth is that I don’t like being held accountable because I’m filled to the brim with pride. My internal dialogue and actions are full of prideful self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, and self-consciousness. These sins are comfortable and safe yet still shameful. I don’t like to pull my secrets out of the darkness. If my sin is exposed, then I can no longer pretend that I’m doing well. My church-girl image of holiness is revealed as a sham. The times in my life when I want accountability the least are the times when I need accountability the most.
Too often, we view accountability as a slap on the wrist and a bruise to our ego, but it’s really sanctification—a push toward holiness. We have a unique privilege within the church to grow together, sharpening one another for our good and the Lord’s glory (Prov. 27:17). God calls us to support our fellow believers, confessing to each other and praying for each other for the purpose of sanctification (James 5:16). If we are in Christ, we are no longer under the condemnation of God’s wrath, so we can encourage each other and build each other up through accountability (1 Thess. 5:9–11)!
If you’ve never had or successfully kept an accountability relationship with another believer, here are some tips to help you along the way.
1. Choose someone you trust
It’s vital that you step into an accountability relationship with someone that you know is safe. A safe person is someone who won’t air out your dirty laundry around the water cooler or hold what you have said against you. They listen carefully and openly to your struggles, withholding their personal judgments and looking to God’s Word to guide their thoughts and words. But a safe person also won’t enable you or encourage you in your sin, refusing to confront you on issues in your life. Look for someone who is willing to challenge you, speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
2. Begin with transparency
You must know each other’s specific struggles in order to keep each other accountable. Don’t keep your sins vague in an attempt at piety. You are probably uncomfortable looking your friend in the eyes and admitting that you struggle with lying, gossip, erotica, sexual sin, idolatry, laziness, or bitterness. Resist the temptation to wrap it up in a nice bow of “I’m struggling” and leave it at that. The only way for your partner to properly keep you accountable is to confess your sin. Consider together what circumstances in your life trigger these sins so you can make a practical plan of help in moments of temptation.
3. Avoid yes or no questions
Yes or no questions are beneficial at the beginning of the discussion, addressing the what of our sin, but they do little to identify the why. You must address the heart behind your actions. After asking the preliminary yes or no questions, it’s helpful to steer toward open-ended questions that force you to examine your heart and motives. Asking five why questions in a row can help dig from the surface to the heart. Taking the time to talk through the heart behind your sin will better equip you to pray for and support one another.
4. Create natural conversations
Accountability doesn’t have to be intense conversations filled with heart-wrenching confessions and confrontations every single time. Daily accountability is often as simple as a text check-in or quick phone call. You may not be in a season where you have time to sit down together for hours weekly. Since accountability should be a part of your daily life, find ways to keep up with each other that feel natural to your daily rhythms.
5. Set up steps for confrontation
You are an imperfect person in an imperfect world. While you strive for holiness, you will stumble. Enter into an accountability relationship to keep each other out of the darkness of secret sin. Confrontation will happen, so be prepared to handle it with grace, pushing aside your own pride. At the beginning of your time together, discuss whether you prefer to receive blunt information or a more gentle approach.
God blesses you by gifting you fellowship with other believers. He calls you to take on the burdens of your fellow believers and hand yours to them as well (Gal 6:2). You are to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24), and an effective way to do that is through accountability. An accountability relationship is a beautiful tool of sanctification, pulling you toward the light of Christ for your ultimate good and God’s ultimate glory.
Meet the Author
Sarah Valentour is the Fulfillment Specialist for Well-Watered Women, shipping out gospel-driven happy mail daily. Living in the metro-Atlanta area with her husband, she is passionate about writing on the Lord’s immense faithfulness, snuggling with her nieces and nephew, and discovering those unique intricacies that make certain words tick.