Have you ever aspired to achieve something and yet you were unsure whether you had the stamina or focus to see your goal realised? Maybe you were trying to establish a rhythm in your life, like a daily quiet time or an exercise plan. Perhaps there was a habit you were trying to break, and each time will power was not enough.
Maybe you wisely decided you needed help. You needed someone to keep you accountable. Perhaps you even formed an accountability group. But in the end it didn’t help.
There is a problem with accountability.
We don’t know how to keep one another accountable.
Too often we use accountability as a reporting function. Henry Cloud in his book “Making Small Groups Work” suggests all too often accountability in a group looks like this: “The person shows up and reports a failure to the group; the group forgives him and then says try not to do it again.” The problem with this approach is the person is not strengthened or supported in any way, in fact, this approach can, at it’s worst, reinforce a cycle of failure, forgiveness, failure and forgiveness.
Cloud also suggests, in it’s worse form, accountability can be used to punish someone, by shaming them when they fail. If this is has been your experience, I suspect you have stopped participating in any kind of accountability relationship.
Could it be there is another way to help someone become accountable?
Rather than ask, what if we strengthened? What if rather than simply hearing or giving reports, you stood with someone in their quest for growth? If they struggled with a temptation, find out when it is hardest for them and call them or pray for them at that time. If they are trying to get a quiet time going but finding the discipline hard, meet in a cafe once a week and do a quiet time together. Share your experience and insights. Encourage success no matter how small. Keep in mind, your goal is not to shame, it is not to hear reports, but it is to strengthen and support another.
Perhaps the problem isn’t with accountability, just how we have been doing it.