It’s a new year, and in an attempt to improve our health, my brothers and I have committed to using an online accountability tool, Fitness Pal. We have committed to record everything we eat. Then we can view and comment on each other’s progress (or lack thereof). They’ve both had success with it before, so this year, I’m giving it a shot. The problem is … I really hate it.
I hate taking time to record everything I eat. I hate that my brothers can see when I indulge in a homemade cinnamon roll and seemingly knock out the day’s calories in a single bite. I hate that they can see when I don’t make time to exercise. Perhaps, they should rename the site Fitness Foe.
So as I’ve been contemplating how to graciously bow out (maybe I’ll fake an injury), I’ve been thinking about the value of accountability in our lives. I grew up in a church that emphasized regular accountability. So as teenagers, three friends and I used to regularly gather in one of our basements and rehash our weeks before God. We’d talk about ways we were struggling, the girls we liked, how we planned to do better and then more about the girls we liked.
As I headed off to college, I left that small town and, with it, those original accountability partners. Since those early days of faith, I’ve had different accountability partners and groups from time-to-time. I’ve gone through seasons with accountability and seasons without it. I’ve sometimes wondered if it’s little more than bush league counseling or if there really is something significant to being accountable to others.
I believe it is important for everyone to have at least one trusted person with whom they can establish deeper accountability. It’s been my experience that when I’m not accountable to someone, I am much more susceptible to temptation. I am slower to recognize, confess and turn from my sin. Without accountability, I sometimes drift spiritually. Just as the old hymn puts it, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” Accountability establishes a rhythm of spiritual growth and maintenance.
The single life doesn’t have the built-in accountability marriage provides. Many newly married couples observe this new accountability as the one they’ve committed to becomes keenly aware of how they use every second, every penny and every everything. As we prepare for marriage, it’s not wise to make all our decisions in a vacuum. We need someone to ask tough questions and push us where we might not push ourselves. If you are undisciplined with your spending, relationships or even your secret thoughts, finding an accountability partner could be a helpful priority.
Accountability is more than just reading a book together and discussing it, although that can be helpful as well. There should be regular, agreed-upon tough questions. I’ve seen several different lists of accountability questions, but here are a few you might consider starting with:
1. Have you spent daily time in Bible study and prayer?
2. Have you lacked any integrity in your finances or coveted something that does not belong to you?
3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
4. Is there anyone you fear, dislike, criticize or hold resentment toward?
5. Have you damaged another person with your words?
6. Are you being lazy with any of your responsibilities?
7. Have you been completely honest with me?
8. How can I pray for you?
If you need accountability, I recommend finding a friend whom you trust. Find someone who is strong where you are weak. Find someone who is discerning enough to know whether you need a little grace or some tough love. Above all, find someone who knows how to labor with you in prayer. James wrote that we should confess our sins to each other and pray for each other for healing (James 5:16). In our fight against sin, we all benefit from having friends around who will faithfully pray for us until God graciously makes us more like His Son.
I guess I’ll have to continue with my brothers on Fitness Pal after all.