By Rebecca Halton
Do you know someone with an “accountability partner,” and you’re wondering: What gives? Or you have one and you’re wondering how to do it well? Here’s a quick overview of why accountability is important, what an accountability partner is — and why I don’t think you need one:
Does accountability really matter? Accountability was one of the things missing from my life before I had an affair several years ago. I lived alone, wasn’t invested in a church, and otherwise didn’t have to account for certain choices — to anyone. That made it easier to keep secrets. Whether you feel like it or not, it’s wise to have accountability in your life. And not just to avoid risky behavior and foolish choices, but to encourage healthy choices and positive growth, too.
When I consider the consequences and effects of my actions and choices, I’m surer than ever that accountability can be a great guardrail in our lives.
What’s an “accountability partner”? “Accountability partner” has become a catchphrase in Christianity. Kind of like life coaches in Hollywood. But the intention is for it to be more than a catchphrase, title, or trend: an accountability partner is supposed to be someone with whom you can be transparent about your life. Someone whom you confide in, and someone who prays for you, or even checks in with you — to see how you’re coming along with overcoming a certain sin. Like a friend with a unique backstage pass.
I had an accountability partner for years. We diligently exchanged accountability e-mails, would pray with and for each other during scheduled Skype dates, and more.
The problem with an accountability partner: My accountability partner was one of my best friends. That is, until we broke up last year. It was sad and difficult, but in many ways necessary. At times it was difficult to differentiate between just enjoying our friendship, and “being” accountability partners. I struggled with idolizing her at times, running to her for advice or prayer before (or instead of) going to God myself. There wasn’t anyone else with whom I’d built that trust, at times even God.
“Putting all our eggs in one accountability basket” also put a lot of pressure on the relationship. (In hindsight, we didn’t make certain allowances for how the relationship needed to change altogether — or how we had changed as people.)
Alternatives to an accountability partner: Yes, I highly recommend having accountability in your life — whether you are trying to reach a goal weight, avoid an adulterous relationship, or anything in between. But I don’t recommend having an accountability partner. Instead, have more than one. Develop multiple — specific — relationships that help hold you accountable, and diversify the types of accountability mechanisms you “install” in your life.
Rather than expect one person to hold you accountable for any- and everything going on in your life, identify key people who can support you with key issues. These supplemental forms of accountability don’t have to be expensive or hyper-spiritual, but ideally these are people who have a preexisting (positive) reputation and interest in the same areas with which you’re struggling.
- Sometimes it’s simply giving my word. It doesn’t even have to be an “official accountability partner”. Just yesterday, I left a voicemail with a receptionist that I would be at last night’s fitness class. And I immediately felt more motivated to actually go.
- I’ve also started taking advantage of my gym’s training classes. They’re included with membership, unlimited, and include goal-setting with the fitness instructor. (If you’re a member of a Planet Fitness, too, check ‘em out!)
- My friend & Beach Body Coach Jessica Baumgardner helps hold me accountable, too. I order Shakeology through her, and even though I haven’t yet incorporated Beach Body workouts into my routine, she faithfully checks in as a courtesy and encouragement.
- In business, I look to other business-owners for accountability. I periodically meet with a mentor for coffee and “check-ups” on projects and progress. And online communities like Sandi Krakowski’s Inner Circle can be great for general accountability.
- I’ve also used settingcaptivesfree.com, to help me confront my struggle with emotional eating. Though it’s not the only option, it is one of the only ones I’ve seen that matches you with a personal accountability partner, for anything from porn to smoking.
- Ministries like xxxchurch.com also have apps you can easily download (for free, or affordably). They help monitor and deter certain Internet activity, and the right kind of banking or financial app can help track and alert you to overspending.
To be clear, I do still have people that I specifically and most-transparently confide in. But I’ve become much more intentional about not overloading any one relationship with unrealistic expectations. I’ve also learned that accountability is much simpler in its many forms. I’m also not minimizing the importance of getting help for significant struggles. Consider that your best option may in fact be counseling or a professionally supervised support group.
And remember, that it ultimately boils down to you. Accountability is meant to be a motivator (or a deterrent) — it’s not an enforcer that makes you make the right choices. You can have 100 accountability partners and thousands of accountability mechanisms — but if you don’t make choices that convert motivation into action, you won’t reap the benefits of positive change.
Your Turn! Share in the comments section a simple, effective accountability mechanism you have in your life — or a lesson you’ve learned about accountability partners! The conversation can also continue over at Facebook.com/ConnectWithRebecca!