Are You Doing Accountability The Wrong Way?
Has someone talked to you about the importance of community recently?
How about the value of vulnerability?
I bet you’ve seen content on both subjects at least once in the last six months.
Interestingly enough – science has shown the percentage of people in this world without ANY confidants (not even one) has doubled in the last 20 years. Somehow, loneliness is on the rise.
I talk to men regularly who struggle with pornography.
Each of their stories is unique, but one thing remains the same.
The man has felt or currently feels lonely without fail.
Then I ask… what have you done about it?
The answer usually includes one of the following:
-They told a trusted leader and never followed up with them
-No one in their friend circle can be trusted with the details of their struggle
-Tried an accountability partner system and it’s not working
All of these experiences can cause a lot of frustration, but I have a particular bone to pick about the accountability partner system that is so commonly preached.
Almost every guy I talk to that is looking to get free of porn has tried a form of accountability at some point.
Here are some examples:
- A client of mine attended a workshop on freedom from lust and sexual sin. In the end, he was matched up with a stranger to be his accountability partner. They texted back and forth for about three weeks and haven’t communicated since.
- A university student asked a respected leader in his community to be his accountability partner. The arrangement? He would text him after he watched porn and ask for prayer. The leader would write back, “praying for you!” This lasted for about three months.
- A friend created a penalty system. Every time he looked at porn, he had to give a $500 donation to a charitable organization!
The upsetting part is that accountability is a good thing! When it’s done properly, it can be so helpful. But most of the systems out there are so lackluster that they usually make the problem much worse.
Here are a few common mistakes that I see a lot of men making when it comes to accountability.
MISTAKE 1: Lack of Relational Equity
I’d love to tell you that you can find a guy who is passionate about you getting free, and he will be the perfect person to hold you accountable. Unfortunately, this never works.
The most effective accountability partners are those with whom you have a trust established—long time friends, siblings, leaders, mentors, pastors, etc. You’re looking for people that you feel safe with, understand how to empathize, and are willing to ask hard questions.
A good accountability partner should encourage & comfort you while also pushing you to be your absolute best. And this is most accomplished in the confines of a healthy, pre-existing relationship.
It’s also crucial that this person is free of porn, or very close to. They shouldn’t be watching porn more than once a month. Don’t make the mistake of picking someone who is struggling just as much as you are. The blind leading the blind has never been an effective strategy.
One quick side note, this is not to discourage groups/communities of people that are collectively pursuing freedom. These communities are a great complement to a reliable accountability partner.
MISTAKE 2: Reactive Approach
This one sounds so obvious, but it is most commonly overlooked. Being reactionary in general, is futile. I don’t know very many times that I’ve been thankful for a reactionary decision.
The accountability examples listed above are all reactionary. They are the aftermath. Asking for prayer after a slip.
Confessing after a lapse.
Accountability, in its purest form, is preventative. If you reach out to your accountability partner after you’ve looked at porn, it’s TOO LATE. You have a confessional partner, not an accountability partner.
Your accountability partner is supposed to help you avoid looking at porn. How can they do that if they only hear from you after a mistake?
I don’t know anyone who got free because their accountability continually prayed for them every time after they slipped.
The aim is to be proactive, which means that you are nipping things in the bud (temptations, urges, thoughts, emotions, etc.) before they develop into a decision to watch porn. You’ll see what I mean in the next point.
MISTAKE 3: Only Focus on Behavior
Let me illustrate this with a story.
When my wife and I were dating, I was having a particularly difficult season. I changed jobs, moved cities, started at a new church, and was making friends all over again. It was stressful for me, and I was weak and vulnerable at times.
On one particular day, I felt tempted to watch porn for almost the entire day. The day was capped off with our weekly date night… how fun.
There are two things you should know about this point in time.
One, I had been free from porn for about two years.
Two, my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I were working hard to protect our physical boundaries at this stage of our relationship.
Everything was tested.
My plan was to white-knuckle my way through the evening. I’d muster up enough strength to resist the temptation to cross our boundaries and do everything I could to redirect my thought life away from the attractions.
Not precisely a bulletproof plan, but a plan nonetheless.
We pulled into the driveway to begin the evening, and all of a sudden, it clicked.
I had a better option.
I could talk to her about it!
So I opened up. I told her that I was feeling the effects of the move. Specifically, I was feeling lonely, and as a result, I felt tempted to watch porn most of the day. I then explained that I was nervous we were going to cross our boundaries, and I didn’t know what to do.
The look on her face said it all: She was thrilled.
The transparency established trust; the communication gave her a new level of understanding, and the choice to be accountable proactively dissipated the temptations almost immediately.
We had a great date night, and our boundaries were easily kept intact.
I learned something that night.
I’d rather confess a temptation than confess a mistake.
Real accountability focuses on the contributing factors to the behavior, not the behavior itself.
I’ve spoken with a lot of guys lately who are finding it difficult to abstain from porn during the lockdown: more device time, more temptation, and much less accountability.
I get it, these are trying times, and many of the added stressors are driving men to watch porn.
If you’re in that camp, I want to encourage you to find someone you can talk to TODAY. Don’t wait until the lockdown lifts. Do it now, get that outlet ASAP.