May 3, 2006

Accountability (on purpose)

Posted in friends, reflection at 1:38 am by jimazing

Kids are totally accountable to their parents or guardian for everything they do. When they are really young, they do not get to decide anything for themselves. As they grow older, good parents allow them to make some decisions on their own or with limited input from the parents. These parents know that the goal is to work themselves out of a job.

The kids see adults as the decision-makers. In their childish view, adults don't answer to anyone! “You get to do anything you want.” Of course that is not entirely true for anyone, but it is an easy jump for kids to make.

We were once kids. As kids, I’d guess that most of us made that leap. We were sure that when we grew up, we wouldn’t be have to answer to anyone.

We grew up.

What kind of grown-ups did that kind of thinking produce? Most adults (at least in my experience) live their lives in such a way as to avoid voluntary accountability. By that, I mean that we are accountable only where we have to be. I hate that phrase “have to”, but it really is the “have to” mindset that drives what I am talking about. I “have to” be accountable to someone at work, but that accountability is not a voluntary thing. It is the way work works. My boss tells me what to do and I do it. It is actually quite codependent.

If we voluntarily made ourselves accountable to some others, what might that look like?

What if I had a friend I could go to and say, “I totally screwed up. I did something I am not proud of and I wanted you to know.” What if that friend offered to help me stay accountable about that thing? What if he asked me first? Totally voluntary! On purpose! Radical! Accountability! James 5:16

What if I had a friend, who I trusted to take me aside and say to me, “Jim, I see potential in you, but I see you behaving as if you were clueless. As your friend, I think you can do better.” Proverbs 27:6

What if it cut both way? If my friends and I were accountable to one another? What if I was sometimes on the receiving end and sometimes on the giving end?

I have those kinds of friendships and these are three observations I would like to make about it tonight…

  1. I don't have to be accountable. It is a choice I freely make.
  2. It is uncomfortable. It is never fun to confess my sins to a brother. It is never fun to be challenged that I’m not living up to my potential. It is never fun to confront a brother when I feel like he is not living up to his potential. It is never fun to listen to a brother tell me how he has “screwed up.”
  3. It is rich. It is only through the vulnerability that results from a life of voluntary accountability that any of us stands a chance at reaching anywhere close to our potential. It is only through the pain of confession that we come to realize that we are not the only ones who are a mess.

Thank you, God, for good friends.