Vision New England Blog


The general blog of Vision New England dedicated to equipping and encouraging New England Christ followers to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly and make disciples.

4 Hindrances To Transformative Accountability

I Can’t tell you how many conversations that I’ve been in with people, or leadership training sessions that I’ve participated in, where the subject of “the need for accountability” has come up.
And more times than not, this subject comes up within the context of a discussion about battling against, and/or protecting ourselves against, a particular area of sin or brokenness in our lives (or in the lives of others).

In books, blogs, YouTube clips, seminars, Bible studies and from the pulpit, we are continuously reminded of our need to have accountability built into our schedules to protect ourselves, to protect our marriages, to protect our families, to protect our ministries, etc…

And, many of us claim to either currently have, or desire to have, accountability in our lives (at least that’s what we’re telling ourselves).
But, “what does it really mean to be held to account, to be held accountable?”

Let me offer this as a definition – to be held accountable, means to be put in a position of having to explain, to answer for, to justify, to report on, and/or to accept responsibility for, something (or someone).

So, when we say that we want to be held accountable, we are saying that we want to intentionally put ourselves in a position of having to explain, to answer for, to justify, to report on, and/or to accept personal responsibility for, something about ourselves (our thoughts, our words, our behaviors, our decisions, our progress, etc…).
How we view this thing called accountability will play a determinative role in how we approach our own personal accountability.

If we view accountability as a form of surveillance, or intrusion, or imposition in our lives, then we probably won’t be too motivated to embrace it for ourselves, or to submit ourselves to it.
If we view having an accountability “partner” as more like having a kind of spiritual “parole officer” with whom we check in with periodically, then we will most likely shy away from pursuing this.
If, however, we view it as a protective “safety net” for ourselves, a healthy and necessary tool for our personal good, then we will be much more likely to seek it out, and to submit ourselves to it.
I’m wondering, however, how many of us are really capable of actually entering into the kind of transformative accountability “safety net” that we really need.

The reason that I say this is because of the kind of natural “instincts” and “tendencies” that are inherent within us that tend to impact many of the decisions that we make; instincts that actually work against this kind of “life-giving” accountability.

Let me share a few of these instincts:
1. Self-Protection – Most of us are experts at self-protection. It is a natural tendency of ours to want to do everything that we can to protect ourselves. We want to protect ourselves from being hurt, from being uncomfortable, from being vulnerable, from being too transparent and from being “found out”. Our self-protection “instinct” drives us to try to find ways to manage our “image”, doing everything that we can to protect what others see in us and what others think about us. So, when we think about being held “accountable” by anyone, our instincts tell us “no, not going there”, or if we do go, we will only want to “go there” on our terms. Transformative accountability, however, requires authentic transparency on our part.

2. Self-Denial – Many of us have a tendency to operate in a constant state of self-denial, denying that we are in trouble, denying that we need help, denying that we really can’t fix ourselves, and on and on and on (Biblical images of this can be seen in – Ps. 36:2; Is. 44:20; Gal. 6:3; 1 Jn. 1:8; Rev. 3:17). So, when we think about being held to account, our natural instinct is to deny our need, or to deny our level of need. Transformative accountability, however, requires an honest acceptance on our part of the realities of who we really are and what’s really going on within us.

3. Self-Diagnostic – Another natural instinct that can get in our way, is our tendency to self-diagnose, to look to ourselves to determine what’s going on within us, how significant (or insignificant) our issues are, and what we need to do to fix them. We deceive ourselves into thinking that because we actually are our own best advisor, and thus can correct our own flaws, we don’t need outside
help. After all, no one knows me like I do. God said that “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes…” (Pr. 12:15). Transformative accountability requires that we admit that we don’t always know what’s best for us, and, that it is a healthy thing for us to regularly seek out, listen to, and act upon the counsel (and the correction) that we receive from others.

4. Self-Selection – When it comes to accountability, our natural tendency is to self-select who we want to hold us accountable, at what level we want to be held accountable, and what we actually want to be held accountable for. And because we tend to self-protect, self-deny and self-diagnose, we will tend to self-select an accountability “mechanism” that fits within the framework of the outworking of these other natural instincts of ours. Transformative accountability, however, requires that we connect with someone who not only loves us, but who is also wise enough to “see through” our natural tendencies, and patient (and strong) enough to help us get beyond where we would most naturally want to “settle”.

Our natural instincts drive the way that we tend to approach accountability in our lives. And if we’re not careful, instead of experiencing real and significant breakthrough, healing, protection and growth in our lives, we will end up perpetuating a harmful behavior pattern or character flaw.

One of the life-giving components of a biblically-guided, disciple-making relationship, is the built-in accountability “safety net” that it contains. Within the context of this kind of loving and trusting friendship, we are able to put down our defenses, be transparent about ourselves, accept our limitations, and allow someone else to help us gain a stronger understanding of what’s going on with us.

So, how ‘bout you? Are you currently on the “receiving” end of a disciple-making relationship with someone who provides the accountability safety net that you need?
If we’re not relationally connected in this way, then I think it’s reasonable to ask, “why not?” Could the reason be that we have fallen prey to our own self-protecting, self-denying, self-diagnosing, or self-selection instincts?

Keith Tolley, Lead Consultant, Vision New England & Lead Pastor, Greenfield Alliance Church.