How do you be an accountability partner to your brothers and sisters without pushing your own personal convictions on others? I’ve recently had this problem with friends pushing their convictions on me when I feel no conviction at all. I know they mean the best, but it’s getting to the points where I’m angry and upset at them and that’s where I’m feeling conviction because then I talk ill of them and I don’t want my bitterness to grow. How does someone handle a situation like this?
This is an excellent question, so let’s define what an accountability partner CAN do and can NOT do.
An accountability partner CAN —
1) Count on each other to say the hard thing, graciously.
2) Ask each other questions about how it’s been going.
3) Share without shame.
An accountability partner can NOT —
1) Judge your motives; they can only ask, and then trust.
2) Allow sin to be the focus, or the friendship will become an interrogation.
3) Coerce or guilt-trip into change, or it will only be temporary and filled with resentment.
While I’m probably missing some things, in your case they might be trying to coerce you. So ask your friends what their motives are. Whether their motives are actually good or bad, just tell them your feelings about their methods. Unless you’re doing black tar heroin or punching children, let them know you appreciate their convictions, but guilt-trips/manipulation/conformity will not work. They need to know that your walk with the Lord is your walk with the Lord, and you need encouragement, not pushiness.
A word on accountability: The big danger I’ve found with “accountability partners” is that they can become sin-inspectors and start looking for flaws at every chance, which end up filtering every action with a negative magnifying glass. This ruins the friendship forever. I would know because I lost friendships this way.
The thing is, accountability needs to happen with an established friendship that already began with trust. In other words, you can’t point at a fellow Christian and say, “Keep me accountable!” — because accountability grows out of a friendship first. Otherwise, calling each other out will feel like a personal attack.
And accountability always has to be secondary to friendship. In other words, it can’t always be about getting together to point out sin. Even counseling and mentoring and discipleship needs some “normal-fun-people-time” or you’ll go crazy. If you’re only getting together for introspection, you’ll begin to dread being near the person.
Please don’t hear me saying that accountability is always comfortable. At times your feelings will be hurt because no one likes the hard truth, but “wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6).
Of course, you’ll want to be intentional in your friendship about these things. Be prayerful and always be compassionate when you rebuke or receive rebuke. The cornerstone of every strong friendship is the degree to which you can feel safe to tell the truth, both about yourself and about the other person. I preached a sermon on that here.
I’ll leave you with a quote about accountability and why ultimately the Gospel needs to be the driving force here.
The reason I hate the kind of group described above [for accountability] is that their focus is primarily (almost exclusively, in my experience) on our sin, and not on our Savior. Because of this, these groups breed self-righteousness, guilt, and the almost irresistible temptation to pretend — to be less than honest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in accountability groups where there has been little to no attention given to the gospel whatsoever. There’s no reminder of what Christ has done for our sin — cleansing us from its guilt and power — and the resources that are already ours by virtue of our union with him. These groups produce a “do more, try harder” moralism that robs us of the joy and freedom Jesus paid dearly to secure for us. They start with the narcissistic presupposition that Christianity is all about cleaning up and getting better — it’s all about personal improvement. But that’s not Christianity!
— Tullian Tchividjian
3 thoughts on “Question: Disagreeing With Your Accountability Partner”
As usual a helpful response. And for me (without coercing anyone!) the key is in the quote. Focus on Jesus. Love comes from and points to Jesus. Human opinion focuses on the “assessor” and the “object” of the assessment.
Sadly too many do not see “accountability” as an opportunity to love like Jesus. They should be accountable for that.
Yes, I keep hearing these horror stories on accountability and how badly they go wrong. The reason is always the same: it was never centered on Christ.