5 Questions I Wished My Accountability Partner Would Ask Me

I am honored to have the opportunity to serve on the Covenant Eyes blogging team. If you are not familiar with their blog, I would encourage you to check their resources. This post was originally posted at Covenant eyes on June 22.

5-Questions-I-Wish-My-Accountability-Partner-Would-Ask-MeCan I contradict the title of this post in the first sentence? #BadBloggingHabit

I don’t like the word “accountability partner” any more than I like the word “diet,” and I dislike them both for the same reason. They sound like an exception and a punishment rather than a lifestyle and a gift.

No one is going to live on a diet or in an accountability relationship. They’ll do it for a little while and then they’ll stop. We know this. So let’s quit saying it. Admission – I will still use the phrase accountability partner in this blog. I want to change your mindset more than your vocabulary.

What is the alternative vocabulary to “accountability”? It’s friendship. Every instance of accountability that I’ve ever seen endure, did so because the two (or more) people were friends; not because they enjoyed going on a sin-hunt (a concept we’ll debunk in a moment, but let’s take it one at a time).

So what if you don’t have a friend who will serve this role?

  1. Make yourself accountable;[1] which is a radically different mindset from “having accountability.” If you’re married and struggling with sexual sin, this is a vital step in protecting your spouse.
  2. See who appreciates the authenticity of your actions. People are hungry for authenticity. Live the kind of relationship you want and see who is drawn to you.
  3. Invest in that relationship you develop in point #2 in the ways described below.

The questions provided below serve two primary purposes that are not always considered part of developing an accountability relationship: developing trust and addressing pre-crisis temptation. Both of these are generally known to be important for effective accountability, but the questions most commonly asked in an accountability relationships are not targeted at these objectives.

  1. Deepen trust to draw out greater honesty – We trust those who show the ability to care for us well. Many of the questions asked between accountability partners (by now you should hear “friends”) should be for the purpose of demonstrating care for the individual so that trust is developed and greater honesty ensues.
  1. Identify pre-crisis contributors to temptation – Crisis level temptation is not born in a vacuum. Usually there are predictable things that lead to the pivotal moments of decision. Many of these have nothing to do with what we classically think of as “temptation.” If this concept intrigues you, but you’re not sure what this would entail, keep reading.

Without further ado, let’s begin to look at questions you wish your accountability partner would ask and why. These five questions are merely meant to be representative and to spark creativity (stale, repetitive questions result in withering accountability). Use them as a launching pad for the kinds of conversations you should be having as you establish lasting and enjoyable accountability in your life.

1. What are you doing to enjoy life?

We sin because sin is fun. We enjoy sin; at least for a little while. The more we deprive ourselves of legitimate pleasures, the more we will be susceptible to the temptation of illegitimate pleasures. A friend who spurs you to avoid illegitimate pleasures (e.g., sin) should, just as passionately, call you to pursue legitimate pleasures – in balance with your life responsibilities.[2] “Shooting the breeze” about your favorite hobby is not just wasting time while your waiter brings your breakfast, it is part of the accountability relationship.

2. What new stressors are entering your life?

Sin is frequently an escape more than it is a pursuit. If that is true, then being aware of the things we are prone to want to escape from is important. Often, just not being alone with our stresses is a huge relief. When we don’t feel like anyone knows or understands what we’re going through, all of the lies that make sin appealing become more convincing. Sometimes our friend may be able to suggest things to reduce the stress, but even if they can’t these are not wasted conversations.

3. Would you like to “just hang out”?

If accountability partners only spend time together “doing accountability” then their relationship will likely begin to feel like a sin-hunt. Accountability will be deemed to only be “working” when sin is found. The purpose of the relationship will be called into question during extended periods of time when our sin-of-choice is absent. The result is a neglect of the relationship and creation of a context more ripe for temptation during “the good times.” Having times when you “hang out” (or whatever the cool word is now) is vital to accountability providing the long-term protection desired when people enter into these kinds of relationships. Again, you should be saying, “This sounds more like intentional friendship than an accountability protocol.”

4. Who or what is getting too much air time in your thought life right now?

This is similar to the stress question, but does not have to carry the negative connotation. Our mental air time can be consumed by a fictional argument with someone we believe has unreasonable expectations of us. But it can also be fixated on a particular craving or a personal ambition that is becoming too central to our identity. Asking this question is a great way to help each other become self-aware of our thoughts; which is very important for addictive behaviors. Too often it is passivity towards our thought life that allows temptation to gain significant momentum before we begin to resist it as temptation. Knowing you’ll be asked reminds you to pay attention.

5. What are you passionate about in the coming weeks, months, or year? How it is going?

Your friend should already know, but if they don’t, then they have to know what “it” is before they can ask now “it’s” going. Part of what sin does is rob us of the time and energy that God desires us to invest in the things he made us to be passionate about. In that sense, sin is a parasite; it lives off of resources intended for another purpose. For many people it is helpful to realize that purity is an investment as much as an outcome. Purity is investing our lives in the things that really matter more than it’s the avoidance of particular activities; otherwise couch potatoes would be saints. For achievement-oriented people this realization can add to their motivation to pursue purity.

Don’t take the suggestions above to discount traditional accountability conversations. You should still ask traditional accountability questions:

  • Have you succumbed to temptation since we met last?
  • When have you been tempted and what have you done about it?
  • How has your time of Bible study and prayer been?
  • Has God felt more like a cop-detective or a Savior-Father to you recently?
  • What have you not told me that you should?
  • What should I have asked that I haven’t?

But don’t let these be the only questions you ask. Make sure that as you “do accountability” that you are “establishing a friendship.” If you don’t, chances are you won’t be “doing accountability” for long

[1] In your “best available relationships” (whatever those may be) share when you’re tempted, tired, discouraged, unmotivated. Do this by e-mail, text message, phone call, or in person. Don’t rely on them for the changes you need to make, but allow their awareness to strengthen your resolve to make those changes.

[2] I caveat this point, because there are too many adults, especially married adults, who are bitter about the responsibilities of adulthood and a family. Daydreaming about the fun of adolescents or singleness robs us of the ability to enjoy the fun of adulthood and marriage. God is pro-maturity and we should be too.

My Favorite Posts on Mental Illness and Medication

The “My Favorite Posts” series on my blog is how I catalog posts I’ve written to help my readers find the material that is the best-fit for their interest or need. I hope this series creates a more user-friendly experience for my readers and allows this site to become a trusted resource hub for the church.

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Tweets of the Week 6.24.15

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

“Look to Jesus” Summit Kids Releases Worship Album

This is a guest post by Pastor of Summit Kids, Josh Navey.
Look to JesusSummit Kids wants to be a strong partner for parents in finding and creating music that makes the gospel accessible for their kids. We have found there to be a very limited amount of music that meets our top 3 criteria for kids music:
  1. Gospel-centered
  2. A fun sound
  3. Easy for parents to listen to
As much as I love “I’m In the Lord’s Army,” it only meets 1 of those 3 criteria (I’ll let you choose which 2 get the boot!).  And while I may never march in the infantry, I do think we can do better in helping our families “dwell richly in the message of the Messiah.”
We hope our first full-length album, “Look to Jesus,” (available to pre-order now on amazon) helps parents do what George Whitefield expressed as shining the light of the gospel into our households.  Each song is meant to present the gospel in a way that kids can understand and parents can use as they have gospel-conversations at home.  We didn’t want to make music that pointed kids and families only to the morals and virtues that flow out of a heart that loves Jesus.  We wanted to be a part of cultivating the heart that loves Jesus.  And out of that desire, “Look to Jesus” was born.
Ultimately, that’s why we call ourselves a partner for parents.  We know parents do the dirty work of planting seeds of the gospel each and every day as they “sit in the house, walk by the way, lie down, and rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7), and this album is an effort to help water those seeds of faith in the lives of kids all across RDU.
“Look to Jesus” will be available at all Summit campuses the weekend of June 27th-28th, and it will be available on iTunes and all other media outlets June 30th.

What to do with-after a Stupid Promise to God?

This post is meant to offer guidance to common “what now” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon “Jephthah: Hot Dog Faith; Judges 10–12,” preached at The Summit Church Saturday-Sunday June 13-14, 2015.

If you’ve not heard the sermon, I would highly encourage you to listen to it. J.D. does an excellent job of developing the character profile and social context of Jephthah. I won’t go into those here. But I do want to think through one of the primary dilemmas of the passage – what should Jephthah have done with his stupid promise to God; to kill the first living thing he saw come from his house when he returned home from war (which turned out to be his daughter).

The obvious answer is – don’t do it! But how do we arrive at this conclusion? After all, consider these passages:

“When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” Ecclesiastes 5:4-5

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:33-37

Based on these passages, some people would say, “The answer is to avoid making stupid promises to God. But if you make one, you have to keep it because two wrongs don’t make a right and nothing is worse than lying to God.” That logic may be sincere, but it’s sincerely dangerous.

You may be saying, but it’s obvious he shouldn’t have killed his daughter. To which I reply, “Absolutely!” But how many of us have tried to make private deals with God where we promise, “If you just get me out of this situation, then I will [blank].” And, usually, what goes in the blank is some flavor of stupid – extreme, unsustainable, impossible, in conflict with other moral commitments, etc…

What do we do with that? And, as important, how do we prevent our response to these stupid promises from making us cavalier in our attitude towards God?

I would propose a two-fold response.

  1. Repent of stupid promises to God instead of sinning to “make God happy.”
  2. Learn from the impulsivity or false beliefs that led you to make the stupid promise.

I believe this response is both God-honoring and protects your character.

God is not pleased or amused because we’ll do extreme things; which portrays God as an immature teenage audience chanting “Do it! Do it!” God is pleased with us because he sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ when we accept his death on the cross as the penalty for our sin.

Part of the reason we are prone to promise God stupid things in the first place is because we think he’s impressed with our grandiosity. The sooner we relinquish this idea the better. Therefore, we should repent not just of our stupid promise, but the immature view of God which led us to think he would be impressed by it.

Until we have a right view of God, nothing we do to please him will be wise or healthy. That leads us to the second point. We should learn from false beliefs and mature from the impulsivity that both (a) put us in the mess that tempted us to make the stupid promise and (b) made the stupid promise seem like it would increase the probability God would answer our prayer.

When God sees repentance producing this kind of maturity, he smiles like a good father. God is not a prosecuting attorney trying to catch us in the verbal contract of our past words. Neither the mean attorney or taunting teenager image represents God well or mature us. God is a good father wanting us to learn from our every mistake.

When you see your relationship with God in that light, you will not take your words lightly anymore.

God would rather forgive an empty promise in a maturing child than the offensive action of a wayward child still embracing their folly. God is more glorified through forgiving us for making-breaking stupid promises than he is through us keeping stupid promises and misrepresenting what it means to have “great faith” to the world.

My Favorite Posts on Self-Esteem

The “My Favorite Posts” series on my blog is how I catalog posts I’ve written to help my readers find the material that is the best-fit for their interest or need. I hope this series creates a more user-friendly experience for my readers and allows this site to become a trusted resource hub for the church.

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Articles:

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Tweets of the Week 6.10.15

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

To Argue or Not to Argue: Conflict Resolution from Safe to Dangerous

conflict-resolutionThe first question in every conflict is whether it is worth addressing. Many unnecessary fights are engaged and many beneficial conversations are avoided in every marriage. The first part of wisdom is not knowing what to say, but discerning whether to speak. This is a discernment issue. If you have a “general policy” for what you do, then you are likely imposing your preferences on your marriage rather than applying biblical wisdom.

“Honest communication doesn’t mean saying the first thing that comes to mind. The goal is always to speak the truth in love with the purpose of building up the other (p. 121).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

Consider the following modes of interaction advocated by Scripture. All are “legitimate” responses to some conflicts or disappointments, because they are biblical. The responses are listed in a progressive order – the early ones for milder concerns and latter for severe concerns. After describing each response, we will provide some guidance on when each response is appropriate. While the order is progressive, not all conflicts will pass through each step.

1. Give Grace / Overlook

(Matthew 7:1-2 and Proverbs 19:11) If we addressed everything we didn’t like we would become negative, perfectionists who held our preferences and standards to be the will of God for our spouse. Giving grace is a primary way that we show that we value our marriage more than our preferences. This is what allows a home to be a warm place where both people feel safe to be themselves and make mistakes. This “atmosphere of grace” should be a trademark of a gospel-centered marriage that lays a foundation of trust for the remaining responses to our differences.

“Trust doesn’t demand perfection. Trust demands humility (p. 141).” Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?

What kind of issues fall under the category of “give grace and overlook”?

  • Issues that are not immoral (these are usually matters of personal preference).
  • Issues that are not a habitual disregard for your stated preferences (the issue is dishonor rather than the action).
  • Things that should come up in day-to-day communication (if you’re implementing chapter three).
  • Subjects that will result in bitterness or grumbling on your part if you remain silent.
  • Subjects of lesser importance than areas of requested growth and change in the life of your spouse.

2. Confess as You Address

(Matthew 7:3-5) Many things will and should pass through the first filter (even things that are not wrong). But the first filter, when properly applied, changes our attitude at this second level of concerns. We become more humble and patient when we ask good questions. The key principle in this arena of conflict is to model the response to your sin that you desire from your spouse; model the response to your spouse’s preferences that you want for your own. When we neglect this principle, we begin to focus most on what we can control least; which is a recipe to exacerbate anger, anxiety, or despair.

“In marriage you are not trusting that your spouse will be perfect, but you are trusting him to be willing to deal with his failures with honesty, humility, and the commitment to change (p. 156-157).” Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?

What kind of issues fall under the category of “confess as you address”?

  • Issues that are moral, but which were not vindictive in motive.
  • Issues where stated preferences are being habitually disregarded.
  • Subjects which are not likely to come up in day-to-day communication.
  • Subjects which will negatively impact your spouse’s other relationships (i.e., children, friends, work, etc…).

3. Seek Counsel

(Proverbs 11:14 and Galatians 6:2) Sometimes you will “confess as you address” and still not arrive at a workable solution. This is normal. Just as no person is good at everything, no couple will resolve every challenge on their own. When couples skip this stage in the progression and go directly to confrontation (which when prematurely applied is more likely accusation) conflict becomes intense. The humility initially expressed in “confess as you address” should continue as the couple reaches out to trusted advisors (i.e., small group leaders, mentors, pastors, or counselor) to seek guidance on issues for which they cannot reach agreement or find a solution.

What kind of issues fall under the category of “seek counsel”?

  • Subjects that the couple cannot agree on whether they are moral or preference issues.
  • Subjects where the couple cannot find a mutually satisfying agreement.
  • Subjects where the couple disagrees on key aspects of the conflict.
  • Subjects where an objective perspective or specialized training would prove beneficial.

4. Confront and Call to Change

(Colossians 3:16) If “confess as you address” is ineffective and “seek counsel” is not embraced, then it is appropriate to “confront and call to change” for significant offenses. The issues that fit in this category and beyond should all be moral offenses; not merely violations of preference. In order for these confrontations to be effective, your tone must remain respectful and controlled (II Tim. 2:24-25). If not, then what you are saying will get lost in how you are saying it. Your spouse should not be surprised by what you are saying, or else you have neglected the prior stages of conflict. This confrontation should follow the basic pattern, “I believe [blank] is sinful, damaging to our marriage, and your relationship with God. I am asking out of respect for our marriage that you give this concern the attention it deserves.”

What kind of issues fall under the category of “confront and call to change”?

  • Moral issues which your spouse neglects after multiple “confess as you address” interactions.
  • Subjects which are significant enough to damage the marriage, other relationships, or your spouse’s reputation.
  • Subject where, if you were able to “seek counsel,” that there was consensus on the need for change.

5. Be Longsuffering

(Romans 12:14-21) You should not race through these stages of conflict. There is definitely no “prize” at the end. When we can do so without placing ourselves, children, or spouse in jeopardy we should try to allow “our kindness to bring our spouse to repentance (Rom 2:4)” after a confrontation and call for change. That is the preferred approach to influencing a hard-hearted spouse in Scripture (I Pet. 3:1-6, in this context of patience this passage can be applied from husbands to wives without the connotation of submission). Being longsuffering is not condoning the offensive behavior, but choosing to allow God to be the agent of conviction after confrontation was not received.

What kind of issues fall under the category of “be longsuffering”?

  • Neglected personal preferences which do warrant private confrontation but not collective confrontation.
  • Moral offenses which do not put the family in physical or financial jeopardy.
  • Areas of weakness (i.e., skill, self-awareness, memory, etc…) in your spouse which are hurtful to you.

6. Confront and Involve Others

(Matthew 18:16) If things reach this stage in the confrontation process, then the “others” involved would be spiritual authorities over your marriage (i.e., small group leader, elders, or pastors). If you are not a part of a church, then this phase would likely be called an “intervention.” There are significant social ramifications for this style of confrontation, so the risk of not confronting needs to outweigh the risk of confronting. When getting ready to make this level of confrontation, the confronting spouse should be receiving personal counsel and guidance.

What kind of issues fall under the category of “confront and involve others”?

  • Offenses which are lifestyle in nature (i.e., addiction, adultery, abuse, chronic neglect, deceit, etc…).
  • Offenses which if unaddressed are likely to destroy the marriage.
  • Offenses detailed in the “red flags in conflict” section of the evaluation at the front of this chapter.
  • Offenses for which you would bear legal liability if you did not report and involve others.

7. istance Yourself for Safety

(Matthew 7:6, 18:17 and Romans 13:1-7) Each of these passages come to the advisement of creating distance after a process of seeking to be reconciled by various means. Distance is never recommended as a threat to coerce change; that either produces short-term change or an escalation of conflict and only makes the unhealthy situation more destructive. However, guilt over believing this phase is “biblically off limits” often leads to the gamesmanship of avoiding a separation for safety, church discipline, and legal reporting. Again, if you are at this stage, you should be involving a pastor or counselor with experience in the challenge facing your marriage.

What kind of issues fall under the category of “distance yourself for safety”?

  • Any form or threat of physical violence or forced sexual activity towards yourself or the children.
  • Threats to harm him/herself if you do not acquiesce to your spouse’s demands.
  • Unwillingness to end an adulterous relationship.
  • Chronic neglect or abuse (more resources available at www.bradhambrick.com/selfcenteredspouse).

This material was taken from the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Communication” seminar.

My Favorite Posts on Parenting

The “My Favorite Posts” series on my blog is how I catalog posts I’ve written to help my readers find the material that is the best-fit for their interest or need. I hope this series creates a more user-friendly experience for my readers and allows this site to become a trusted resource hub for the church.

Book Recommendations:

Tweets of the Week 6.3.15

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.