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Accountability: We May Not Want It, But We Definitely Need It

By Dennis Rainey

Over the years I have seen a number of men and women in the ministry “bomb out” due to sexual sin, addictions, materialism, bitterness, or carnality. As I read and heard about these Christians, I noticed a recurring pattern: They were all isolated. They had created for themselves walls of unapproachable invulnerability.

The enemy of our souls knows that if he can isolate followers of Christ, he can convince them of almost anything. For whatever reason, they failed to submit their lives to the scrutiny and advice of others and thereby forfeited the opportunity to be held accountable. Now they have forfeited, for the most part, the privilege of public ministry in others’ lives.

Accountability is a scriptural principle that tells us to “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21, NASB). This means I choose to submit my life to the scrutiny of another person to gain spiritual strength, growth, and balance.

Many don’t like the phrase “be subject to one another” these days. The independent, “give me my rights” spirit in America conflicts with the thought of being subject to other people.

But accountability helps all of us in so many ways. My mom sure believed in it! She inspected what she expected. When I was a teen she expected me to be home before curfew. She wanted to know where I’d been, what I did, and who I did it with. She imparted an understanding for the power and protection of accountability.

For one thing, accountability helps protect you … from isolation, from pride, from sin, from giving into temptation and weakness. One of the best ways I know to protect you from those weaknesses is to let someone know about them. Ask that person to pray for you and give them access to your life to ask tough questions about the issues you struggle with.

Why accountability is hard for men

As I have watched so many men fall prey to temptation and sexual immorality, I have purposed to lead a lifestyle of accountability. I have resolved to be teachable, approachable, and most importantly, willing to hear what my wife, Barbara, is observing about my life. The Apostle Paul’s words spurred me on: “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).

True accountability involves giving another person access into your life. You have the choice to submit to another human being for perspective and advice … or even to be taken to task on something that is questionable. Solomon says a wise man welcomes a helpful rebuke (Proverbs 13:1). Each of us must choose to whom he or she can be accountable, usually our spouse or a good friend of the same sex.

Accountability in your marriage

If you can find a friend to help you with accountability, it can make a real difference. But you already have one friend to whom you should automatically be accountable—your spouse. I would strongly encourage you to start with him or her.

Some couples challenge me on this subject, saying that becoming accountable to one another would be like playing policeman. But I believe exactly the opposite is true. Accountability gives each marriage partner freedom and access to “speak life” to the other.

Accountability means asking the other person for advice. It means giving the other person the freedom to make honest observations and evaluations about you. It means we’re teachable and approachable. We both need to be accountable to the other because each partner is fallible and quite capable of using faulty judgment.

As you and your spouse face continuing pressures and stress in life, it’s best to handle life in duet, not solo. As the preacher said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Two can always see more clearly than one. Your spouse can detect blind spots that you are missing. Accountability promotes healthy oneness as you interact, depend on each other, and value one another.