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Accountabilty: a Dirty Word?

Accountability can be so painful. There’s the pain of bearing your soul to another and sharing the dark places in
your life. Yes, that’s painful, but in a healing and good way. But there’s also the bearing of one’s soul and then the tearing and ripping of said soul
by the “faithful” listener on the other end. With both things a possibility, should we keep on holding one another accountable or not?

Accountability can be so painful. There’s the pain of bearing your soul to another and sharing the dark places in
your life. Yes, that’s painful, but in a healing and good way. But there’s also the bearing of one’s soul and then the tearing and ripping of said soul
by the “faithful” listener on the other end. With both things a possibility, should we keep on holding one another accountable or not?

Since I never know which image the word can conjure up, accountability
is a word I’ve come to shy away from using much. Then I came across a
small book called The Handbook for Churches and Mission Groups
by Dorothy Devers and N. Gordon Crosby. Sounds like a boring read.
Sounds like something on shouldn’t read. Seriously, who reads a
handbook cover to cover? But this one has so many nuggets of wisdom
buried inside that it’s worth a perusal. 

In the section on accountability, which is a must for their groups,
there is the admonition that if accountability is left out the members
will start to become lazy with their spiritual disciplines (duh), and
then without accountability, they will become discouraged in the grouop
(what?). Accountability seems so often to equal discouragement, not the
other way around. 

That one idea left my mind spinning back to times of personal
discouragement because of "accountability." Times of being confronted
on my sins and made to feel small for my lack of awareness. We’ve all
been there. I even knew of a group that paid "penance" by running
stairs when they didn’t get their daily devotional in. Within a few
months, that group was at each other’s throats. Discouragement seems to
abound in the face of this kind of accountability. 

So what, pray tell,  did Ms. Devers and Mr. Crosby think they were
talking about? Well, they were talking about accountability within the
realm of spiritual direction. Spritual direction is something we as
Christians have lost or never even heard of, but listen to Merton’s
explanation: a spiritual director is "…a trusted friend who, in an
atomosphere of sympathetic understanding, helps and strengthens us in
our groping efforts to correspond with the grace of the Holy Spirit,
who alone is the true Director in the fullest sense of the word." 

When I think of being accountable to someone like that, well,
accountability never sounded so good. When I think about being someone
like that, well, the accountability bar was never set so high. And,
when I think of the word accountability now, I see how without it
discouragement sets in and with it a life can soar.

Let’s all then take on our cloak of directing others, rather than jamming them into what we
think would make their lives better, and hold each other accountable
with the grace and compassion our God has held us with. And let’s take
accountability off the dirty word list once and for all.

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Jamie Lath

Jamie Lath is a middle child that has no baby picture without her older sister in it. Even with only two siblings, she grew up with family everywhere because all her aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and even second-cousins lived in her hometown. With forty people at her birthday parties (all relatives) and her sister in every picture, she knows a little about community, and it's everlastingness. This has brought most of her ministry focus into meeting people where they're at, listening closely (especially to those who feel voiceless and like no one is listening), and helping them find God's voice in the mix. Jamie graduated with a BA in Communication Studies from the University of North Texas. Following a year of teaching English in China, she returned to the states to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. She received a Th.M. with a focus on Media Arts. Her background in the arts (ballet, writing, and acting) has given her an understanding of how creative expressions can give people a safe place to begin exploring how to use their voice and how it can touch hearts to hear God’s voice. She also blogs at I just called to say "Olive Juice."

2 Comments

  • Avatar

    Alex

    Accountability and Leaders
    I know I can’t stay strong and focused on my relationship with the Lord without some good ol’ accountablity! Thanks for the post!

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    • Avatar

      Jamie Lath

      The right mindset
      Reading the handbook was a good reminder to me that I need accountability too–and also helped me to see why I sometimes avoid it. Now I’m going to be intentionally seeking it, with the right mindset as both giver and receiver.

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