Coming Clean

Coming Clean Ebook Cover

It’s easy for accountability relationships to fail. Learn how to get it right. Take your Accountability partnership to the next level. Read Coming Clean and introduce it to your Accountability Partner.

27 thoughts on “10 Steps to Finding a Great Accountability Partner

  1. I think accountability is a crock of baloney. Why do men call someone a partner when they can just call them “friend”? What good does an accountability partner do when they just keep talking about their problems over and over again? Why can’t the person just go to God’s Word and heed it and be accountable to God? I don’t get the whole accountability movement.

    • Great question. Accountability, as I see it, is trying to combine a number of Biblical commands into a single concept.
      1. Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
      2. Consider how to motivate one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
      3. Bear one another’s burdens by restoring those caught in sin (Galatians 6:1-2)
      These “one another” commands come together under the umbrella of accountability. Friends meet together with the express purpose of confessing sin, motivating one another to fight sin, and helping to restore each other to a fuller life in Christ.

      You are right: The kind of accountability that expects no change is only going half-way. If it is just a “confession partner,” that is not true accountability. Accountability carries with it both a sense of personal responsibility for one’s sin and a desire to be challenged, equipped, and served by another person to move toward holiness.

    • I’ve found tons of power in real accountability. I struggled with pornography and masturbation for years with only “confession partners” as Luke puts it so well. In the last 9 months though, I started meeting with a group of guys that have been instrumental in helping me find freedom and healing.

      They are so open and honest about their past, their current temptations and failures, and especially their true motivation and desires. While God’s Word provides truth and challenges us to be accountable to it, we all have blind spots and struggles of the flesh that we need other men to call out on and challenge us with.

      We also need to have people to whom we bring our actions and intentions to the light. As my pastor puts it, “If you can’t talk about it, it owns you.” I had an “I only need God” view for a long time and it kept me in darkness, sin and shame, as I could not overcome it under my own will. I had to rely on other men who were also humbly submitting to each other and to God. Some people have the will-power where they feel that on their own they can simply obey and not fall into this sin. I don’t have that, and I know there are thousands out there like me. For us, accountability is vital.

    • Great statement: “If you can’t talk about it, it owns you.” I’m keeping that statement in my back pocket. Thanks for sharing your testimony about accountability.

    • Good question. As per your suggestion, let’s go to God’s word:
      Galatians 6:1-3
      1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
      2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
      3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

      The Christian life is about faith. Faith is about humility. We humble ourselves before God and others, and in humility we help each other, knowing that we too have a sinful nature and must be careful or it will be us caught in sin.

      We are commanded and exhorted over and over to lean on each other, because the gospel’s context is in community. What you are feeling is a frustration at seeing accountability fail. It most often fails because of pride. People don’t want to be caught, the don’t want to be exposed, they want others to do it for them. Honest communication between believers who love and care for each other is the necessary milieu for a successful accountability relationship.

  2. Good article! Well written!
    In response to the comment above about accountability, it has been my experience that the best accountability happens when it is not “just nagging,” but born out of a true concern for the entagled person’s fall-down. A good accountability partner for me is one who not only wants to know what is going on (because they care about me), but wants to help me in that weak place (iron sharpening iron is not painful for both pieces being sharpened!). An example is if someone is chronically late, a partner would ask, “Can I do something to specifically help you be on time more often (offer a ride, make a phone call, etc.) and step into the area of weakness for that person. A point to remember is that all personal change involves some shame, and some pain, but for the joy one must follow Jesus and”endure the pain, and despise the shame.’
    Thanks again!
    Godspeed!
    Larry Q

  3. I’ve discovered after having CE for almost a year now, along with an accountability partner, whom I consider a close friend (besides being my Pastor & he’s my age in our early 30’s), is that it feels kinda like a one way street in that I open myself up and try to be as transparent as possible, confess when convicted by The Lord, I don’t feel engaged by him. I feel even more guilty & a burden. A walking weak willed man with enough baggage to satisfy any psychologist. It’s not his fault. I think he’s unsure how to interact with me & probably struggles with commitments and time to do so. So many other worldly interferences that get in the way of walking closer to Christ. Sigh
    –Walking with self inflicted wounds
    Scott

    • It is sad when I hear stories about this kind of thing. Sadly common. I think a lot of partners either don’t know what to say or approach accountability too timidly.

      I’ve been recommending a new activity for accountability partners recently. I’m asking partners to get together on a weekly basis and watch the videos produced by counselor Brad Hambrick. They are called “False Love” and you can see them on our blog. Here’s what you can do: Get the workbook for the videos (it’s free if you contact Brad’s church), get together with your partner, watch the videos, take notes, and then work through the steps Brad outlines. Very gospel-centered. Very good content. Then talk with your partner about the subject matter. This will educate him on how to talk to you.

      Another possibility for you is to simply get a new partner. Some people only want to opt into passive accountability and there’s little that will change their mind.

    • Luke,

      Thank you for the suggestions. It comforts me to know that this is not unusual simply b/c it reaffirms that I truly am not walking alone, even when I really feel like I have been for a long time. While I don’t believe my pastor/friend/accountability partner chooses to be a passive partner, I cannot say for sure he hasn’t. He is also a man & I’m thankful he’s the most humble person I’ve ever met. With that respect comes a great burden I feel that I might be asking too much of him. His responsibilities as a pastor, husband, & father trump and they should.
      The truth is, however, I haven’t found the strength in me to trust Christ so much to be able to be 100% transparent. I still drive right off the cliff so to speak, pretty consistently, That undoubtedly is a big part of the challenge. We’ve only known each other for 3 years & change. I am not sure he knows me well enough to recognize those frequent times when I am really failing in my resistance to porn to where he sees my disappearance off the ongoing communication grid for what it is. To me, it is a complete feeling of unworthiness of the fellowship that is there. Yeah I not only partake in church activities & whatnot weekly almost, but it is then I wish the congregation was larger than the +or- 200 we have so i could hide easier. I know that is a danger in and of itself & the enemy is essentially making the best of it. I never expected to burn out of trying to keep my walk focused on Christ. Granted, I know I’m essentially a teenager again having received The Lord on 2/04/10. The addict in me truly can see the parallels to any other addiction and their patterns. They’re no different. Just different vice, same result.

    • It is important not to hide behind the appearance of accountability. I used to play all kind of games with my accountability partner, basically not divulging the raw truth of what I had done. All I was after was the temporary peace of confessing my fault to someone. Real transparency scared me to death.

      It is great that you can acknowledge that transparency is a need for you.

      I encourage you to come up with some great questions your partner can ask you that help you get to the “real” truth of the matter when you converse.

  4. I have been struggling with porn since the first year of our marriage. We’re now heading toward divorce due to my obsession with internet pornography. I’ve tried prayer but haven’t given accountability a chance. My desire for freedom fights my desire for porn. I am not able to stop. How can I overcome this? I’ve thought that maybe I don’t honestly want to stop.

    • Accountability is a critical element. If you can’t talk about something with someone, it owns you. Please look around here and learn more about accountability. See if our software can be a help to you.

  5. Luke:

    I feel compelled to share my story with you. Utlizing CE, I served as an accountability partner to my former church’s youth pastor for about 6 months. At the same time, he was also undergoing counseling for his addiction to internet porn at the seminary where he was a student. In the midst of this effort, the elders of our church asked him to leave due to ongoing problems they’d experienced relative to his performance / attitude. They were oblivious to his addiction to porn.

    He immediately began looking for a new youth ministry position at another church. I strongly recommended he reveal his addiction to his potential future employers out of respect for them and as a means of laying groundwork for honesty within all of his future parochial endeavors. He arrogantly refused claiming that he would only do so if specifically asked about porn use within his life. In other words, he was convinced that doing so would torpedo his future aspirations.

    The straw that broke the camels back for me was when he agreed to accept recommendations from our pastor relative to his future pursuits. It was then that I worked DILIGENTLY to persuade him to go with me to our associate pastor and confess. At the very last minute, he refused. I believe he did this primarily out of fear. So… I went alone.

    Our associate pastor and I had a wonderful chat about the entire situation. He in turn talked to our senior pastor. The following day, they met with my youth pastor friend.

    After that, my friend and I quickly drifted apart despite the fact that we’d both invested heavily in each other.

    I do not regret my actions. I felt compelled to speak up on behalf of the masses. Had this man not been a minister (intent on planting churches), I would have reacted differently.

    Accountability relationships are extremely difficult. I believe only trained individuals should be involved. The CE software reveals too much. People run the risk of getting hurt. In looking back, I believe the best approach is to involve a team of elders sans sentinel software who agree to meet regularly to discuss internet porn use candidly. It’s hard to lie to a group that you respect, especially if the group is older and wiser. If such a group isn’t available, I believe pulling the plug on home / smartphone internet is the best approach.

    When CE was implemented on my youth pastor friend’s devices (laptop / desktop / smartphone), we both sat down and looked for training on how best to be use this tool. We found nothing available on CE’s website at that time. There should have been along with a serious warning regarding the potential consequences of sharing all of this data with another individual.

    When you love a brother, you’ll work hard to help them. CE can quickly complicate things. Those are the facts.

    http://thearchitectsgarage.blogspot.com/2012/06/revealing-your-friends-secret.html

    Rob

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks for sharing your story. It is heartbreaking to hear how secrecy can cause conflicts like this, both vocationally and in friendships.

      Stories like your are among some of the reasons we started this blog more than 5 years ago. (Just curious: how long ago did this event happen?) Accountability software is not just a technological solution to online temptations: it is a relational solution. People were looking for advice on the relational and personal front, so this blog was one way of getting that information out to others.

      Your story also reminds me of an e-book we published a little over 2 years ago called, Internet Pornography: A Ministry Leader’s Handbook. The whole goal of the book was to talk about how pastors can and should confess their pornography problems to others.

      I agree: Covenant Eyes can quickly complicate things…for the same reason that all accountability complicates things. Transparency of this kind has serious implications for people’s lives, especially when someone has a demonstrative struggle with porn.

      Looking around the blog and our website, do you think we’re providing some decent training now?

  6. Luke:

    I was utilizing CE from October 2011 to March 2012.

    If I were to be asked to participate today (let’s assume I’d never used the services prior), I’d like to see a tutorial video embedded or attached to the kickoff email. Within the video, I’d like to see actual users discussing the pitfalls and risks involved in taking on this role. Seeing others citing specific circumstances relative to their consistent use of the system, I believe, would be extremely helpful. Perhaps you have something like this currently available. I’m not talking about counselors discussing porn use or stats or triggers. I’m referring to laypeople…attorneys, contractors, accountants…people with no formal training in counseling on camera.

    I’d strongly recommend taking a random sample group of 50 to 100 participants and having a third party dialogue with them relative to their experience using the tools offered by CE in order to better gain an understanding of how it’s specifically being used, outcomes, complications, unexpected successes / defeats, etc. I believe this would be a fruitful exercise. Perhaps you already do this.

    CE should be working to educate those INTERESTED in using the sentinel software as aggressively as they push participation itself.

    It is very difficult to watch a brother continually fail. People who agree to monitor a porn users world do so from the heart. CE should work hard to present itself as nothing more than a specific path that two (or more) individuals might choose to venture down. Where it may lead is unknown.

    Thanks for publishing my comments.

    Rob

    • Nice thoughts, Robert. We recently did an overhaul to our initial communications to our users and partners, so these ideas can fit in nicely.

      As for the pitfalls, we honestly don’t hear too many “horror stories,” per se. But one of our goals this year is to help give quality education about accountability in all its facets, and that would include the tough-to-handle situations. More times than not we are dealing with the opposite problems with accountability partners: they are too passive and absent. It is great that you were proactive and helpful. Many of our users would love to have a partner like you.

  7. Luke & Rob,

    First I need I clarify that the #4 posted comment from Scott is not me. Thankfully, The Lord has strengthened our marriage through this.

    However, after reading the subsequent responses from Rob, I can honestly say as someone who struggles, Rob hit it right on the head. The friend youth pastor was scared of total transparency. More than scared, petrified. What he needs is to feel that he can completely trust someone who he knows completely understands the viciousness of his battle. Unfortunately, the trust was not just compromised, it was broken. The friendship lingered because I think the man wanted it to recover. When it didn’t, he lost faith, deeply wounded & it yes it is very sad. I empathize with both his friend and Rob. The intentions are heartfelt & also necessary. But the important thing to realize is that the guy not only needed a partner, but a friend, who sees past his faults and loves him for who he is and that is very very hard for anyone to see…unless you’ve been in that position. I am now and I am totally scared out of my mind because I think I’ve met that person I need as a friend…not just an accountability partner, but I am pretty sure he has no idea just how scared to really open up, how in my heart I know I need to, I want to, but something like this is too personal too life impacting were I to let him in my heart & head to “just do it”. I need a friend first, not just a layman probationary officer / acquaintance. Granted, I’ve take. A blind leap lately, and met with him, & he’s agreed to be an accountability partner . I just don’t know if he realizes how close to the edge this could go for me just like Rob’s friend. I think the term accountability partner is too…formal. This needs to be approached very similarly like (I’m assuming) any other friend would get a buddy into rehab for an addiction. If you can’t meet him face to face and he be receptive and realize he needs help, true help. All of this is just a waste of time and efforts for a whole lot of pain.

    • There was a day and age when “accountability partner” communicated something both intentional and deeply enriching, and unfortunately for many, this is not the case.

      Accountability, as far as I can see it, is the combination of several Biblical “one anothers.” James 5:16 and Hebrews 10:24-25 give us a great picture of this kind of relationship: meeting together, mutual confession of sin, praying together, and sin-fighting encouragement. Combine this with so many of the other “one anothers” of the New Testament, and we get a picture of the kind of friendships we are meant to have in the body of Christ: relationships of love, respect, encouragement, fighting sin together, infusing one another with hope.

      Of course, secrecy is a safe haven for sin to thrive, which is one of the reasons the sinful heart hates the light of exposure (John 3:20). Sin does not die without a fight.

      Personally, I don’t believe anyone should pledge confidentiality with their accountability partners (as in complete, no-exception confidentiality). We already have the biblical commands not to gossip or slander (which is what most accountability partners are concerned about happening). No partner should ever involve other people unnecessarily. But if you have confessed your sin to me and prove to me time and time again that you are not repentant, then I need to follow the words of Jesus in Matthew 18 and intentionally bring others into the conversation. When I pledge confidentiality, I bind my conscience, and in doing such might actually disobey the Lord Jesus in the process.

      The Lord has given us the community of the church to be a means of sanctification in our lives. If I persist in my secret sin, then I would expect my accountability partner to bring my sin before others so that I could be confronted about it. To do otherwise in the name of “confidentiality” or “consent” would be a very unloving thing to do. Why? Because the best thing for me is not the maintaining of my reputation. The best thing for me is holiness. Yes, this needs to be done with wisdom and love. Yes, there are a thousand good logistical questions about how to best do this or who to involve. But we can’t let those pragmatic questions serve as an excuse for us to disobey Christ.

      I just asked one of our regular authors, Rick Thomas, to comment on this confidentiality question. I just published his reply today. The article is called, “Is Confidentiality Christian? – Should you keep a friend’s sin secret?” I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  8. Luke,
    Your response is not only correct, but very astute to recall when the term accountability partner meant more. I confess that in my struggle, there is apart that harbors the battle of repentance. I’m sure I’m not the only person to have ever said it but I feel like Paul quite often in my struggle. I don’t do what I want and do what I hate. I admit I’m not as seasoned a follower & believer as I need to be. Only time can help me there. It is a fine fine line between scaring a struggling soul off & bearing their burdens with them. The weight of responsibility of a partner must feel…. The gratitude I would feel for the person who is unashamed and fearless in their desire to help me..there aren’t words. Enabling isn’t helping that is true. How do I keep my faith in Christ to keep hope of deliverance? That’s the 64 million dollar question. Thank you for your reply.

    • The apostle Peter said that God’s divine power has already granted to us all things we need for true life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3a). This power comes through “the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” that is, this power comes through really knowing God in all his glory (v.3b). As signposts pointing to His glory and excellence, Peter says, “He has granted to us his precious and very great promises” (v.4a). Through faith in these promises we can become “partakers of the divine nature” (v.4b), living as Christ did.

      As I read this, I see that faith comes as we internalize God’s covenant faithfulness. We are meant to read His great covenant oaths and how in history He has time and time again fulfilled them. There is no greater example of God’s faithfulness than the sending of His own Son. As we fortify our hearts with these stories of God’s ruthless loyalty to His people, the gospel promises come to life for us. We know God is for us, not against us. We know God has adopted us and called us sons. We know God is working all things for good for us. We know the One we are destined to be like, and we know that when we see Him in glory, we will become just like Him. Because the verdict of the judgement seat has been announced to us early (we are justified and totally pardoned), we know that forever God will look on us with the same affection and favor that He sees His only Son.

      That’s the 64 million-dollar answer: we must cling to God’s trustworthiness revealed in his promises and his mighty acts of deliverance. That is how we know God will deliver us.

      And just in case we’re not sure of our own faith, Peter tells us what to do about that too (v.5-11).

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