The Importance of Accountability

Is accountability powerful enough to help change a heart? Sixteen years ago, Covenant Eyes was founded by two individuals on the simple premise that it is, and today the company has a team of over 150 people who base their work and livelihood on this very idea. We believe in the importance of accountability and the power of honest conversation.

Some people still haven’t been convinced their “private” porn problem merits the “not-so-private” solution of accountability. Inaccurate ideas of what accountability really is, bad past experiences, or just plain old fear stop those struggling with porn from bringing their battle to the attention of a friend. They may think accountability has some value, but they don’t understand the deep importance of accountability in bringing about lasting life change.

“I have talked to hundreds of addicts, spouses of addicts and parents, and the majority of them would have told you accountability is a good idea, but they saw accountability in their life as a last resort, not a lifestyle,” said author and speaker Luke Gilkerson at the Set Free Summit.  “We cannot tell people to do accountability until we have a firm idea of what it is and how to do it.”

The Importance of Accountability

In this short video from the Set Free Summit, Luke conveys a compelling description of what accountability is and why it’s important. Take a look.

As Luke said, “We are created for community. We were redeemed in community. We will be glorified in community. Therefore, we are going to be sanctified in community.” Accountability matters.

Let’s build out the importance of accountability a little further.

God Knows Us Fully, Isn’t This Accountability Enough?

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (Emphasis mine)

Ready for a wake-up call? Fully known is the only perspective God has. In their book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart say, “God’s knowledge of us is immediate–full and direct, face to face…”

God sees us through and through. Every thought. Every inclination. Every bent of our heart.

Can I venture to say most Christians often forget this truth? Instead, many believe the fallacy of secrecy, even though various Scriptures clearly point to an all seeing, all knowing Father (Proverbs 5:21, Psalm 33:13-14, Hebrews 4:13, among others).

In May, we received this comment on our blog, 10 Reasons Why Accountability Is Unpopular in the Church

Authentic Christians don’t need an accountability partner because we already have the best dwelling inside us. If you listen to Jesus, through your Holy Spirit, you will never choose the wrong path….If Jesus could do nothing on His own, how can we think we know how to do things better than Him? This is why we turn control of our lives over to Him and that eliminates the ‘need’ for an accountability partner.

Jesus is definitely what we need. But, being “in Christ” does not eliminate the importance of earthly accountability. 

The Importance of Accountability with Another Person

For most Christians, understanding that God is fully knowing just isn’t tangible enough to hold them accountable for what they say and do. On the other hand, that “thing” that you might struggle with is tangible. It’s right in front of you. Sometimes, the empty promises offered by addiction seem far more real and frankly, more satisfying, than a promise from Scripture.

Dr. Kenneth Boa writes, “Our ability to embed ourselves within the impenetrable shell of rationalization, projection and denial is nothing short of amazing….An entire field of social psychology–the study of ‘cognitive dissonance’–is based on our limitless ability to rationalize what we do and say. That being the case, we all need people who will help us protect ourselves from ourselves and the desires of our own hearts.”

It’s impossible to be fully known on this side of heaven, but an accountable relationship can point us towards the light. Consistently. Lovingly. Directly (if necessary).

According to pastor and author Timothy Keller:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Accountability is important because “one another” trumps “one.”

This could also be said as “we” trumps “just me.”  In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” There are 59 “one another” statements in the New Testament. Scripture begs us to “do” things towards and with other people.

  • To be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • To wash one another’s feet (John 13:14)
  • To love one another (over and over and over)
  • To live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
  • To have equal concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
  • To bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:12)

Pastor and author Andy Stanley also says, “The primary activity of the [early] church was one-anothering one another.”

Jesus Christ modeled “one-anothering” in his earthly ministry. Not because He needed accountability, but because by doing life with 12 brothers, He showed us how to live openly and in community. He showed us the importance of accountability. The Trinity is founded on the “one another” principle. We are inherently stronger when we are locked together.

In our free e-book, Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability, author Luke Gilkerson says, “[Accountability] means really getting to know one another. It means not just confessing surface-level stuff, but helping one another to see underlying motivations. It means hearing one another’s stories and spending time together. It means helping one another tap into godly motives for Christian living.”

Accountability is important because speaking trumps silence.

There is power in spoken words. When our thoughts become words, or we are listening to words from someone else, our brain kicks into high gear. University College London did extensive analysis of how the brain processes spoken words. The scientists discovered that our brains can magically isolate language from other sounds and usher it to the “primary auditory cortex” where it is assigned meaning.

In Romans 10:9, we read, “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I’ve never been a big fan of the “bow your heads and raise your hand to accept Jesus into your hearts” approach to salvation. I just don’t see it modeled anywhere in Scripture. Words matter! All form and matter came into existence because God spoke.

Having genuine and straightforward conversation with an accountability partner is sweet therapy for a dry, empty soul. This type of conversation doesn’t just land in our brain. It lifts heavy burdens from our hearts.

Accountability is important because light trumps darkness.

Speaking openly with an accountability partner keeps our secrets out in the open. It crushes the fallacy of secrecy. In darkness, sin rules us. But, in the light, sin shrivels. Nothing beats the light.

Ephesians 5:6-9 tells us, “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” (Emphasis mine)

Darkness isn’t a wave or a particle. It isn’t a “thing.” It’s simply the absence of light. Human vision is diminished as light is decreased. We are unable to distinguish color. What a befitting metaphor for what happens to our spiritual discernment while under the cover of sin.

An accountable relationship with another Jesus-loving brother or sister is a warm LED flashlight to the soul. It calls us up to the light and out of the darkness.

Can Accountability Really Change a Heart?

We believe it can, and we’ve seen it happen in so many Covenant Eyes users. This is why we believe so strongly in the importance of accountability. But you’re never going to know for yourself until you give it a try.

Overcome Porn: The 40 Day Challenge is an easy way for you to begin this accountability journey with a trusted friend. It’s a focused, step-by-step e-mail series designed to help you put porn behind you forever. Here’s how it works. Each day you’ll receive an e-mail with:

  • Gospel-centered articles to educate and encourage you on the road to freedom
  • Exclusive video content
  • Practical action steps to retrain your brain
  • And more!

Talk with a trusted friend, signup for the challenge, and start your journey together to overcome porn.