There are two critical ingredients to a good accountability relationship. They can be summarized in the following proverbs:
- Genuine friendship: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
- Penetrating wisdom: “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5)
All quality accountability partnerships need these two elements. Genuine friendship ensures the relationship will feel natural and enjoyable, giving each person the internal motivation to stick it out when things get rocky. Penetrating wisdom is what helps us to see to the bottom of one another’s hearts, to discern the hidden motives that drive our behaviors.
Knowing these two ingredients, there are a few ways we can find a good accountability partner.
1. Infuse an existing friendship with wisdom
Start with what you have. Do you already have a genuine friendship with someone? Do you have someone in your life you count as a true brother or sister, someone who sticks with you through thick-and-thin?
Infuse this friendship with wisdom. Sit down with this friend and tell him or her why you need accountability. With what behaviors are you struggling? What sin keeps nipping at your heels? Ask your friend to help you, but make it very clear that you need more than just a friend to encourage you and listen to your confessions. You need a man or woman of “understanding” like Proverbs 20:5 says: someone who can see to the core of who you are, see past your pretenses, and help you discern why you do the things you do.
How do you infuse your friendship with this kind of wisdom?
- Intentionally meet together often to talk about not just your sins and temptations, but also the state of your heart.
- Use this free Accountability Partner Discussion Guide every time you meet together.
- Read great books together about how to help one another grow in grace. Here are some recommendations:
- Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, by Paul David Tripp
- Seeing with New Eyes, by David Powlison
- Gospel-Centered Discipleship, by Jonathan Dodson
- When People Are Big and God is Small, by Ed Welch
- Soul Talk: The Language God Longs for Us to Speak, by Larry Crabb
- Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability (free e-book), by Luke Gilkerson
2. Invest in a relationship with a wise counselor
Again, start with what you have. Do you already know a street wise and biblically grounded person? Is it is a pastor, an elder at your church, a counselor?
Invest in this relationship and work on becoming friends. Let this person into your life. Work on becoming for one another the “brother born for adversity.”
How do you invest in a relationship like this? C.S. Lewis says, “Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).” This means, in addition to talking about your problems, take time to have casual conversations about a lot of topics until you find those common interests, tastes, and experiences. Get together in more casual setting to explore a common hobby.
3. Initiate a brand new relationship
You may find that you neither count anyone a true friend nor do you know someone who is truly wise. In this case, it is time to initiate a new relationship. To do this, you need to get into communities where this kind of relationship can be discovered. Consider attending a local church small group or support group. While there, be on the lookout for potential accountability partners.
In all of these ways to find an accountability partner, patience and intentionality are key. Don’t give up on a relationship if it isn’t the ideal accountability relationship right out of the gate. It takes time for a genuine friendship to develop. It takes time to get to know one another in a way that really matters.