6 minute read

4 Barriers to Accountability (And How to Overcome Them to Find Freedom)

Last Updated: November 3, 2020

Noah Filipiak
Noah Filipiak

Noah Filipiak is a pastor and the author of Beyond the Battle: A Man's Guide to his Identity in Christ in an Oversexualized World (Zondervan)He also hosts The Flip Side Podcast. If you desire to be free from lust, porn, and fantasy, you can join Noah and his team in an online small group at Beyond the Battle, or get the leader guide to run your own group.

Most of us know accountability is important, so why don’t we better utilize it? Here are four reasons:

We don’t know who to trust or who can handle our stuff.

You might feel it’s hard to find a real ally in the fight against porn, someone you can trust with your sexual and relational sin baggage. These aren’t conversations you’ve ever had before, so you don’t know how the other person will react. You’ve thought about talking to your pastor, but you don’t know him very well and wonder if he’d really want to talk about this stuff with you. Or you’re in a larger church and you’d get referred to a stranger, and you’re really not up for that at the moment.

But let’s say you do have someone you can talk to who can hold you accountable, your next question is if this person can handle it. Will it be too much for them?  Will they be shocked and not know how to help? Have they held anyone accountable before and with any level of success? Will it end up being a waste of your time?

We’re afraid of what people will think.

A big reason we don’t utilize accountability is because we are afraid of what people will think. Will you end up getting typecast as a sexual freak who people are going to want to stay away from? Will people treat you with judgment and shame? Will there be consequences to your relationships if you indulge too much information to the wrong person?

We are too busy.

We are all extremely busy. This is probably the most practical barrier to accountability. The only way accountability works is if it is regular, and who has time for that? Depending on your season of life, you might be juggling school, a career, church, a marriage, and kids, all at the same time! It’s not that you don’t want accountability, you just don’t have time for an indefinite number of heart-to-hearts with your accountability group or partner.

We don’t believe accountability actually works.

Many have tried accountability and aren’t going to try again because they’ve seen its shortcomings. It can be great, but what happens when busyness (see barrier #3) takes over? What happens when the weekly meeting turns into every-other-week, then monthly, and then “whenever we can get to it…” which is typically never again. What usually happens is you fall back into your old patterns of sexual sin.

And will accountability even help? Will telling a friend who is going to show you grace every time, who you don’t have any real relational consequences with (compare that consequence-free interaction to if you told these things to your spouse), really be able to help you stop your cycle of sexual sin?

With these types of accountability experiences already under your belt, you may be disillusioned to the point of thinking accountability is nothing more than willpower-fueled treating of the symptoms, knowing that the desires of your heart aren’t changing.

For the record, I am all for accountability. I think it is essential to the process of becoming free from sexual sin. But in full transparency, I think what I wrote in barrier #4 has a lot of truth to it and I think many who have been down the accountability path could testify to this.

The reason traditional accountability often doesn’t work is because we are asking too much of it. We are asking it to deliver on things it isn’t equipped for.

A Better Picture of Accountability

So what if accountability wasn’t seen as the ultimate silver-bullet solution, but as one important step along the way? At the end of the day, accountability is a willpower-based strategy, and we should know by now that we won’t overcome lust, porn, and any other sexual sin with simple willpower. A renovation of the heart is what’s needed, and accountability can potentially be a key in getting us there. I say “potentially” because I believe we need to get past the classic, “Did you look at porn this week, yes or no?” type of accountability toward something that brings lasting heart change. Our goal needs to be greater than to stop looking at porn or to stop lusting, it needs to be to stop wanting to lust altogether.

This type of heart change is possible. I know because I’ve experienced it, and I want you to be able to experience it too. I wrote the book Beyond the Battle: A Man’s Guide to His Identity in Christ in an Oversexualized World to help other men experience this. But the book itself is not enough. The book is only my words, and my words aren’t going to change anyone’s heart. The key to Beyond the Battle is the 40 days of devotional material through the Bible that accompanies it. That is a Word that will change your heart. The second key is the 6-week small group material that is included in the book. This is where accountability gets me excited.

Accountability on its own is like sending a bunch of unarmed soldiers into battle. Yeah, you’ve got each other, but that’s all you’ve got.

The type of accountability that I want includes a band of brothers who are armed, dangerous, and know what they’re doing. Real allies in the fight against porn. My aim with accountability groups is to help remove each barrier to accountability that I’ve written about here. Visit www.beyondthebattle.net for more information on accountability groups I facilitate, along with an updated schedule of groups currently open for sign-up.

I promise you can trust me and I can handle your stuff.

I promise I won’t judge you. And while there are definite shortcomings to doing a group like this online, one of the big advantages is you and I have a very safe relationship. I am not your spouse, your boss, or even your pastor. Whatever you share with me is not going to have direct consequences that go along with it.

The groups are done from the convenience of wherever you are, whether that’s at home, at work, or anywhere else. They also only go for six weeks, so the time commitment is reasonable.

And lastly, these groups are meant to teach you how to stop desiring lust, not just to ask you a bunch of times how many times you lusted this week. Not only will it teach you, it will teach you how to teach others and lead groups like this in your context (which is only going to continue to make you stronger). The groups are coaching groups, both for those struggling and for those who want to be equipped on how to help those who are struggling.

I’m not saying these groups are the only good thing out there. What I’m saying is that I’m a person who has been beat down by the barriers to accountability one too many times, and I’m thrilled to have found a way to experience accessible accountability that sharpens me, strengthens me, and keeps me in the land of the free.

Please consider joining me for a virtual small group, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.