When Trisha and I first got married and entered ministry in 1995, I prided myself on being a person that was accountable. I was accountable in my choices: I wouldn’t counsel with a woman behind a closed office door; I wouldn’t give a teenage girl a ride home from church without another person in the car. I wouldn’t do lunch with a female without my wife or another male at the lunch. At all costs I wanted to be accountable.
When we started the church in 2002, I knew that accountability would be of utmost importance. I sought out a guy in our core group and asked him if we could meet each Wednesday morning to “hold each other accountable.” As a church planter, I had a church planting coach. He and I would meet every Thursday morning and he would ask me questions about my relationship with God. He would ask me questions about my marriage, my struggles, my weaknesses. He wanted to hold me accountable. I had a group of Elders that I met with once a month that were the spiritual leaders of our church, and I was accountable to them.
So with all of these boundaries and all of these safe guards and all of these great leaders and friends holding me accountable how could I ever be unfaithful to God and my wife? That’s not possible right? But I was unfaithful, despite all of my accountability.
What I have discovered is accountability is useless.
Accountability is only as valuable as the transparency you and I offer in the context of that accountability.
We have a unique ability as humans to BS each other. It is easy for me to fake you out. It is easy for you to lie to my face. It is easy to pretend like your marriage is better than it really is. It is easy to offer just enough accountability to make yourself look spiritual. At the same time that partial accountability can be so dangerous because you are not only fooling me, you are fooling yourself.
The truth is you and I can meet every Wednesday and I can lie to you. The truth is that you can have several circles of accountability and unless you are 100% transparent in at least one of those circles, implosion is on the horizon.
I am not saying you should be 100% transparent with everyone, but I am saying you should be 100% transparent with someone. I have two people in my life that if I am asked a question I give 100% of the truth; I withhold nothing. I know if I am struggling or need to confess something, or am in a dark place, I can share that with these two people.
One of the biggest mistakes I made in my life, my marriage and my ministry is I substituted accountability for transparency. Accountability without transparency is useless. It is easier in the short term to offer accountability and it seems more spiritual…but you experience more of the grace and mercy and love of Christ when you offer transparency.
In fact, when you are willing to offer transparency, you will find you don’t need to be “held accountable.”