I have found protective power by confiding in others and asking them to hold me accountable, especially when I am away from home. This protective power can come from a one-on-one relationship or from a small group of men. Several years ago before traveling to a city on the east coast to teach an intensive class, knowing that I would be staying a couple nights in a hotel alone without my wife, I asked the small group of male students with whom I meet every week for spiritual formation to hold me accountable to abide by a rule I had made for myself when traveling alone. If I stay overnight in a hotel, I don’t turn the television on at all—even to watch the news. I know I can’t trust myself with a remote in my hand and cable television available. Sometimes I even put a towel over the television or place a picture of my family atop it to remind me of the boundary I have set. Knowing that six male students whom I was mentoring would ask me whether I turned on the television or not, helped me keep up this hedge of protection.
A few years ago, I went on a forty-day trip to Africa to collect data for my doctoral dissertation. My wife was unable to accompany me. Worse, I had layovers in a European city both ways. Before leaving, I asked four men who are very close friends of mine—Mark, Rob, David, and Tim—to hold me accountable for what I would do and see during my trip. Knowing that I would be reporting to these four dear brothers helped empower my resolve to protect myself from any potential sexual temptation.
Proverbs 17:10 says, “A rebuke impresses a man of discernment.” Wise people give other people permission to hold them accountable and potentially rebuke them if needed. Living the accountable life means listening to and receiving live-giving rebuke. Accountability partnerships are not two people policing each other trying to catch the other in the act so that they can be punished. Healthy accountability partnerships are relationships of permission and protective blessing. You are giving another person permission to ask you hard questions, to call you out on things, and to get in your face if needed. The motive behind this is deep love. Truly loving someone requires both tender and tough love. A true friend doesn’t let his friend ruin his life and slide into hell.
REFLECTIONS: Ask God to show you the power in having a “band of brothers” love you with strong accountability. Consider making a rule for yourself when traveling alone to protect yourself from temptation. Think deeply about the areas of your life where you know you are vulnerable and create a rule that protects that vulnerability and tie it to an accountability partner or partners. Think of specific questions you need to be asked.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another