What is accountability?

When I confessed my struggle with pornography to my wife, I needed to make a lot of changes:

I sold my personal electronic devices (smartphone, tablet, and laptop), limited my access to the Internet, unplugged our television, and started meeting with other men for accountability.  

All of this helped to keep me from going back to old habits.

But it also allowed me to see more clearly into my own life. When I was constantly distracted with my many screens, games, videos, social media, and other time-wasters, I couldn’t look deeply into my heart. In that time of unplugging I had several revelations. 

One such revelation is that when I was in accountability before (managing the sin and “doing good” with this struggle), I was only “doing good.”

In college, I was surrounded by a group of peers who served as accountability to overcome the issues of pornography, lust, and other sexual sins. We held each other to biblical standards, and confessed when we fell short. When we were no longer living in the same dorm together, however, that accountability was gone.

I was on my own.

In my isolation, I was weak.  Rather than turning to the Lord for strength, I tried to hold onto the things I had done in my accountability group. The only problem was that I no longer had people to hold me to this high standard.

In my weakness, I entered a cycle of falling, recommitting to God, doing good, and falling again. 

Each time I fell, I hated myself. I felt so full of shame and guilt that I began a new addiction to electronic stuff. I wasn’t always doing “bad” things with them (just playing a lot of games and checking sports scores), but it was escapism. The addiction helped me to avoid guilt and shame, but it did not provide freedom.  

I was trapped in a cycle of sin-management.

Since ridding myself of all these distractions, I am starting to see that there is a huge difference between freedom from sin and merely managing it. 

I met with my accountability group today, and felt frustrated at one point. We weren’t talking about the specific problem of pornography, and I thought, “What’s the point of accountability if you don’t talk about the sin?”.  

God put on my heart as one of the men was talking that the focus of accountability is not to manage sin, but to help us see the true need that the behavior is trying to meet, a need that can only be met by our creator. 

This totally changes accountability groups for me. It takes them from what can be a negative, sad conversation to something incredibly positive and life-giving, because we spur one another onto more.