One of the things that can trip us up the most in any area of our lives is unmet expectations.
We expect to get married before we are 25.
We expect Prince Charming to have blue eyes and straight, white teeth.
We expect people to just understand us.
We expect certain things and when those expectations are not met, we get frustrated, usually at other people. They should have obviously known how to handle this situation. They should have just known what was expected of them.
Expectations can kill an accountability relationship, so it is important, before you start one, to know what exactly it is you are expecting.
If you are expecting an accountability partner to solve all of your problems, well, as my grandmother would say, you have another guess coming.
Before you shrug that off and say no one expects that, I could share e-mail after e-mail from women frustrated by their accountability partners. One is frustrated because her accountability partner is not bringing up this issue every time she sees her out and about. Another is frustrated because her accountability partner is not returning her texts right away. Others are frustrated because their accountability partners are not always available or do not know how to help.
Before you even set out on this adventure of accountability you need to take an honest look at what you are expecting. You will likely find that some of your expectations are unfair (as in, no human being on the face of this earth can do that) while others will help you know who to approach about being an accountability partner.
By the way, this is part of a whole series on Accountability called Accountability 101. If you have not read up on the earlier posts of the series, or if you need a refresher, take time to go do that.
First off, there are some important overall facts that you need to understand when it comes to this idea of accountability partners.
1. Your accountability partner is human.
She is a woman with a family, hormones, a job… she is not superwoman, and definitely is not God. She gets overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged. She says things she does not mean, and means things she does not say. She gets sick. She gets tired. She gets ‘sick and tired.’ She is a person. Do not put your security in her or stake your freedom on her.
2. She cannot fix you.
Accountability partners do not fix us any more than a crutch fixes a broken leg. Expecting another person to fix us is a recipe for failure.
3. She has other relationships.
She has social circles that you may or may not be a part of. She has other people in her life who need her love and attention.
Second, there are some things that you need to understand about accountability.
1. True accountability takes place in relationship.
We mess this up a lot because we treat ‘accountability partners’ like therapists. We just call them at 2 in the morning, unload, ask them for help to fix our problems, and then hang up. Or we expect them to bring up our struggle every. time. our paths cross.
General Rule: If you do not want to be defined by your struggle, then do not seek to define a relationship by it either.
2. Accountability is part of our larger calling to community.
Accountability is not mutually exclusive from our calling as Christians. In other words, it is not optional. We are to be accountable to each other and it is supposed to be part of how the body of Christ functions. We have to be able to ‘be sinners together.’
3. Since accountability is a relationship, it will look different for everyone.
How accountability appears in your relationship will be different than how accountability looks for me. Our relationships look different depending on our needs and our situations.
With that groundwork laid, let’s talk real quick about your expectations for accountability.
Stop for a moment and answer this question: What do you expect an accountability relationship to do for you?
Not what does it look like, but what do you expect it to do?
An accountability relationship is simply that, accountability. It provides a safe place for you to be broken. It points you toward healing in Christ. It gives you an opportunity to confess your ongoing struggle. It invites someone into your life- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
If you expect it to fix you- it won’t. If you expect it to free you- it won’t.
Can it help? Absolutely, but your journey ultimately relies on your willingness to take steps in your own life. People can support you in your journey, and can offer help and advice, but…
No one can fix this for you.
Are your expectations of accountability ones that put too much pressure on the women around you?
Sometimes, though our expectations can be more about meeting a need.
So now, ask this question: What are your needs in this area?
This is going to be greatly dependent on your own personality. If you feel that face-to-face meetings would be best for you, that can be an expectation. Maybe you do better with a more casual setting like a coffee shop or trail as opposed to an office meeting. Do you feel you are going to need daily check-ins?
All of those are expectations, and will determine how you ultimately go about setting up an accountability relationship.
If you prefer face-to-face meetings, then it might not be wise to pick a woman who lives two hours away.
If you need daily check-ins, then you might want to think twice about approaching the mom of four under four to ask her to check-in with you daily (she hardly has time to check the mirror daily!).
Before approaching someone and asking them to keep you accountable in this area, you should have an idea of what that is going to look like for her. What are you asking her to do when you are asking her to do this? Is it something she can do?
Going into this with unspoken or unrealistic expectations will only frustrate you both and possibly ruin a good friendship, so know what you expect, and then make sure it’s realistic.