If you are ‘in the market’ for an accountability partner, it can feel a lot like, well…. dating.
No, I am not kidding, and if you read the e-mails I receive from readers, you would know I am not kidding.
Maybe this whole accountability thing is not a big deal to men. At least we women do not picture it being a big deal to the men among us. After all, porn is just a given, right?
Guys have it so easy, we think. There is this universal understanding that guys struggle with porn, as if it is an effect of the Y chromosome. Whenever we hear a man talk about ‘sin’ in his life, what do we all immediately think? I know I am not the only one who immediately assumes it is a sexual sin of some sort. I am not saying that is fair (because is it is not), but that is how we can perceive the male experience.
We picture men having a conversation about porn like we might have a conversation about shoes:
I have a confession to make. I have 20 pairs of shoes.
Girl! Me too!
(Come to think of it, that might actually be true for me.)
We picture that confession being met with nods of agreement and manly side hugs of understanding. “It’s OK, man. We have all been there.” Then, they all pray together, text each other throughout the week, install accountability software and ask each other tough coded questions like, “How’s your walk?”
We women look at that and think, “I want accountability like that.”
The “I struggle with porn” conversation is not quite as casual for women, at least it does not feel that way. Instead of feeling like a conversation about shoes, it can feel more like confessing to being an ax murderer. You just have to be careful who you tell, right? Right!?
Well, maybe not…
Do not get me wrong, you do need to be careful. Just probably not for the reasons you are thinking.
For many of us, our caution comes, not from discernment, but from a need for self-preservation and comfort.
That is where the whole dating mindset kicks in for some of you. You get really creative with your ‘preferences’ for an accountability partner. Maybe it is better likened to a job application.
She has to be older than, I, but not just older, at least 26.25 months older than I am.
She has to be married (because I need some sort of hope).
She has to be fun to be around.
Let’s be clear: you are not marrying anyone. Nor are you hiring them.
One of the first things I tell women who e-mail me looking for help is: find an accountability partner.
Eight times of out ten, the response is, “I can’t.” Usually proceeded by a list of possible accountability partners and the 101 reasons why those women just do not work.
They cannot ask their best friends because, well that would just be weird.
They cannot ask their roommate because she might get uncomfortable.
They cannot ask their pastors’ wives… because they might get judged.
They cannot ask their RA… because the school year is almost over and it would just be a bad idea to confess to one person and then go home for summer break and have to come back and confess to someone else.
They cannot ask their parents… because their parents would flip.
And the list goes on.
Now, there are valid reasons not to choose someone.
I have already talked about why you should not necessarily be accountable to men. Beside that, though, think back to what you are expecting out of an accountability relationship. If you truly think you are going to need someone available at odd hours of the night, then you might need to pass on the mom of 4 under 5 with another on the way.
Do not (and listen to me, because some of you do this) ask her to be your accountability partner, knowing she cannot meet your expectations, and then get upset with her when she does not. Be realistic.
And before we go any further, in case you are confused, accountability is not the same as confession. If you want to read more about that, you can do so here. The basic idea though is that confession is just telling someone. It is getting it off your chest, so to speak. I liken it to windows. You are opening the curtain and letting them see.
Accountability on the other hand is opening the door and letting them in so they can help clean.
So here it comes: the end to all excuses and a call to stand up and fight for your freedom.
Qualities of the ‘right’ accountability partner:
1. Is she a woman? Self-explanatory, and I have said it before, but having male accountability partners in this area is dangerous. I cannot stress that enough. Besides the fact that men are not as emotional as women and probably completely miss that whole aspect of this struggle (sorry guys).
2. Does she love God? Your journey in freedom needs to be forward-focused. An accountability partner will not comiserate with you. She will kick you in the pants (in Christian love of course) and help drive you toward Christ. Iron sharpening iron here, ladies. If she does not have a heart for God, you may get out of your struggle just out of sheer pride, but you will not grow.
3. Do you respect her? She does not have to be your BFF for life, a pastor’s wife or 60 years older than you. Is she someone whose opinions and insights you respect? There will be times when she might say something you do not want to hear, and you have to be willing to accept that. You cannot do that if you do not respect her.
She does not have to be older. One of my most ‘go-to’ accountability partners is younger than I am. She is a great woman, an even greater friend, and someone I both love and respect.
She does not have to be married. She does not have to have a background in pornography. She does not even have to have a degree in psychology. She just needs to be a woman of God you respect who is willing to walk this road with you.
It is judgement if we decide not to tell someone because we feel she will judge us. We have to be willing to trust God and because of that trust in Him, be open with people.
Will they hurt us? Sure.
Will they disappoint us? Yes.
Could circumstances remove them from our lives and force us to start this whole grueling process all over again? Yes.
Is it worth it? Absolutely.
This is not an issue of finding the perfect person. If you wait for the ‘perfect’ accountability partner, you will never find her. This is ultimately an issue of trust- believing that God can use broken things to bring healing to other broken things.
Recommended Reading: Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp