“Jessica, do you still have an accountability partner?”
It’s one of the most common questions I am asked, and the answer is yes, but not in the way that you may think.
When we think of accountability partners, many of us have this mental picture of active accountability. In fact, I encourage active accountability for someone trying to break free from pornography. However, after there is an established walk in freedom, you can switch to passive accountability.
What’s the difference? Glad you asked.
Active accountability is an in-your-face, focused approach to accountability.
The accountability partner is chosen for that specific reason. Their only ‘assignment’ is to be an accountability partner. That is their job. Every time contact is made, it is for the express purpose of accountability.
This is the intensive, weekly meetings, e-mail follow-ups, etc. This is the random texts asking questions about your thought life. This is working through a Bible study about lust together.
In my humble opinion, this isn’t how it was supposed to be. If you think about it, active accountability is putting out a fire after it’s already burned down half the house. It’s high-pressure, high-stress, high-stakes, and many times frustrates both the woman seeking accountability and the woman who agreed to help.
Active accountability is very results-focused. If I choose an accountability partner and task her with the job of helping me break free and I don’t, she’s going to feel like a failure, and I’m going to be disappointed, either in her or myself. Then, whenever I’m free or she’s finished, the relationship ends… and usually the house catches fire again.
Now, active accountability is necessary because we have entire neighborhoods of half-burnt houses. We need fires put out, but I don’t think we would be here if we knew how to do passive accountability.
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Dealing with sin is frankly, part of life, and should be part of our lives. It should come up in friendships, just like dating, career, dreams, hopes, desires, come up in friendship. As a sister in Christ, it is part of my calling in life to help my brothers and sisters battle sin in whatever way I can.
What has happened is we’ve bought into this lie that Christians are supposed to be perfect. So, we’re really good at throwing the book at each other, judging each other, and hiding our own pain and need. Then the walls start caving in around us, and we still put on the face acting like life is just perfect because we have Jesus. Eventually, some of us will kill our pride enough to ask for help, others will not.
Passive accountability is different. It doesn’t put out fires. It stops the fires from happening.
It is preventative maintenance. It is doing life together the way it was supposed to be done.
I do not have an accountability partner in the sense that I don’t have one woman in my life who is only concerned about my struggles with lust. There is no one working through a Bible study with me, no one e-mailing me daily checking up on my thought life, no one taking me out for coffee every week asking me if I’ve stumbled. But I am accountable.
I don’t have accountability partners; I have friends. I have two women in particular who I am very open with about temptations and struggles. They are willing to talk about sex and lust if we need to, but if not, we’re talking about life. They don’t bring it up unless I bring it up, and I don’t bring it up unless I need to.
It’s one of the ways you move on. You can’t move on acting like it never happened. Your struggle has changed you. You also can’t move on expecting it to happen again. That’s exactly what happens when you have one person in your life who is more obsessed about your past than you are.
As you walk forward in freedom, you will find yourself naturally transition from active to passive accountability. It is important that you do stay accountable. Don’t buy into the lie that you don’t need to worry about it anymore, because you do need to keep the light shining on that area of your life. Keep the door open and the curtain drawn, so to speak.
It will require honesty and initiative on your part because people aren’t going to be asking you. It will cause you to become more aware of situations that could cause you to stumble. You never get rid of accountability altogether. Keep the safeguards up if you need them. Have accountability software if you need it. But you won’t always need someone ‘in your face’ badgering you about your internet habits. Move on.
Part of walking in freedom, I feel, is redefining yourself. You aren’t a porn addict. You aren’t even a former porn addict. You are a person, and you need people, not so that they can keep tabs on you and ask you awkward questions, but so they can do life with you, and you with them. That’s what the body of Christ is about- we do life together; we grow together; we sharpen each other; we keep each other accountable.