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Falling From Freedom: Staying Accountable

The lonely woman

“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.

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.

Photo: johanlb / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

3 comments

  1. I know it’s been awhile since you posted this, but I wanted to address it now since it’s been on my mind ever since you posted it. I’ve stated previously that I’ve been in recovery for (now) 19 years. And while, yes, some of those years passive accountability has been completely fine and all I needed, there have been other times–like now–that, for whatever reason, have required more. And it’s almost like there’s an implication that passive is better than active–that a need for active is “less than” and passive is “greater than”–like there’s a scale.
    I’m saying this poorly, I know. But I wanted to express how it came across. My hormones are different in my mid-40’s than they were 19 years ago. My life is different. And sure, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be a place where I’m not struggling and only need someone to check in with me here and there. But I don’t want to feel ashamed because I need my accountability partner to call/text/email me literally every day while my husband is traveling to help make sure I’m still on the right path when he comes home a week later. I’ll do whatever is necessary, even if I have to “resort” to active accountability.

    I don’t know if you meant it to come out sounding like that, but that is how it came across–at least to me.

    1. Tina,

      Thanks for coming back to comment on it! I think, perhaps, there’s just a misunderstanding with the usage of active and passive. I, likewise, agree that there are times when I need accountability more and see nothing wrong with having someone text you every day to see if you are on track. In fact, I think that is smart!

      Active and passive weren’t necessarily referring to frequency as much as style. I view active accountability as sitting down and meeting with this one person for the sole specific reason of being accountable. It is the “let’s set up a meeting next week, and here are the questions I’m going to ask and here is the homework.” Passive, isn’t as involved, does that make sense? What you are describing to me: having someone check in on you every day to help you stay on track- I would consider that passive accountability. You are coming up on a situation that is ‘dangerous’ to your purity, and you have notified an accountability partner and are calling on them for help. Passive- someone helping you stay out. Active- someone pulling you out.

      Does that clear things up at all?

  2. This post really spoke to me when I read it the other day. Because of reading this, I’ve been praying about an accountability partner. I have yet to tell anyone about my struggle with porn and masturbation and i just can’t bring myself to tell my accountability partner. Satan has really been tearing me down because of it which makes me wonder why I’m even trying to stop. This is one big reason why I know I need an accountability partner. I just don’t know how to go about telling her or what I would ask her to help me with specifically. Do you have any advice as to how I should go about this?