Accountability has been a focus of so many men’s groups I’ve been part of over the years. We gathered together to hold each other accountable and to openly share our failures with each other so that we could encourage each other to do better.

There’s nothing wrong with accountability; it’s a healthy part of true relationships. The problem enters when it becomes synonymous with “relationship.”

By elevating the accountability aspect of relationships, we run into some issues:

Spiritual and Emotional growth becomes primarily about what I don’t do.

We tend to see accountability as a means to stop us from doing “bad” things. If a men’s group can help someone stop looking at porn, that’s great. But as we celebrate that win, we reinforce the idea that our spiritual evolution is about cutting out negative behaviors. But what if I just replace that time with video games or binge watching episodes of Friends? Those are fairly benign activities, right?

It becomes a lot harder to hold each other accountable to what’s genuinely profitable because it’s ultimately different for each of us.

What if we focus on the good we left undone rather than the bad that we do. This doesn’t mean the negative things we do don’t matter, but it’s a lot harder to hold someone accountable to opportunities they ignore. You’d never ask an accountability partner, “Hey, did you walk by any homeless people lying in a ditch today? Did you neglect to visit someone in prison today? Did you neglect to clothe someone who was naked?”

Yet what we neglect to do says as much about our spiritual development as what we keep doing that we shouldn’t. When we reduce accountability to simply “stop doing the wrong thing,” we become  superficial and miss the big picture of what emotional and spiritual growth is really all about—transformation.

Spiritual and emotional growth becomes something I achieve through commitment, accountability and determination. It’s not about merely monitoring each others behaviors.

Real transformation happens when we come to a true understanding of how much we’re loved and accepted. When we begin to grasp God’s radical acceptance, we’re not driven by guilt, but by love. True and genuine relationships reflect this love and acceptance.

As long as we define our relationships by what we shouldn’t be doing, we’re encouraging people to hide their shadow selves from each other as they worry about not being accepted.

The problem with many accountability relationships is that they lead to hedging and incomplete confession. People divulge just enough to give the appearance of openness, but they hold back the complete truth. I might tell you that I occasionally drink a little too much, but I won’t tell you just how bad it is.


As long as we don’t trust each other, we’ll never be transparent. And we’re going to have troubles when relationships are defined by our need to hold each other to some arbitrary standard.

A true accountability friendship’s goal is to ensure that we’re loved and accepted completely. We’re not shocked at each other’s inability to live up to a standard and we don’t reinforce that failure diminishes us.

Does a true spiritual and emotionally healthy friendship contain elements of accountability? Of course. It’s just not defined by it.

Instead, emotionally healthy friends help each other recognize the need for true accountability, and it’s necessity to grow and mature.They encourage each other to stay connected  so that they may produce healthy and mature behavior patterns.. And while there may be times these kinds of friends need to say tough things to each other, it’s always with a sense of humility and love.

BH/ Adapted – Relevant 

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