Accountability is really really hard.
I still remember the first few times my small group leader unsuccessfully asked the group to confess their sins for the week. A deathly silence followed these attempts as we all stared at each other and wondered if any of us would break the Mexican standoff and admit they did bad things that week. My leader would then try to break the ice with his sins that week and even that didn’t work.
None of us wanted to become vulnerable and risk the rejection of each other. This fun little practice continued for the first couple months that we met. Finally, my leader confronted us with the option of being accountable to the whole group or pairing up into accountability partners. We all quickly chose the second option.
I still remember the first breakfast with my accountability partner in which we talked about pretty much everything possible until I crafted a beautiful segue that involved the phrase ‘I guess’ and the word ‘stuff’. I am pretty sure I whispered the word pornography a few minutes later as well. On a side note, it is a good idea to avoid speaking that word too loudly while sitting next to the checkout line at a coffee shop.
There is nothing beautiful or funny about the awkward silence that follows that mistake.
Back to my point, I found the ordeal of confessing my sins very uncomfortable. The first time I did it, and each time I do it again, I get a little drop in my stomach like I just looked over a cliff. I worry that the person I’m telling will reject me and change their opinion of me. I still don’t like confessing my sins with my accountability partner even though I’ve told him the darkest and dumbest parts of my past.
Even those who stand firm on the certainty of God’s unconditional love, still fall into the trap of thinking the Christians around them accept them for worldly reasons. Ive caught myself many times thinking my community only keeps me around for my awesome qualities. Our fear of rejection makes accountability incredibly difficult, but it represents one of the most valuable things in my walk with Christ.
Many of us believe that God barely forgave us. Consequently we think Christians won’t be able to live up to the task, so we don’t speak up and just keep up the facade. Our decision to confess our sins represents a decision of faith.
We must trust that God’s unconditional love and forgiveness are powerful enough to change a person’s heart and reflect through them onto us. I won’t sugar coat it, Christian accountability resembles a trust fall off a cliff into the arms of someone who’s not strong enough to catch you by themselves. All of us need this incredibly scary experience though because it gives God an opportunity to come through for us and show off the awesome power of His love.
The Power of Confession
I didn’t understand this concept before I dived into accountability. Without the aggressive encouragement of my community group leader, I don’t think I would’ve made that choice. I came to understand accountability through my experiences of confessing and especially hearing the sins of others.
My reaction to their sins surprised me and brought to light the power of God’s love. I’m a naturally judgmental person but I honestly don’t flinch when I hear the sins of my community. I’ve heard a couple surprises but not a single confession ever changed my opinion of them.
I don’t flinch because I know that Christ’s blood covers all my sins and so it covers there’s too. The love I’ve received from God fills my heart and makes me want to love those around me the same way. Hearing the confession of sins and telling the person that it doesn’t make a difference in how you see them is basically living out “We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19.
That whole section in 1 John 4 actually breaks down the accountability process perfectly. It starts off “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” God understands that you’re scared of rejection but he encourages us onwards with the truth that once we open up to his perfect love, it will dispel our fears.
Even though I feel that drop in my stomach before I confess something, I feel this huge weight drop off my shoulders after I do. More importantly, I feel this incredible freedom from all the fears and doubts that tell me if anyone truly knew me they would reject me. I know from experience that we can’t convince ourselves of this idea.
You must personally experience that truth by confessing to someone your deepest and darkest secrets.
Here Comes the Awkwardness
The title of this article comes from the beautifully awkward silence that comes after I confess my sins and I wait for the negative response or rejection that I fear might come. My accountability partner always looks at me unfazed and waits for me to continue if I have anything else. That silence is one of the most valuable things in my life.
I understand what it’s like to fear the consequences of confessing your sin to those around you. For years I couldn’t even say the word pornography because I felt so much shame from my addiction to porn. These days I’m causing scenes in coffee shops with it. I thought that if those close to me knew what I did it would change their opinion of me and probably end our friendship.
This fear held me prisoner and caused me to live out a facade with all the people I knew.
The Chains of Shame
God explains the predicament when he says “For hear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18. I feared the consequences of people knowing about my addiction so I hid it out of fear. That fear held me in prisoner because I never let anyone truly know me.
This made me doubt whether anyone truly loved me and consequently whether God could love me.
I continue to deal with that doubt every once and awhile. Each time I must confess a sin I have to push it out of the way. Thankfully, my accountability partner and my small group offer one of the greatest weapons against this doubt, a reflection of God’s love for me.
I see it like this. Some of the biggest attacks from sin come from the shame and guilt that come at us after we’ve already sinned. Shame and guilt attack us with the lie that our actions make us unlovable. Our Christian community, and especially our accountability partner, step in between us and the accusations of shame and guilt.
Stepping into Battle
This looks something like those awesome scenes in action movies where two of the good guys go back-to-back and face off against dozens if not hundreds of the enemy. Shame and guilt like to tell us that we’re lost causes and that trying to walk with Christ will only amount to fighting a losing battle. A good accountability partner models Christ’s love and steps into that battle with us.
Having someone at your back and knowing that you don’t fight alone will make all the difference in the world.
It will give you hope in situations that appear hopeless.
Accountability is one of the hardest parts of the Christian life. We have to believe in God’s love instead of the doubts and fears that pull us into isolation. Confessing our sins makes our stomachs drop, but it also gives us incredible freedom and hope that we didn’t know was possible.
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