Creating and Maintaining Accountability Among Friends
You did what you said you would never do; or you neglected to do what you planned to do. You slap your forehead and sigh, “I messed up again.”
Accountability between friends lessens the chances for those misdeeds and the regrets which result from them.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. . . Three are even better.— Ecclesiastes 4: 9, 12 (NLT)
Accountability requires friends to share their struggles, their failures and their plans for success; not to surrender control of their lives, but to be empowered in taking control.
It does not take away individual responsibility; it creates a system in which friends give and receive individual support.
Accountability can result in maximum benefits for friends whose goals may not be popular with the other people around them. Take the following groups for example.
- friends committed to a moral lifestyle;
- friends trying to follow through with their plans for regular exercise, writing a book, starting a business;
- friends struggling to overcome bad habits like untidiness, procrastination, gluttony;
- friends involved in a voluntary service project.
Accountability between these and similar groups of friends will provide community support enough to help them resist community pressure. Here are six suggestions which can help to make it work.
Select An Accountability Circle
You do not need all the people you call friends in your accountability circle. Choose two or three (not many more) who meet the following requirements:
- Respect you for who you are
- Have similar beliefs in the area(s) in which you need support
- Seem trustworthy and confidential
- Share long-term interest in a supportive friendship
These are the friends who share your passion for what interests you. You enjoy your conversations with them.
Accountability between friends requires constant, regular communication. Thanks to the possibilities of social media, this is not difficult to achieve even if friends are separated by long distances.
You need to chat (by phone, text, e-mail, e-chat etc.) at least daily, to make sure that each person is following the plan. It is easy for someone to detour from the agenda because he or she is tired, upset, confused or even excited over some good news. Contact with another friend helps the distracted person to reset. It also decreases the chances for misdeed and neglect as mentioned above.
It is also recommended that friends meet, if possible. Friends who spend time together become a meaningful part of each other’s lives.1
Be Open and Honest
- 5 Unwritten Rules Of Friendship - Rules to Live By When It Comes to Friends
It's time we wrote the unwritten rules of friendship. Here are some common sense things you should know.
"Openness is volunteering the truth; honesty is answering truthfully."2
The discussion to be accountable should include the need for friends to be open concerning the matters in which they need support. To get to the right solution, friends need to know the situation as accurately as possible.
The discussion should also include permission to ask tough questions and the right to receive honest answers, which reveal—not cover up—pertinent information. The conversation is not only for accountability to the rest of the group; the person answering the question needs to hear himself voicing the truth.
It is important for friends to be trustworthy, so that no one is afraid to be vulnerable. The whole purpose of accountability is to deal with weaknesses so they become strengths.
Refuse to Judge
If one friend reveals that he got himself into trouble, it is not the duty of the other friends to judge him, worse yet to condemn him. Statements like the following are inappropriate:
- You’re only reaping what you sowed.
- You brought that on yourself; you should have seen it coming.
- I’m disappointed; you’re not as smart as you think.
Even though those statements may be true, they put distance between the one needing help, and those being asked to help. Accountability between friends requires a family-like atmosphere filled with love and forgiveness. Opinions can be replaced with kind thoughts like:
- You’re only human; we all make mistakes.
- Let’s see what we can do to help.
It may be discouraging when a friend disappoints you, but these are situations which test the friendship. Besides, it is true; we all make mistakes—and we all need the support of friends.
Offer and Accept Guidance
In everyday conversations, friends offer and accept advice in matters like what is appropriate to wear, what seminar to attend, what foods are best to avoid. Accountability between friends requires that each one has some wisdom to offer.
However, matters may arise which seem too complicated for just a friendly group talk. Here are some ways to help:
- Share personal stories—your struggle and what worked for you; have other friends share. Allow the friend seeking help to make his or her own decision.
- Suggest a book, or video sermon, or movie which deals with similar problems and solutions.
- Recommend counseling or attendance to a support group.
- Offer support for whatever decision the friend makes.
Again, trust is important. It helps to offer and accept suggestions when you know that the friends have each other’s interest at heart.
Pray for Each Other
Friends who help friends shoulder their responsibilities will find reason to pray for each other. They all have the same needs in the interest of their friendship: wisdom in interpersonal skills, capacity to love and forgive, humility of spirit.
“If ever love reaches its best and purest, it ought to be when we are standing before God.3” When one friend enters the throne room of God, he takes the others and requests the same blessings and successes for all.
Friends with whom you share accountability become a great asset to your success. At your moment of weakness, they become your strength. You also learn to be strong for them, and eventually all become stronger.