Accountability Part Two

October 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Blog

Alright, the long awaited Part II of the Accountability blogs that I promised.  In the first blog, I defined accountability and why it is so hard for men to deliver to another man.  Lets assume for this blog that the accountability process has begun and two men are venturing in relatively unknown waters as they chart a course towards their own freedom, virtue and integrity.  

The First Fall and Bad Report – Lets say the accountability partner has just received an email with an update of the web history on the person seeking accountability.  The report says there are concerns regarding content and that you as the accountability partner need to examine further what the accountability partner’s activity has been.  The first thing I recommend for the accountability partner to do is to STOP.  Say a prayer for your brother in Christ who is struggling or has failed in his pursuit of virtue.  NEXT, say a prayer for yourself that you may not be tempted in anyway by your examination of what your partner has viewed online.  Some programs, like Covenant Eyes, offers a pixilation of the screen, but in truth, the pixilation, may be a trigger for some men.  Just the concept of opening something that might be a little salacious may be cause for temptation–I stress the word “may”.  

Okay, once it is assessed that your brother has fallen to some temptation online, what is the next step? I recommend sending an email or text message alerting the brother of the knowledge that you have viewed his report.  You may even forward the exact report if you so choose, but may be advisable to avoid so any potential shaming is limited or removed entirely.  Keep in mind that the content may offer another temptation as the memories of such activity may be triggered in the man again.  So my advice, don’t send the report!  What does email or texting do for your accountability partner?  It gives him time to prepare himself for the eventual conversation that he is going to have with you.  This is important as it is very likely that the partner will attempt to dodge or “ghost” the partner who is seeking the conversation.  Although he genuinely desires the accountability in his life, he instinctually wants to avoid the uncomfortableness of the follow-up.  Naturally, a man wants to move on from his fall and hopefully he has emotionally, but a call to discuss the fall may become less of a priority despite his original altruistic intentions.  

NOTE: This is one of the major reasons why I believe accountability software and follow-ups can be ineffective.  Because in our Catholic faith, we know that when we fall, we reconcile with the Lord through an immediate act of contrition and perhaps a soon after visit to a priest for sacramental confession should it be required based on the gravity of the fall.  The freedom that one feels from the confession and acts of repentance have a tremendous restorative power for a man.  He feels better about himself and does not want to feel like cr– again.  So why should I discuss this with my accountability partner when I have moved on he might be thinking.  My Lord has forgiven me and I am doing better now so why do I need to have this discussion?  The man may say that he is free and his conscience is clear.  He may even piously state that his Lord doesn’t want him to dwell on the negatives of his life, but only the grace that God has offered him.  Indeed, he is right to a degree, but in his false piety, he misses the opportunity for growth.  This is precisely the mindset which stifles accountability and prevents its overall effectiveness.  

For an honest man, who is sincerely seeking growth in virtue, the conversation following the fall is a brave act, a necessary step and a tremendous sign of spiritual maturation.  The man can discuss and evaluate the nature of the fall, how it came about and why.  This is so important if a man is going to grow.  He must reflect on his fall.  This may not need be long, but long enough to consider why, how and the true circumstances surrounding his recent struggle.  The accountability partner must not look upon the conversation as a tell me the details kind of interrogation, but as an exploratory opportunity for the man seeking accountability and the accountability partner’s general understanding.  The details are not as important as it is assessing the triggers and the ritual leading up to the fall itself.  Here are some recommendations for effectively engaging in this conversation as an accountability partner:

  1. Before the call, coat the upcoming conversation in prayer: ask God to grant you a genuine offering of mercy and kindness as you approach the man; 
  2. Prior to your call, briefly reflect on your own struggles in the past and remember how you felt at that time in your life.  This will generate much empathy and allow for an appropriate dose of humility on the call.  The empathy is important as it will help in the overall encouragement of the man.  However, too much empathy may also create a spill over effect into an enabling accountability call.  So temper your own reflection so as to avoid coming off too empathetic and allowing the man seeking accountability to be dismissive of your offering;
  3. Make the call and do it at a time when the man has some time to have a discussion about it in a private setting.  A man may not feel comfortable doing this call at work so suggest early in the morning or later in the evening perhaps on his drive time home.  Ask what time is best for him and make it happen within 24-48 hours of the initial notification to the accountability partner.  NOTE: timing of the call is important as details and memory become fuzzy the longer time elapses from the fall and the bad report;
  4. Once you get on the call, don’t waste a lot of time with small talk.  Of course, catch up on things where and when appropriate, but at the same time don’t hesitate in asking the questions and offering the accountability that your partner is seeking.  Too much small talk makes for an awkward elephant in the room experience so it is best to just transition by saying, “I got your report…”;
  5. Once the brother acknowledges the fall and what was going on just listen for some key phrases or justification type words.  The partner might say, “Yeah, I had a rough week” or “I was really stressed out last week” or “This happened to me last week.”  When your partner says those things, follow up with the following: “Okay, so tell me what was stressing you out?”  LISTEN closely to what will be coming next.  The key is not to talk about the actual fall itself and what the content was on the screen necessarily (that issue is for another blog); for now, it is enough to probe as to what preceded the fall for the man.  This is the ultimate help to the man.  Your job as accountability partner is not to just get the man talking about his issues with you, which is incredibly important and helpful, but ultimately your job is to help him reflect on his behavior and what is potentially triggering the negative behavior.  Over time and after a few calls, you will start to see a pattern in the life of your accountability partner.  You will start to know through these conversations why your partner is acting out with the screen.  You might even be able to predict such falls the more you get to know your partner.
  6. I suggest, if you sincerely want to track this for your partner and help him grow, that you take some brief notes when you do these calls.  Write down the triggers and ritual that leads up to the fall for the man.  After about a month or two, you should review the notes and identify the patterns.  This will be of great value towards the future conversations.  When it is time, reveal to the man his patterns.  He may or may not be aware of this.  If he is not, it will go a long way in helping him counter the triggers in his life.  These triggers can be countered with specific actions (which is a blog for another time as well).
  7. Close the conversation by encouraging the brother to stay the course and thank him for his vulnerability with you.  This is not an easy thing to do for anyone no matter how seasoned they are in sharing their struggles.  Tell the man that you are proud of him and assure him that he has what it takes to be set free.  Tell him you are honored to walk on this journey with him.  Look, its not rocket science here, but it definitely is a nuanced conversation that men don’t easily adapt or fall into.  Encouragement is your greatest weapon in addressing addictive behaviors.  Again, there is definitely a fine line between such and enabling.                                                                                                      

I pray that this was helpful for some as they approach the all-important issue of accountability.  If you have any questions about accountability, please email me at mark@thekingsmen.org.  I look forward to Part III of this accountability blog series, which will focus on content and the disordered nature of what an accountability partner might be looking at.  

In Christ’s healing love,

Mark Houck

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