“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” -1 John 1:7 ESV
There’s a lot of confusion in Christendom as to what healthy accountability is and is not. Throughout years of fighting a porn addiction and a multitude of other habitual sins, I practiced reactive and unhealthy accountability as opposed to proactive and healthy accountability. Sure I had an Internet filtering software on my devices and an accountability partner, but this often just resulted in a weekly meeting with a friend to confess sin. The meeting often ended with a futile commitment to try harder next time to stay away from sin. These weekly confessional meetings were not a bad thing, they were a great start, but I was missing out on so much by limiting accountability to these interactions.
Maybe you’ve experienced reactive accountability in your own life. Or maybe you’ve experienced unhealthy accountability by hearing lots of truth from others and receiving little grace. Maybe you were encouraged to simply try harder next time, or to have more faith, resulting in immense shame in your life. Maybe penance or punishment was encouraged as a way to attempt to pay God or others back for the damage you had done.
Rather than simply trying harder to stop sinning or picking up the pieces after returning to the place we swore we’d never go again, we have a much more Biblical and helpful option. God has given us an incredible gift through the body of Christ to do life together in a much deeper way. We have the option of proactive and healthy accountability, battling alongside others, and setting ourselves up well to prevent future destructive choices through the power of the Holy Spirit and a gracious and loving God who is for us.
We have been given an active role to play in fighting sin in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Several years ago, I began to learn about and implement healthy accountability in my life. I truly began to experience 1 John 1:7, which speaks of walking in the light and the progressive sanctifying and cleansing of sin that Jesus does in our lives. Walking in the light, or a daily lifestyle of being fully transparent with our emotional well-being and sin with Jesus and safe people, is a proactive choice. We do not just let go and let God. We have been given an active role to play in fighting sin in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13). As we confess our sin to God and one another, share our deepest sin and hurts, and ask for help, the Holy Spirit brings about growth and healing in our lives.
Healthy accountability incorporates assessing the precursors, stressors, emotions, and situations that tend to occur before you end up in sin patterns and creating a faith filled plan of action with safe people. It’s asking trusted friends to encourage you, support you with specific challenges you are facing, and to follow up with you throughout the week…knowing you won’t face condemnation and will be met with grace and truth from safe people.
We sin because we are sinful but we also sin because we have been sinned against.
Regardless of our particular sin struggles, we live in a broken and fallen world, so we all have ways of dealing with stress and pain in life. We all have areas of habitual sin, or coping mechanisms, that we run to for comfort and to escape. Whether it’s sexual sin, anger, anxiety/fear, bingeing on video games or Netflix, drinking alcohol excessively, control, performance, overeating, body image issues, or a number of many other things. Through identifying our specific coping mechanisms and why we run to them, we can take steps towards surrendering to God, who always meets our needs (Psalm 14:16).
Healthy accountability is also not limited to simply talking about sin in our lives. Healthy accountability is a daily lifestyle of reaching out for help to process the pain and stress in life that often influences our decision to cope through sin. As we begin to identify habitual sin in our lives, immense growth can happen by looking at what pain from our past may be getting triggered in our current situations and working through this pain with Jesus and safe people. Yes, we sin because we are sinful, but we also sin because we have been sinned against and have developed ways to cope when that past pain gets triggered in life.
For example, I’ve struggle with habitual anger and fear throughout my life. Why? Obviously because I am sinful, but looking below the surface, I often felt rejected by friends and those closest to me as a kid. I learned to keep others away and to protect myself by becoming angry. This deep fear of rejection carried on into adulthood, influencing my desire to power up and compensate when I felt rejected.
In recent years, God has done a lot of healing in my life as I worked through the pain from my past in light of my identity in Christ and forgave those who hurt me. Whenever anger would show up again, I’d try to be proactive by repenting, addressing the fear of rejection that was leading me to compensate, and meditate on the full acceptance and approval I have as a son of God. As I took these faith-filled steps, and as God brought close friends into my life who showed immense grace, acceptance, and a desire to battle alongside me, these fears of rejection lessened drastically resulting in less anger in my life. Through being proactive and implementing healthy accountability, the Holy Spirit brought immense growth, healing, and greater intimacy with Jesus and others to my life.
Recommended Next Steps
The following are some of the most crucial and practical resources that I have found helpful in implementing healthy accountability to battle habitual sin and emotional health issues.
1. Begin using the FASTER Scale regularly. Developed by a Christian counselor, this is an incredible emotional and behavioral assessment tool that helps you identify the patterns in your life that lead you down the path toward sin. Check it out at fasterscaleapp.com.
2. Download the Healthy Accountability article. This will give you practical steps to set up healthy accountability.
3. Download the Working Through Pain document. This will help you identify and work through painful life experiences. It gives practical steps to implement Biblical scripture meditation to fight lies and renew your mind.
4. Download the free app rTribe through your app store. Through the app, you can connect with friends, complete a daily check in about how you’re doing, and alert friends when you’re in need. More info at rtribe.org.
5. If you’re struggling with habitual sexual sin, read the Understanding Sexual Addiction article.