MsDora, former teacher and Certified Christian Counselor shares tips for smooth relationships with friends and encounters with strangers.
Accountability in Friendship: A Christian Approach
Accountability between friends, especially friends who adhere to the Bible principles listed below, provides an atmosphere of trust, support and reliability. It facilitates opportunities for them to share facts about their good deeds or misdeeds, to confess their struggles which resulted in success or in surrender. No one in the group has to celebrate or grieve alone. They help each other survive and grow.
How Christian Friends Can Benefit From Accountability
Sharing does not mean that the friends surrender control of their lives; it opens them up to receive help in taking control. It does not take away individual responsibility; it creates a system in which they give and receive 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 such 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.
1. Select an Accountability Circle
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. . . Three are even better. (Ecclesiastes 4: 9, 12)
You do not need all the people you call friends in your accountability circle. Choose two or three who meet the following requirements:
- Respect you for who you are
- Have similar beliefs in the area(s) in which you need support
- Have proven 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.
2. Chat Regularly
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:25)
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 previously.
It is also recommended that friends meet, if possible. Friends who spend time together become a meaningful part of each other’s lives.1
3. Be Honest
An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship. (Proverbs 24:26)
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. In addition to providing accountability for the rest of the group; the person answering the question is motivated by himself voice the truth.
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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.
4. Refuse to Judge
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
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. Observations like the following are inappropriate:
- Are you sure you’re not reaping what you sowed?
- After all, you may not be as smart as you think.
Even though the observer may be right, it makes the one with the problem uncomfortable; and more unwilling to receive 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 put our heads together on this one.
It may be discouraging when a friend disappoints you by acting foolishly, but these are situations which test the friendship. Besides, it is true; we all make mistakes—and we all need the support of friends.
5. Offer and Accept Counsel
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. (Proverbs 27:9)
In everyday conversations, friends offer and accept counsel in matters like what is appropriate to wear, what invitations to accept, what foods are best to avoid, or even on life-changing issues. Accountability between friends requires that each one offers whatever wisdom he or she has.
However, complicated matters may arise which call for more effort than straight talk. The following suggestions can provide friendly counsel without making the provider sound like a wise guy counseling the unwise:
- 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 professional counseling.or an appropriate support group.
- Offer support for whatever decision the friend makes.
When it is your turn to accept guidance, be gracious. Listen, accept appreciation, weigh the advice and let the group know what you decide. Ask support for your decision.
6. Pray for Each Other
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16 KJV 2000)
Friends who help friends shoulder their responsibilities will find reasons 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, and 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.
1. Gannon Ph.D., Michelle, Do You Make Time for Friends (1/17/2011)
2. Miller, J. R., The Hidden Life Grace Gems (1895)
Scripture references are from the New Living Translation, unless otherwise noted.
© 2014 Dora Weithers