“Don’t let me spend any more than…” she said as she quoted her budget.
Another day, a friend said, “Don’t let me eat any more brownies.”
At work I heard, “I have to get this done by the end of the month. Make me do it.”
When I was younger, I would have agreed in a heartbeat. My friends need me? I’m there. In each of these cases, however, my answer was, “no.” It will always be “no” in the future.
Why? Because I will fail.
I can remind about a deadline, question the cost of something, and put healthier options out to eat. I can encourage, listen, cajole, and remind. But what I cannot do is make someone else accountable, regardless of the reason.
Accountability is a tricky thing. We need it, but I’ve noticed a subtlety in how we approach it, sometimes in ways that lead us to failure more often than to success.
In asking someone else to make us accountable for something, what we’re really doing is suggesting they be accountable on our behalf. In other words, we introduce plausible irresponsibility. After all, if we don’t succeed, well, we just didn’t have the support, did we?[bctt tweet=”The difference is subtle, but asking someone to make us accountable is not the same as being accountable.”]
Miriam Webster defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions”. Personally, I would expand the definition to include “account for one’s actions and inactions.”
This isn’t easy. As much as I wish I could blame everyone for the many extra pounds I carry, for example, I know deep inside that I am the one who ate everything. I am the one who must eat differently. No one can make me and in fact, if someone does, I’m more likely to react by eating more.
As much as I wish I had three novels written, the fact is I have to sit down and do the work. I haven’t yet, and no one can make me. It won’t happen until I decide it’s the most important thing for me to do right now.
Accountability groups are valuable resources. Finding the best-fit group means finding like-minded people who will encourage me, and allow me the pleasure of encouraging them back. We have shared struggles, and we will have shared joys. There are so many ways I can’t get by without a little help from my friends and family, without a lot of help from God.
But being accountable for the small things as well as the big things? That’s up to me.
If you’re faithful in small-scale matters, you’ll be faithful with far bigger responsibilities.