I promised I would share how to pick an accountability partner. Here are some thoughts about that.
For me, having an accountability partner is invaluabe! In my case, my partner hasn’t asked to be accountable to me…I am only to her. I pray for her, of course, but it isn’t a mutual accountability. You can do it either way, having a relationship where you both are accountable to one another or just you reporting to her.
Here are some things to consider:
1. Pray about this. God may or may not want you to do this at this season of your life. It is a big commitment and some of us can become overly needy of other people. God may want to be the ONLY one we need like that. Additionally, we can become obsessive. We don’t want to use another person to justify the bondage found in obsession! So please prayerfully consider if accountability is something God is calling you to now.
2. Prayerfully decide what “accountability” will look like for you. Are you feeling God leading you to have a daily end-of-the-day report to someone? Someone just to check in with every great once in a while? Weekly? Will it be a blow by blow of your day (time consuming) or a quick summary? Will you use the TW tools and just send them her way or show them to her to see?
I have found both in reporting to others and in being reported *to* daily is a must…that way, if something happens and there is no report, I will be asked “where is the report?” instead of the assumption being made this is just a day I chose not to report. it seems much more effective that way and it doesn’t have to be time consuming.
It is so easy, when we make mistakes, not to ‘fess up to our partner…especially if she isn’t expecting to hear from us daily. So decide in advance what you NEED (God will show you if you ask!) and then write it down. In my case, I specifically knew I needed someone to whom I could daily send my hunger graph. This would provide a visual image of my eating habits for 0 to 5. I didn’t feel a food log would be effective for me (I don’t use that tool). I also knew I needed my partner to be someone who would ask if I didn’t send her a report, ask if I sent her a flaky report, notice any patterns in my eating and be willing to comment on them, pray for me, and, of course, to praise me when I am on track. With all of this in mind, I knew I could prayerfully evaluate who I could ask.
3. Decide what the over-arching purpose in your accountability will be. Will it be “To make it through the holidays being faithful in 0 to 5 eating?” or will it be “To abstain from diet soda?” That will affect what you want your accountability to look like and maybe how long a partnership it will be. You can use your goal or purpose to establish a time frame…2 weeks, a month or “Until chocolate no longer has mastery over me!” 🙂
4. Decide if you want someone you can go through a book or program with at the same time (this is asking more of someone). Some who read the Thin Within book like to be able to walk through the book together with someone else and talk about it or have it as a common reference point each day in their accountability. For some, the accountability partnership described here is part of what they might use for the “unwrapping” of “graveclothes” mentioned in the Thin Again book. Others, just want to shoot an image of their hunger graph to an email bud at the end of the day (that is me) just long enough to get through the holidays and see if they can come out the other side maintaining their weight.
5. Consider if you will ask a “real life” (RL) person or an online person. If it is a RL person, you have the benefit of face to face contact. It is a bit harder to hide. If you are someone who knows you have a tendency to hide when you “fail” (remember, failure isn’t something we have in Thin Within! We allow God to turn our “failures” into learning opportunities instead!), then you probably don’t want an online person to be your partner. You want someone who could stop by, call you on the phone or see you at church. If you know you aren’t the kind that can ignore emails asking you “Where is your hunger graph?” for 5 days in a row, you might be just fine with an online partner. You can combine the approach and turn an online friendship into a RL friendship by sharing phone numbers and actually praying together on the phone or in Yahoo chat or something too if you wanted.
6. Once you have a pretty good idea of if you will be ok with an online friend or need a RL friend for this, then you can start looking specifically for someone that you think would be a good partner. She doesn’t have to be another Thin Within person…not if you don’t mind it being a one way accountability. But she should be godly, prayerful, have a heart for you to follow your convictions (not try to talk you out of things you know God wants for you), someone who can share the Word of God when you need her to, someone who can speak the truth in love, someone who can speak TRUTH and GRACE both…all kinds of qualities. In the RL people you run with, this might be someone at a bible study you attend, an older woman (or mature believer) at church that God just lays on your heart might be someone you can share with. Men, of course, will choose men…women will want to choose women…this is important!
7. If you prefer an online friend, then you can evaluate people you have sort of gotten to know in forums that you are a part of (like at http://www.thinwithin.org/ ) or various Yahoo groups where there has been enough sharing that you feel a sense of what a person is like. Keeping in mind that people can be anything they want online and may not be genuine one little bit, prayerfully bring anyone who comes to mind before the Lord and wait on him to show you.
You will want to ask someone who you feel you can identify with. Someone you kind of admire or relate to. It might be someone who you can tell has similar struggles, but beware of picking someone who is always in the same hole you find yourself in! You don’t want to endorse one another staying in the same pit! Not at all! It is best if you find someone who has walked the road you are on, but maybe just a few steps ahead of you. Or someone who can identify but isn’t in the business of justifying sin–their own OR yours!
8. When you are pretty sure who you want to ask, pray that God will make it really clear to *them* if it is His will for this. Then, when you initially ask them, be specific about what you want. You can share with her how you reached the decision to ask her (referring, even, to the steps above) and DO share with her specifically what you want your partnership to look like referring to your answers to #2 above. Mention the time frame you have in mind…like “I would like to try this for two weeks and then re-evaluate at that time.”
She may want to take time to prayerfully consider your request. Please use this time to pray further about it, too. An accountability relationship that is not from God is not something you want to be a part of. In fact, so-called accountability relationships that aren’t from God can be quite toxic at times, causing one person’s bitterness to be transferred to another, or one person’s sin to be justified by another in the name of “grace.” You don’t want a relationship that will “tickle your ear” and speak what is easy to hear. You want a TRUTH TALKER and GRACE GIVER both!
If the person you approached comes back to you with a decision not to be your accountability partner, then please praise God for her wisdom! You may not understand why, but God is shutting that door! Try your best NOT to take it personally! There are a variety of reasons that people may not feel led to be an accountability partner for another. Not the least of which is they aren’t ready to surrender that area of their lives to the Lord. Even when a person doesn’t enter into a mutual accountability partnership with you, there is vulnerability in just hearing how God is working in *your* life. Not everyone can handle seeing God touch your tender heart without feeling conviction in their own. Some people know this about themselves and carefully guard themselves until God works in their life to make them ready for that.
So, if you are told “No” once you get your courage up to ask someone, just gather your thoughts again and pray about someone else. Maybe God’s purpose in leading you to ask the first person was something else entirely!
Once she says yes, it will be up to you to get things rolling. It isn’t the time to get flaky! 🙂
Once your partnership is under way, BE FAITHFUL! If one or the other of you isn’t living up to what you thought things would be like when you began, you will want to just be honest about it…it isn’t working out…or you had something else in mind. Tell your partner the truth! Don’t just go on as if everything is as you hoped. If the partnership isn’t quite what you had in mind, just pray about it and then let her know. Be specific though…Thank her for her time and let her know you think it would be best to do things differently.
If you began with a set time in mind…like 4 weeks, it is easier if things aren’t going along perky positively, to end it and move on. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. One friend 🙂 asked me if she could report to me. After a few weeks she let me know that she felt she could move on. Our friendship was not threatened by this and I knew that either it wasn’t what she had in mind or she really was ok without reporting any more. No harm done.
Let God be God in this. 😀
I think it is true that as we prayefully consider inviting someone into this inner sanctum of our personal life, we will know in our hearts if someone seems like a good fit to ask. I could be wrong about that, of course. It doesn’t mean that it won’t be scary! The lady who is such a blessing to me right now, letting me report to her daily can really talk truth. But I know and God knows I NEED that! She was concerned that I felt she was a drill sergeant. I explained that, to me, a drill sergeant is someone that *helps* keep a soldier in shape as a matter of routine so that when real life gets intense, the soldier is ready and able to do what it takes. I don’t think of that as a bad thing at all. In fact, I think scripture esteems one who is willing to be that for another. My partner has just the right blend of truth talking with grace giving…she is gentle and kind as well…and I know, with confidence, that she prays!
I hope something here is helpful to you as you seek the Lord Jesus, to become more like Him in all ways. I would love to hear how your accountability partnership works out if you decide to go for it! This is a great time of year to connect with someone at this level!