Because of the nature of addiction, you cannot fight your addiction alone. You will need help. I’ve said this so many times on this blog, but you need to find an accountability partner! In this post I want to talk about the merits of having an accountability partner, and then give some guidance for how to have a good and fruitful accountability partnership with someone.
So why do you need an accountability partner?
- You need someone who will speak to you the truth.
- Someone who will help you see what you are actually doing and help you to see it in a clear light.
- Someone to help you see how your addiction harms others in ways you don’t notice.
- Someone who will call you up on the phone or email you in times of struggle to remind you why you don’t want to fail and give in.
- You need someone who will regularly encourage you and give you hope and strength to keep on going healing from your addiction.
- You need someone who you can safely vent your frustrations to.
- You need someone who will be there to pick you up when you fall. Your accountability partner should regularly speak the Gospel to you, to remind you of God’s grace and forgiveness.
I’ve had several accountability partners in my life. They are some of the greatest gifts God has ever given to me in my entire life. Their steadfast friendship and their encouragement and help to me so that I could live a holy and free life have been incredible gifts. I would not be where I am today without them. Likely I would be in the throes of addiction and not be in ministry. They kept my secrets in confidentiality, and I turn kept theirs. We mutually helped one another. I cannot say enough how awesome the gift of a true accountability partner is. There is so much freedom in telling someone everything crappy in your life and having them still love you and be your friend and give you the help you need to overcome addiction and other sins. Please trust me on this. An accountability partner is a treasure greater than gold.
This is a bold statement, but you are a fool to think you can fight these sexual addictions without the help from others, just as it is extremely unlikely for a drug addict to give up their drug addiction on their own. Here is a funny satire article about that – Man Chooses Self as Accountability Partner. We need the Church for help. We need fellow Christians to walk with us.
Many of us Christians are afraid to confess our sins to other people. We rightly think we can confess our sins directly to Christ and don’t need to go to a priest. But although Christ is the one who forgives us, there is great power in confessing our sins to someone else. It is also a command from God that we do so (James 5:16 – Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. Proverbs 28:13 – He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.). When we confess our sins out loud to another person, it brings that sin out into the light in a way that it doesn’t do when we only keep it between us and God. I have found from experience that as soon as I confess it to another person, the sin loses it’s power over me and it becomes 10 times easier to resist. I’m also able to see clearly my sin for what it is and the rationalizations die away. Further, my friends and accountability partners cannot help me bear my burdens, comfort me, help me to fight sin, and encourage me with God’s grace, if I do not first confess to them. I’ve talked about this a bit in the post – Telling the Truth.
The accountability partner should not be your wife, though your wife should absolutely know about your sexual addiction. See my blog post here – Article – The role of a wife in your recovery. Your wife has enough of a burden to bear already, dealing with being married to someone with some kind of sexual addiction. She has to work on her own healing from hurts and forgiving you. If you made her your accountability partner, the information you will share with her will damage her in deep ways. And such information would not hurt a male friend, a neutral accountability partner. You should share with your wife the truth about your struggle in general terms, but your accountability partner can be the one to constantly think through with you every day how to resist temptation, how to fight it, and he can be the person you can vent to. You wife will not want to be reminded constantly of your sexual depravities. This might sound harsh, but I know there are wives who think they want to know every detail, but I still contend that at the end of the day this will only make things worse for them and they don’t realize that it’s not good for them nor their husbands. Here is another article podcast about the role of a wife as accountability partner and the pros and cons – Should my wife be my accountability partner? I like how this podcast makes a distinction – A wife should not be a husband’s accountability partner, though the husband is accountable to the wife. This is a really good audio article, please give it a listen, especially if you are a wife who feels a desire to know everything and want to be an accountability partner.
How do you find an accountability partner? It’s not always easy. It should be someone of your same sex. For me, I just started with my best friends and my brother. It took great courage to tell them, but it worked out well. It helped that they were also struggling with sexual sin, though I didn’t know that when I first told them. As soon as I told them, they also told me. These days, I assume that 90% of men, and at least half of women, are struggling with some kind of sexual sin on a full-time or part-time basis, so I think you are pretty safe in assuming the person you choose to tell will also have a need of accountability. And even if they are not struggling sexually, they are not perfect, and will have sins to fight. Perhaps they will need accountability with loving their wife well, or spending their money generously and wisely, or taking care of their body, or fighting pride and self-glorification, or giving up drinking, or growing in their relationship with God. There will be something they need accountability for as well. Ideally, it would be someone who you feel is a peer to you spiritually. But even a spiritual mentor could hold you accountable. I’ve already written a post about how to choose someone and how to go about telling someone about your crossdressing or transgender feelings for the first time – How do I tell my wife, a friend, or a pastor about my crossdressing?
Another article – 10 Steps to Finding a Great Accountability Partner
We do have an accountability option through this website. That is our Email Prayer Group. This is a great way to get some accountability at very low risk. No one will even know your name. On the other hand, it is not as effective as someone who can see you in real life. And you only get what you put into it. It’s not very effective for accountability if you join the group but then only check-in with the group once a year. A real accountability relationship will have check-ins once a week minimum. A real accountability partner is able to call you whenever he wants to ask you what you are doing at that moment. It’s always a pain to have an accountability partner call you on the phone right in the middle of crossdressing or masturbating, (I can tell you from experience), but after the call, even if you don’t answer, you do feel the conviction, you do stop, and you do confess to them, and you very much appreciate them for getting you to stop before your sin escalated even more.
Accountability partners should check-in with each other regularly. If the addiction is fresh and strong, daily check-ins or even more often might be necessary. If you are having some good success fighting your addiction and are not failing every day / every week, then the check-ins should be weekly at least. It’s good to send each other quick reminders of hope and reminders not to give in. But it’s also important to meet face to face regularly to talk in detail, and to pray for one another. Accountability partners can also benefit from security software, so that they get reports of sexual websites that each visits. I’ll save those recommendations for another post in the future. It’s called generally – “accountability software” and there are many good Christian companies who offer it.
Below are some of the questions accountability partners should regularly ask one another. The list is not exhaustive, but gives you some general ideas. Note that these apply not only to sexual addiction, but other ways that we need to help one another grow in the Christian life. Note also that the idea is not to ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, but rather questions that draw out detail and discussion. The first two questions may be the most important, because if there is no honesty, then the accountability relationship has completely failed, and trust needs to be rebuilt through a tough discussion and prayer. But if they admit to lying, always be ready to forgive, and thank them for their honesty in that difficult admission. The accountability relationship should be one of abounding grace and forgiveness, and extensive reminding of God’s grace and forgiveness. Remind people of who they are in Christ.
- Have you failed this past week with sexual sin?
- Are you lying to me right now when I asked you that first question?
Sexual Addiction Questions:
- What temptations did you conquer this past week? What helped you to overcome them?
- When you failed this past week, what specific triggers or events led you down the road to that temptation and then to the failure?
- Did you masturbate this week?
- Did you look at anything online that you shouldn’t have?
- Is there something you need to confess to me or share with me?
- How can I help you succeed in healing from your addiction?
- Do you give me permission to continue to hold you accountable and call you at any time?
- Would you be willing to see your counselor or pastor about what you are dealing with?
- Are you feeling more freedom in Christ and freedom from addiction?
- What is your detailed plan and strategy to fight the addiction in your life?
- Are you ready to share your testimony about your addiction with someone else?
- How am I doing as your accountability partner? What can I do to improve and help you better?
- How are you feeling today / this week?
- What are you looking forward to?
- Is there anything making you feel depressed or hopeless this week?
- What good things are you doing with your time?
- This week, what have you done for rest and what have you done with friends?
- What are you life goals in the next 5 or 10 years?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you afraid of anything?
- How are things going at work?
- What can I pray for you about?
- When will we meet again?
Relationship with God:
- Explain how you felt about God’s love for you this week?
- Have you spent time in prayer and Bible reading every day this week? Why or why not?
- What has God been speaking to you through his Word or in your prayer times?
- What do you need to repent and confess about from this last week?
- In what way are you depending on God for help this week?
- What has God done for you or given to you this week?
- Are you certain of God’s forgiveness for your sins?
- Are you stuck in guilt and shame? Are you trying to earn God’s favor through your works rather than accepting grace?
- What are you most thankful for right now?
- How are you growing in the area of your worship of God?
- What prayers have you seen God answer this past week?
- Who are you taking time to pray for besides yourself?
Relationships with Others:
- How have you shown love and service to your wife this past week?
- Does your wife know about your sexual addiction? Are you hiding it from her?
- Do you and your wife forgive each other for the sins in your lives?
- Have you lied to your wife or children this past week?
- Are you taking your anger and guilt about your sin out on your wife or children?
- Are you experiencing regular times of sex with your spouse? If not, why not? What can you do to work on change and growth in that area?
- During sexual times, are you placing your wife’s pleasure above your own?
- Have you talked to your wife about what she can do to limit temptations for you around the house (clothing lying out, location of computer, etc.)?
- What fun things have you and your wife done together this week?
- In what way are you giving love and care to your children?
- What fun things do you have planned to do together as a family?
- Are you taking time away from people to be by yourself sometimes?
- Are you being a good friend to others and keeping up your relationships?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What hurting person among your relatives, church, or friends, are you taking time to care for?
- How are you serving your church and community?
- Is there anyone you need to forgive?
- Is there anyone you need to apologize to and ask for forgiveness from?
- Are you angry with anyone right now? Why?
- Who can you take time to encourage this week?
- Who are you discipling?
- Who can you share the good news of the Gospel with this week?
This next idea might be a bit more controversial, and may depend on the nature of the relationship. But a good accountability partner might need to be firm, and my accountability partners did so for me and it helped immensely at times. This can be something like, “if you keep failing without trying to fight this sin, I will have to tell your wife about what you’ve been doing” or “I will have to tell your pastor.” This is similar to perhaps an intervention with an alcoholic. When an addict refuses to try to change and is destroying their life, it’s far better for us to be firm like this than to sit by and watch them destroy their life. When friends said these kinds of things to me at critical times, it was very helpful and led me away from sin that would have probably become public and destroyed my life.
An accountability partner can also give rewards and incentives for victory like – “let’s make a plan that if you can make it for a whole month without a failure, we go to Six Flags together and I’ll pay for your ticket.” Or it can be something as simple as going out to eat at a restaurant. It’s very important to celebrate every victory and give a lot of encouragement and hope. Change is possible, and freedom from addiction is coming.
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