My first tour of duty in the military was in Yokosuka, Japan. That is far from my hometown of Americus, GA. I was excited about serving overseas but I was also a little frightened of being alone. When I checked in at the Navy housing unit in Yokosuka, I happened to have met someone who was a leader of one of the local religious assemblies there. She invited me to have dinner at her home to meet her family and her husband (I later learned he was the church pastor). They shared with me that their ministry was rather new to the area and invited me to help them grow disciples in Japan. That night, I made several new friends at their home. I remember the pastor asked me how I wanted to serve in the ministry. I don’t remember my answer. But his next question astonished me. He said something like these words, “we find that several of our military that come to this base have several needs. How can our ministry help you?” I was surprised at his question but I didn’t hesitate with my answer, “I need you to hold me accountable,” I replied. It didn’t seem necessary for me to explain to him any more than that. He nodded his head and shook my hand. We changed the subject to something like talking of family back home. But I have never forgotten my words and my sincerity in that moment. You see, I realized that I was a beautiful, young woman in a foreign country and I had not long professed my faith in Jesus Christ. I knew, before my feet hit the ground in Japan, that loneliness could potentially cause me to wane in my desire to live a godly life. As I sat there that evening listening to Pastor Ravenell talk about the future of the church, I was so happy to find a family in the faith. I knew I needed family to stay commitment to my love for Jesus and to help me remain steadfast in serving Jesus and leading a life designed to honor God. I knew I needed family to help me stay committed to love myself and not give myself away under the pressure of being far away from family.
Growing up, my mother held us accountable. She constantly reminded us of the family we came from and what those family names meant to the community around us. My sisters and I felt like little royals carrying the blood of two well-known families in Americus, GA. In Yokosuka, away from Momma’s constant reaffirming speeches and her looks of displeasure when I didn’t live up to my name, I was scared for me. Yes, I was. So when Pastor Ravenell asked his question, I didn’t hesitate to share my need for accountability partners.
What does it mean to hold someone accountable? When you research this topic, you find a lot of information about goals, performance management, leadership and team dynamics. Several notable influencers have written about the steps to holding people accountable and what accountability means.
This is what it means to me. Accountability is the commitment to be present, respond accordingly and deliver the results within your capability. Even though I didn’t voice this when I asked Pastor Ravenell to hold me accountable, I was telling him I need to be reminded of my identity as a God-fearing woman, to carry myself in that manner and to serve in that capacity as much as I was able while I was a member of his congregation. You may be thinking, “do you really need someone to do that for you?” I say yes. In fact, I believe that there are people intentionally in your life to do just that but some of them just aren’t doing their job. And because they are don’t their job then ultimately, you don’t see the need to do yours either.
Accountability starts with you. The accountability partner (whether because they volunteered for the role or not) who holds you accountable is basically encouraging you in your commitment. In the case of parents of young children, we encourage our offspring in the things that are expected of them. My mother is excellent at this to this day and I am clearly not a young child anymore. But she has been my accountability partner for so long, I don’t think she knows how to stop harassing me about what she expects of me. But I tell you, I am a better person for her. I wish I had more accountability partners in my life. Oh, I don’t think you can ever have too many. In fact, right now, I can think of six people in my life who serve as my accountability partners. I have lost a few along the way. Frankly, I think I caused them to desert me. As I stated before, if you are not holding yourself accountable, you’re wasting your accountability partner’s time. If you have ever watched one episode of Extreme Weight Loss you see this demonstrated very well when they leave the participant in that third and fourth stage of their 365-day weight-loss journey to work their commitment unsupervised because that is really where the GRIT hits the fan.
So if the ball is in your court, why have accountability partners you ask?
Well because the truth is we get weak sometimes and we need a voice in our head to remind us that we are not alone. I was in a foreign country. I knew I would miss my family. I love family. I love visiting family. I love cookouts and family reunions. Even though I hate family drama, nothing is quite like family. And as much as blood family is great, the family that reminds you of the things that matter most are the voices that keep you focused and committed.
So here’s how we get the accountability thing right…
- Purchase and read the book by Robert J. Wicks entitled, Touching the Holy: Ordinariness, Self-Esteem and Friendship.
- Sit down and think of the accountability partners in your life right now. Send them each a text message or small note telling them you appreciate that they are holding you accountable and that you need their voice in your ear. Ask them to hang in there with you.
- Do you need any more? Ask yourself who you want to add to that accountability partner list and send them a letter inviting them to help you remain committed whether it is to obtain a goal you are pursuing or to stay the course in something that is currently challenging you in life. (I did this with a widow in my church who has helped me in my marriage immensely).
- If you have been slacking as an accountability partner, go to that person and do what Pastor Ravenell did for me. Ask your friend, family member or spouse, “how can I help?” Sometimes we just need to know what the need is and then we may better assist, right?
I often think of a group of individuals that I have the pleasure of working with in a non-profit organization when I consider family members who hold me accountable but are not my relatives. I have served on the board of directors for Leadership LINKS, Inc. since its development beginning. We have been together for nearly five years and when I say to you that these people hold me up, they do. When you are constantly being reminded of your identity by people that know your value and they value you, those are great accountability partners. I am truly blessed with a few but they are not slacking.
How about you? Do you need an accountability partner? Leave your comments below and let us know how we may be able to help hold you accountable?