Accountable2You Logo
Accountable2You Logo
Personal Accountability

What Is Accountability?

by Scot Chadwick

Accountability is the attitude and practice of willing individuals to take responsibility for themselves and to communicate with others about their choices and behavior so they can show their integrity and grow in maturity.

The Importance of Accountability

Most people appreciate how accountability helps them succeed in business, physical fitness, personal goals, education, and other areas of life. In these realms the mindset of accountable individuals leads them to greater commitment, problem-solving, growth, and victory. One might even say that accountability is essential for success.

But the idea of being accountable on digital devices often carries a stigma. Many people think it is only for weak and struggling people. They often regard accountability as a basis for finding fault, assigning blame, and applying punishment for people with problems. It is viewed as surveillance and invasion of privacy or opening oneself up to unwarranted criticism and increased anxiety. Many think being accountable means losing their independence.

“Keep Watch on Yourself”

At Accountable2You, we view accountability in the light of the command to “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Accountability is an attitude and practice that empowers willing individuals to overcome temptation and pursue growth.

As a mindset, accountability starts in the heart. Each of us must take great care about what goes on in our hearts—not just our emotions but also our thoughts, desires, ambitions, values, decision-making, and more. The Lord Jesus said, “the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matthew 15:18–19).

Your state of mind informs your decisions and your actions. Solomon spoke with God’s wisdom when he said,

Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

How do we “watch over” our hearts? These three essential attitudes and practices shape an accountable person:

  1. Self-Mastery: Examine yourself, resolve to change, plan your path, and do the work necessary to grow.
  2. Transparency: Reveal your choices and behavior to others and confide in them about your responses to the circumstances of life.
  3. Answerability: Receive feedback from others so you can evaluate and explain yourself.

Let’s look at each of these components to help you “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Colossians 1:10).

1. Self-Mastery

Self-mastery shows that you hold yourself accountable, affirming ownership of your desires, thoughts, feelings, choices, and actions. While your success can be helped by others, a mindset of accountability recognizes that you are responsible for yourself.

A mindset of accountability recognizes that you are responsible for yourself.

God warned Cain, the son of Adam, that “sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). Tragically, Cain failed to master himself and fell into further sin and condemnation. You can learn from Cain’s example and be vigilant in your battle against temptation. (See also 1 Corinthians 9:24–27.)

Accountability helps those who want to be accountable. It does not work well for those who think little of it and fight against it, who chafe at the thought of explaining their choices, or who do not have a plan for their behavior. But we must conduct ourselves in humility and courage: knowing we must change to be more Christlike and being willing to do the hard work to grow in His grace.

In many ways, self-mastery takes more than physical strength: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32). The lack of self-control is ruinous: “Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28).

Do all that is within your power and authority to pursue success regardless of what others do. Your progress is largely up to you. You can and must own your success. Do not give up on what you know to be right, true, and good. Press on and keep moving forward.

A. Examine Yourself

A beginning point of accountability is examining your current condition. Be honest about your status, not overstating or understating where you are. Do not jump to conclusions about problems and solutions while ignoring or misinterpreting reality. Take stock of your thoughts and activities to probe your heart.

Self-examination lies at the heart of those who honor God.

Self-examination lies at the heart of those who honor God. The prophet Jeremiah admonished God’s people, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). And Paul encouraged Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Ask questions like these that illuminate the desires behind your choices and actions:

  • How does your behavior align with what is right and desirable?
  • What poor choices have you made on your digital devices?
  • What does your device keep you from doing with the people around you?
  • What are you most ashamed of? What low points have you endured? Identify problematic desires, weaknesses, regrets, disappointments, obstacles, challenges.
  • What is causing pain to yourself or others whom you care about?
  • What is facilitating your struggle or weakness? (e.g., devices, locations, friends, circumstances)
  • What do you know needs to change in your life?
  • What is in your power to change?

Start examining yourself on your own but then invite select other helpful people to participate. Go to a few people who love you, who know you well, and who will speak to you objectively and truthfully. Do they agree with your assessment? Do they think you have been accurate? What else would they add?

B. Resolve to Change and Grow

Why do you do what you do? Because you want what you want. You must want to achieve and maintain your success. If you don’t want to change, you likely will not change.

The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)

If you are not open to change, how will you grow? You can never put up enough barriers to prevent yourself from sinning. As in the physical world, so also in the spiritual world: what you feed, grows. So, what are you feeding in your life? The cure is a change of attitudes and affections of the heart.

Repentance means you turn away from the desires and actions that displease God and you draw near to God in holiness. Your focus is not so much on not sinning but rather doing the things that honor your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You must want to grow in wisdom—knowing what God wants you to do and then doing it. Consider this warning from James: “to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

You can never put up enough barriers to prevent yourself from sinning.

Do you want to change and grow? Is the goal your own or someone else’s? Are you doing this to please someone else? The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

Take tangible steps toward what you know is good and right. Identify and avoid triggers that distract you. Reduce or eliminate distractions and other hindrances to progress. Own the change you want in your life.

There is always room for us to grow (2 Peter 1:5–11). Be all the more diligent to become the kind of person God rescued us to be. Remember who you are in Christ so that you will keep pursuing Christlikeness.

C. Plan Your Path

What will you do to move forward? What can you do? What must you do? What problems must you solve? If you could change one thing, what would it be? Plan your path forward.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage,
But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5)

Your poor choices typically lead to sinful actions (see James 1:14–16). For example, viewing a news website with racy secondary content could generate lustful thoughts. God’s Word exhorts believers to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14). What other ways could you get your news content? A desire for personal holiness means realizing the sinfulness of sin and laboring to live each moment before God.

Your action plan should be specific and clear, so you know you did what is expected.

Translate your goal into the steps you will take to attain it.

  • Where are you headed?
  • What do you need to stop or start?
  • What do you need to increase or decrease?
  • What tools and resources would help you succeed?
  • What do you need to know to move forward?
  • How will you measure success? By quantity? By frequency? By quality?
  • What will you do? What will you not do?

Demonstrate your responsibility by detailing the steps you will take to pursue your goal. What are the things you must be, do, or have to succeed? Be specific and realistic yet challenging.

If applicable, indicate a location in which the goal will be attained. Designating a spot to do a specific task can help you focus and eliminate distractions. For example, you could designate your main computer as the place where you will engage in social media, removing social media apps from your other devices.

Accountability works best when you have a clear process to obtain your goal.

Now is the time for research and analysis. But avoid getting bogged down with deliberation beyond what is necessary to start moving forward with your plan. Do not overthink an issue leading to indecision and inaction.

Accountability works best when you have a clear process to obtain your goal. A goal for the future without a plan in the present invites disappointment and distress.

You are responsible for your choices and your actions, not the choices and actions of others. So, state your goal in such a way that you can have success regardless of other people’s performance.

D. Do the Work

Follow through on your commitments. Thinking about your plan must lead to implementing your plan. Timely action is better than the best intentions. Do what you said you would do and often more than you said you would do.

Paul said that Christians must “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). God works and we must work to demonstrate the change He has already made in our hearts.

If you want it to be done, you are going to have to do it. Build momentum through small wins. Be patient and persevere. Get better over time and regard repetition as your friend. Change is not always evident at the time—for good or bad—but your choices set the trajectory of your life. Most choices have small effects over a short time, but the compound effect produces profound results.

Timely action is better than the best intentions.

As you do the work, monitor your daily performance. You could even check a box when you fulfill your commitment each day. If you are not tracking your progress toward your goal, how will you know if you are moving toward it, stalling, or falling back? Even the simple practice of recording your progress helps you maintain focus.

God has given many promises to His people to help us live holy lives. Paul said, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). We all have a long way to go to be perfect in practice. While we will not attain it in this life, we must “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

2. Transparency

Though accountability starts with holding yourself accountable, you are also held accountable by others. We live in relationships with others—in a marriage, in a family, in organizations like schools and workplaces, and in society at large.

There is a social aspect to accountability beginning with transparency. As you communicate your desires and choices, you gain clarity, creativity, and competence. Transparency helps to confirm your commitment, build trust, and get in position to celebrate your successes.

Transparency involves deliberately revealing yourself and confiding relevant details about your life to select others. Isolating yourself or keeping things unnecessarily secret from others can lead to problems. Proverbs 18:1 says, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” Seek wisdom from others by associating with them and sharing relevant details with them to help you fulfill your desired path.

A. Reveal Yourself

Mastering yourself leads you to better transparency with others. To varying degrees, people are already watching you. They might not know you, but they see you.

In a letter to his young nephew, Thomas Jefferson appealed to the effect of being observed. He wrote, “Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly” (Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr. August 19, 1785. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

Who you are in public builds your reputation.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:3–4)

Be in the presence of others. Invite others to observe your conduct and avoid secrecy, deception, and isolation. Shine the light of knowledge upon hidden or otherwise private choices and actions.

“Ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.”

Thomas Jefferson

What could you do to reveal yourself to others? When it comes to your use of technology, you can promote transparency in a variety of ways:

  • Turn your computer desk so others can see your monitor(s).
  • Share your device passwords with your spouse or other trusted partner so they can log in at any time.
  • Meet with others in public areas.
  • Use devices that facilitate transparency.
  • Install accountability software on your devices.
  • Post your winning (and losing) streaks online.
  • Use real social media accounts (not fake or anonymized profiles).
  • Keep a consistent schedule.
  • Avoid isolating yourself and gather with people.

B. Confide in Others

When appropriate, take a step beyond generally revealing yourself to others by confiding relevant details with those you trust.

Paul gave an account of his preaching to the other apostles. He said, “I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain” (Galatians 2:2).

Share your commitment and plan to improve your life. When you fall into temptation, “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16).

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. (Proverbs 28:13)

Be transparent to those who should know about your plan and progress (e.g., if you’ll be away from home or office regularly) or who are involved in the work (e.g., if you meet with someone or chat online with them).

Honestly informing an accountability partner about your plan and your progress helps you keep focused and motivated. You can benefit by sharing relevant details of your life with someone else to keep you on track to accomplish what is important to you.

Be strategically transparent and honest about those aspects of your life that relate to your goal or commitment. Consider sharing the following:

  • The goal or commitment you intend to achieve (like spending less time on social media, maintaining purity online, or limiting the places you visit).
  • Your attitudes, beliefs, desires, and decisions surrounding your commitment.
  • Past and present actions and habits that have helped or hindered your progress.
  • Your next steps forward.

Enlist someone to verify that you are doing what you said you would do. Be specific about what you expect them to contribute and what to watch out for to help you accomplish your goals. Do you just want them to receive your reports? Should they evaluate your actions? Will you explain yourself?

3. Answerability

The social aspect of accountability proceeds from transparency to answerability. Being accountable means that you are willing to receive feedback from your trusted friends, that you will evaluate yourself, and you will explain your behavior.

A. Receive Feedback

Invite them to critique how your present activity is contributing to or detracting from your success. Their objective feedback will help you recognize successes, correct deficiencies, and keep you moving forward. Listen graciously and assume that the speaker has your best interests at heart, speaking what is “good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

Objective feedback will help you recognize successes, correct deficiencies, and keep you moving forward.

Show your gratitude to those who would reprove and correct you. Remember that those who are wise will increase in learning in part by the instruction they receive from others: “Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning” (Proverbs 9:9). Avoid a foolish mindset that refuses to accept counsel. Be willing to learn, change, and grow.

Take care from whom you accept criticism. Remember the warning of Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” While you might tend to become defensive or make excuses for your behavior, instead receive criticism humbly and graciously, looking for what is true and helpful.

A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction. (Ecclesiastes 4:13)

Remember that your friend should find fault with you if you fail to keep your commitment. They are not forcing you into anything—you dedicated yourself to the task and you invited them to give feedback. Be sure to receive any consequences that are appropriate to your falling short.

B. Evaluate and Explain Yourself

Inherent in accountability is giving an account of yourself to someone else. Giving an account can also reveal when you have failed to carry out your duties and commitments, helping you to make amends, change, and grow.

When Nathan the prophet admonished David, the king responded, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:13). David did not offer excuses. He did not deflect the blame or lie about his misdeeds. In Psalm 32:3–4, David stated why this was the case:

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.

Acknowledge your errors in judgment. Give reasons for your decisions and behavior. Accept criticism and learn from it. Remember your desire to improve yourself. Do not give excuses but provide reasons why you chose a particular path.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10)

Beyond receiving feedback, you can also give honest answers to questions your partner asks. Developing an open, candid relationship in this way helps you demonstrate ownership of your choices and behavior.

Summary: What Is Accountability?

Accountability is an attitude and practice that helps willing individuals overcome temptation and pursue growth. Accountability starts with self-mastery and sets you on a course toward purity and Christlikeness. Transparency and answerability change the environment where you make choices. When you know others are watching you and that you might have to give an account of yourself, you tend to make better choices.

Do you desire accountability? Grow in your faithfulness to the Lord and to others by being accountable. Remember that one day you will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and give an account of yourself. Strive to live in such a way now so that He would say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Real-time accountability software

Accountable2You helps you make better choices with detailed monitoring and real-time reports for all your devices.
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram