4 Signs Your Accountability Isn’t Working

Over and over the topic of accountability comes up in my world. What is it? What makes it effective? Who has the responsibility? What should you look for in the person you’re accountable to? These questions and more consistently surface. Sometimes it’s easier to recognize what something isn’t before you can accurately see what it is. So, in this post, I’ll give you 4 signs that your accountability structure isn’t working and why it may be hindering your process.

1 – You aren’t confronted when you don’t keep your word.  If you say you will or won’t do something and, when checking in on that something, are allowed to justify not following through, your accountability isn’t working. Follow through is huge. Accountability on follow through is huge-er.

2 – You go A.W.O.L. and nobody confronts you about it. If you can disappear for a week, be completely out of touch (via text, call or email) and no one asks you to explain yourself your accountability isn’t working.

3 – Your first answer to probing questions is accepted. If you aren’t asked multiple “why’s” you probably aren’t getting the mileage you could be. Example:

You:  “I got defensive when my wife decided to look at my cellphone without asking”.

Accountability Partner (AP): Why?

You:  Because I should have some privacy.

AP:  Why?

You:  Because I am entitled to it!

AP: You gave up your entitlements when violated trust and broke her heart.

4 – Finally, if there aren’t regular conversations about your motivation and becoming who God is calling you to be, your accountability probably isn’t working. The goal we’re all shooting for is progressive sanctification; walking another step closer to Jesus and following his will. Growing in character. If we lose sight of our why, we’ll certainly fumble our what and how.

Next post I’ll give some input on what makes accountability work effectively.

Addict v. Redeemed Man

Earlier this week a group in my office was having a discussion about acting out. It can feel like a trance when the addict inside gets activated and tunnel vision kicks in. As if nothing will deter us from acting out once in that mode. Mental clarity fades, rational lies crank up, and the window of choice, sin vs. redemption, appears to slam shut. The byproduct of the addict taking the day is a vicious cycle of shame, isolation and self-indictment. Alternatively, when redemption wins out our gratitude increases, our self respect is bolstered and we become more empowered for the next battle. We drew a quick diagram in group to illustrate. I’m curious if any of you can relate to it (pardon my penmanship!)?

Addict_cycleRedeemedMan_cycle

 

Rewiring your Brain

I am often asked about the brain chemistry behind sexual addiction. While it would take a book to cover the topic adequately (and there is a great one I’ll mention at the end of the post), we can bring it down to lay terms. Simply said, when we engage sexually we activate the areas of the brain that chemically make us feel love, warmth, acceptance, euphoria and peace. Adrenaline, oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, etc for all you detail oriented folks. Most men who struggle with sexual integrity issues have connected the guilt and shame of life with the “love and euphoria” chemicals of sexual engagement. Neuropathways in the brain have formed which, when activated, follow this course:

negative emotions——–> sexual engagement (fantasy, masturbation, porn, emotional/physical affairs, sex with spouse)———->chemicals of love and euphoria released

In other words, we’ve learned how to use sex as the needle to deliver a chemical cocktail anesthetic that medicates negative emotions and shameful self concepts.

What begins as a narrow, shallow walking path eventually becomes so engrained and solidified that it is becomes a deep and wide trench. Those neuropathways, or trenches, are easy to access and fall into. Likewise, they are incredibly difficult to get out of.

Thankfully God created our brains with the ability to rewire. This is known as neuroplasticity. One of the simplest ways to begin rewiring the brain is to follow biblical guidance in two ways. First, when sexual temptation hits, we must take each thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Then we must replace those thoughts with what the bible says is pure, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy, right, admirable and noble (Phil 4:8). Those thoughts would ideally be vivid memories of times and situations where you felt love and peace. It could be a family vacation photo, an anniversary, grandkids, Jesus, particular verses, etc.

In terms of brain chemistry, what we are doing is interrupting the old neuropathway and replacing the sexual thoughts with memories that tap into the nerve centers of love and euphoria. We’re accomplishing the same goal [releasing the chemical cocktail] only now we are doing so in a way that honors God. We stop using our sexuality as the needle to administer the anesthetic.

I hope you’ll begin practicing this technique. If you’re like I was in the beginning of my recovery journey, you probably have multiple opportunities each day to practice this! If you do, you are faithfully practicing what Paul exhorts us to do; be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2).

A helpful read regarding pornography and the brain is Wired for Intimacy: Dr. William Struthers.