Transparency, the Next Step Beyond Accountability

Mark Sellers

There is this old Russian joke from the Cold War days of the former Soviet Union. It goes something like this:
– ‘Moscow has only two television stations.’
– ‘Oh, really?’ someone asks.
– ‘Yes. One is the government station with the official Party line.’
– ‘Well then, what is the other?’
– ‘There’s this guy in a KGB uniform telling you to go back to the first station.’

I thought it was funny the first time I heard it, but the more I thought it through, the more I found parallels for what passes today as accountability.

The idea of accountability partners has been a staple in the Christian men’s movement for some time. Having an ‘accountability partner’ has a momentum of its own, one many of us accept without question, yet one that falls short of what I believe is really needed.

In many circles it is seen as a major piece of sexual sobriety. You and your partner meet weekly, usually at a restaurant, more often than not for breakfast. You ask each other the tough questions, ones typically pointed and direct. They often go like this:
(1) Have you been sexual with yourself, or with someone besides your spouse?
(2) Have you viewed pornography?
(3) Have you purposely lingered over sexually-suggestive programming on television and/or cable? and the real killer
(4) Are you lying to me now?

I probably have my questions around somewhere, folded up in one of my Bibles. Yet such meetings had a strange feel. I felt pressured to give good news each week to keep my partners as friends. Fortunately I know them now, and know our friendship is intact no matter what, but back in those early days our energy was wrong.

Let’s be honest. Men struggling with sexual addiction are terrible at investing in mutual relationships. We are instinctively secretive, we pull back a lot, and we give ‘happy news’ because we don’t want to be seen for who we really are. We are Marlboro Men, riding the prairie alone, keeping our worlds to ourselves.

Fortunately my partners are exceptional men, and we have pushed past accountability to a better place. We couldn’t sustain our friendship on the shaky platform of a question list. There has to be more than a KGB officer directing us back to the Party line.

Unbalanced partnerships form when one person is identified as the addict and the other is seen as the healthy one. These usually don’t survive the long haul.
I once had to console a man who was dumped by his partner because he wasn’t ‘serious.’ Certainly there are two sides here, but what killed it from the start was the lack of mutuality and its unbalanced nature.

Another time a man shared his story with his partner, and it was good. But the partner heard that the man’s wife had not been sexual with him for some years, and passed the information on to his own wife, who in turn passed it on to the man’s wife. We almost lost a marriage then and there.

One former pastor I know confided with an accountability partner about his struggle with pornography; only the partner had different ideas. The pastor wasn’t moving fast enough in his eyes, so he reported him to the other pastors. What could have been wonderful grace-driven restoration instead became a dramatic platform dismissal.

To be honest, the picture I laid out is not that bleak. God continues to move in all their stories, and they are seeing restoration despite such setbacks. More importantly, God is receiving the glory for it. Still we can do better. Accountability partnerships based solely on asking the hard questions cleans only the outside of the cup. Jesus said, ‘First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.’ (Matthew 23:26 NIV)

I suggest caution before we move into accountability relationships. We can seek out men who are also in recovery, who have had their lives broken, who are not spiritual superstars, but who will sit with us through our worst storms. We need partners who will love us even if we mess up and act out. Such men should earn our trust, and we theirs.

I suggest an even higher standard. How about ‘transparency partners.’ ‘ men with whom we can walk in the light together, experience mutual Godly fellowship and not demand an immediate external fix? God heals in our openness. We already know that (1st John 1:7). Still we must discern the wolves out there hiding in sheep’s clothing. With a transparency standard we can be mutually open, and move beyond our false selves, see the dirt inside each other’s cups, and celebrate together as God begins to clean those cups.

For more help see Every Man’s Battle.

Christmas Hope

Rebecca J. Wever

Christmas-time is often a time when people feel hopeful. As followers of Jesus Christ we are reminded that our Savior was sent to earth as an innocent little baby for us, each one of us. But sometimes even though we have hope in things that are eternal we may still feel hopeless when it comes to the things of this world. Being on the road to sexual purity, and more specifically, restoring a wounded or broken marriage can sometimes feel hopeless.

As the wife of a recovering sex addict I want to give you hope. Many of you have heard David Wever’s story of his fall to sexual sin and the damage it did to both him and our marriage. I was a woman who was stung by betrayal, a woman who completely lost trust in her husband. I remember the days when I couldn’t see past my pain to a day when we would have a good relationship, or even better, a healthy marriage.

As David and I are in contact with couples through the Every Couple’s Desire Conference the thing I hear most from the men is, ‘She’s stuck.’ However, it may not be so much that she is stuck but more that she hasn’t begun to heal. The most wonderful gift I ever received was the gift of healing. As I began to heal and to face both the betrayal and myself in light of the betrayal, I was able to start to move back towards David and the issues that brought us to the place we were. Unfortunately, you can’t heal for her, you can’t make it happen faster and you can’t demand that she does it.

I found that healing can happen as three components come in to place.

First, you must adhere to your battle plan. Your wife will watch you to see if you are for real. She wants to trust you but she won’t allow her heart to be hurt that way again. You have to show her you are going to follow through with the things you say. Meet with your accountability partner, disconnect cable, put a filter on your computer, let you finances be open for her to see, and don’t be defensive when she needs to ask questions or express her feelings. I still ask David questions or express fear or pain – it’s not a one time discussion.

Second, she will need to work through her pain, wounds and issues on her own. She may need individual therapy or a mentor to talk with. Give her the freedom to seek healthy and supportive relationships to do this. Just as it is important for you to have relationships to keep you accountable and strong in the battle she will also need relationships for support and strength.

And third, healing will only happen through the Holy Name of Jesus Christ. Acts 3:16 says, ‘By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him…‘ Your wife will begin to heal, or grow stronger, as you both surrender to Jesus Christ.

Pray for her daily. Pray for her healing, her pain, her wounds and her anger. Surrender your wife to your Heavenly Father. Here is the hopeful part’I am a woman who lost any hope for a happy, healthy marriage. I am a woman who never thought her husband could love her enough to be sexually pure. I am a woman who never dared to hope for anything better. But, I am a woman who is living all those things today.

Our Father in Heaven is amazing and He wants for your marriage to be healthy and holy and wonderful just as much as He wants it for David and me. So if things feel hopeless for you this holiday season, as you remember the little baby Jesus, I pray you will find new hope, not only in the things eternal but also in the things of this world.

Safeguarding Your Heart

David Mackey

It was 1998. I had just begun a counseling practice with New Life Ministries. I had finally bought a new computer that worked rather then a hand-me-down computer that really didn’t.

More good news, geographically, my New Life Clinic office was closer to one of my best college friends. I didn’t know what an ‘accountability partner’ was then, but he was the guy I first confessed to regarding my struggle with pornographic magazines. Our regular talks and prayer times were a big tool toward my finding victory over the use of porn.

So I called my friend to exchange my office and email addresses and to catch up after many months of being too busy to pick up the phone.

One of my friends first questions was ‘Hey Dave, did you get a filter for your computer?’ ‘What’s a filter?’ I asked, as I tried to imagine how a coffee filter could possibly be used with my computer. Tim went on to explain how late one night when he was just starting to figure out his computer, he came across sites that were beyond his imagination. He wasn’t looking for them, they easily found him. After 25 years one of this guys first inclination when talking to me was concern for how I was doing in the Battle. How cool is that!?!

Internet porn may be the biggest issue for those in the Battle. Pornography has been around for a long time. Sexual temptations have been around even longer. But it was the advent of the Internet which really awakened the world to a need for EMB Workshops. Indeed many of the men who come to EMB Workshops found the use of Internet porn to be THE slippery slope that finally brought them down. Most men’s story is that they started looking at magazines at the ages of 10 to 13. Most men report that they continued looking at magazines throughout their life. Most, often secretly, men carried this secret passion right into adulthood, even throughout their marriages. Other sexually impure behaviors often came into play including actual affairs and connection with real women but the pornographic magazines never really left UNTIL the Internet.

For with the Internet comes way more freedom and access than most men can handle. Indeed we are bombarded with seductive ads constantly. Even pictures can pop-up without our request. Sometimes just the subject line in an unsolicited email can be a powerful trigger. I personally learned this the hard way.

This article is to provide some practical tips on using the Internet on your computer. Let’s look at 3 levels of protection: Our Personal Tools, Passive Tools and Proactive tools to assist in our internet use.

Personal Tools involve some work in our heart and mind. Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Let me encourage you to renew your mind with truth that ‘The Internet Can Be Dangerous.’ Know that in your head. Know that in your heart. Believe this truth so you can approach it appropriately. If you have any love for guns you know that they can bring much enjoyment and good times. But they are dangerous and any gun owner worth his salt, knows in his head, knows in his heart and believes the truth that guns are dangerous. So when they use them they do so with safety constantly on their mind. Treat the Internet the same way! Too often the way we got in this mess was because we treated the Internet as a toy’ it’s not!

Passive Tools involve setting up your Internet and computer services in such a way that access to pornography on the Internet is difficult. Unfortunately one can’t say access is impossible. There is always a way that our devious hearts and minds seem to figure it out.

The first and I believe best Passive Tool is to get a Filtered Internet Service Provider (ISP). Very likely you have ‘aol’ or ‘msn’ as your ISP because they come with computers and/or offer lots of freetime. However, what you need is an ISP which filters porn before it even gets to your computer. I personally have used Integrity-On-Line, Cleanweb, and Safe-eyes. They are very effective and I didn’t even have the titles of porn sites come up when I searched for something else. Do a search for Filtered ISP’s you should find many to choose from.

However, when receiving emails I did receive solicitations. The subject line itself would be pornographic, and I don’t even need to read that. I also found out that if your email account is set up to preview your emails, it opens some of them up and you could be hit with a picture.
To fight this you do 2 things:
1) turn off your preview option on your email account and
2) purchase spam blocker software.
I have used software called ‘Mail wiper’ which worked well for me. This software will automatically send a message to a sender asking if they know ‘you’ the receiver. If they respond then they will be added to your mailing list. If they don’t respond they will be added to your delete list. Your own personal mailing list will not be blocked. McAfee also has a ‘spam killer.’

Proactive Tools involve setting up software which monitors every move you make on the computer. I have heard the Net Accountability, Covenant Eyes and X3Watch are all helpful. Each week an email is sent to the person you designate, perhaps an accountability partner so they will know what you have been doing. This not only protects you from wandering/searching for a way around the filters but also will show what time is wasted playing solitaire. Time stewardship is another problem we who struggle with Sexual Purity seem to have.

To be sure this is not an exhaustive list of that which can be done to safeguard your heart while on the internet. However, these are effective tools. Of course, if your heart continues to pursue Internet porn even after these tools are in place, the best plan is to get rid of the Internet all together. After all we did survive before the 1990’s.

See Every Home Protected Internet Filter.