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.

When the Wound Doesn’t Heal

Sam Fraser

Rarely is the road to recovery straight forward. It takes many twists and turns as God teaches us His way after we have been doing it our way. Recovery is more like a dance than a road really. It is three steps forward, two steps back, interspersed with one step ahead and four steps backward. However, one of the main ways to keep dancing backwards has to do with woundedness that has not yet been healed.

Being wounded keeps us in bondage. It is God’s truth that nothing in this world can keep us from the surpassing love we have found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. ‘By His wounds we are healed.’ That is a Scriptural truth. We are destined for experiencing freedom in Christ. Yet, we remain stuck in this addiction. Why the wound doesn’t heal can take several forms and so this article should help identify several of the main roadblocks.

This is the first part of a series in which we will go in depth to explore and highlight what may be occurring if we seem to be stuck and are not making any headway into recovery. This article will highlight these possibilities overall and the next articles will go in greater detail.

First off, we have to be patient. We need to pace ourselves. It is more about running a marathon than a 100-yard dash. If we rush forward we will not be able to sustain that pace over the long haul. This wound did not develop over night and it won’t disappear that fast either. I have found in my own life and working with many men that God’s intention is to teach us to identify the issues and then trust Him to show us His better ways to address them. That takes more time than we wish. But God not only wants us to get free but also stay free, thus the need for the time it takes is a process rather than instantaneous delivery. Sorry about that! This is often the best way to get the wound healed. It is akin to giving a man a fish to feed him for one day or even better to teach a man to fish and he can do so for a lifetime. The skills needed are to be utilized for the rest of our lives. Getting frustrated and discouraged, can make us end up in despair and want to quit.

Next, do you have an action plan? It is one thing to say I want to stop but unless we have alternative ways to deal with feelings and behaviors we will return to the very behavior we want to eradicate. It is like holding your breath. Some can hold on longer than others, but guess what? You are going to have to take a breath sometime. And so it is with acting out, we have to replace the former behavior with a new one. Have you developed an alternative behavior scheme to replace your old way of acting out? It is essential that you have found other options to dealing with your emotional needs.

Another important step of recovery is getting accountable. No longer ‘efforting’ it alone, by ourselves in isolation. That is a recipe for disaster. The basic root wound of this issue has to do with intimacy. We have gotten into this routine because we are not able to connect in a more fulfilling way. We need relationships. Without our being more connected to others we will return to connecting with ourselves, i.e., acting out again. So it is important that we begin to reach out for help by getting someone to hold us accountable for our behaviors. To connect with others meets the true needs we were designed for and replaces the false sense of intimacy that our acting out attempts to achieve.

This addiction is about connections and the lack there of. We need to have relationships with others and when we don’t, sexually acting out becomes a mode of coping. If none of the above mentioned factors are creating success and you are still not experiencing sobriety, then counseling by an experienced therapist who understands sexual addiction or a person, group or ministry team probably needs to be consulted. These possibilities are not the entire list. But often if you will begin with this list it can eliminate a lot of extra pain that will delay your recovery.

For more help see Every Man’s Battle.

When Doubt Invades The Heart

Bob Damrau

There are two universal qualities that are foundational to this week’s topic. First, every man having been made in God’s image and likeness is a person of dignity.  Then God spoke to Adam and said, ‘Every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat(Genesis 2:16-17). Adam then made a character choice. Today, it is our’s.

Second, every man since Adam (except one) is a person of depravity, i.e., we sometimes make wrong choices. The third chapter of Genesis informs us that ‘he ate.’ When Adam saw his wife being deceived and that she broke God’s law he had no confidence that the goodness of God would resolve the mess Eve had created. After all, forgiveness was never required up to that point in time. So, Adam attempted to solve this new problem by joining his wife in sin. Eve doubted that God was good. Adam doubted that God was good enough. That active disposition to abuse freedom in a self-centered manner has been passed along to you and me.

VERTICAL DOUBT

A client once said to me, ‘God seems far away.’ This man had lost his job and his house. His wife’s physical health was deteriorating and his own emotional health was marked by depression. Antidepressant medication didn’t seem to help. He doubted God and was angry at Him because of what he perceived as His mistreatment of him. All this, in his eyes, deprived his life of meaning.

When we perceive God as malevolent and unpredictable’despite everything His revelation in the Lord Jesus tells us’we can become sick in mind, emotions and body. When the trials of life seem to strengthen our doubts, we tend to take control in an effort to make up for what is thought to be God’s lack of goodness or greatness. We shift our trust from Him to someone or something less.

HORIZONTAL DOUBT

When doubt invades the heart it affects each of us at the relational level. The fall brought about a reversal of man’s rule over the earth to the point that it fights back with thorns. Man’s task went from trimming and dressing the garden, to toiling against the soil in order to eke out an existence. Whenever we give up on this task, the impact of the reversal becomes evident. Instead of subduing the earth, we allow the environment to dictate our behaviors.

A core desire in every man is to pursue and deeply impact a woman. Coexisting with this desire is the core reality that our drive to initiate leaves us at great risk of exposing our inability to fully understand a woman. We doubt ourselves. We tend to feel inadequate. Our thoughts reflect a shameful self-image as we think, ‘I don’t have what it takes to love a woman.’ In his book, Inside Out, Dr. Larry Crabb says, ‘The problem (men face) is threatened sexuality, an inevitable consequence of moving away from God. The symptom of the problem is sinful sexual expression. The function of the symptom is to provide a counterfeit, momentary sense of maleness . . . (but) that, too, is sinful.’ It appears easier to pursue a fantasy and maintain a false intimacy, while the genuine article seems to evade us.

OVERCOMING DOUBT

There are two more universal qualities that are germane to this discussion.
First, every man is a dependent person. Our first, ever, problem is recorded in Genesis 2:18, when God, Himself, said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone.’ We need one another in order to survive in a place that can not fulfill our deepest needs. You don’t have to, nor are you required to go it alone. Get healthy and stay connected.

Second, every man is a person of duty. ‘God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it(Genesis 2:15).

We are designed to serve Someone greater than ourselves. When we do not come to grips with this characteristic, our behaviors often reflect our depravity. Some call this a worship disorder.

Until we are adequately connected to God and others, we will try to preserve our fragile self-image, but when the focus of our love is only inward, we can not adequately build the relationships our hearts long for. Love God with your whole heart and others from your heart, and doubt will diminish.