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 Quiet Times Become Chaotic: Encouragement for Busy Lives

Martin Fierro

Has there ever been a time when a gentle quietness brought a peace to your heart and mind? If you answered the question without going to that memory by moving to this next sentence you have missed the experience at the start. Let’s try it again, entertain me once again. Has there been a moment’ a time’ when a gentle quietness brought a sense of peace to your heart’. and mind’.? Sit here as you reflect to one.

Did you get to re-experience it again by this simple exercise? Rather, did you give yourself permission to experience that peace in the moment?

As an example, it was hoped that you went to a place in your mind which allowed you to experience true peace at the beach, the mountains, a river, a soft breeze on your face, laughing with your wife/children etc’. If you got there and wanted to remain there, then return and come back to this article later. It is that very resting spot that one can experience the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is also the place that the voice of the Holy Spirit comforts and challenges our soul.

It is far too often that we rush and move to the next thought, thing, activity, task, sentence or paragraph, and assignment without pondering the moment or moments. By such active behavior we miss so many opportunities to experience the rest and quiet God desires us to bask in. The possible results in the active behavior is not only missing and experiencing physiological rest but also miss times for spiritual discernment and wisdom. A benefit of resting in a quiet calm for any individual struggling with/maintaining sexual integrity is that it provides a healthy focus point to that of potential/destructive mental images and messages that lead to acting out.

Yes, peace can happen in resting in the creation of this world around us even with the modern man-made distractions.

It is not necessarily a process of creating rest, for in that alone is stressful. Just think about the last time you planned a long vacation to ‘rest.’ Was it truly a restful time? How many times have we come back from a vacation and said we need to rest from the vacation activity. It is maddening! Some rather just keep on the track of doing projects and responsibilities because seeking a quiet reflective experience appears irreverent or impossible. If you attend church regularly it is encouraged to sit and rest in God’s peace through prayer. During those times of prayer if your mind is wondering about the days/weeks events to come, once again the opportunity to have calm in the chaos is missed. Life then controls us. We just let life around us happen like it is a roller coaster ride (one hill after another). In letting life happen we surrender to it, then it takes our life focus and in that we become vague or superficial with ourselves and those around us.

In the process of recovery and staying sober from sexually acting out, our lives can become chaotic with activity as a means of distraction. Thus, a time of calm reflection and contemplation can diminish because we have to have something to tend to (hyper-stimulation in a different form?). Think of the all the time/energy used to maintain the secret of your sexual addiction and now re-using that time for true peace and calm to battle any of the triggers of your addiction. The quietness in the calm of the addiction recovery should not be mistaken as: 1. I’m healed! or, 2. Something must be wrong! Though such times of quiet in the past was the usher for your sexually acting out, perhaps these times can be used to re-focus on God and the relationship He desires with you!

Here are some ideas to consider with regards to regaining or finding some calm in the chaos. Look beyond the sidewalk to the blades of grass. The tree and the way the breeze moves its leaves. Watch a cloud as it moves so gingerly yet steadfast. Observe how the sun creates a consistent change of details through shadows at this time of the year and through out the day/month/year. Reflect on the flow of water as it hits the ground and runs to a common level seeking a resting space (much like we do). This is not being said to run around prance in a tutu as you reconnect with the world around you. Rather, do not miss this rich and free opportunity to walk out your office door, step out the car door or you own home front door to experience the calm in the chaos of the man-made world of activity. Become a child discovering nature again in its detail which is the handprint of God. If you have a young child or grandchild, watch and learn how they experience life, nature, and the world around them.

Maybe to experience some calm in the chaos is a time for each of us to go back to live as a child so we can have peace as an adult. For when we do not have peace as an adult perhaps we behave like an immature child.

For more help see Every Man’s Battle.

Summer Battle Tactics: Keeping the Bounce in Your Eyes

James Hutchison

Summer is coming and so is temptation. This warning comes to prepare you, so be ready. As the temperature rises and the heavy clothing drops, remember your covenant with your eyes. Staying sexually pure takes renewed resolve every day and every season. This is the time to review your battle plan.

Have you been having your time with God, in his word and in prayer? It is there that we find our strength, as we are told in Eph 6:10-13: ‘Finally be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.’

Reading the scriptures is only half the job. It is important to meditate on them also, so that we become different after having read them. Would a farmer, after having planted his crop, walk away hoping for a harvest, or would he tend to his crop? Just like the farmer who works hard to nurture what has been planted, we need to look carefully at what we read. Spend time thinking deeply about what you have read until it changes your heart and life.

In John 14:26 Jesus was telling the apostles that He was leaving but the Father was sending someone to help them: ‘But the Counselor, the Holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to .. Let the Holy Spirit do its intended work in your life. If you don’t understand the purpose of what you have read and how it should affect you, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand. This is the kind of prayer God loves to answer.

The time we spend with other men is also crucial to our ability to endure all temptation. Not only can we hold each other accountable, there is something to be said about the encouragement that comes from the companionship of a common struggle. The French author and war hero, Antoine De Saint-Exupery said: ‘Happiness! It is useless to seek it elsewhere than in the warmth of human relationship. Our sordid interests imprison us within their walls. Only a comrade can grasp us by the hand and haul us free. And these human relationships must be created. One must go through an apprenticeship to learn the job. Games and risk are help here. When we exchange manly handshakes, compete in races, join together to save one who is in trouble, cry aloud for help in an hour of danger-only then do we learn that we are not alone on earth.’ The close friendships that we develop can support us when we are struggling, comfort us when we hurt, and equip us for new challenges ahead. If you have been ignoring this part of your battle plan, do something today. Call a friend, make a new one, get connected; you won’t regret it! To ignore this is to reject the model of the creator God; 3 in 1. It is part of the design. If Judas had gone back to the others with his remorse like Peter, instead of isolating himself, he could have received forgiveness through the others. Instead of hanging himself, he could have experienced God’s love.

It’s Gods plan for your life; don’t reject it when you can enjoy it!

For more help in the battle for purity, see Every Man’s Battle.