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What is it and why is it so hard for men to offer to other men?

Accountability for a man is not an easy one to offer or even broach with a man let alone offer something of value in a short blog.  In my 16 years of full-time men’s ministry, I have found little to nothing offered on effective accountability to another brother in the Lord.  Sure there are guidelines offered on how to do this and plenty of scripts written to give men a little direction, but in truth, they are very surface level offerings and I, for one, believe the Church is left wanting on this issue.  So I am going to break down accountability in a series of blogs that will hopefully one day be the foundation of a book offering to men.  So let us begin.

What is accountability?  In my own words, accountability is word that our Protestant brethren first started to use in their men’s ministry efforts and it is one, which we, as Catholics, hijacked for our late blooming men’s movements and initiatives.  I like the word accountability, but really what does this word mean.  I think it is something thrown around among discipleship and fellowship groups, but in truth, I don’t think men really know what they are asking for when it comes to the deliverable goods here.  A man will say, “I need more accountability in my life!”  What are they really trying to say with this statement?  He is saying, I need someone to call me out on my sh– and  enable me to no longer hide from the reality that my choices are destroying my life.

Okay, so here’s my definition of accountability in masculine gender terms given my audience.

Accountability is a process by which one man offers another man an opportunity to confess his failings as it relates to his personal growth in virtue, specifically with the virtue of temperance, which monitors the areas of pleasure and the use of created goods, such as food or beverage.

Sounds simple enough, but how can this be done effectively in a man’s life?  How does one man hold another accountable? Through the work of The King’s Men and our Samson Retreat offerings, I have attempted several times, some more successful than others, at holding men accountable.  I recently had a good dialogue with one brother in the Lord in this regard.  I find the experience to be a very challenging one because it requires great empathy on the part of the accountability partner towards the man who desires to be accountable.  A man must be able to separate from his current situation and enter into his brother’s world at the exact moment when accountability is requested.  Often when the accountability is requested it is at the disruption of the accountability partner’s life.  This is not always the case, but we live busy lives as men.  We have duties to our work, to our families and to those in our periphery, such as friends and neighbors.  Usually, a dedicated time for a call with an accountability partner would be optimal, but this is not always the case as accountability may be needed at moments when a man is tempted or in despair following a fall to temptation so the optimal element I have found is not always realistic and achievable.

That said, men struggle to say the hard things to other men.  Often, the reason for this can be related to the accountability partner’s  own insecurity surrounding the specific accountability issue.  Does the accountability partner have enough self-awareness and knowledge to be able to effectively offer accountability even if he, himself, is struggling with the same issue?  This is extremely difficult, as a man filter’s life often through the lens of his own experience.  If a brother calls on another brother, while that brother is struggling with the same issue, how does this affect the accountability that is offered?  Will it weaken the accountability?  Will it influence the accountability in a way that makes the accountability more scrutinous than it needs to be?  I have found these factors to be quite important when it comes to producing effective or ineffective accountability.

This leads naturally to the question as to whether the accountability partner has enough distance in his own life from the actual issue that is being presented for accountability. Does he have enough freedom or sobriety with the issue in question to be able to offer effective counsel or advice if required and necessary for effective accountability to be rendered?  In truth, no man is perfect and very few have attained virtue in all areas of their life so it is not a disqualification for a man to have current or past struggles with the accountability issue.  However, it should be said, that it is vital that a man possess the wisdom of life experience in such instances, maintains a very grounded view of his own continued struggles, and exercises the necessary discipline  to avoid interference with his personal life and the man who is seeking accountability.

All of this being said, it is no wonder why accountability for men, while good in its original intentions, usually does not last very long.  Couple these realities with the fact that a man is basically clueless as to what to say when a man tells another man he fell to the same sin again.

What is the next step for this accountability program?  We will discuss this in my next blog on accountability.

In Christ’s healing and unfailing love,

Mark Houck