"My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance." ~ Psalms 38:11 (NLT)
If I am not careful, I will read this verse and take it as an admonition not to abandon my friend in their hour of need. And what of this next verse acknowledging that a friend – a true friend – sticks closer than a brother.
"The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." ~ Proverbs 18:24 (AMP)
So, what of a friend who sticks closer than a brother? Am I a bad friend if I take a step back from a situation that is not beneficial, not lending itself to God's purpose in either of our lives?
I have recently struggled with these very questions as I dealt with the frustration of my relationship with a friend. She and I have walked a few valleys and mountaintops together these last four years, and from this relationship I've learned much about grace and God's perspective. Still, this week I found myself at a crossroads of friendship.
Which brings me to Accountability:
What exactly does it mean to have an accountability partner and friend?
Webster's Online Dictionary provides this definition:
1. Responsibility to someone or for some activity.
Source: WordNet 1.7.1 Copyright © 2001 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
When I agree to be accountable to someone else for my activities and behavior, then I am inviting them to speak truth into my life – even hard, corrective truth when needed – so that I may stay true to the purpose and identity that God is revealing in me.
Likewise, when I agree to hold someone accountable to what the Lord is revealing to them I must have permission to speak to the situation with love, but even if it is hard and corrective truth that needs to be revealed in a loving manner. I must be empowered by the other person to act in this way. That leads me to the intersection I faced this week.
When I came to the intersection I found myself questioning why she wanted me to hold her accountable. I felt frustrated and mildly offended while finding I could not escape the fact that this friendship was mostly sucking the life out of me.
"A Friend Loves At All Times." (Proverbs 17:17)
I did love her. I do. She is my friend and we have walked through some very difficult and painful times together – holding each other up and encouraging one another along the way.
Today I had to evaluate the benefits against the burden and discovered the following eight things as I made my decision:
1.)If the fruit that comes out of any relationship is not fruit born in keeping with repentance then it is not a beneficial relationship for either party.
2.) If the relationship is specifically called an accountability relationship then both parties must clearly define expectations and boundaries for the process.
3.) When one or both parties cease to seek the friend's relationship over the benefit of the other's strengths or favor then it may be time to evaluate priorities and make difficult decisions.
4.) If hard conversations are dismissed and confrontation avoided then it is not truly an accountable relationship.
5.) The parties in the relationship must be willing to be honest with each other and value the relationship more than the counsel received.
6.) The first priority must be hearing the Lord's perspective on every issue, not just the one's we feel we have mastered. Hearing from God about who we are and His purpose in our lives is the only source of true change. Holding fast to opinions and life patterns only reinforces that obstacles that often necessitate accountability in our lives.
7.) When we know our limitations, it necessitates communicating them in a way that does not create an offense.
8.) Finally, I've discovered that in friendship, sometimes the most loving thing a friend may do is step back so the Lord may step in.
So, today… With peace in my heart and more opportunity to pray – I asked to be released from my accountability role in my friend's life.