When enough people tell me, or the right person tells me something is bad for me, or just there’s a better way to do something, I’ve learned to listen. I’ve given a degree of accountability to a couple of people, to speak to me honest and frankly, “with the bark on”, to avoid my thick skull from misinterpreting something they are trying to tell me. A practice they, sometimes fully exercise and something I treasure.
That’s not to say every time my wife or other friends have a heart to heart with me I drop whatever I’m doing and turn the other direction. No. it normally takes quite a bite more to convince me. I’m pig headed, but, I’m not so conceited that I cannot take criticism. Besides, I placed these people in my life for just such a reason, why would I not listen?
Not all friends are in that type of relationship with you. They are not as invested in you and you in them to truly be accountable. It takes time, effort and proprieties to cultivate these relationships. Understand, that these people are not your momma. In other words, they are not to carry you the whole long way. They’re there to…well, be there. Time for a list:
Expectations of an accountability partner:
1. Give life-given and life-giving wisdom-Information and wisdom are two critically different things. I’ve seen a lot of stupid things in my life, most of it I did myself. Thanks. However, anyone can get information, it is the information age. But even before, there are libraries, that house volumes of great information. Some of it was written by wise people, but information does not become practical, applicable wisdom until you take the thing on that page, load it into your brain, look for a place to apply it, have the courage to change from a previously accepted behavior and apply this newly learned skill. So a work equation would look like this: Read>Learn>Seek>Courageous Application.
So, these partners give wisdom that they have gained through the School of Hard Knocks (The best school, EVER!) and information they didn’t have to pay quite as much for. (In other words, they didn’t become homeless to gain it, rather, they actually learned it in the company of others, for example or by doing out in life without the self-abuse.
2. Have a long history with you-You don’t want to be giving “Confidential information” to a person you just met at the park or in rehab. What’s “Confidential information?” In the information age that’s stuff like your social security number driver’s license and the like. But in the normal flow of the average human relationship, that’s stuff like what scares you, what are your fears, have you ever been married, and so on. You don’t hand that info out to just any body, they must earn your trust. Trust takes time. A lot of time. If you skip this part, things could quite possibly blow up in your face and you could be left having personal information in the hands of manipulative people. One last thing on this, if you’ve sought group counseling, you know personal information is made very public. That doesn’t count for the trust that is given in common conversations by the expenditure of time. In other words, in a relationship, a person trusts you with their heart and personal information. It is given, it is earned. That cannot, in any way, be replaced by sitting in group therapy and leveraging confidential information because you were at the right place at the right time.
3. Listen-Yup, turn off the mouth and turn on the ears. Many people miss out on the opportunity to help others because they feel as if they have to be Dr. Phil or Freud, for Pete’s sake. No! All you have to do is show up and listen. You don’t have to have a lot of witty sayings, you don’t have to have all the right things on the tip of your tongue. Just show up! That’s what I said. Just show up. Be there for them. They wouldn’t remember all the sage advice anyway, they’ll remember that you were there. Sitting right next to them, standing right there beside them. And if they do ask you some hard questions like, “Why did this happen?” hugs are answers too. They don’t really expect you to answer that, they’re looking for another answer that you have no part in at this time.
4. Observe-They watch. They see how you hold yourself, if you miss a few days at church, at work, with the group. They see if you are by the wall or in the crowd, and they tell you.
5. Be physically present-Text message is okay for light maintenance, emails are fine for business, a letter is nice, a phone call is good. Nothing beats being there. Nothing. That way they can correctly perform the other requirements on this list.
6. Mentally anticipatory-They think ahead of the curve, or at least, you. They know your reasons, they know your excuses, they know your rationales they know you. That doesn’t happen overnight. That takes time. This is applied lovingly, or it starts to feel like they’re a Know-It-All.
7. Creative-Creativity is not something you do, it’s something you are. How you take the garbage out, how you get to work, how you do your job, your relationships and how you eat your bowl of cereal. It’s how you problem solve to how you view romance. Thinking of something the way others have not can save a life and set their feet on a better path. It does take boldness to be creative and, to some degree, a thick skin to bear up when others just don’t “get you.” Do it anyway.
8. Encourage-They can see the clean floor underneath the spilled milk, encouragers can. And when you cross the line, blow it or fall flat on your face, they remind us that we all make mistakes. We are to learn from mistakes, not make it a lifestyle. Generous in praise, hopeful about the future, encouragers forecast the morning in the dead of night and kick out butts when it’s needed.
9. Intervene-To step in. Between the harm and ourselves, they intervene when we can’t see the danger. Sometimes it’s not done too delicately. Matter of fact, it’s better when it’s quite confrontational but tough love is still love and we all speak different languages of love. And when it comes time to act on love, it needs to be bold, practical and direct. Otherwise it’s not intervention, it’s more like a tap on the shoulder.
10. Redirect-If you get lost, you’ve lost your direction, you need to get, what for it…Redirected. If you discuss goals, hopes dreams, wishes, directions with a partner, and you go astray, they have a degree of authority to help you get back on the path. Nobody wants to see someone get lost, so let them set your feet on the right path and redirect you.
The next question is, “Do you have this kind of relationship in your life?” Do you? Or do you have a drinking buddy, a social media friend, an enabler or just someone who is superficial? This is a deeper kind of relationship that you do not have with everyone. Nor should you. A few are enough. If you feel you lack this type of relationship, sit down and talk with them and ask them to be a part of your journey. Most will enjoy the idea.
And one last thing, BE that kind of friend to a precious few, don’t hide your light.
When you give someone a piece in your life, you build trust. Even the most socially awkward person will know when trust is given. And if they don’t realize it, you get to pull them aside and say, “I’m trusting you with this so please…” and so the journey begins.