The term accountability is one you will run into often when the subject of porn addiction and/or sexual integrity comes up. In fact, some would argue that accountability is the primary ingredient for any successful recovery plan.
But is it?
Many companies and ministries that target this area of need would certainly argue with a strong YES. Here are just some of the statements I have found made by such organizations:
- Accountability offers you freedom… Accountability encourages self-control and enhances your willpower to succeed.
- Quit porn with the most trusted name in accountability software.
- If we want to follow through on fleeing temptation, we need to involve others as accountability. We need to confess our sins, to ask for help, and to reach out when we’re tempted.
- When you’re trying to break free from porn and the shame that goes with it, having an accountability partner can make all the difference in your success or failure.
- Boost your motivation by getting accountability fast when temptation strikes.
To be honest, XXXchurch over the years has made many similar statements. We have often touted the need and importance of accountability. And for good reason – because HEALTHY accountability is immensely valuable.
The key word there being “healthy.”
The truth is this – accountability can either fuel your recovery or hinder it, depending on your overall approach to the concept.
Here are three pitfalls to avoid when pursuing accountability in your life to help ensure you stay on the right side of recovery.
1. Expecting software to do the work for you.
Accountability software is very useful, especially if it sends alerts and reminders that can help you stay focused on your goals when you’re tempted to stray. But it can only do so much. Even with automated reporting and screen monitoring, software will never replace the need for willful and willing transparency.
Fundamentally, genuine accountability entails being transparent with a confidant about all your choices, including those that didn’t pan out as intended. It’s about choosing to share, instead of feeling forced to reveal what you were trying to hide.
If you’re utilizing accountability software to streamline your reporting, intercept negative thought patterns, or ensure you regularly communicate with your accountability partners, then great!
But if you are expecting software to do all the work for you (the work it takes to build a real accountability based relationship) then you’re going to be let down.
2. Checking off boxes.
A common mistake I often observe in people’s accountability relationships is treating the process as a mere transactional procedure rather than a relationship that requires ongoing investment.
Typically, it looks something like this:
- Install accountability software ✅
- Find and add an accountability partner or two ✅
- Wait for the call or text when your report shows some questionable choices ✅
And when that call never happens?
Go about your day and count your blessings that you didn’t have to face that uncomfortable scenario. ✅
And can I tell you something?
If that’s your approach, you are completely missing the point of accountability.
- We need to seek out those conversations on the regular.
- We need to embrace and not endure transparency and challenge.
- We need to follow up with our accountability partners and not wait for them to follow up with us.
Healthy accountability is proactive, not reactive.
It’s less about checking off boxes and more about refusing to settle for the minimum. It’s a constant process of setting goals, reevaluating those goals, and consistently making sure that our choices and decisions move us toward those goals and not farther away.
And how do we do that? By continually engaging in meaningful relationships with people that care about us, love us, and want the best for us.
3. Thinking accountability is all about reaching goals.
In general, when the topic of accountability is discussed, particularly regarding its advantages, the main attribute that individuals recognize is how accountability facilitates the achievement of our goals.
And for good reason.
Studies have shown that accountability can have a drastic impact on the probability of accomplishing one’s objectives. In fact, one study found that one can increase the chances of reaching a goal by 65% by merely committing to someone. And, “if [they] have a specific accountability appointment with a person [they’ve] committed [to],” those chances increase to 95%.
When you come across such data, it can be tempting to believe that accountability is the solution if your “goal” is to stop watching porn.
But I would argue that to come up with that conclusion is a mistake.
Because first, setting a goal to lose weight or grow your business is way different than setting a goal to stop acting out sexually.
And second, goal setting is a high brain function, meaning that goals matter to our rational mind. However, when individuals find themselves drawn into the depths of their pornography consumption, it is not their higher brain functioning that governs their actions. Rather it’s their midbrain. More on that here.
Sure, we need to set goals for ourselves. Yes, there is value in making a plan and having an objective to live a life of sexual integrity.
But the value of accountability is found less in its ability to help us reach out goals, and more about the meaningful connections we create in our lives when we choose to be accountable to someone for our goals. Witness the fact that when we “have a specific accountability appointment with a person [we’ve] committed [to],” our chances of goal completion increase to 95%.
Connection is what matters the most when it comes to breaking free from porn use.
Software is helpful.
Reporting is helpful.
Goal setting is helpful.
But without meaningful connection in your life, all that will most likely lead to more failure and less success.
Accountability is good.
Connection is better.
But when you combine the power of those two things, you have a real solution that can benefit your life and recovery immensely.
Because we want to offer people more than just software. Rather, we want to assist individuals in uncovering the transformative potential of genuine relationships, which can significantly contribute to enhancing their mental well-being and overall quality of life.