[Editor’s note: today’s post is an excerpt from Craig Gross’s book Open. For more information, visit GetOpen.com]

My own experience with accountability started in my teenage years, the summer after my sophomore year in high school, when my youth pastor, Tom, sought me out and asked me if I wanted to start meeting with him at McDonald’s before school on Wednesdays. I initially balked at the six o’clock meeting time—any time before noon is early for an adolescent male— but after thinking it through I began to see how this could be beneficial for me and agreed.

See, as an outgoing, fun-loving fellow, I had plenty of friends at the time, but they were just pals and acquaintances, the types of guys I could talk about girls with or go see a movie with or just hang out with. Do all those normal teenage shenanigans with.

What I was lacking was a person I could really open up to. But not only that—I was also lacking the ability to open up. I didn’t know how to do it or how to even go about doing it, and sometimes I didn’t even know I needed to do it.

Then Tom came along with this opportunity to start meeting with him. I took him up on his offer, and not long after that we started our weekly meetings under the golden arches. Finally, at long last, I had a person in my life I felt I could share real stuff with—stuff about my faith, about my doubts and fears, about my dreams for life and what those looked like. About the struggles and temptations I had as I stepped into adulthood, and how well or poorly I wrestled with those struggles and temptations.

Even better, though, was that I now had the opportunity to listen as Tom shared with me some of the challenges he had in his own life. Maybe it sounds weird, but I didn’t feel like he was unloading on me or using me as an ear to vent into—he was just trusting me with a small part of his inner world, a part that I was old enough and mature enough to hear about. He was showing me the flip side of accountability—it’s not all about talking; it’s just as much about listening.

There I was, a teenage kid, awed and amazed at Tom’s ability to listen to me as I poured out my heart and his willingness to share a little bit of his heart with me. I couldn’t believe it. I had mistakenly thought adults had it all together. You can imagine the paradigm shift I underwent the first time I heard Tom talk about some of the challenges he faced in his own life. Here was a guy who had progressed much further in life than I had, who had his career and life plan figured out, and he still had struggles.

It was liberating.