I had nothing to hide. No reprehensible behavior I was struggling with, no glaring character defects. In fact, I was feeling pretty self-righteous. Doug Self, with whom I've been meeting weekly since 1976, and I were sitting comfortably in front of the fireplace at the Redstone Inn, enjoying our early cup of coffee as usual. We filled each other in on our week's events as usual. We enjoyed the peaceful ambiance as usual.
Then out of the blue, Doug said, "Louis, I have something for you from the Lord."
Not as usual. Doug proceeded to point out some ungodly attitudes in me that he'd been noticing. He had been hearing me be critical and unloving.
Ouch! I knew what he was referring to. Frankly, I wasn't interested in re-evaluating my position or changing it.
The encounter reminded me why I need accountability-and why I resist it. I find accountability difficult for at least four reasons.
I Fear Rejection
I've heard that from countless individuals during my twenty-five years as a psychiatrist. At times I've felt the same way. Fear of rejection often makes accountability scary. But the times I've come clean, no matter how hard, have led to acceptance and forgiveness rather than rejection.
One time, I had to confess to my wife that I'd become emotionally involved with a nurse during my internship. That stupidity could easily have ended our marriage. Only by God's grace and Melissa's remarkable forgiveness did we survive. If I had been open to Melissa or somebody else during that time, the whole thing might have been avoided.
I feared that admitting the temptation and attraction would bring rejection. Instead Melissa said, "Louis, I'm very hurt and angry. I don't understand how you could have let that happen, but I forgive you. I'll need time to rebuild trust, and I want you to know if that ever happens again, I'm gone!"
I believed her. That event helped me learn to have a commitment to accountability.
I Feel Embarrassed
The things I confess to Doug, I often fail at repeatedly. That becomes embarrassing. I feel convicted, get up the courage to confess, pledge to quit doing whatever it was, only to repeat the behavior.
I've heard confessions from hundreds of pastors who have the same struggle, only in other areas: pornography, lustful thoughts, lack of spiritual discipline, loss of temper, emotional abuse of family members, stealing, lying, cheating on taxes. The list goes on and can become such an embarrassment that accountability is lost.
I Resent Control by Hostile People
I've been blessed by the loving people in my life; many have shown me grace. Being accountable to these people has been relatively easy.
It's not so easy to submit to someone angry at you. At our retreat center, we often work with pastors who have broken faith and trust with the people in their lives. One part of working through those situations is being assigned to an "accountability group." I highly encourage it. Making changes in one's life is hard and especially difficult if attempted in isolation.
The problem, though, is that members of the accountability groupoften people from the congregation or denominationare struggling with their own feelings of betrayal. They are hurt and angry. The accountability process can be a healing experience. But if the group members are wounded and angry, accountability deteriorates into hostile oblivion.
I Don't Like Facing My Negative Feelings
I'm a master at self-deceit. My self-image is that I'm a gentle, open, gracious person who seldom has negative feelings. So I find ways to avoid dealing with them.