Relevant Leadership

Helping Leaders To Be More

Relevant Leadership is a site to help equip, train, and empower youth pastors and their volunteer leaders to effect a generation of students for the Glory of God.

When Accountability Goes Bad

I am not a great secret keeper.  I wish that I could write to you about a strong accountability relationship I had that didn’t turn out the way I wanted, because my accountability partner broke my trust by telling others what I had shared with him in confidence.  I wish I could tell you how I moved on and what I did to forgive that person and how I reconciled that relationship.  However, I’m usually the other guy.  I’m usually the person who struggles to keep the secret and breaks a confidence that was more important to someone then I realized.  I am usually the one who needs to be forgiven.  When I say that my life is an open book I really mean it.  I have no part of my life that at least one person doesn’t know about, so keeping secrets is difficult for me.  So instead of telling you what to do when someone betrays your trust, I am going to give you three things I try to do when I have betrayed someone else’s trust.

Photo by Jan Schulz found on

Photo by Jan Schulz found on

1.     Go straight to that person.  When I know that I have betrayed someone’s trust I do my best to go straight to that person as fast as possible.  That doesn’t always happen.  I’m sure there are people who are still upset with me about something I told someone, and I’m not even aware of it.  However, when I realize that I made a mistake I try to make myself easy to find.  I don’t want the person who trusted me to have to come looking for me.  I want to go find him.  If there is a chance to salvage the relationship then the only way of doing it will be to come out of hiding and face what I have done. 

2.     Own it.  Once I have pulled myself out of hiding its time to own it.  No excuses.  I did something wrong.  It may be in my personality to share every part of my life with everyone but that’s not a good reason to hurt someone else.  The person I have betrayed deserves to be upset and I need to be mature enough to shoulder his anger and fear and take it.  I used to try to worm my way out of things at this stage in the game.  I would get really slimy and manipulative and point out all the reasons it was really both of our faults.  That never played out as I thought it would in my head.  I felt better in the moment but in the long run the pay off in the relationship was less then ideal.  I just needed to own it. 

3.     Expect the relationship to change.  Last, I need to expect that the relationship won’t be the same.  I can do all the correct things by going to the person right away and owning who I am and what I did but that may not change the fact that I am not trustworthy.  Our relationship may never be the same.  An accountability relationship may just not work out anymore.  I need to be prepared to own that too.  That’s on me, not him.

In conclusion, I’m a lot better today than I was six or eight years ago with keeping secrets and holding things in confidence.  When I’m told not to tell anyone something, 95 times out of 100 you can bank on me not telling another soul.  Being married and having someone who I can talk with about everything has helped a lot over the past several years.  I still get in trouble from time to time, because there are some things about yourself that you can change through training and effort and some things that you can’t.  I ‘ve tried to change this area and despite being a loyal person and a good friend I am still not a great secret keeper.  I don’t know that I will ever grow to become one.  I know that living my life as an open book has been far more of a blessing then living as a closed one.  I get the chance to live life with far less fear then folks with a lot of secrets, and I’m grateful for that. 

I hope you will learn to live with less secrets and to live in more freedom, that you will live in accountability with at least one person who can help you learn to live life as an open book.  God already knows all your crap and His judgment is the only one that matters at the end of the day.  We spend a lot more time hiding our mess from people whose judgment is temporal then repenting to God whose judgment is eternal.  However, that’s a post for another day.