"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Gift of Accountability

By Micky Wolf

Accountable. Has a nice flow, a bit of a ring. If a word can seem important by the way it sounds, this one might be near the top of the list. That being stated, if we ever hope to be and become more Christ-like, we best pay attention to how it may apply for each of us on a personal level.

While I spend a fair amount of time with my spiritual direction practice, writing has been a priority these past few years. As far back as I can recall, I scribbled words—on little pieces of paper, the backs of cardboard tablets or other handy objects, and probably in a few ways and places that would have been better left alone. I could describe numerous examples of why I believe this is a primary calling at this time in my life, however, the whole issue of accountability in conjunction with composing has taken on a renewed sense of value and importance in recent weeks.

By necessity, being a writer means being comfortable with solitude. For me? I am really, really, comfy with my computer, screen, and various instrumental music CD companions. 

This is a most blessed time in my life and I am savoring every moment. When not studying to improve the craft, I have been busy working on a novel that, after many previous guises, now seems to be springing into life in a way that energizes every pore of my being.

That’s the good news.

Now for the less appealing part.

Working alone is a great way to minimize the possibilities for someone—in this case, other than my beloved—to call me to accountability for what is being accomplished. In other words (okay, pun intended) enjoying the solitude too much can create a false sense of reliance on one’s ability and capacity to be objective, persevere, and get the work done.

“How so?” you may wonder. “You’re a mature adult. What’s the problem? You keep a calendar and have plenty of notes posted around as reminders of what needs to be done and when.”

Yep. All true. Except for one minor detail: knowing something needs doing and carrying it to completion can be two vastly difference concepts. If I’m the only one in the room, who is to know? To see? To remind me I’m not staying on task?”

Personally, I do have a conscience, which can fairly scream at times. “Stop playing desktop solitaire! In between the moments of heavenly flowing creativity, you knew writing can be hard, but so what? (Actually it’s the editing and rewriting that can send a writer into a delirium tremens of sorts.)

With the nod to the old saying; “what happens—or doesn’t—in my study, stays in my study.”

Enter the gift of accountability…

Out of the blue several days ago, a friend (the loving kind who isn’t into handing out hands full of that manure stuff) dropped me a note with a brief suggestion for a writing project. While the concept itself was something my beloved and I had discussed before, the idea someone other than the two of us would propose it was akin to stirring a tiny ember into a brighter flame.

Now, here’s the best part—this individual volunteered to put some skin in the process. If I felt the suggestion worthy of time and attention, each of us would have a to-do list to support me in making it a reality. Her strengths and talents would complement mine. I could continue to work on my novel while being accountable and take responsibility for my part with the other project.

Opening the gift…

“Well, fine. Of course. Four hands are better than two.” Nevertheless, fellow sojourner, there is a spiritual principle at work here that goes much deeper.

People who commit to the kind of friendship-relationship as modeled by Jesus, do so with great love and compassion. They bring out the best in one another. In this context, being the caring person who exhorts and encourages the other to “take responsibility” for one’s behaviors and actions, or lack thereof.

As a writer alone in a room, it can be easy to justify what I am doing—or not. I may not be so innocent or na├»ve to believe God is oblivious, but deep in my soul, I know when the work at hand seems too hard to wade into and how much easier it would be to focus on something else that usually offers immediate gratification without all the sweat equity.

Accountability in action…

As we sat down to discuss how writing project X might happen, I could feel every little insecurity and fear crawl to the surface. What happens next?

In the midst of all this, those three little words show up and pack a wallop—the fuel, if you will—behind the accountability. To. Do. List. After we had shared thoughts and ideas, each of us grabbed a sheet of paper as she suggested specific action steps for both of us. No commands or demands. Suggestions. And was I comfortable with these, including a possible d-e-a-d-l-i-n-e?

It might be easy enough to file this experience under various headings: self-discipline, self-direction, goal-setting, short and long term planning, and so forth.

But here’s the deal, at least where I am concerned. There’s nothing quite like experiencing Jesus with skin on—in the form of loving, compassionate, human companions—who care enough to get involved and offer more than a few dutiful words as we journey through the days of our earthly existence. Recall the story of the little boy and the multitudes of starfish on the beach: he couldn’t toss them all back into the ocean, but for those he could reached out to, his action meant all the difference.

Christ-like accountability happens most often in a relationship or environment where people feel safe, validated, and supported. Where making a mistake or screwing up isn’t viewed as a tasty opportunity to dice and slice one another at the first sign of a difficulty or problem. When that kind of atmosphere prevails, it is then much easier (albeit not without risk or pain) to “go out into the world” and behave in a similar manner.

My novel and to do list await.

Do I feel fear or become unsettled with the idea of being accountable? Why?

Do I need to pray and ask God for someone who will be loving and compassionate in helping me be accountable to the service or work He has called me to?

Who are the people in my life that represent Jesus with skin on?


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