Accountability and Confession in Friendships

Accountability and Confession in Friendships

A deep friendship happens not only when you share fun and playfulness but also when you are vulnerable with each other. I like what John Townsend says in his book How to Be a Best Friend Forever: “Life is too short to go through it without vulnerability.” He goes on to say, “We all need to be transparent about inner selves, needs, mistakes, and emotions with someone. Best friends are the best place for that need.”[1]

The safe place I have in my life is my men’s breakfast group. It didn’t begin that way. We started out talking about sports and politics and our shared faith. But when one of the guys opened up about a struggle he was having in his marriage, his vulnerability led to all of us becoming more open about our lives, doubts, struggles, family issues, and financial challenges. Today, that weekly Tuesday breakfast often is a thin place. What’s amazing about thin places is that as much as they can be a sunset or a breathtaking look at nature, they are often when two or more friends share a meaningful connection. For me, those times happen when there is vulnerability mixed with accountability and confession.

I remember as a young Christian reading a verse that confused me: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Two things bothered me about that verse. I was not willing to confess my sins to anyone. I wanted to look good and put together. And sharing how I was missing the mark was just not in my DNA. I was trying to confess to God, but even that was a bit sketchy. But the part of that verse that bugged me the most was that if I confessed my sins to someone, I would be healed. That was just too much for me to fathom.

Then one day as a young Christian I took a risk and confessed to a mentor some things I had done and was going through. Instead of receiving wrath or rejection from this person, I received empathy and grace. He helped me to see I wasn’t alone and helped me develop some accountability. That was the beginning of a truly beautiful healing process that made it easier to be more vulnerable in the future. That experience was my first encounter with a thin place, but it wasn’t the last. Yes, honest, heartfelt confession in a trusted relationship can bring healing. It requires vulnerability, but it’s worth the risk. I have learned over the years that private decisions, both good and bad, have public consequences. Confessing private decisions often brings wholeness to our lives.

[1] John Townsend, How to Be a Best Friend: Making and Keeping Lifetime Relationships (Brentwood, TN: Worthy, 2011), 42.

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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