Problems with Accountability


Would you give back Linus’ blanket? As popular and successful as an “accountability person or group” can be for making personal changes, it’s not fool proof. There are limits to how much success we can achieve with accountability. Here’s why.

  1.  If we fail to keep a promise our accountability person can scold, shame, and tsk tsk us but does that automatically lead to change? No. Membership in weight loss groups doesn’t guarantee self control when we’re in a bakery.
  2. If our accountability person is wishy-washy like Charlie Brown above, is our failure their fault? No. The pull toward temptation may outweigh the embarrassment of confessing our failures to another.
  3. What does the accountability partner do if/when we fail to keep our promise? Yell? Scream? Punch? This certainly doesn’t engender good will between friends.

Accountability works best if the “punishment” for failure is motivating. I signed a contract to pay for my house and my accountability partner (credit union) will kick me out if I don’t pay. That’s motivating!

Accountability works best if you don’t live with your accountability partner. Few marriages thrive when your partner is also your prison warden.

Accountability works best if our commitment to personal change is stronger than our urge to not change. We shouldn’t make our success dependent on an accountability person’s threats, finger wagging, or disappointment.

And for the record, I’d give back Linus’ blanket and suggest he either put it in a bucket of water and freeze it, or slowly wean himself from it by decreasing blanket time, or go cold turkey and throw it away. What would you do?