Mentoring Helps Relationships

Three Types of Accountability

This article is an excerpt from the recently released book Mentoring Warriors by David Riffel. Available at

What I’ve learned from my mentoring experiences and life along the way is there are three ways to look at accountability.  It’s almost one of those Good, Better, Best understandings of accountability.  In his book, Surfing for God, Michael John Cusick maps out three basic views of accountability, each with their own end results.  Building upon his thoughts, I’d like to outline a few of my own. 

Cop Accountability

With an emphasis on curbing bad behavior, a man may ask his friend or mentor to hold him accountable.  For example, my friend struggled with smoking.  In an effort to quit, he switched to a nicotine-based vape.  From there he tapered down to zero nicotine and then sent me the vape to dispose of.  He asked for accountability to stop a harmful habit.  Another young man was entrenched into pornography.  Multiple times a week he’d click on a stream of porn sites only to end up masturbating.  He became so sick of this sin/confess cycle that he asked for accountability.  Web-based software like Covenant Eyes can be what I dub a hesitant in the process.  It doesn’t stop you from looking at porn, but it does create a pause because the person getting your weekly report will know.  You have at most a week before any foray is discovered, but it will be found out.  Cop accountability has its place, but it’s easy to lie. 

Addictions breed in the shallow ground of lies, and if that’s your only view of accountability, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you will not make any progress in whatever sin/confess struggle you face.  It is only one view, albeit a foundational one, but there is more to accountability than law enforcement. It reminds me of Romans 13:14 ESV “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision  for the flesh in regards to its desires.”  Cop accountability is the last half of that verse.  Behavior modifications without a heart change.

Coach Accountability

I wasn’t much for sports growing up, largely due to my lack of eye-hand coordination.  However, the primary role of a coach is to foster an attitude of growth and maturity in skills and sportsmanship.  A coach who champions you is one who is risking all for your good.  He wants you to succeed. You are expected to do your part. Maturity takes effort, and often having a coach who will hold you accountable in a championing way, makes moving forward easier. Having a mentor who comes alongside you in that manner will help you not just stop doing the bad, but choosing to do the good. Mentors who believe in you; who see your potential and who hold your feet to the fire, all at the same time.  

In my mentoring, I do a lot of coach accountability.  I try to see beyond the behavior.  I see the potential.  I see who they are in Christ, or what they can be in Christ if they would only repent of their sin and turn to Him. The other day I was meeting with a young man, who is experiencing a series of successes in his manhood growth.  Believe me when I say he’s had his fair share of hard times, setbacks, and failures.  Yet, in the midst of all of that, I continue to believe in him, to champion him on.  “You can do this!”  Or, “I’m so proud of you.”  and, “I’d take you as a son any day!”.  He was facing a new opportunity to speak into another man’s life and was a bit nervous.  “ I know I need to do this.  God is calling me to meet with a young guy and speak into his life.  I’m just needing some reassurance.”  To which I concluded my pep talk with “I’d take you as a son any day.”  His response was telling.  “You have said that to me so many times over the years.  I can’t tell you how much that means to me.  It really gives me a sense of purpose when you tell me that.”  

Cardiologist Accountability

Having experienced open-heart surgery, I know firsthand the pain of a surgeon going deep into my body to make things right.   Ultimately, any effective accountability is about re-aligning your heart.  If you think of a tree, it has three primary parts; the leaves and fruit are the behaviors. The tree trunk is the patterns you practice and the roots are the heart/core of who you are.  If you address the fruit and the trunk, without affecting the heart, you will never truly change.  Having a mentor who holds you accountable on a heart level means you are going to have a lot of “heart-wrenching” conversations. At first, you probably don’t want to open up about your deepest darkest thoughts, but honestly, that is where all of your sin problems come from.  In Psalm 139, David talks about having God search your heart.  Heart change is a God thing and if you don’t understand this view of accountability, you may have some sense of law enforcement and limited progress through a coach, but your heart will still be filled with its own desires that aren’t always in line with God’s.

Which accountability type do you want?

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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