Our culture says that self-love is the key to happiness and growth. It tells us to affirm ourselves and think of how wonderful we are, and if we desire something, we should pursue it. Whatever makes us happy must be good for us, so they say. Don’t talk about your faults or flaws and most definitely don’t call them “sins” because that will only make you feel worse about yourself.
Even in Christian culture, we talk about our sins in a “safe” way. We might address the “respectable” sins of gossip or laziness or not doing our quiet times. But we like to avoid what’s going on in our heart of hearts because that might scare people away.
But James 5:16 is clear: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Satan wants us to keep our darkest sins hidden away because they thrive in secrecy and shame. We can convince ourselves that they “aren’t that bad” or that they aren’t even really sin. All the while, they’re growing under the surface.
Accountability is important because our hearts are easily deceived, and we need other people to keep us honest. It’s easy to play the game of pretend but so much harder to be real with a couple people who truly care about us. But in humbly confessing and acknowledging our sins to others, we can start to see healing for our souls.
The first step is being honest with ourselves. If we can’t even admit to ourselves the truth of sin lurking in the corners of our hearts, we won’t be able to confess those sins to others. This can take time. We don’t like to think of ourselves as capable of certain “types” of sin, but 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
The bad news is that we are much worse sinners than we even realize or want to acknowledge. The good news is that none of this is a surprise to God. The even better news is that he’s provided a solution—redemption through the blood of Christ. With every temptation and fall into sin, there’s a way out: forgiveness by trusting in what Jesus has done.
If we pridefully refuse to admit that we could be capable of certain sins, we are deceiving ourselves and will most likely be led further into it unawares. We must humble ourselves before God and take full responsibility.
The second step is to find one or two trusted friends and mentors that we can be completely vulnerable with. Not everyone should know about our struggles, but there should be at least one or two people that we trust enough to share them with. This can be hard because we’re afraid of the rejection that might come with honesty. Sin is ugly and difficult and takes time to work through. But when a patient shows up in the emergency room with a festering wound oozing putrid stench and blood, he needs a doctor who won’t flinch away from it, put a polite bandage on it so it can’t be seen, and turn the other direction. He needs a doctor who calmly enters the rawness so he can bring full healing.
We need these kinds of doctors for our souls as well. The ones who look straight into the ugliness of our sin and kindly and patiently work through it with us so we can be fully healed. This is hard work. It’s not for the faint of heart. Bearing one another’s burdens is messy and anguishing. But faithful brothers and sisters know the frailty of their own hearts and are willing to extend grace to help one another from falling.
Accountability is raw and real. There are things you don’t want to say, but the saying—the naming of them—brings relief and peace. When you choose to be truly accountable, you are letting another person in—and by doing so, you are being vulnerable and releasing any pretense of perfection.
This is good for our souls. We must be fully known and fully loved, and as we learn to trust others with our fragile hearts, our stubborn sins, our wandering love, and our tired faith, we are built up stronger.
I am so grateful for the people in my life who pray with me, cry with me, and speak words of encouragement from the Bible to point me back to Christ. I’m grateful that they ask me the hard questions, don’t reject me when I’m struggling, and remind me of my worth in Christ—that he also hasn’t rejected me, but rather has redeemed me and is carrying me through when I feel weak.
Isolation and self-dependency will bring a shipwreck of faith. The nursing of secret sins and the tending of shame and guilt will result in a tangle of weeds and chaos in our lives. But God has provided believers around us to help us out of this chaos and into the beautiful world of his truth and goodness.
We simply have to be brave enough to be accountable—and this bravery will lead to the healing of our souls.