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Accountability and Boundaries

Chickens have all the answers.

Chickens have all the answers.

I’m asking for some advice tonight on accountability and boundaries. To try to sort this out I started with some definitions.

Accountable (əˈkaʊntəb ə l) — adj 1. responsible to someone or for some action; answerable.
2. (paraphrased) a promise to myself to be completely honest with a person or people, even if I have to admit that I had not kept a commitment.

Boundary (excerpt) 1. Limiting accountability with someone you trust and with whom you feel safe.

I’m really struggling with this one. I feel like I tend to be very open and honest with most of my imperfections and failures with just about everyone. I mean, I’ve got a blog here available to the whole world where I’ve revealed many less-than-flattering stories. But I don’t share every detail of every situation with the entire world, mostly from fear of humiliation and judgement, while trying to maintain some shred of dignity. From my point of view, I don’t think I just paint a rosy picture all the time. I know it’s extremely difficult to be objective with this, especially with my own stories. But I do try.

Many of you know I share more with you in person than I do on this blog…even if it’s still not every sordid detail of my life. And I may not, in fact almost never would, share ahead of time that I’m about to do something really stupid. If I was being totally honest even with myself, I probably wouldn’t even do it to begin with, much less need to account for it in advance, or ask for advice/permission ahead of time.

So here are my questions:

1. Is it possible for someone to screw up so bad that they’ve lost their right to boundaries in sharing personal information? I know in some extremes that answer is yes. For example, child predators (and just to be clear, I brought this up because it is NOT one of my issues), have lost their rights to determine who they share information with. They must register with the state as an offender with the name and residence published for every family, friend, neighbor, and stranger to see. Are there other, less harmful mistakes I could have made that also forfeit my right to set my own boundaries?

2. How does your view and understanding of accountability and boundaries differ from mine? Is admitting mistakes after-the-fact still accountability? I know admitting the lie is not the same as not lying, but does that mean I also haven’t been accountable?

3. I understand I need to be accountable to someone, or some group. Do I have the right to choose who those people are? Can I change who they are, if I discover I’m don’t trust them, even if I have no rational reason not to trust them?

4. Are there any people who are included by default, due to their relationship with me, family members, friends, spouse, therapist, doctors? And exactly how accountable should I be? Just concerning issues and behaviors that I’ve asked for help with, or every aspect of my life?

Ok, I KNOW y’all don’t post back to me often, but I could really use some feedback on this one. And LOTS of it. I want some different points of view to consider. I won’t name any names, but I know there are some more familiar with accountability and boundaries on a personal level. It would help me a lot to hear from you. Even in an email, if your personal boundaries make you uncomfortable posting here.

10 Responses to “Accountability and Boundaries”

  1. Linda March 2, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    What a blessing you have been to me this morning. Judy sent me
    the information. I will cherish your words. May God continue
    to flow from the heart He has given you to bless others.

    Friend of Your Dad & Judy,

  2. Tracey January 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    My first thought after reading your blog was that you are not accountable to anyone but God. There is none higher than you to be accountable to other than God, not your family, husband, friends, coworkers or acquaintances. With that being said, I also believe that those people on the list can be vehicles of the Lord. God doesn’t want us to fail- in our marriages, friendships, work environments, etc. In this I believe God uses people as instruments to keep us accountable.

  3. Michael A. Southely January 18, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    I’m going through a situation right now. I came from a bad marriage, it put me on the defensive when it came to relationships. I’m in Love with a woman who gives me butterflies every time I see her, I wanted to share my feelings, but instead I did not. To complicate matters she shared something which tore a whole in my heart,which involved her best friend, then she opted to close me out and we both failed at communication. She hurt me and out of my stupidity, I let her know how in ONLY part what I thought through a text.( She broke off the relationship through a text instead of talking with me). I texted her That was wrong, I should of met with her we both should of aired our feelings, and left the rest up to God. I forgave her, but she hasn’t forgiven me. I still Love her and hope we can communicate again. So all I’m saying is that, it’s better to communicate. I still have no idea what I did was wrong…

    • Loralea January 18, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve gone through. I know that must hurt deeply. I’m not much of a “Dear Abby” here, but from my personal experiences, having been married before, and very happily remarried now. I’ve very committed to my husband with total honesty, and at the very least, total accountability when I’m not perfect with the honesty part. You’re very right about how important communication is. I put the question out there just to hear ideas from others, not looking for permission to get out of that covenant of honesty with him. The little bit of advice and experience I do have has shown me the God never puts destruction in our paths. No matter how many mistakes we’ve made, or how we’ve screwed up an relationship. God always has goodness for us, and redemption in our path. Seek a local church and connect with friends there. But more importantly seek God’s heart towards you. Until you understand how He sees you, it’s unlikely that anyone else will see who He created you to be either.

  4. MarytheKay January 18, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Wow, deep questions. They’ve made me stop and really think about accountability and boundaries…

    I think for accountability to work on a deep and ongoing level, it needs to be voluntary–meaning I need to choose who I am accountable to, and to what degree. If I don’t trust someone, then I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable being accountable to him/her.

    Being accountable BEFORE an action is a wonderful idea–especially if it keeps me from doing something I’d later regret. But, being sinful–usually I am confessing after.

    I haven’t asked specifically for accountability from my husband or close friends…but many times over the years they have come to me in love, and have had to tell me hard things to hear. Usually, I am really irritated at first. But, as I step back, I can always see their loving intentions. I haven’t always agreed with their opinions…but I can always appreciate their love and concern for me.

    • Loralea January 18, 2012 at 11:14 am #

      I totally agree about not being able to be accountable to someone I don’t trust. The problem is sometimes that I don’t trust enough people, without even giving them a chance.

      And YES, it would be wonderful to be accountable BEFORE I make a mistake. It would save me a lot of self-induced pain. The Holy Spirit so often tries to help me out with this. If only I would listen to His voice, instead of my own will.

      Oh, the intervention. I’ve been on both sides of this one. We may get irritated and defensive, but I’ve been in their shoes before too. It’s so much worse to walk that fine line between loving confrontation, and police state, while putting your friendship on the line.

  5. Anthony Cameron January 18, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    1. No…unless in extreme cases like the one you posted. If you’re a child predator, you dont deserve boundaries. Boundaries allow me to lead a healthy life and lets people know where I stand. The most important thing to remember though: boundaries are useless if they aren’t enforced.

    2.Admitting mistakes after the fact is a form of personal accountability, which is very important. I’m human. I will screw up. It is a fact. What I have learned in recovery is to admit them and fix them promptly. So if you admit you make a mistake, it is definitely a form of accountability.

    3. At the end of the day, the only one I have to be accountable to is myself and my God. If I am doing the right thing for the right reason consistently (which I try to do), then I am ok with me. Now, when I begin to notice a negative pattern in my life, I will call my sponsor or go to a meeting and put it out there. If I am engaging in negative behavior for an extended period, being the person I am (recovering ADDICT), I am setting myself up for big trouble down the road. I believe it is good to have a close friend or friends to confide in though.

    4. That is entirely up to you. For me, my wife is also in recovery, yet more often than not she isn’t the first person I go to when I need to be accountable to someone (unless she is directly involved). I will usually call my sponsor first. But other than that, I dont have a set “list” of folks I have to be accountable to.

    Being accountable to others is healthy, but not necessarily a requirement. I can only share my experience on this, and I hope it helps…;)

    • Loralea January 18, 2012 at 11:06 am #

      Anthony, I especially appreciate your insights, having walked the road of openness, humility, accountable, and boundaries in recovery. I admire how transparent you are with the addiction you’ve faced. Thanks so much for the reminder to be accountable to God too. I guess I think sometimes that He already knows everything, so there’s nothing left for me to say. I needed the reminder of how important it is to humble myself before Him and admit my mistakes (even though we both already know), and ask His forgiveness, for MY sake, not His.

  6. Karla Lewis January 18, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    I think everyone has the right to keep some things to their self. I guess it is when it is affecting our family members or job that we Should become accountable to others and perhaps, set some boundaries. Yes, people can screw up so bad that they lose their right to privacy. I doubt what you are at that point Loralea. We all deserve some privacy. Admitting after the fact is way better than lying,but is probably really a way to retain some control over a situation. You get to do what you want, then come clean and feel better about ourself because you told the truth. You have every right to pick and choose who you trust to talk with and who you choose to support you. It’s probably best to include at least your spouse, maybe tell some things to children if it affects them, but it’s not a “have too” kind of thing.

    • Loralea January 18, 2012 at 11:01 am #

      Thanks for the response, and for being such a loyal friend. I tend to agree with your outlook. Spouses, to me, hold a special place entitling them to honestly and openness. And people who have been affected by our mistakes deserve to opportunity to see some true repentance and change in us. As far as everyone else, I think part of having some human dignity, is choosing who we’re accountable too. Humility requires accountability and vice versa, but I think without boundaries, that’s just humiliation.

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