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Accountability – A Spiritual Tool

Research shows that people who form relationships with other people have more professional and personal success because relationships make them stronger.

This fact is demonstrated by utilizing the old story of the sick elephant who begins to wander from the herd. The herd sees their peer moving away and circles around him. Holding the sick elephant in the middle of the herd, he cannot wander off where he would surely die. He remains in the middle, accountable to the herd, until he is strong enough to once again take a position in the outer edges of the herd now helping hold another elephant safe in the middle.

Most “accountability circles” are informal although formal accountability is important as well. An employee, waking up in the morning sick, calling his supervisor to request the day off is practicing formal accountability. This action helps ensure success and continued employment. However, it is believed the informal accountability, where connections are made between human beings who have shared circumstances, is much more powerful.

Let’s look at the participant in a pulmonary rehabilitation group who has made a commitment to another peer to call if she was going to miss a group. Waking up in the morning, feeling a little lazy and just not “in to” attending the group this morning, she thinks of making the phone call. Reporting, “I am simply lazy this morning” does not sit well with her and so she dresses and goes to pulmonary rehab feeling supported by her accountability partner. A successful accountability connection has been achieved even though the partner is just as unaware of the role she has played that morning as the elephant on the edge of the herd is of the sick elephant in the middle.

Men who met in a grief support group have arranged to meet every other morning at 6 a.m. and run five miles as a tool for moving through their grief. Each believing their participation is helping the other, neither would ever consider not showing up.

Relationships are formed in a desire to help another person. The resulting connection is that each person becomes a little stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Formal alcohol/other drug treatment involves some professional strategies for discovering self sabotaging limits the client has gone through life believing. Limits that seem to leave the client hopeless to any solution other then alcohol or another drug as self medication. Drinking is not a choice for this person. It seems to be a necessity. The client at the beginning of the treatment process is not equipt with the vocabulary to talk outside of the structured treatment arena. In these cases it is critical to have an informal accountability partner.

“Call me if drinking or using sounds like a solution”. Both are committed to each other’s success and the partner being sought out can easily suggest alternative activities. Perhaps the two will attend a 12 step meeting together.

Me? Someone just called me with some seemingly serious issues. We are going to meet at the coffee shop and together come up with healthy solutions.


I am looking forward to an opportunity to interact with you. Email your questions or topic suggestions to: and let’s experience this journey together. You will remain anonymous

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