Dan Trathen DMin, PhD Clinical Psychologist & Certified Business & Life Coach

360 Degree Vision: Encountering Accountability

By Daniel W. Trathen, D. Min. Ph. D.

I recently listened to a tape by John McArthur in which he spoke to students at a Masters College chapel. The topic of his talk was the Jimmy Swaggert scandal and his lack of accountability. In the past several months it seems like I’ve heard more and more about “clerics who are becoming clowns.” It is saddening but not surprising for where there is no accountability – the person perishes. The Scripture abounds with biographical examples of the consequence of accountability or the lack of it (from Joseph and Potipher in Genesis 39 to Timothy and Paul in Acts). God has created us to only have 180 degree vision. We need the 360 degree vision of found through accountability.

The Scripture also gives practical advantages to accountability. One of the many verses in Proverbs that wisely gives counsel is Proverbs 15:31-33. Verse 33 states, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor comes humility.” None of us can see beyond our peripheral vision unless we turn our head. Proverbs 13:10 basically states that if we don’t listen to “wise counsel” then we are all in danger of not seeing our blind spots and such a condition may lead to “presumption.” Humility, in the proper sense of the word, is a very important ingredient to accountability. James summarizes by writing, “humble yourself in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you” (4:10). We can’t encounter accountability without genuinely encountering God, ourselves and others. In future columns I will be addressing this important process.


When it comes to the subject of accountability, the first Scripture that comes to mind is Proverbs 1:1-7a.

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel,To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

The relationship of accountability with another respected and trusted person is a great idea, but in order for it to work we must be willing to cultivate the important skill of listening. When God speaks through those we trust it is no time to get “stiff necked and stubborn,” but rather to “surrender” and “reflect.” As Chuck Swindoll wrote in Living Above The Level of Mediocrity,

And remember, although some advice must be taken with a grain of salt, no advice is entirely worthless. Even a watch that won’t run is right twice a day!

Those who are open to the Spirit and an accountable relationship are open for growth in their lives. Reread Proverbs 1:1-7a and this time specifically notice the underlined verbs. Those words represent and signify a heart that is open and willing to receive, hear, acquire, discern, know, understand, and give. There is a definite flow and rhythm to this kind of spiritual growth.

In the same book, Pastor Swindoll writes the same thing in a little different way. People who are accountable usually have four qualities.

Honesty: Committed to the truth regardless of how much it hurts and a willingness to admit the truth no matter how difficult or humiliating the admission may be.

Vulnerable: Capable of being wounded, shown to be wrong, even admitting it before being confronted.

Available: Accessible, touchable, able to be interrupted.

Teachable: A willingness to learn, being quick to hear and respond to reproof, being open to counsel.

This is the process of growth. 360 degree accountability is to spiritual and personal growth what “blood” is to the body or forgiveness is to love. Willingness to receive, hear, acquire, discern, know, understand, and give are attitudes of a heart that realizes that the beginning of knowledge truly comes from an attitude of Honesty, Vulnerability, Accountability, and Teachability in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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