How to Set Screen Rules That Stick

HOW TO SET SCREEN RULES THAT STICK

Caroline Knorr

Easy tips for limiting kids’ computer, TV, game, and movie time.

In many homes, getting kids to turn off their cell phones, shut down the video games, or quit YouTube can incite a revolt. And if your kids say they need to be online for schoolwork, you may not know when the research stops and idle activity begins.

When it comes to screen time, every family will have different amounts of time that they think is “enough.” What’s important is giving it some thought, creating age-appropriate limits (with built-in flexibility for special circumstances), making media choices you’re comfortable with, and modeling responsible screen limits for your kids. Try these age-based guidelines to create screen rules that stick.

Preschoolers. There are lots of great TV showsappsgames, and websites geared for this age. But too much time spent in front of a screen can interfere with activities that are essential for growing brains and bodies.

  • Go for quality and age-appropriateness. Not everything for preschoolers needs to be a so-called “brain-builder,” but there’s a difference between mindless and mindfulentertainment. Our reviews can steer you toward titles that help preschoolers work on developmental skills like sharing, cooperation, and emotional intelligence.
  • Sit with them, and enjoy the discovery process. There will always be moments when you need to rely on the TV or an app to distract your preschooler while you get something done. But as much as you can, enjoy media together. Little hands and developing brains really benefit from your company (and guidance!).
  • Begin setting limits when kids are little. Habits get ingrained early, so try to establish clear screen-time rules when your kids are young. For games, apps, and websites, you may need to set a timer. For TV, just say “one show.”

Elementary and Middle Schoolers. At this age, kids love TV shows, games, movies, and online videos. They begin to explore more and hear about new shows and games from friends. Because they can access these things by themselves, it’s crucial to continue to supervise their activities and help them stick to your rules.

  • Start with an endpoint. Use whatever tools you have — your DVR, Netflix, OnDemand — to pre-record shows, cue them up, or plan ahead to watch at a specific time. That way, one show won’t flow into the other, and you can avoid commercials. If your kids are into YouTube, search for age-appropriate videos, and add them to a playlist to watch later. Because most games don’t have built-in endings (and are, in fact, designed to make kids play as long as possible), set a timer or some other cue that says “time to stop.”
  • Help them balance their day. Kids this age need guidance from you on a daily plan that includes a little bit of time for everything. And staying involved works: Kids whose parents make an effort to limit media use spend less time with media than their peers do, according to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ worksheets to create a family media plan. 
  • Practice what you preach. It’s tempting to keep reaching for your phone to check email, texts, Facebook, or the news. But your kids will be the first to call you out for not “walking the talk.” Plus, they’ll pick up habits from you. Model the media behavior that you want your kids to emulate.

High Schoolers. You’ll have more success with teens if you explain the reasons why too much screen time is harmful. For example, social media may contribute to anxiety

  • Help them make quality choices. You still have a say in what they see, hear, and play. Put in your two cents about the importance of quality shows, games, and movies.
  • Crack down on multitasking. High school kids who’ve discovered texting, IM, Facebook, and music tend to do them all at once — especially when they’re supposed to be doing mundane tasks like homework. But a University of Michigan study found that humans are terrible multitaskers and that the practice actually reduces the ability to concentrate and focus.
  • Find ways to say “yes.” Look for movies they can watch. Find games you’re OK with. If your teens ask to see something you don’t approve of, help them find alternatives.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder Is Now Officially Recognized

COMPULSIVE SEXUAL BEHAVIOR DISORDER IS NOW OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED

Brad Hambrick

Sexual addiction is becoming an official mental health diagnosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) met in May of this year and adopted the new ICD-11, which includes the diagnosis of Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD).

Covenant Eyes users might think, “What does this mean for my struggle with porn? How should we approach this diagnosis?” These are important questions that I want to help you think thoroughly about.

What Is Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder?

If you care to read the official definition for CSBD, here it is. These types of definitions can be technical, but they’re important to understand:

“Compulsive sexual behavior disorder is characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense repetitive sexual impulses or urges, resulting in repetitive sexual behavior over an extended period (e.g., six months or more) that causes marked distress or impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

What are the implications of this that we can clearly affirm?

  • There are good expressions of sexual behavior and bad expressions of sexual behavior. The ICD would say healthy and unhealthy. Christians would add holy and unholy. Healthiness and holiness are not competing concepts, and both should be considered important in this conversation.
  • Sexual behavior has the propensity to be ensnaring and can disrupt many areas of life. This is aligned with the Christian view that sin has a predatory intent to destroy people’s lives.
  • For a habit to become enslaving, an extended period of repetition is required. This is common sense.
  • Pornography is not a victimless activity; many people are negatively affected. This counters one of the most common lies in our culture about the innocence of viewing pornography.
  • There is hope for change. The entire point of placing diagnoses in the ICD is that these diagnoses represent experiences for which some degree of freedom or relief is possible.

Why Was CSBD Included as a Diagnosis?

While it may get a little nerdy, to evaluate the inclusion of CSBD in this diagnostic structure we also need to consider why this diagnosis was added.

“Although this category resembles that of substance dependence, it is included in the ICD‐11 impulse control disorders section in recognition of the lack of definitive information on whether the processes involved in the development and maintenance of the disorder are equivalent to those observed in substance use disorders and behavioral addictions. Its inclusion in the ICD‐11 will help to address unmet needs of treatment seeking patients, as well as possibly reducing the shame and guilt that distressed individuals associate with seeking help.”

So to summarize:

  • Researchers are unsure if CSBD has the same physiological features as substance dependence. Uncertainty on this point is why they don’t use the more common label of sexual addiction to describe this experience.
  • A large number of people struggle with compulsive sexual behavior. Diagnoses are included in the ICD when it becomes common enough that clinicians see an increase in prevalence for an experience.
  • The official diagnosis makes it easier for these individuals to be reimbursed for counseling. Insurance companies require a diagnostic code to reimburse for services, which made it difficult for individuals to receive counseling. Adding a diagnosis to the ICD is as much about third party reimbursement as it about discovering something new.
  • It allows for better research on compulsive sexual behavior. Research helps us to differentiate speculation from empirically verifiable approaches to working with a given life struggle. This kind of research should enrich both professional and lay-based care strategies.

Does This New Recognition Present Any Concerns?

Sexual behavioral can get out of control. When it does, lots of people are affected, and WHO wants insurance companies to reimburse for counseling. If we want people to be free from destructive sexual behavior, this all seems fine. But are there any reasons to be cautious with this new label?

When a pattern of behavior receives a diagnostic label, it often creates an external locus of control. Diagnostic labels lead us to think something is happening to us rather than being done by us. There is some concern that this label could reinforce a sense of passivity towards change and a lack of ownership for one’s choices.

The moral nature of the activity can be lost with a label. Too often we fail to realize that something can be both unhealthy and immoral. We treat it as an either-or instead of a both-and. There is some concern that this diagnostic label could distract from the role of repentance in change.

Also, we often assume the remedy for a diagnosis will be medicinal. Again, this doesn’t need to be either-or. The remedy for diabetes involves both insulin and exercise. If there is a medicine that can help with impulse control, we should be happy. But regardless, the fruit of the Spirit known as “self-control” will be required in both taking the medicine as prescribed and other behavioral choices towards righteous living.

How Should We Approach This New Diagnosis?

The answer to this question will vary from person to person. Diagnostic labels are a tool. Any tool can be used for good purposes. In contrast, any tool can also be used for destructive purposes. The problem with tools is usually not with the tool, but with how a given individual utilizes that tool.

If you serve as an ally for someone who comes across this new diagnosis, affirm the following:

  • Your friend is not alone in their struggle. This can help alleviate some of the stigma associated with sexual sin.
  • Sexual activity has an enslaving tendency. If someone fights a bear and loses, we don’t call them weak. It’s the nature of the bear to be stronger. When someone engages sexual sin and becomes enslaved, it doesn’t mean they’re uniquely weak. It means it’s the nature of this activity to be enslaving.
  • Even secular health experts (meaning, those without the bias of Christian morals) want individuals enslaved to sexual activity to have access to help in the pursuit of freedom. Appealing to secular experts helps reveal the frustration point, “I only need to change because I’m a Christian and God’s hung up about sex,”which is not true.

If you serve as an ally for someone who comes across this new diagnosis, caution the following:

  • Your choices matter. A label can explain why change is hard; it is not a reason to quit trying.
  • Abstinence and repentance are not the same thing. A secular counselor would just want you to stop engaging in self-destructive behavior (abstinence). God invites you to a restored relationship with Him (repentance).
  • No amount of science will make change easy. But the work is worth it. If there is anything we can learn from science to make our efforts at change more effective, we will. But just like science has taught us a great deal about dieting, those advances in science haven’t made losing weight easy. Peer support and wise choices are still the central elements to change. So, let’s keep going together.

If you are interested in history of diagnostics, I would recommend Allen Frances’ book Saving Normal. Dr. Frances is a psychiatrist who loves his profession but is concerned about overmedicating normal physical struggles. Here is a brief excerpt from his book and few reflections to whet your appetite to read more.

Helicopter Parenting: From Good Intentions to Poor Outcomes

HELICOPTER PARENTING: FROM GOOD INTENTIONS TO POOR OUTCOMES

Sandi Schwartz

Do you stand over your child’s shoulder when they do their homework? Do you find yourself directing your kids’ every move? “Pick up this, clean up that, sit up straight, finish your homework, study hard, say thank you.” Do you spend a good chunk of your day obsessing about your children’s success, like will they make the sports team or school play, and will they get into the top-notch college you (yes, you!) always dreamed of?

I hate to break it to you, but you may be a helicopter parent—a term which is commonly used but also has a basis in research on specific parenting behaviors and their effects on children.

Most parents want the very best for their children, and so they’ll go to great lengths to be wonderful providers and protectors. The deep love and care that parents have for their children can even push parents to, well, be a bit over-the-top. And helicopter parents are known to be overly protective and involved in their children’s lives.

The term paints a picture of a parent who hovers over their children, always on alert, and who swoops in to rescue them at the first sign of trouble or disappointment. The term was first coined in 1990 by Foster Cline and Jim Fay in their book, Parenting with Love and Logic, and it gained relevance with college admissions staff who noticed how parents of prospective students were inserting themselves in the admissions process.

Helicopter parenting can be defined by three types of behaviors that parents exemplify:

  • First, information seeking behaviors include knowing your children’s daily schedule and where they are at all times, helping them make decisions, and being informed about grades and other accomplishments.
  • Second, direct intervention means jumping into conflicts with kids’ roommates, friends, romantic partners, and even bosses.
  • Third, autonomy limiting is when students think their parents are preventing them from making their own mistakes, controlling their lives for them, and failing to support their decisions.

We all want to love our children as much as possible and protect them from the dangers in our society. We live in an increasingly competitive world and want to give our kids every advantage possible. But if we over-parent and smother them, it can backfire big time. A collection of research in recent years shows a connection between helicopter parenting and mental health issues like anxiety and depression as children get older and try to make it on their own.

The negative impacts of helicopter parenting

In 2010, a study by researcher Neil Montgomery, a psychologist at Keene State College in New Hampshire, found that overprotective parents might have a lasting impact on their child’s personality by prolonging childhood and adolescence. Approximately 300 college freshmen were surveyed about their level of agreement with statements regarding their parents’ involvement in their lives. The results showed that 10 percent of the participants had helicopter parents. The research also revealed that students with helicopter parents tended to be less open to new ideas and actions, and were more vulnerable, anxious, dependent, and self-conscious.

A 2016 study from the National University of Singapore published in the Journal of Personality indicated that children with intrusive parents who had high expectations for academic performance, or who overreacted when they made a mistake, tend to be more self-critical, anxious, or depressed. The researchers termed this as “maladaptive perfectionism,” or a tendency in children of helicopter parents to be afraid of making mistakes and to blame themselves for not being perfect. This happens because the parents are essentially—whether by their words or actions—indicating to their kids that what they do is never good enough.

Another 2016 study evaluated questionnaires about parenting completed by 377 students from a Midwestern university. Students responded to statements about the type of parents they have, how often they communicate with their parents, and how much their parents intrude in their lives. The students also completed a number of tests to discern their decision-making skills, academic performance, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Results showed that higher overall helicopter parenting scores were associated with stronger symptoms of anxiety and depression.

According to that study, helicopter parenting “was also associated with poorer functioning in emotional functioning, decision making, and academic functioning. Parents’ information-seeking behaviors, when done in absences of other [helicopter parenting] behaviors, were associated with better decision making and academic functioning.”

In addition, the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research published research in 2017 suggesting that helicopter parenting can trigger anxiety in kids who already struggle with some social issues. A group of children and their parents were asked to complete as many puzzles as possible in a 10-minute time period. Parents were allowed to help their children, but not encouraged to do so.

Researchers noted that the parents of children with social issues touched the puzzles more often than the other parents did. Though they were not critical or negative, they stepped in even when their children did not ask for help. Researchers think this indicates that parents of socially anxious children may perceive challenges to be more threatening than the child thinks they are. Over time, this can diminish a child’s ability to succeed on their own and potentially increase anxiety.

So how does all this hovering cause mental health problems in our children?

First of all, helicopter parents are communicating to their children in subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways that they won’t be safe unless mom or dad is there looking out for them. When these children have to go off on their own, they are not prepared to meet daily challenges. This inability to find creative solutions and make decisions on their own can cause a great deal of worry since their protector is no longer around to help them.

Because these children were never taught the skills to function independently, and because they may have been held to unattainable or even “perfectionist” standards, children of helicopter parents can experience anxiety, depression, a lack of confidence, and low self-esteem. Another issue is that if these kids have never experienced failure, they can develop an overwhelming fear of failure and of disappointing others. Finally, if we don’t let our children have the freedom to learn about the world and discover their purpose and what makes them happy, they will struggle to find happiness and live a balanced life—all impacting their mental health.  

What we can do to break the helicopter habit

All parents know that parenting is not easy. Having children and raising them presents innumerable challenges and surprises, but also immense joy and connection. Now that we know that overparenting only leads to more problems for our kids, we can make the following adjustments in our parenting approach:

  • Support your children’s growth and independence by listening to them, and not always pushing your desires on them.
  • Refrain from doing everything for your children (this includes homework!). Take steps to gradually teach them how to accomplish tasks on their own.
  • Don’t try to help your children escape consequences for their actions unless you believe those consequences are unfair or life-altering.
  • Don’t raise your child to expect to be treated differently than other children.
  • Encourage your children to solve their own problems by asking them to come up with creative solutions.
  • Teach your children to speak up for themselves in a respectful manner.
  • Understand and accept your children’s weaknesses and strengths, and help them to use their strengths to achieve their own goals.

Parents should, of course, do the best they can for their kids. Impulses to involve ourselves in our children’s’ lives often come from a sense of duty, and of unconditional love. We can harness those desires to give the most we can to our kids by resisting helicopter parenting, which can lead to poor outcomes in adulthood.

Instead, try letting your children discover themselves—their weaknesses, strengths, their goals and dreams. You can help them succeed, but you should also let them fail. Teach them how to try again. Learning what failure means, how it feels, and how to bounce back is an important part of becoming independent in our world.

How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War

HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT VIOLENCE, CRIME, AND WAR

Caroline Knoor

Exposure to graphic images, distressing information, and horrific headlines can affect kids’ overall well-being.

Mass shootings. Nuclear weapons. A robbery at your local corner store. Where do you start when you have to explain this stuff to your kids? Today, issues involving violence, crime, and war — whether they’re in popular shows, video games, books, or news coverage — reach even the youngest kids. And with wall-to-wall TV coverage, constant social media updates, streaming services that broadcast age-inappropriate content any time of day, plus the internet itself, you have to have a plan for discussing even the worst of the worst in a way that’s age-appropriate, that helps kids understand, and that doesn’t cause more harm.

We know that heavy exposure to media violence, such as first-person-shooter games and cinematic explosions, can negatively affect kids. We also know that kids report feeling afraid, angry, or depressed about the news. But in recent years — prompted by increased terrorist attacks around the world — researchers are exploring the effects of “remote exposure” to real violent events. Remote exposure is when kids understand that something traumatic has occurred but haven’t experienced it directly. Unsurprisingly, its lingering effects include feelings of grief, trauma, fear, and other mental health concerns. Kids can be deeply affected by images of war-torn countries, bloodied refugee children, and mass graves and need additional help processing them. 

These tips and conversation starters can help you talk to kids of different ages about the toughest topics. Get more advice about explaining distressing newsdifficult subjects, and sexual harassment.

Tips for talking to kids about violence, crime, and war

Age 2–6

Avoid discussion of or exposure to really horrific news. As much as possible, wait until after young kids are in bed to watch the news, and save conversations about heinous subjects, such as Charles Manson or the latest Dateline murder mystery, for child-free moments.

Don’t bring it up — unless you think they know something. There’s no reason to bring up school shootings, terrorist attacks, threats of war, or the like with young kids. If you suspect they do know something — for example, you hear them talking about it during their play — you can ask them about it and see if it’s something that needs further discussion.

Affirm that your family’s safe. In the case of scary news, such as wilderness fires — even if you’re a little rattled — it’s important for young children to know they’re safe, their family is OK, and someone is taking care of the problem. Hugs and snuggles do wonders, too.

Simplify complex ideas — and move on. Abstract ideas can complicate matters and may even scare young kids. Use concrete terms and familiar references your kid will understand, and try not to overexplain. About a mass shooting, say, “A man who was very, very confused and angry took a gun and shot people. The police are working to make sure people are safe.”

Distinguish between “real” and “pretend.” Young kids have rich fantasy lives and mix up make-believe and reality. They may ask you if a scary story is really true. Be honest, but don’t belabor a point.

Age 7–12

Wait and see. Unless they ask, you know they were exposed, or you think they know something, don’t feel you have to discuss horrific news or explain heinous crimes such as rape, beheadings, dismemberment, and drug-fueled rampages (especially to kids in the younger end of this age range or who are sensitive). If kids show signs of distress by acting anxious, regressing, or exhibiting some other tip-off that something’s amiss — for example, they’re reluctant to go to school after the latest school shooting — approach them and invite them to talk.

Talk … and listen. Older tweens hear about issues related to violence, crime, and war on social media, YouTube, TV, and movies — not always reliable sources for facts. Try to get a sense of what your kids know before launching into an explanation, since you don’t want to distress them further or open up a whole new can of worms. Feel them out by asking, “What did you hear?,” “Where did you hear that?,” “What do you know about it?,” and “What do you think about it?”

Be honest and direct. Tweens can find out what they want to know from different sources, and you want the truth to come from you. It’s not necessary to go into extreme detail. About a family who held their kids hostage, you can say, “The kids suffered many different kinds of abuse. But they were rescued, and their parents were arrested. Often in cases of child abuse, the parents are very sick with mental illness or other issues.”

Discuss sensationalism in news and media. Talk to kids about how media outlets — including news agencies, TV shows, movie companies, and game developers — use extreme subjects to get attention, whether it’s in the form of clicks, viewership, or ticket sales. Share the old newsroom adage, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and talk about why we may be drawn to outrageous human behavior. This helps kids think critically about the relative importance of issues, the words and images used to attract an audience, and their own media choices.

Explain context and offer perspective. With your life experience, knowledge, and wisdom, you can explain the various circumstances around certain issues. This is the process that gives things meaning and clarity — and it’s important for kids to be able to make sense of negative and unpleasant things, too. To work through the powerful emotions that images of beatings, blood, and human suffering can bring up, kids have to learn to distance themselves from horrific events, understand the underlying causes, and perhaps get involved in meaningful ways to make things better, such as diplomacy and education.

Teens

Assume they know — but don’t assume their knowledge is complete. Teens get a lot of their information from online sources such as social media or YouTube, which can be misleading or flawed. Still, it’s important to respect their knowledge and ability to learn things independently because that’s a process you want to foster. You’ll still need to fill in the blanks, offer some history, and share what you know.

Get them talking. High school years can be tough, as teens start rejecting their parents’ ideas, becoming concerned with what friends think, and developing their own voice. This separation can be especially difficult when traumatic events occur or when you know they’re interacting with mature media. To continue the kinds of conversations you had when they were younger — and stay connected and relevant — resist the urge to lecture and instead ask their opinions about things. Encourage them to support their ideas with legitimate news sources, not just repeat what others have said. Say, “We may not always agree, but I’m curious to hear what you have to say.”

Accept their sources, but expand their horizons. Trending topics capture the headlines, but teens are just as likely to run across provocative subjects, stories, and characters on TV and in movies — such as the meth-making chemistry teacher of Breaking Bad — that get users clicking, viewing, and sharing. Give teens the tools to view information critically, whether they’re scrolling through Snapchat, Netflix or a free-speech site for extremists such as 4chan and 8chan. Teach them to question what they see by asking themselves, “Who made this?,” “Why did they make it?,” “What’s its point of view?,” “What information isn’t included?,” and “What would my friends think of this?” These media-literacy questions help teens evaluate information, think beyond the clickbait headline or funny meme, and look more deeply into a topic.

Offer hope. Mood swings are the hallmark of the teen years. But exposure to sad and depressing news, as well as to issues like violence, crime, and war, through social media, video games, and movies can make teens world-weary. Don’t be a Pollyanna (teens will see through that), but talk about meaningful ways to contribute something to the world — anything that benefits the greater good. The idea that you can make a positive impact restores the soul and boosts the resilience they’ll need their whole lives.

The Apostle Paul: His Secret to Fighting Sexual Sin

THE APOSTLE PAUL: HIS SECRET TO FIGHTING SEXUAL SIN

Luke Gilkerson

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent sexual sin. It is a problem that has been around since our ancestors walked east of Eden, and it will be around until the new Jerusalem descends upon us. The good news is that the Bible promises that we can experience foretastes of that coming freedom in the here and now. But how?

The Apostle Paul commands the Christians at Colossae, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But how do we do this? If we rip this verse away from the letter, we’re likely to apply it the wrong way, so we need to look closely to understand what Paul is talking about.

1. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Not About “Do More, Try Harder”

A dangerous philosophy was circulating in the church at Colossae that was championing asceticism: if you want to remain pure, then separate yourself from the pleasures of the body that are so often a source of temptation. This philosophy said if you really want the fullness of divine life within you, then insulate your life.

But Paul delivers a crushing blow to this philosophy:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

No value. That is Paul’s verdict on asceticism. It simply doesn’t work. Yes, there is a grain of truth in the philosophy—all popular philosophies contain at least some wisdom in them. If you are tempted to sin sexually then it makes sense to get away from sexual temptations. This will keep sin at bay—but ultimately the flesh remains unsatiated.

This false philosophy is still circulating in the church today. When the best advice we can give people is better Internet filters, cold showers, more hours in prayer, and trying harder, we have given into this philosophy that Paul says is of no value.

This false philosophy either totally underestimates the power of sin, or it sets the benchmark of holiness too low. It either doesn’t get just how ingrained sexual sin is in us, or it thinks that merely getting rid of outward, blatant sexual sin is the goal. Neither is accurate.

2. Fighting Sexual Sin Starts with a New Identity

Paul offers his readers another approach to fighting sin, and it starts with these core identity statements:

  • “With Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world” (2:20)
  • “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3)
  • “You have been raised with Christ” (3:1)
  • “You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (2:12)
  • “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (3:9-10)
  • “The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27)

This is where a lot of modern readers check out. “Don’t give me these abstract theological ideas. I need something practical,” they think. But for Paul, there was nothing more practical, nothing more life-changing, than these ideas.

We are united to the risen Christ by faith. His resurrection life flows in our veins now. The Spirit of the living Christ lives inside us, so we no longer belong to this world and the rules it plays by—we belong to Christ and the age to come. In order to have the power to fight lust, we first have to understand this: we no longer belong to sin. We belong to God who has accepted us and forgiven us, not because we purified ourselves first, but because we are united by faith to the Pure One, Jesus Christ.

In order to fight lust, we must understand that we no longer belong to lust.

3. Fighting Sexual Sin Continues by Kindling New Desires

Knowing we are united to the living Christ, Paul writes, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). The terms Paul uses here mean to center one’s interests, focus, and passions on something—to savor something. Now that God has united us to the risen Christ, we savor that reality, and this kindles new desires in us that displace a desire for sin.

What are these “things” above that we should savor?

  • First, we are to savor Christ himself. This is one of the reasons why Paul spills a lot of ink in this letter describing who Christ is. He is the beloved Son of God (1:13), the image of the invisible God (1:15), creator and sustainer of all things (1:16-17), the one whose blood reconciles us to the Father (1:20), the firstborn from the dead (1:18), and the one seated at God’s right hand (3:1). In him all the riches of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3). The fullness of deity dwells in Him (1:19; 2:9).
  • Second, we are to savor our new position before God. Christ is seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). To be seated at a ruler’s right hand meant to be in the position of greatest authority, honor, and delight. Because Christ is in us, we share in the favor He has with the Father.
  • Third, we are to savor the hope that someday we will see and experience these realities. Someday, Christ Himself will appear and we will appear with Him in glory (1:4). It is our destiny to be like the holy, pure Son of God. Someday our eyes will see the one who died for us and rose again, the one who is God in the flesh, and God will honor us as his royal children before every creature, every human soul, every angelic being in the universe.

How does this practically help us to fight sexual sin? The reason why sexual sin can have such a grip on us is because of its power to define us and what is most valuable, how sexual pleasure makes us feel about ourselves. Sexual fantasy, pornography, or pursuing illicit sex makes us feel desired; it makes us feel valued and validated; it gives us a refuge; it gives us connection; it can even make us feel powerful. This is why setting our affections on things above is so important: it gives us a new center to our lives and gives us a completely new sense of value—not based in our worthiness but based on the love God has for Christ that overflows to us.

4. Fighting Sexual Sin Is About Fighting For Our New Desires

Finally we come to Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Paul here is not endorsing asceticism—something he has already refuted. Asceticism is about fighting to get rid of something we think is unholy, but mortifying sin is about fighting for the new affections that God is giving to us.

We can construct helpful boundaries in our lives that keeps sexual sin out of reach, but we should do so standing on our identity as God’s beloved children, standing satisfied in Christ and God’s love. When sexual temptation comes knocking, we can say to it, “No, sin. That’s not who I am anymore. You do not define what life is to me anymore. You do not define me anymore. Christ is in me. I am a child of the king, and one day the whole world will know it.”

5. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Sustained by Relationships that Remind Us of Our New Identity

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

This is the essence of real accountability in the body of Christ. Yes, accountability involves confessing our temptations, sins, and the state of our heart, but it also involves godly encouragement. Accountability is not just about someone calling you out on your sin, but someone calling you up to the person you already are in Christ. Accountability is about surrounding yourself with the kind of Christian friendships that teach and admonish you, that inspire thankfulness, and that help us unpack all the wisdom contained in the great mystery that Paul called “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (1:27).

Accountability is like stoking the embers of the fire. It does not add energy to the embers. It only exposes those embers to the air so new reactions can happen. When we engage in the disciplines of confession, encouragement, and mutual prayer we expose our souls again to the life-changing gospel, and God’s power is released again and again.

A Letter to My Younger Self on My Wedding Day

A LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF ON MY WEDDING DAY

Shantel Patu

Dear younger self, 

I’m writing to explain what marriage really means because I remember all too well your fairytale ideology that marriage is about a beautiful wedding, then fast forward to your happily ever after

With that said, I’m not writing as a warning. I’m writing more as an opportunity—merely think of me as your sponsor – because you’re definitely a hopeless romantic. 

Your dreams of a man riding in on a white horse, or a knight in shining armor, are figments of an animated imagination and I just want to take some time to talk to you about what’s real.

I want to let you in on a secret, if you will. A moment in time, to give you a gift, the gift of a second chance. 

You are still so young, at only 22 years old. And here you already have a small beautiful child, own your home, and you have a wonderful man who hasn’t quite discovered how great either of you are just yet. You should feel proud and accomplished. I know when I look back I’m definitely proud of you. 

Nevertheless, I specifically want to talk about fear. You see, although you survived a lot of abuse and neglect, you’re traumatized. Your traumas have caused significant damage and created a space for constant anxieties to thrive. Anxieties like your fear of being a victim, a fear of someone thinking they can take you away, and other fears, like your fear of intimacy, of getting in trouble or making mistakes, of not knowing enough information or being looked at as incompetent. And mainly, your fear of simply not being good enough to be loved.

I know you. Probably better than anyone really knows you. I know how hard you try to be perfect. I know how hard you work to be accepted. How much you feel you don’t and can’t possibly fit in anywhere, with anyone. And I know you think that if you achieve genuine happiness it means that you have reached the end of your life. But you don’t have to be afraid. I’ve begun to discover that you can be accepted and you are more than lovable. 

As I write this, I realize now that you are just starting out on the first path of many that will lead you on a journey into a life that brims with love and hardship, joy and sadness, peace and war, as well as abundance and strife. Your life will be wrought with moments of destitution and incredible successes. And I wouldn’t have you change any of it (except please buy Amazon stock and change your Sam’s Club membership to Costco, trust me, Sam’s Club will fail us). You will learn so much from the experiences that living this life will teach you. 

I would also encourage you, as your sponsor, to ditch your unhealthy addictions earlier.  You should see life through the eyes of someone who chooses to actually live. Find life in every breath. Leave behind the acts of fear that cause you to bury yourself and hide away all that is great in you. 

Now, about the young man you have chosen. He is going to be amazing. You were right to be attracted to his high levels of intelligence, and his cautious, careful approach to tasks. And that great sense of humor. You will laugh every day of your life. He will hold you close when you feel lost and afraid. He will trust your guidance and seek your counsel. He will treasure you. 

But it will take some time. You will both have to learn to grow up and embrace the art of communication. You will find an amazing woman, Julie Gottman, who will introduce you to techniques that will enable you to overcome so many marital obstacles. You’ll learn principles about communicating and methods for dealing with conflict that you’ll even align with your body of work. Trust me, these tools will prove invaluable. 

Your marriage will become a beacon of hope for couples around the world. But it will take time. Time that can be shortened if you heed many words and remember this letter, starting today, your wedding day. You can be so much more if you start by shedding the heavy, unsightly cloak of fear. 

Your story needs to be heard through the ears of faith and not through fear. Fear prematurely ends stories. It changes the narrative and demands surrender. It turns heroes into cowards and strength into weakness. It both clouds and casts judgment. It slowly takes away the essence of who you really are. It highlights scarcity and inflates the balloon of false pride. You are not what you’ve been through. Your truth and destiny lie in the places you will go and the people whose lives you will touch. So continue to go far and shine bright. Dream often. And fear not.

In this letter, I want you to recognize that you are going to have a beautiful family, a legacy of serving others, and a connection to your husband that’s absolutely unbreakable. But your life will really begin when you can begin to see yourself as a whole. Know that life is not just about what you know or have learned, it’s about how well you learn how to live. Do it fearlessly, for there is life in every breath.

So with that said, here are a few things I’ve learned about love and life over the last 23 years of marriage. 

Never stop dreaming together
Talk openly about your goals for the future, and always support your husband’s dreams. Be curious, creative, and explore your entrepreneurial spirit. 

Take better care of your health
Eat better and get into a fitness program or routine. Stop complaining and taking your amazing body for granted. Spend less time worrying about how you wish you looked and spend more time loving yourself. 

Spend less time yelling
You can be heard the loudest in moments of silence.

Enjoy spending time with yourself
I didn’t discover this until I was in my forties. I missed all that time just enjoying who I was and dreaming about who I’d be.

Keep your childlike twinkle in your eye
It will serve you well and keep you and others laughing. You are funny—stay that way. 

Spend more time in the moment with your children
They really do grow up fast. Parenting isn’t a race, it’s a journey. It doesn’t end when they’re 18. It will challenge you in different ways, but you’ll never get their little inquisitive minds back, so enjoy it while you can. 

Always spend time talking to your husband
It gives you both so much life. Have patience for teachable moments and keep laughing, it really is medicine for the heart.

Keep making space for passion and intimacy
Keep being intriguing and spontaneous. These moments keep you both connected.

Challenge yourself often
Don’t sit in the same place, be different, choose different. Regular is your enemy. 

Trust the process
Everything good and bad happens for a reason, even when you don’t understand why. Keep believing and trusting in the process. There’s always another side and a way to go through. 

Please take these words with you, always. And, I love you. 

Are Particular Sexual Activities Wrong in Marriage?

ARE PARTICULAR SEXUAL ACTIVITIES WRONG IN MARRIAGE?

April Cassidy

ABOUT MY APPROACH TO THIS POST:

I haven’t stated my personal convictions about specific sexual activities in marriage for a variety of reasons. One reason is that last year, God convicted me that Romans 14 admonishes believers to keep our personal convictions about “disputable matters” private.

The sharing of personal convictions tends to cause a lot of division in the body of Christ.

  • Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. Romans 14:1

So I took down any posts that were about my own convictions on a number of topics. I want to build the unity in the body, not create division over trivial matters.

  • So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. Romans 14:22
🙂

I decided to write about this topic after several requests. However, I am not going to be sharing my own convictions or details about my marriage in this area out of respect for God, for Greg, for myself, and for the body of Christ. I appreciate everyone respecting my approach. 

I have decided not to have comments available on this particular post.

  • This topic lends itself toward becoming a debate that would probably not be productive.
  • I also don’t want to have any unwholesome or inappropriate conversations in mixed company.
🙂

There are some resources at the bottom of the post. I invite you to check them out and prayerfully consider each issue for yourself with your own husband. 

A FEW FOUNDATIONAL THOUGHTS:

First, I want to remember that my greatest goal as a believer is to bring glory to God in all I do.

Second, I want to remember that anything that God calls sin is something that is ultimately destructive for me or for someone else. I want to focus on God’s incredible love for His children and the fact that His motives toward us are always good and never evil. Any parameters God gives, I want to embrace with total faith and trust.

Third, I want to remember that God created sex for marriage and that it is very good.

Fourth, I want to remember that Satan wants to make sex outside of marriage and sex before marriage as enticing as possible and he wants to make sex in marriage as difficult, painful, and frustrating as possible. He wants to create division and dissension and do all he can to prevent us from having unity in every area of our marriages, including the area of physical intimacy.

Warning, dear sisters:

Be aware of Satan’s strategies and tactics and resist him, yielding your heart completely to the Lord. He wants you to think accusing, negative, terrible thoughts toward your husband. He wants you bound up in guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, pride, and self-righteousness.

It is so critical that we take our thoughts captive for Christ so that we allow God’s Spirit to control our thoughts, motives, and all that we do, not the flesh.

Jesus set us free from sin, death, shame, guilt, bondage, oppression, fear, and every toxic way of thinking! He guides us in all truth by His Spirit and His Word. He can purify our hearts and minds and empower us to be the women He calls us to be. There is so much freedom in Christ. It is not about rules. It is about abiding in Him and being filled to overflowing with His goodness and then He gives us His wisdom and healing so graciously.

  • Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace… Romans 8:5-6

Let the fruit of the Spirit be very evident in the way we treat our husbands sexually, and in every other way. May God’s supernatural love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control abound in our hearts and in our interactions with our husbands. May the way we relate to them bring great joy to God’s heart and glory to His Name!

HOW TO DECIDE IF A PARTICULAR SEXUAL ACTIVITY IS A SIN IN MARRIAGE:

I need to prayerfully ask myself some questions as I seek to allow God’s Spirit to show me His truth and goodness from the Bible – with a heart that longs to obey God no matter what He may ask of me:

1. Does the Bible list this thing as a sin? If the Bible lists it as sin, it’s out of the question. I can’t participate in that.

2. Does the activity I want to do violate a general principle of God’s Word? Is it selfish, hurtful, involving sex outside of marriage, involving lust for someone to whom I am not married? Is it an addiction? Does it involve idolatry, greed, lying, envy of others, etc…?

3. Could what I want to do cause harm/pain emotionally or physically to my spouse? I must remember that “love does no harm to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10). Could the activity cause harm to myself or anyone else in some way?

4. If the Bible is silent about it, the activity doesn’t go against a general principle of God’s Word, and it does not cause harm to someone then it really isn’t my place to label something as sin that God doesn’t label as sin. I don’t want to put myself in the position of deciding what is sinful. And I don’t want to make up my own “sins” and put myself in bondage unnecessarily to manmade rules. I can have personal convictions that are based on my own thinking. But I don’t get to label things as “sin.” That is God’s job.

5. If an activity violates a particular believer’s conscience, then for that person, he/she is not acting in faith and that is sin for that person even if this is an area where there is Christian liberty and freedom. I don’t want to force my spouse to do something that would violate his conscience. I would seek to “bear with him in love” and patience and put my desire for a particular thing on the back burner.

6. In areas of Christian liberty, I am free in Christ to enjoy something that is not labeled as sin by God and that does not violate biblical principles.

7. My primary purpose in the sexual aspect of my life must be to glorify and love God and love my husband. Sex is not “all about me.” Yes, I can enjoy it, and that is awesome. But, as a believer, I want my mindset to be, “How might I bless my husband in this area?”

Note:

In my book, I share a number of ways that we can be disrespectful to our husbands about sex and ways we can respect our husbands about sex. The Peaceful Wife – Living in Submission to Christ As Lord

Much love to each of you in Christ!

Do You Bottle Your Emotions? Susan David, Ph.D. Describes How It Hurts Your Relationship

DO YOU BOTTLE YOUR EMOTIONS? SUSAN DAVID, Ph.D. DESCRIBES HOW IT HURTS YOUR RELATIONSHIP

Interviewed by Kyle Benson For  The Gottman Relationship Blog

Susan David, Ph.D. is an award-winning psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the CEO of Evidence Based Psychology, a boutique business consultancy. Her new book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life teaches a counterintuitive approach to achieving your true potential, which was heralded by the Harvard Business Review as a groundbreaking idea of the year in 2016.

Part one of the interview is here.

Kyle: I love your book, especially the part about bottling and brooding. Can you speak about those two terms and how those might show up in a relationship? In particular, can you speak to how to use either self-compassion or other techniques to stop holding our emotions hostage in a way that it harms our relationships?

Susan: Yes. Effectively bottling or brooding are characteristic of ways that people deal with difficult emotions and difficult experiences. We often default to one of these positions.

Bottling is essentially pushing the emotion down. For example, you’re upset with a person. You’re feeling angry because you feel exploited, and what you do is you tell yourself, “I’m just not going to go there, and I’ve got to go to work. I’ve got all this other stuff to do.”

And what you are doing is pushing the emotions down. Often you do this with very good intentions. You feel at some level that emotions are locked up in a bottle, and you have all of this other stuff that you can’t do, so you continue to push the emotions into a bottle, per say.

Brooding is when you are so consumed with the emotions you’re feeling that it becomes difficult to do anything else. When you’re brooding, you’re dwelling on the emotions, you’re analyzing hurt. You’re thinking, Why am I feeling what I’m feeling? It’s like you can’t let go and you obsess over the hurt, a perceived failure, or a shortcoming.

Brooding has some very good intentions—one of which is to try to deal with emotions effectively. So both bottling and brooding are done with good intentions.

Kyle: Fascinating. I believe you had a really good example of bottling and brooding in your book about holding books. Could you explain that?

Susan: Of course. For instance: If someone said to you, “You have this big pile of books, and I want you to carry these books away from you.” That’s what bottling looks like. It’s where you have these emotions and thoughts and you try to hold them at an arm’s length in a very almost white-knuckled way. You’re trying to push them aside, and what happens over time is your arms get weak and they start shaking and you are likely to drop the load. The same happens when you are brooding.

When you are brooding, what you are doing is you are holding all those books—and we say each of the books is like an emotion or a thought. You are holding the books so close to you and gripping them so tightly that it impacts your ability to be in the world, your ability to see the other person and to respect them, to love and to see your children, to laugh, and, again, at some point you drop that heavy load.

Kyle: I love that visual. It makes a lot of sense. Can you take a moment to explain why we bottle or brood and how it impacts our partners?

Susan: Well… What’s really interesting is that while people use bottling and brooding with good intentions, we know from the research that it tends not to work.

When people characteristically bottle their emotions or brood, even though they look so different, those patterns of emotions are actually associated with lower levels of well-being and high levels of depression and anxiety. We also know that it impacts the quality of the relationship.

When people bottle, they are pushing aside their emotions, and their partner can often feel that they aren’t present—that they aren’t being authentic or vulnerable in the relationship.

When people are brooding, their partner can often feel that there is no space for anyone else in the conversation because they are so self-focused that it becomes difficult to enter into the space in a way that they feel seen.

And, also, people can switch from one to the other. Sometimes someone will bottle, bottle, bottle, and then they start brooding, and feel bad for brooding, so they push emotions aside and they bottle again.

It’s a really interesting way of being. One of the things that I talk about in Emotional Agility is creating a relationship with our emotions by making room in our hearts for our emotions and our thoughts.

Kyle: So it sounds like you’re trying to create space between the emotions rather than react to them. How do we stop the cycle of brooding and bottling?

Susan: The best way is to stop trying to engage in a struggle of whether you should or shouldn’t be feeling something, but rather just notice those thoughts and emotions, and do so with compassion and curiosity and courage because sometimes they are difficult emotions.

A very important piece of research has shown us that when people try to push emotion aside what happens is there’s emotional leakage. You don’t want to tell the person you are upset and keep it in you, so you keep it in you, and then you completely lose sense and flip out.

We know these things don’t work. What I talk about in Emotional Agility is ways to start being healthier with our thoughts and emotions. That way we do not struggle with them and rather recognize that your thoughts, your emotions, and your stories have evolved in us as human beings to help us to feel protected, to help us to survive, and to help us to communicate with ourselves.

It’s important to extend compassion to yourself, recognizing that you are trying to do the best that you can with the circumstances that you face. That doesn’t mean you are self-excusing. It doesn’t mean you are being lazy. It just means you are choosing to befriend yourself.

Kyle: That’s such an important statement. I often say beating yourself up is never a fair fight and talk about the importance of being your best friend in your own struggles.

Susan: I love that. I want to note that there are a couple of really important, practical aspects to this. One of the things that I talk about is the importance of recognizing that often when we brood about something or when we bottle something what we are trying to do is we are trying to manage away those emotions in very different ways. But often underneath those emotions is a value. We talked about values earlier in the interview.

We tend not to get upset about things that we don’t care about. Often under our bottling or brooding of emotions is a sign post of something that’s important to us.

It’s a signpost to a particular need we have as a human being or it’s a signpost to something that we hold dear in our relationship. Maybe we are feeling we aren’t getting enough of a need.

Befriending yourself is a really important aspect because instead of treating your emotions and thoughts as the enemy, you’re able to treat them as data. The directions and data often enable us to perceive these values—these things that are important to us.

Kyle: Finding the hidden meaning in the emotion is important. Do you have some suggestions for how we can do this?

Susan: I do! A practical strategy that I talk about is to ask yourself, “What is the func?” Which is short for “What is the function of the emotion? What is the emotion trying to tell me about what is important to me?”

Another aspect that helps people to be effective with their emotions is to try to nail your emotion accurately. Often when people are in stress in relationships they’ll say things like “I’m just stressed” or “I’m just angry.” Very often beneath that emotion is a more nuanced emotion, and I can give you an example.

I spoke with a client many years ago who used to label everything as anger. He would say to himself, “Look, I’m so angry. I’m so angry,” and he would do this with his wife. He would get so angry so quickly, so I started to say to him, “Let’s try to see one or two other options.Yes, you must be angry, and, yes, your wife might be angry, but what are two other emotions that might be hidden underneath that anger?” It was so interesting.

His wife actually came to me two months later and said, “I don’t know what you said to my husband, but it has completely changed the relationship,” and, when I spoke to him about it, he said to me that what has happened is she kept on feeling anger in him, but when he started to say one or two other options that surfaced for him, he expressed disappointment that she was feeling a bit disappointed or that she wasn’t angry.

She was just slightly annoyed, which is very different than anger. If you can start to recognize in a more nuanced way that your partner is disappointed or annoyed, it completely shifts the interaction.

A really important aspect of moving from bottling and brooding effectively is to try to do the “What the Func?”

Another aspect is to try to get to a space to enable the emotion in a way that just feels more accurate and more nuanced because that is just a really critical aspect of being effective in the world.

We know that people who are more nuanced about their emotions actually tend to do better in difficult situations and, again, have better wellbeing. That’s another practical strategy.

A third practical strategy when it comes to moving out of bottling and brooding might be to engage in broader perspective taking. Often when people are stuck in a situation in a relationship they see things from only their perspective. So a critical aspect of any kind of relationship therapy is to start helping to open or widen the telescope lens.

Kyle: This is a huge aspect of the Gottman Method! Our therapists are trained to help couples understand each other’s perspectives before problem-solving. The motto is understanding must precede advice.

Susan: That’s excellent because people often are just seeing a very small perspective, but when they start to see things in a far more panoramic view, things can shift.

You can do this by saying, “This is what I’m feeling. What is my partner feeling?”

Even that question is a really important aspect of a widening perspective. Another example is I think that the person is doing X, but, if I had to ask the wisest person in the world, they would bring in a different perspective. It could also be a fly on the wall or anything that gives you a new way of looking at what’s going on.

Kyle: Lovely. I totally see the power in that. It’s such a powerful way to stop getting hooked on your emotions and to start working with your partner in a way that creates an emotionally-connected relationship—even in conflict. Thank you so much, Susan, for sharing your wisdom.

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part interview with Susan David, Ph.D., author of Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life.

The Importance of Accountability

THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Chris McKenna

Is accountability powerful enough to help change a heart? Sixteen years ago, Covenant Eyes was founded by two individuals on the simple premise that it is, and today the company has a team of over 150 people who base their work and livelihood on this very idea. We believe in the importance of accountability and the power of honest conversation.

Some people still haven’t been convinced their “private” porn problem merits the “not-so-private” solution of accountability. Inaccurate ideas of what accountability really is, bad past experiences, or just plain old fear stop those struggling with porn from bringing their battle to the attention of a friend. They may think accountability has some value, but they don’t understand the deep importance of accountability in bringing about lasting life change.

“I have talked to hundreds of addicts, spouses of addicts and parents, and the majority of them would have told you accountability is a good idea, but they saw accountability in their life as a last resort, not a lifestyle,” said author and speaker Luke Gilkerson at the Set Free Summit.  “We cannot tell people to do accountability until we have a firm idea of what it is and how to do it.”

The Importance of Accountability

In this short video from the Set Free Summit, Luke conveys a compelling description of what accountability is and why it’s important. Take a look.

As Luke said, “We are created for community. We were redeemed in community. We will be glorified in community. Therefore, we are going to be sanctified in community.” Accountability matters.

Let’s build out the importance of accountability a little further.

God Knows Us Fully, Isn’t This Accountability Enough?

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (Emphasis mine)

Ready for a wake-up call? Fully known is the only perspective God has. In their book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart say, “God’s knowledge of us is immediate–full and direct, face to face…”

God sees us through and through. Every thought. Every inclination. Every bent of our heart.

Can I venture to say most Christians often forget this truth? Instead, many believe the fallacy of secrecy, even though various Scriptures clearly point to an all seeing, all knowing Father (Proverbs 5:21, Psalm 33:13-14, Hebrews 4:13, among others).

In May, we received this comment on our blog, 10 Reasons Why Accountability Is Unpopular in the Church

Authentic Christians don’t need an accountability partner because we already have the best dwelling inside us. If you listen to Jesus, through your Holy Spirit, you will never choose the wrong path….If Jesus could do nothing on His own, how can we think we know how to do things better than Him? This is why we turn control of our lives over to Him and that eliminates the ‘need’ for an accountability partner.

Jesus is definitely what we need. But, being “in Christ” does not eliminate the importance of earthly accountability. 

The Importance of Accountability with Another Person

For most Christians, understanding that God is fully knowing just isn’t tangible enough to hold them accountable for what they say and do. On the other hand, that “thing” that you might struggle with is tangible. It’s right in front of you. Sometimes, the empty promises offered by addiction seem far more real and frankly, more satisfying, than a promise from Scripture.

Dr. Kenneth Boa writes, “Our ability to embed ourselves within the impenetrable shell of rationalization, projection and denial is nothing short of amazing….An entire field of social psychology–the study of ‘cognitive dissonance’–is based on our limitless ability to rationalize what we do and say. That being the case, we all need people who will help us protect ourselves from ourselves and the desires of our own hearts.”

It’s impossible to be fully known on this side of heaven, but an accountable relationship can point us towards the light. Consistently. Lovingly. Directly (if necessary).

According to pastor and author Timothy Keller:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Accountability is important because “one another” trumps “one.”

This could also be said as “we” trumps “just me.”  In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” There are 59 “one another” statements in the New Testament. Scripture begs us to “do” things towards and with other people.

  • To be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • To wash one another’s feet (John 13:14)
  • To love one another (over and over and over)
  • To live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
  • To have equal concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
  • To bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:12)

Pastor and author Andy Stanley also says, “The primary activity of the [early] church was one-anothering one another.”

Jesus Christ modeled “one-anothering” in his earthly ministry. Not because He needed accountability, but because by doing life with 12 brothers, He showed us how to live openly and in community. He showed us the importance of accountability. The Trinity is founded on the “one another” principle. We are inherently stronger when we are locked together.

In our free e-book, Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability, author Luke Gilkerson says, “[Accountability] means really getting to know one another. It means not just confessing surface-level stuff, but helping one another to see underlying motivations. It means hearing one another’s stories and spending time together. It means helping one another tap into godly motives for Christian living.”

Accountability is important because speaking trumps silence.

There is power in spoken words. When our thoughts become words, or we are listening to words from someone else, our brain kicks into high gear. University College London did extensive analysis of how the brain processes spoken words. The scientists discovered that our brains can magically isolate language from other sounds and usher it to the “primary auditory cortex” where it is assigned meaning.

In Romans 10:9, we read, “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I’ve never been a big fan of the “bow your heads and raise your hand to accept Jesus into your hearts” approach to salvation. I just don’t see it modeled anywhere in Scripture. Words matter! All form and matter came into existence because God spoke.

Having genuine and straightforward conversation with an accountability partner is sweet therapy for a dry, empty soul. This type of conversation doesn’t just land in our brain. It lifts heavy burdens from our hearts.

Accountability is important because light trumps darkness.

Speaking openly with an accountability partner keeps our secrets out in the open. It crushes the fallacy of secrecy. In darkness, sin rules us. But, in the light, sin shrivels. Nothing beats the light.

Ephesians 5:6-9 tells us, “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” (Emphasis mine)

Darkness isn’t a wave or a particle. It isn’t a “thing.” It’s simply the absence of light. Human vision is diminished as light is decreased. We are unable to distinguish color. What a befitting metaphor for what happens to our spiritual discernment while under the cover of sin.

An accountable relationship with another Jesus-loving brother or sister is a warm LED flashlight to the soul. It calls us up to the light and out of the darkness.

Can Accountability Really Change a Heart?

We believe it can, and we’ve seen it happen in so many Covenant Eyes users. This is why we believe so strongly in the importance of accountability. But you’re never going to know for yourself until you give it a try.

45-Year-Old Woman Gives Birth To Quintuplets After 20 Years Of Barrenness

45-YEAR-OLD WOMAN GIVES BIRTH TO QUINTUPLETS AFTER 20 YEARS OF BARRENNESS

Vanessa Nordzi

A Ghanaian woman, who has been married for the past 20 years without a child, has been blessed with five babies (quintuplets).
The 45-year-old woman known as Maame Cynthia welcomed her bundle of joy, two girls and three boys, at Sam-J Specialist Hospital at Haatso, Accra in Ghana. The babies were conceived through in-vitro fertilization.

Maame Cynthia revealed how two of her impatient husbands divorced her due to her inability to conceive but that, she stressed, did not deter her from hoping to celebrate the fruit of her womb.

So when she remarried and was still facing the problem, she trusted God for a breakthrough.

Well, as we can see her faith in God did not let her down. She is now a proud mother of five healthy babies.

Her situation teaches us that patience is a virtue and at the right time you will get your miracle.

%d bloggers like this: