When I was 11 and 12 years old, David Turpin was one of my best friends. How do two little guys have similar families, similar experiences, similar beliefs, grow up in the same town, and end up in such different places? Accountability in the context of community is so vitally important. In this episode we talk about the importance of accountability and staying intimately connected to the people you love and lead.
How Accountability Can Prevent Devastation in the Lives of Those You Love and Lead
I’ve had an inner turmoil for the last couple of weeks because of something that is happening in the news.
David and Louise Turpin, a couple in California, were recently arrested for allegedly torturing and mistreating their 13 children. I know what I’ve read and what I’ve heard, but I am not personally aware of what actually happened. I do know this is a tragedy for this family and for those children. Their lives have been irreparably changed.
When I was 11 and 12 years old, David Turpin was one of my best friends. We visited each other’s homes, we sat together in Sunday School and church every Sunday. One of those summers we went to camp together for a week and we bunked next to each other. David was a very kind and tender-hearted child. He was quiet and thoughtful. Of the many friends I’ve had throughout my life, David was no different from any of the others. He was quiet, but he was a good friend to me.
I would see David in the halls of our High School every once in a while, and we would gesture to each other when we passed. I have not had a conversation with him since I was 12 years old, so I know nothing of what happened, the paths he took, the girl he married, or how he lived his life.
His family were, and as far as I know, are awesome people. I last saw his mom and dad at the local Dairy Queen a decade or so ago while visiting my hometown. They were kind and gracious as always as they gave me updates and asked me about my life. I consider his brother a friend and a colleague of excellence and integrity for whom I have very high regard.
I watch the venom spew out calling David all kinds of names and accusing him of horrendous things. I cannot dispute any of those things, and I too am shocked and dismayed at the things I see and hear.
All I know is, with every news story I see I feel a bit more wounded inside. I’ve prayed for God to help and be with David in his devastation, for God to comfort his family, and especially I’ve prayed for his children and their health in body, soul, and spirit and for their futures. When I see the pictures of a smiling family, I can see the face of the little boy that was my friend. When I see the mug shots and the court appearances, it is a face I do not recognize.
How do two little guys have similar families, similar experiences, similar beliefs, grow up in the same town, and end up in such different places? In such different and opposing worlds?
I’ve read every news story, sometimes with my eyes tearing up. Unbelievable. I’ve been searching for threads of truth that give some clue into what happened and what is happening. Many, many things were obviously lacking and many, many things were obviously wrong, but it seems to me that only one of the genesis of the path that led to devastation was the lack of accountability. This is horrendous, I cannot wrap my head around it, and I am sure the whole thing is far more complex than a simply matter of accountability, but that is the one piece we want to address today.
In my role of leadership I’ve seen other friends fail and their lives blow apart. One of the common denominators was an aversion to accountability. In fact, in the failures I’ve observed, the lack of genuine and true accountability in the context of relationships and community is always at the vortex of the failure.
Of course, lack of integrity, faulty belief systems, arrogance, etc. are vital components to failure and messed up lives, but those things breed quickly in an accountability vacuum.
One thing seems apparent, the Turpins cut themselves off from authentic community and accountability. They had little contact with family, no friends to speak of “dropping in,” no community to observe the pain and digression of their lives.
Relationships are important because God designed us to be interdependent; we are to sharpen one another (Proverbs 27.17), strengthen one another, encourage one another, and hold one another accountable to mutually beneficial standards. Accountability is voluntarily submitting to another person or persons for strength in achieving chosen objectives. In Ephesians 5.21 we are challenged to submit one to another out of reverence for Christ. In the verses that follow Ephesians 5.21, the marriage relationship is used to illustrate the importance of submission to Christ and mutual submission to each other.
To live healthy lives we must be accountable…
…to God: Ecclesiastes 12.14 says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (NIV). In Hebrews 4.13 it says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (NIV).
… to our spouse and family: We live our lives in the relational community of a family and we are accountable to each other. Our spouse should be aware of our activities, have access to our calendars, and know where we are at all times. The notion that we can come and go as we please without accountability is contrary to God’s proclamation that the man and wife become “one flesh”. We should also be accountable for our actions to our children. We do not get a pass for behaving improperly just because we are adults. If our children question us about a specific action we should give an account to them that they may learn to follow our example.
… to our community: Ephesians 5.21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV). We are accountable to the community of people in which God has placed us. We are to live our lives in relationship. In authentic community and relationship we learn how we are to live our lives, what is right and wrong. In authentic community we have friends that ask us uncomfortable question when necessary, but the love expressed in caring questions, though at times it may feel offensive and probing, are important to our ongoing development.
… to our peers: Peers can speak objectively into our lives. Proverbs 27.17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV). Determine who needs to hold you accountable for different areas in your life. Will it help if a peer asks you questions? Will it help you to grow if you share your struggles and have a partner who will give you the gift of grace by walking with you in that challenge?
A Lack of Accountability from or with those we Love and Lead is a Red Flag
Those who act elusive always have something to hide. When the people you care about cut you and everyone else out of their lives on an intimate level, something is wrong and possibly very wrong.
Those who take offense when I am tying to be a good friend or spiritual leader are out of alignment. People show offense when they, for some reason, do not want to give an account. It may be legitimate pain, and it may be an area where someone else needs to connect with them, but pain, problems, and very terrible things do not get solved in a vacuum.
I am going to pay attention and confront the things in the lives of those I love and/or lead because I do love them. I am going to use wisdom, but to the best of my ability, I am going to insert myself in the lives of the people I care about, and if they will not allow it, then I know something is out of alignment.
Calibration Tools… Calibrating Our Lives and Lifting Those we Love and Lead [30:53]
- Someone should always know where you are and what you are doing. It is never acceptable for your whereabouts to be totally unknown by someone to whom you give account.
- You should never meet with someone unless your spouse or someone to whom you are accountable knows you are meeting with that person.
- Everything in your life should be accounted to someone.
- Your spouse and/or accountability partner should be privy to your cell phone records and your computer.
- If you move to a new place, far from family and existing friends, you must seek out and connect to a healthy community. Life lived in a vacuum is difficult and is the start of living on an island where you alone make the rules.
I’ve thought a lot about this. What could my once-upon-a-time friend have done differently? Stay connected to the community and scrutiny of people who loved him. Make yourself accountable to people who care about you. Make yourself accountable to the leaders God has placed in your life, make yourself accountable to your friends and your family, be accountable to your spouse. Intentionally put accountability structures in your life — it will keep you from failure, and if you do slip, you will have someone who cares to help you up.
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