True Accountability

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Elf on the Shelf.

 

I’m sorry, but when, exactly, did this become a thing?

 

Elf on the Shelf, in case you haven’t heard of this new parenting phenomenon, is a little figurine of an elf that parents place in the house in the months leading up to Christmas. The story is that Santa “sends” the elf to report back on whether the kids should go on the “Good List” or the “Naughty List.”

 

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Frankly, I think it’s just an excuse for parents to milk the whole “he-knows-if-you’ve-been-bad-or-good” thing for all it’s worth.

 

(Can you hear the eye roll from here?)

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Anywho. Clearly, this was not around when I was growing up.

 

And to be quite frank…which, as you know, I always am…I think the whole thing…well…it stinks like rotten fish.

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OK, hold the phone…This is a harmless, fun little tradition that makes my kids squeal with excitement. Why are you such a bah-hum-bug Grinch??

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One word:

 

Accountability.

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The Elf on the Shelf encourages good behavior in order for the child to be rewarded. Be good so you don’t get coal from Santa. Be good because Santa’s watching. Be good so you get lots of presents.

 

Kids are now having to be accountable to Santa.

 

This really gives the whole notion of accountability a bad wrap. Like, Santa’s become some sort of parole officer who’s there to keep tabs on you, or check up on you to make sure you’re not doing anything destructive. Be accountable to avoid negative consequences.

 

And this is where the problem lies in my eyes: accountability is not something that is restrictive or negative. In fact, in true accountability, there is overwhelming freedom. Overwhelming love.

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You see, accountability has been a major player in my life ever since adopting recovery from anorexia. And my relationship with it has gone through many stages.

 

I went to inpatient for a reason. I needed around-the-clock accountability. For my intake, for my exercise, for my ED behaviors. So I went to an inpatient treatment facility for 3 MONTHS. I missed my high school graduation. Missed summer vacation. I was in a hospital where I was held accountable every second of every day. And there was no fudging the accountability either. Doctors, nurses, dieticians, therapists, table monitors to sit with us while we ate, people who watched over us while we slept, people who flushed the toilet for us. INTENSE ACCOUNTABILITY.

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And it wasn’t until I truly invited Jesus into my heart that I adopted recovery once and for all.

 

One of the things my parents and I talked about during my trip home over Thanksgiving, was how they were so thankful that they don’t have to worry anymore. How they’re grateful that I’m taking care of myself in every sense of the word: physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially.

 

And we got to talking about why that is.

 

And the answer is that my relationship with accountability has changed. It has turned from something negative, Elf-on-the-Shelf-y, to something positive. Something full of freedom.

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Here’s the thing: I live alone. I’m in a cute little studio apartment. And the reality is, if I wanted to cozy up to ED again, I could. The reality is, I live in NYC: the busiest city, and also the most anonymous city in the world. And I live by myself. That could be a recipe for disaster.

 

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One word: accountability.

 

I’m accountable to myself. But more accurately, I’m accountable to myself, and my accountability partner, Jesus.

 

I don’t go to a therapist. I don’t go to a dietician. No ED support groups or meetings. None of my family or relatives live on the East Coast. All of my physicians are even back in my hometown.

 

And for anyone struggling with an addiction or destructive behavior — hell, anyone who has ever tried going on a diet! — You know: being accountable to yourself is damn near impossible.

 

So how, then, have I been able to stay in recovery? How is it that I don’t skip meals or snacks or spend 6 hours a day exercising, or isolate from the people, or just deteriorate, in every sense of the word? I have every opportunity to, if I wanted.

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Jesus is my accountability partner. But unlike the Elf on the Shelf, — who is waiting for me to mess up, whose reward is dependent upon me not screwing up — Jesus already gave me my reward: on the Cross.

 

Jesus didn’t get to Calvary and say, Wellll, I’m actually not going to go through with this because Susie did X on December 3, 2015. Too bad, this whole redemption thing coulda been greaaat.

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No. That’s the Elf on the Shelf’s approach.

 

Jesus gave it all no matter what we do or don’t do. He gave His life because He loves us that much. Because we are worth that much.

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That is what I’m accountable to.

 

That is the character of the Who I’m accountable to.

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My accountability is not a “I better do this because Jesus is watching.” It’s a “I desire to take care of myself because I have been loved at a price. I have a value that is worth dying for.

 

And it is resting in that mindset that allows for unimaginable freedom. Freedom to choose to love myself, because I am so greatly loved.

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I’m getting a little preachy now, so I’ll leave you with this.

 

That desire for self-accountability didn’t happen overnight. It came through transformation. Transformation that came from Him.

 

We’ve all heard “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God.” But think about this: In that verse, (Ps 51:10) the Hebrew word for “create”bara – is only used a couple of times in the bible. It is also used when God creates the world, and God creates man – meaning that He created something out of nothing. Those are things that only God could do. Man could not create himself. The world could not create itself. Therefore, we cannot create a clean heart for ourselves. God has to do it.

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The Elf on the Shelf, sure it’s a fun tradition, filling children’s imaginations with whimsy and wonder. But let us not mix up that “Good List”/”Naughty List” accountability with the freedom that is experienced in accountability with, to, and for Christ.

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200 thoughts on “True Accountability

  1. You know what I like about your post… It’s not Christmas or Santa that our kids should be stand up for… Life is …well… Life and being accountable should be a forever growing trait. Our children should be taught right from wrong always and not just during the Christmas season. I do not follow this new tradition, and avoid watching the show. Our oldest made a cool Santa ornament several years ago on a beach chair. In order to honor her work we bought a little home ornament and every December Santa vacations under our Christmas tree. It’s not meant to teach them anything. Merely to show how important even their homemade things matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello again☺️☺️☺️ first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to read. I know I sound like a broken record, but it really means a lot and I’m so grateful for that. I so so agree. Accountability is forever growing. And morphing. It changes with our life stage, and our relationships. And it is always important. And that’s a wonderful message to teach children. It sounds like you’re a great parent:) have a lovely evening! Hugs!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “accountability is not something that is restrictive or negative. In fact, in true accountability, there is overwhelming freedom. Overwhelming love.” so so so true!!!!

    “My accountability is not a “I better do this because Jesus is watching.” It’s a “I desire to take care of myself because I have been loved at a price. I have a value that is worth dying for.”-WOW!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoy your blog! And I kept thinking about this Bible verse while reading: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.”

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  4. This is a great post. I like your take on the accountability aspect of it. I think that it is something a lot of kids and adults are missing in there life. Accountability in some cases (like my struggle with porn for example) can make the rest of the world and people I your life look at you and think your a disgusting pervert, which is not the case. It is a addiction like any other. I will call it for what it is. No addiction is pretty. Thank you for this post I really enjoyed it.

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    • Hi scruffy, thank you much for your honest response. You’re right, no addiction is pretty. And whether it is to an eating disorder, designer shoes, gossip, porn, alcohol — you name it — it keeps us in bondage. But taking accountability is a huge huge accomplishment. It is the beginning of freedom. And lastly, I think it’s important to remember that we are not out addictions. I was not my eating disorder, and you and were not your addiction either:) Thank you so much for your reflection and for taking the time to read. Blessings to you, friend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this!!!! I came thiiiiis close to picking up an elf a few years ago. So glad I came to my senses and put the box and book down and slowly walked away. Phew!

    I love how you explained how your relationship with Jesus influences your entire existence. Lots of truth right there. Blessings to you!

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  7. What a wonderful post. I also do not like Elf on the Shelf for the same reason. You are such a strong woman of faith. Thank you for sharing how you depend on Jesus and how you have let his love transform you.
    I have struggled with food most of my adult life (especially after I started having kids and putting on weight). I have reached a point in my life when I need to really make a change and follow through – my health depends on it. I know it will be a huge challenge but as you have stated, I need to let Christ transform me and let God create something new.
    God bless you.
    ~Mar
    P.S. Thank you for liking my post. This is how I found you.

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  9. My mom was just telling me about this a few weeks ago. She works at a daycare can her boss does this for her son. I totally agree that this seemingly harmless game can cause the wrong mindset. Great read!

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  10. I took the time to read your post on true accountability. I just say every time that I read one of your post you surprise me. You are so deep in thought on every sense of the level. I can tell through your words state you of a relationship with God the Father God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. Well Susie have to say to directly that yes you have a life worth dying for in Jesus all to it so that you could be redeemed. Why you may ask? because your love for him is more precious Beninese silver and gold the world could ever provide. I’m positive that every day with you fully relying on Christ you somehow managed to make the Lord smile. I know this because at times after reading your post I smile. so you maybe Suzi X, Jenny from New Hampshire or Bobbie sue from the South Dakota but it doesn’t matter what matters is that you know in your heart of hearts that God loves you.

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  11. You’re right. Parents often leave parenting to the TV, Santa…whatever becomes handy. On the one hand, I know Santa is a very strong tradition and a fun, well, game of sorts. I’m conflicted about it too. Fond memories, but a more mature realization that anything that distracts from what’s being celebrated can’t be too good. So the accountability goes in two directions; mis-training the child and abdicating parental responsibilities.

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