Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
THE ENCOURAGEMENT PROJECT
Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
Good morning Prayer Team!
We’re all familiar with the term “peer pressure,” it’s when you feel pressured by your peers to do something. Sometimes that thing is bad—like when people are in college and their peers egg them on to drink too much. Sometimes there is pressure to dress a certain way, and there is pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to the latest technology and other fads.
There are instances where “peer pressure,” or better, let’s call it “peer influence” can be a good thing. When your peers encourage you to do something good, that’s a good thing. Today I want to connect the word “accountability” to “encouragement.” Accountability is when you utilize another person to not only encourage you to do something but to make sure that you actually do it. For instance, let’s say that I have a difficult time reading the Bible. In conversation, I speak to a friend who is having the same struggle. Neither of us makes the time to do it. We both know it is something we should be doing. So, we agree that each day, we will read the Bible, and we will take a picture of the passage we are reading and text it to one another. There is now “accountability.” And until I can get in the habit of reading the Bible daily on my own, I now have another motivation to do so. I’m accountable to someone.
Now you may wonder, why can’t I just be accountable to my priest for spiritual things? The answer is, most people do not have daily communication with their priest. I’m speaking of finding a peer, a friend, a fellow Christian, and having some daily (or frequent) accountability for prayer, scripture reading, or any other Christian discipline. There is something innate in each of us that wants to please other people. So, adding an “account-a-buddy” to your spiritual life can be very helpful. Because on the days you don’t feel like praying, reading the scriptures or other spiritual disciplines for yourself, you have someone else that is counting on you to do them.
Years ago, someone that I was close to was trying to kick the habit of smoking pot on a daily basis. This person asked me to keep them accountable and to help them to try and stop. It was this person’s idea that he would call me every day at 3:00 p.m. for 30 seconds and report on his last 24 hours of marijuana use. He thought that by having to admit it to me, that the embarrassment would be enough to get them to quit. About once a week, he would slip up and call and tell me he slipped up. One day (and he told me this years later), he decided that he didn’t want to feel embarrassed ever again by admitting this to me. So, for six months, he called every day and said he hadn’t used. After six months, we decided to make the phone calls weekly instead of daily. After another six months, the calls became monthly. And now there is a once a year call on the anniversary of last pot usage.
Most of us don’t have problems we are trying to stop, so much as we have good habits that we are trying to form. And a great way to create a new habit (or stop a bad one) is to get an account-a-buddy, someone you will have frequent contact with, so that you can be accountable to someone and so that you can receive encouragement from them. An account-a-buddy can be used for any habit you are trying to change—from praying more, to reading scripture more, to diet, exercise, anything really.
Every bit of encouragement and accountability helps me in my spiritual life and I encourage you to find a friend who can be your account-a-buddy when it comes to spiritual disciplines. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need a priest for spiritual direction and to hear your confessions. It means that you have an additional person(s) that you account to on a daily or frequent basis to strengthen areas of your life that need strengthening.
Lord, help me to be disciplined in my Christian life. Help me to have the discipline to pray and meditate on scripture, and to live a life of Christian virtue. Surround me with people who will encourage me and hold me accountable when I need it. Allow me to fill that role for others. May I seek to encourage others as they encourage me. Amen.
Consider who and how you can use an account-a-buddy in your life!
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