Accountability is often thought to be the same thing as being judgmental; however, it is not. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” Judgmental is defined as “a tendency to judge harshly.”
From reading these two definitions, one can see that these two words have two completely different meanings. Sadly, among Christians, the concept of accountability and being judgmental can become mixed together.
What Is the Difference Between Accountability and Judgment?
If friends, family, or a loved one comes to you with a legitimate, genuine struggle, as believers, we should listen, encourage, and help them in any way we can. We should be accountable to others, but we should not be judgmental to others. It is good to practice accountability, given your purpose is to help the fellow believer.
A Christian should never mix accountability with being judgmental. A friend, family member, or church acquaintance may come to you with a sin they are struggling with such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or any other addiction.
This individual might be trying to abstain from this certain sin, and they ask you to keep them accountable. Your spouse, family member, or friend is genuinely asking for your help. This means that when they are struggling, they can give you a call, send you a text, or drop by your house to help them resist the sin.
The individual will also most likely ask you to hold them accountable for not participating in the sin. This means you will have to check on them and ask questions concerning their sin, which may mean asking some uncomfortable questions at times. An example could be that your friend struggles with alcohol addiction.
This individual has recently become a Christian and wants to leave their old life behind. They know the dangers of alcohol and how it affects your health, thus they want to cease drinking alcohol. It has been a difficult time for your friend, and they ask you to be their accountability partner.
This means you will need to hold them accountable to not drink alcohol. As a kind Christian, you agree to help your friend. As an accountability partner, each time you see your friend you ask questions such as “Have you been drinking?” “How are you feeling?” “What can I do to help?” You help, encourage, and pray for them as needed.
By holding your friend accountable, it is going to help them stop drinking alcohol and help them in their overall life. It is good to practice accountability because it helps encourage, build up, and serve one another in love.
For this example, addiction to alcohol was used; however, you can insert any sin into this scenario, such as smoking, pornography, lying, stealing, hating, etc. It is a great honor and responsibility to be an accountability partner.
There will be times you will need someone to hold you accountable for your actions. When you need someone’s help, it would be wise to choose someone you feel comfortable with, such as your spouse, a family member, or a close friend.
These individuals have seen you in every area of life and they will support you no matter what. Accountability for your own actions is equally as important. If we have done something wrong, we need to accept responsibility for our actions and accept the consequences.
What Does Being Judgmental Look Like?
Being judgmental to others is not good. Jesus tells us not to judge others, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). In the parallel account to Luke’s gospel, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus expands His teaching on judging others.
Jesus teaches the people that one cannot help another person with a sin if they are struggling with the same sin in their own life. Jesus tells us to remove the “plank” from our own eye in order to remove the “speck” from our friend’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5). God is the only One who is permitted to judge because He is holy, perfect, and blameless.
We should not judge others because God is the only just judge (James 4:12). The Apostle Paul tells us it is not wise to judge others because when we do judge others, we are condemning ourselves.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? (Romans 2:1-3).
God does not want His followers judging each other.
Paul warns us, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15). When we judge each other, we are causing friction among believers. As the body of believers, we need to have unity (1 Corinthians 1:10). Judging one another will result in disunity.
Being judgmental to others is rude, snobbery, and unpleasant. Every single human being in the world was born into sin and we all have freely sinned. We all fall short of the glory of God.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23).
Since we all struggle with our own temptations and sins, we should not judge others for their own sins. Just because you may not struggle with the same sin as another person does not mean that sin is not difficult for them.
When a Christian judges another Christian, it is not glorifying God. Think about the last time you were judged by someone else. Did it make you feel good, or did it hurt? It most likely hurt your feelings, embarrassed you, or made you upset.
As Christians, we should not want to make anyone feel judged, hated, or belittled. We should encourage and build up one another in love (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We should not tear down others.
What Does Being Accountable Look Like?
We should all practice accountability to others and ourselves; however, we should not be judgmental to others. Oftentimes during the duration of being a person’s accountability partner, you may be tempted to become judgmental to them, but you should abstain from any judgmental thoughts, remarks, or actions.
The person you are helping desires your encouragement and help — not your judgment. Therefore, it is important to be accountable, practice accountability, and be a good accountability partner, but we should never be judgmental to others. Accountability is not the same as being judgmental.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.