A few years ago, I found myself in quite the precarious situation. The “friend” who I had trusted to be my accountability partner had revealed himself to be a person that I no longer wanted to be around. For those of you who are unaware, an accountability partner is someone who you tell your biggest issues so they can pray for you and help you through them. As you may have guessed already, accountability partners know some very sensitive information. Unfortunately, every time I decided that I was going to end the friendship, he conveniently managed to threaten to reveal some of the details that I had told him in confidence and to inform me that no one would want to be around me if they knew (his exaggerated version of) “the truth.”
It is clear that blackmailing and belittling are not the best ways to maintain a friendship or a relationship, but plenty of people resort to it. Many of my friendships and romantic relationships ended after I realized that relatively insignificant aspects of my past were being used against me. Indeed, I was amazed at the ways in which some of my former friends and ex-girlfriends were able to create such horrible images of me by intricately connecting disparate stories from my past. I never quite understood why people I trusted would find it so easy to use such intimate details of my life in their efforts to cause me pain. These experiences gave new meaning to the term “low blow.”
In this particular case, it went on for a few months until I decided that preserving my reputation against (his exaggerated version of) the truth wasn’t worth me losing my sanity. I had been giving him too much power over my life. It is true that ministers are especially vulnerable to reputation-based attacks. At the same time, a minister’s ability to be transparent is a great asset. We are able to use our testimonies in order to help others understand something about the nature of God. By revealing even an exaggerated version of those intimate details, he would simply be giving me the opportunity to talk about the beauty of God’s grace. No one is perfect. Jesus died on the cross for all of us–even the manipulative.
After talking to a few of my real friends about the matter, I was finally able to cut off my former accountability partner. We do talk on extremely rare occasions. I have mentioned him a few times in this blog as my “nemesis.” For the record, we are still no longer friends because I have enough positive people around me to remind me of what real friendship is all about. It’s not about gaining someone’s trust so you can control them with sensitive information about their lives. In contrast, real friends are committed to helping each other become better people without fear of coercion or manipulation. It’s just too bad I had to learn this lesson the hard way.