Here’s How Having an Accountability Partner Can Transform Your Lent

Two friends sitting on skateboards talking outside.
Photo by Budgeron Bach on Pexels.

Every year when Lent rolls around, like most Catholics, I choose something (or several somethings) to give up for 40 days. In general, it’s a practice I observe on an individual level. I know, of course, that there’s solidarity in the greater Church as we all journey through this time — but I’ve never done much sharing with family or friends about my unique sacrifices. There’s something vulnerable (or even slightly embarrassing) about telling others the things you’re cutting back on, especially when those things are areas where you know you could use more restraint.

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This year, though, having chosen a couple of particularly challenging sacrifices, I realized Lent was going to be a tough road to walk alone. I decided an accountability buddy might offer some much-needed encouragement to get me to the finish line of Easter. I knew just who I wanted that buddy to be! My friend Melissa and I have been close for years, and in 2022 I was honored to be her sponsor when she was confirmed in the Catholic Church.

I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask: Would Melissa hold me accountable to my Lenten commitments to cut back on drinking alcohol and using my phone while driving? (See, I told you, they’re vaguely embarrassing admissions.) Much to my relief, she immediately agreed. For my part, I committed to keeping her on track with her sacrifices. We decided to check in with each other weekly.

We’re now in week four of the season of penance, and I must say, having an accountability partner is definitely changing my Lenten experience. For starters, knowing that a friend is going to get in touch once a week to check on my progress is helping me stick to my sacrifices better than I usually would. When I feel tempted to reach for a glass of wine or send a text while driving, I pause, knowing that I’ll have to explain my choice to a friend. I know there’s grace for my mistakes, but I’d rather prove to myself (and her) that I’m capable of keeping my Lenten commitments. So far, I’ve only lapsed twice — a far higher success rate than I usually maintain during this season.

It’s nice, too, to check in with Melissa to see how her Lenten goals are going. As a friend and sister in the faith, I care about her spiritual development. Seeing her devotion to keeping her Lenten practices inspires me to stay on course with mine. It’s a winning cycle.

Meanwhile, being transparent with a friend takes away some of my embarrassment about habits I’m trying to change. People often say there’s power in speaking our foibles out loud — even the Bible admonishes us to “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16) — and I’m finding that to be true. Being open about the areas where I need improvement with a friend clears away the cobwebs of shame that can keep me from striving to do better.

Lent isn’t over yet. In the weeks to come, I hope my accountability partnership continues to hold me to my sacrifices. Even when I fail, having a buddy to help me back up is a wonderful reminder that we’re all in this together.

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