(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community.
We continue our conversation on a proposed spiritual therapeutic model toward healing from moral injury. As a reminder, this six step model includes;
- Acknowledge (confession) – take an honest assessment of thoughts and behavior, then acknowledge guilt and shame, and anger
- Forgiveness – choose forgiveness of self in the trauma experience as well as others who may have had responsibility
- Self-acceptance – renounce self lies like; I’m no good, I’m nothing, I’m worthless, I can’t be loved, and accept the reality of being a child of God
- Renewal – begin to retrain mind
- Amends – restoration involves a direct way to repair what has been damaged or broken
- Accountability – be in a community that offers accountability and support
Accountability is defined as taking or being assigned responsibility for;
- something that you have done or
- something you are supposed to do
Veterans have familiarity with accountability. All service members have responsibility for either property or people, and are answerable to those in authority over them.
In today’s culture, most persons understand and experience accountability through a group. The groups meets for various interests and reasons;
- writing, reading, biking, hiking, etc.
Often we feel ill-equipped to ensure our own success. So, we join a group that sets various goals and we hold each other in check on a daily or weekly basis. We accomplish this through Facebook, meeting in person, conference calls, or email.
Ultimately, accountability is optional. We can leave a group at any time. There may be days or weeks we voluntarily pull back from a group because we feel more anxiety over reporting than if we simply do what we say we will do.
Most often accountability groups assist us to be more self-aware, to realize that we need the sense of obligation. Knowing someone will ask me whether I have met my goals will help me do what I otherwise may have blown off resulting in the possibilities of better health or greater happiness. More importantly, the encouragement helps, knowing I have a friend who will offer commiseration or motivation.
The story of David in the Hebrew scripture illustrates for us what can happen when we fail to create a structure in which we are accountable for how we spend both our professional and private time.
The story found in 2 Samuel suggests to us the dangers of living our lives free of accountability. David was a great warrior and capable leader. From all accounts in scripture, he;
- enjoyed an intimate relationship with God
- experienced a stable political position
- secured a string of military victories
David had it all, but…!
David did not wake up one morning and decide to trash his life by committing adultery with the wife of one of his leaders, then have that man killed in battle. David began his descent into compromise by taking an additional wife, then another, and another. Eventually David had seven wives, but that was not enough. He added a harem. We can easily surmise that David had an issue with self-control.
David compounded his issue of self-control by not having someone around to question his lack of wisdom or to share his ever widening problem with someone else. As we read this story, we wince at the slow leak of self-control as;
- David looks
- David wants
- David takes
- David tries to cover it up
- David thinks he has gotten away with it
We read the results of David’s sin in the Psalms. David experiences a deep soul wound. Reflect for a moment on these powerful words shared in several of David’s Psalms;
- “I am worn out from sobbing. Every night tears drench my bed, my pillow is wet from weeping.” (6:6)
- “How long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?” (13:1-2)
- “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.” (22:1-2)
Here lies the crux of the story, when Nathan confronts David about his sin, David had two options, confess or deny. By being a “man after God’s own heart” does not mean David was perfect or flawless. Rather, David had to be honest about his failures. When confronted with his failure, David replies, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13)
Most likely not long after, David composes Psalm 51, his confession. David pours out his heart to God. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; because of your great compassion blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.” (verses 1-2)
Nathan becomes the catalyst toward spiritual healing. Nathan cared enough for David to counsel, rebuke, and encourage him when necessary.
We shared in a previous conversation about the need to be accountable to others, as a part of restorative justice. Both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures are filled with stories of people struggling with their accountability with God, and leaning on others for personal and spiritual development and growth. From Genesis through the letters to the churches, there are stories shared about the deep connections that help people through their darkest days and assist them to see what they cannot see on their own. We know of the stories of Moses and Aaron, David and Jonathan, Paul and Barnabas, and Silas and Timothy. In all of these stories and others, men and women of faith understood the importance to re-connect with God, one another, and with community by taking responsibility for their own behavior and then taking action to repair the harm. Through this process each person found another person to be accountable.
Most likely we do not practice accountability because we do not experience a sudden blow-out. Rather we make small compromises over time. We do not think we need someone to be our “Nathan.” But over time our compromises begin to snowball and before we know it our life spins out of control.
We have to be intentional about inviting someone like Nathan into our lives. Accountability relationships must be invited. The responsibility is on each of us to establish the structures and relationships to be accountable.
Our responsibilities are as follows;
- seek people of mature character
- give them permission to ask the tough questions
- be honest and vulnerable to them
Veterans, as we consider inviting someone for accountability, there are two essential elements;
- ability to relate
Element of Trust – In order to establish accountability, the foundation centers on trust. Developing trust takes time. As we begin to share our stories with one another we begin to establish a rapport with each other. Trust is developed through several techniques;
- active listening
- non-judgmental attitude
- caring for each other
Trust opens each group participant to sharing their most innermost thoughts without the concern of betrayal. Trust is at the heart of accountability because it involves opening oneself to the most sensitive and personal information.
Element of Relating – It is helpful when the group participants share a common bond or have been through similar experiences. Veterans can relate to one another and therefore can share with an empathetic heart. Vets would feel more comfortable sharing their experiences, circumstances, and feelings with another vet without fear of rejection or judgment.
Over these last several months we have shared a spiritual model for healing from moral injury. This month we have discussed the last step, accountability. However, accountability may not necessarily be the last step in the process. Accountability can be the catalyst, the first step that moves the veteran toward acknowledgement. Accountability can also sustain the veteran during the journey in finding forgiveness, self-acceptance, renewal of the mind, and making amends. The objective in this model is for the veteran to find healing and restoration.
So, are you accountable? Do you have a friend or group that will hold you accountable? “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Next month, we will begin a discussion on the care giver. Until then, thank you for the conversation…