Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's the Difference?

So here I am bushwhacking my way toward a deadline. Well, it seems that way. You should see my house right now, in its neglected state. No, never mind—you should not see it. And if you do show up at my door, you enter at your own risk. No guarantee you’ll find me.

But I am here, and right now I’m pondering the topic of Internet use gone wild. One guy I talked to recently admitted he was completely pulled in—he would say “addicted”—to MySpace, WoW, and porn.

He told me, “You reach a certain point after a while—and it doesn’t take much—where boom! your conscience is seared and you convince yourself that what you’re doing is OK. Your innocence is drained. You can do it, and do it, and do it all day long.”

That's intense!

In trying to overcome his Internet obsessions, he said an "accountability partner" wouldn’t work for him unless that person was willing to sit next to him every time he got online—which would be a lot. Otherwise, alone he could go online and do whatever he wanted, and then it wouldn’t bother him one bit to have to confess it.

Here’s the thing that got me: He said, though an accountability partner wouldn’t work for him, a godly mentor would—someone who could pour God into his life.

After we talked some more, I realized he saw the "accountability partner" as someone who checked up on him, kept him on track with what he was supposed to do—even if he couldn't, or wouldn't, honestly aspire to their standards.

On the other hand, to him, the "mentor" would be the person who took the time to be in relationship with him and to help spur him toward being in relationship with God.

In his mind, the mentor relationship is the one that would make a difference--the one that would lead to God transforming him deeply and impacting his online choices.

Sure changes up my thinking about friendship, accountability, and mentoring. Still thinking about this one. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.




Timothy Fish said...

I mostly agree with his assessment of the two different concepts. The purpose of an accountability partner is to give you someone to whom you are forced to admit that you messed up. The idea is that you won't want to have to admit that you messed up, so you won't do it. The problem with this is that there are ways to hide what you have done, if the person is not right there looking over your shoulder. With the Internet, you could do something like sending the web log files to the accountability partner, but even those can be falsified and a person does not have to admit he has done wrong

A mentor is a concept. The purpose of a mentor is to give a person someone who can help him or her work toward a solution. Often, the best mentor is a person who has experienced a similar problem and has overcome the problem. A mentor can look at what a mentee does from an objective perspective. The mentee will tell the mentor about the things that happening and seek the mentor’s help in finding a way to overcome these issues. Unlike in an accountability partner relationship, the mentoring relationship is directed by the mentee. It is not the job of the mentor to try to force the person to admit to wrong doing, but is there to offer advice in how to improve in areas that the mentee wants to improve.

To better show the difference between the two, suppose there is an author is trying to sell books and has several speaking engagements lined up. After the first couple, she realizes that she isn’t connecting with her audience. She analyses her talks and determines that she is spending way too much time talking about her kids and it is boring her audience to tears. She may go to an accountability partner and say, “here is my schedule. After every speaking engagement I want you to call me and ask me how much time I spent talking about my children.” On the other hand, she may know another author that she admires for her ability to connect with the audience. She may call up this author and say, “I would like for you to mentor me to improve my ability to connect with the audience.” The mentor might listen to a few talks. She might offer some advice, such as “instead of talking about how great your kids are, talk about them spilling flour all over the cat.”

Nikky said...

I didn't have an addiction to porn, but I certainly did to myspace and entertainment/Hollywood sites and blogs. I could spend hours and hours a day AND night being "entertained" by both. As a Christian woman, something that had been weighing on my spirit for quite some time finally hit me hard about a month or so ago...God has a purpose for me...and here I am wasting precious hours (and HOURS) every day "losing myself" on the internet and filling my head with absolutely useless information...USELESS. I began to realize how much I could be accomplishing EVERY day if I channeled that same focus and energy into the gifts God gave me to share with others. I realized how easy it could become to waste ones life away, being absorbed by what has undoubtedly become the "boob tube" of the new millenium, our computers. It was scary and eye-opening for me, and I've changed my internet habits dramatically. I said all that to say, he has to sincerely want the change and believe in the reason for change ON HIS OWN...and if he THINKS he can't do it alone, then whether it be an accountability partner, or a mentor...their efforts will all be in vain.

Anonymous said...

He told me, “You reach a certain point after a while—and it doesn’t take much—where boom! your conscience is seared and you convince yourself that what you’re doing is OK. Your innocence is drained. You can do it, and do it, and do it all day long.”

That's a SCARY thought! And it happens so EASILY...we think we're stronger than this or that, and we're not. The most dangerous place in the world to be is: above it. Thinking you're above this addiction or that addiction. Scary, scary, scary...


Jan Kern said...

Great thoughts!

I see the difference in accountability and mentoring as you described it, Timothy. Thanks for sharing that distinction. Makes sense.

And as I think about it more, I see that distinction played out in the ministry with at-risk teens where I am. We just typically haven't labeled it.

Nikky, wonderful insights well applied to your own life and Internet use. Very cool. You're so right about needing to sincerely want the change. So true for all of us. It's a good thing God can work in our hearts even on that level!

And Debbie . . . I'm right with you on that one. Dangerous and scarey.

Many might say, "What--the Internet dangerous?" Taken to crazy extremes, it can totally mess with our minds our hearts, so yes.

While interviewing on this topic, I realized how easy it is to entirely deny a problem. It's a more accepted behavior than other addictions, easily done alone or in secret so no one knows, and it's less likely to affect you physically (though it certainly can).

Something to keep talking about. Hope we do.