So far we have spoken about genuine accountability roles. However, you may also come to realise that you have ended up with a quasi-accountability role in relation to a person who may be exhibiting SBCMB. We suspect this may be a very common—and potentially damaging—situation. It comes about when the person approaches you, seeking to talk to you and get your advice. They may establish an informal mentoring or advisory relationship. Or they may simply have a one-off conversation or exchange with you. However, after a while, you realise that the person is dropping your name in other situations, to give an impression that you are providing them with some level of accountability (perhaps vaguely defined). For example, when they are questioned about whether they have accountability, they mention you. You may personally feel you have just had a conversation or a chat with them, but they are using the relationship to legitimate themselves in a way that goes beyond the way you understand the relationship.
Alternatively, the person may have approached you asking you to give them a brief encouraging written or recorded message because they are finding things tough (they may even have written the message, or an outline of what they want you to say, to make it easier for you). So you give them an encouraging message. But you then find that the encouraging message is being repeated to others by way of an endorsement. Furthermore, you may find this endorsement is being used frequently—sometimes selectively—to provide legitimacy to them, and to give the impression that you are well-acquainted with them and are very happy with them and all their actions, when in truth it may simply be that you were willing to encourage them personally from a distance.
In these cases, you need to make sure you make every effort to clarify your role with them, and question them as to their statements to others about your role. This is important, because if they are using your authority and reputation to legitimate themselves in a way that goes beyond your ability to call them to account, you will end up being seen as complicit in any damaging behaviour that might ensue.
If you discover a clear contradiction between what they are telling you privately about their relationship with you (e.g. it is just for advice and encouragement) and what they have been telling others about their relationship with you (e.g. it is for accountability), you need to make sure that you communicate with those same people to tell them that there has been a significant problem, and to tell them that the role is different to what you, and they, had been led to believe. If the person has publicised your role, then you also need to make a similar public statement clarifying the issue. This is both to protect yourself from complicity in potentially damaging behaviour, and also to protect others who may have been led to overlook such damaging behaviour because they were relying on the integrity of your accountability relationship that they (wrongly) believed existed.
Read the next section: If you hear many people criticising the person
Copyright © 2021 Lionel and Bronwyn Windsor
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