“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17
Each year for the past thirty-plus years I force myself to trek over to my physician’s office for that dreaded annual inspection (more often than that now that I’m of a certain age). It’s my least favorite thing to do, not because it’s painful, nor that I fear some disease or condition might be discovered, as I’m fairly resigned to the fact that with age comes vulnerability to such things. No, the dread comes from being held accountable, to sit on that examining table completely exposed (literally!), having to face the truth about the flaws in my lifestyle. For if I don’t it will be revealed anyway through weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, or some other test. It’s a dreadful experience.
But it’s also a great example of how being held accountable can positively impact personal discipline. Societal structures seem to bear that out through children being held accountable by their parents and teachers, workers being held accountable by bosses and supervisors, and citizens being held accountable by those who enforce the laws.
For well over twenty years now, every Tuesday morning I have been meeting with a small group of men who I consider some of my closest friends. The purpose of the gathering is to hold one another accountable for the way we conduct ourselves. We do this by examining three specific disciplines in our lives: (1) maintaining our relationship with God through prayer and worship, (2) improving our knowledge and intellect through continued study, and (3) helping our fellow human beings through the actions we take. There’s a mysterious benefit to bearing our souls to each other every week about these aspects of our lives in that by sharing our successes and failures, our strengths and weaknesses, we all seem to become a little more focused and a little more disciplined.
For most of us our greatest potential is reached not by our own will and discipline; rather it is through our fellow human beings holding us accountable. That’s what inevitably elevates us to greater heights – just like that dreaded annual physical exam by my doctor who, by holding me accountable, helps me live a healthier and more disciplined lifestyle. There is a mental sharpness that comes from being around good people, discussion partners who challenge us and stimulate better thoughts and behaviors. Just as the Proverb reminds us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”