Obliged. Thank you.

I talked with some junior high and high school students the other night about some of the ways that we are different. I spent some time talking about Gretchen Rubin’s discussion of the different ways we respond to expectations (See Expectations and Lent for more discussion).

I told them that I’m a person who can meet the expectations of others but struggles to meet my expectations for myself. I thought you might be helped by some of my illustrations.

For example, I find it enjoyable to dig deep into Biblical texts, unpacking them in peculiar ways. (See A Great Work for one example.) But I’m not great at making myself do this. For people like me, Rubin suggests accountability.

Here’s what accountability looks like for me, an obliger.

  • Though I didn’t understand it at the time, that’s why I committed to writing this blog. I know that I have a deadline and that there are people who read regularly.
  • I committed to leading the discussion the other night so that I would have to explore the concepts I taught.
  • I taught a Bible study on Wednesday nights so that I would have to study for it.
  • I have told people about my 15 minutes in a chair so that people will ask about it.
  • I started my running streak (so far, 270 consecutive days of running at least a mile) because it created external accountability.

11051918_10152968917970919_1799666790826931903_nAccountability doesn’t have to be menacing or focused on keeping us from messing up. It can be a way to build positive expectation to help us accomplish what we aren’t willing to accomplish on our own.

It’s funny. I don’t think of myself as a disciplined person. But I’m realizing that when I can outsource the expectation to others, I’m much more disciplined.

Of course, this won’t make sense to questioners or rebels, two other kinds of people Rubin talks about. But some of you are suddenly realizing that you may have more hope than you realized. We aren’t failures at spiritual disciplines, we’ve just not figured out how others can help us grow.

(Here’s Rubin talking about Obligers)