Tool 11: Accountability
The tools we have suggested up until now in this handbook, focus mainly on our own private struggle with the addiction. If we haven't been successful yet with the tools above, it is time to bring the struggle to the next level and introduce others into the picture. We won't go it alone anymore. Our own strength has proved insufficient in dealing with our addiction. We need to start exploiting strength from outside ourselves to help us succeed.
The Pasuk in Mishlei (18:1) says: "Le'taava yevakesh nifrad - Desire seeks isolation". Being isolated causes us to go after our Taavah - our lust. The addiction wants us to withdraw into ourselves and disconnect from life. A partner in this struggle can do wonders in helping us reconnect to the world around us and ultimately break free. Going into detail with someone else about what we've done, is also known to be one of the best ways to get out the shame, guilt and remorse, and move on.
In addition to the above, simply telling over our feelings and thoughts to a friend or mentor, has tremendous power to help us break the insidious power of the addiction. As the Tzetel Katan of the great Chassidic master, R' Elimelech of Lizentzk states:
One should relate before one's teacher, who instructs him in the way of HaShem, or even before a good friend, all of one's thoughts that are contrary to the Holy Torah that the Yetzer HaRah causes to arise in his mind or heart… And one should not withhold anything because of shame. He will find that by relating these things, he will gain the power to break the strength of the Yetzer HaRah so that it will no longer be able to overcome him other times. This is in addition to the good advice that he will receive from his friend in the ways of Hashem. And this is a wonderful remedy.
We see from the above, that simply relating ones struggles to a friend or mentor has the power to break the strength of the Yetzer Hara.
Aside from the fact that the very act of talking it out already lessens the struggle, the main purpose of a partner is that it introduces the vital element of "accountability" into the equation. As Rav Yochanan Ben Zakai blessed his students, "May your fear of heaven be equal to your fear of man". And his students asked him: "Rebbe, is that all?". And he answered: "Halevai!".
The truth of Rav Yochanan Ben Zakai's blessing is pointedly illustrated by the story of Rav Amram Raban Shel Chassidim (Kidushin 81/a) that we bring in the second part of this Handbook (principle 2). We may ask, if Rav Amram had so much Fear of Heaven that he was determined enough to call out "Fire!", why couldn't he just have stopped himself? The answer is, that Rav Amram knew that unless other human beings would be introduced into the equation, he was powerless to stop himself from the power of the lust. This amazing story shows us the immense value of "human" accountability.
Is there anyone among us who will say he is stronger than Rav Amram? We are faced with these desires every day, in the privacy of our homes and only a mouse-click away! We must have accountability to succeed in breaking the addiction. If the fact that Hashem watching him was still too "abstract" to stop Reb Amram Chasid from the power of lust, it is surely too abstract to stop us when we are faced with lust. We need someone - in the flesh - who will hear us scream "Fire!" when we feel weak, and someone we can feel accountable to.