Because Accountability Is Worth More Than You Think

by | Sep 25, 2013 | Uncategorized


I walked back into my own kitchen after dinner with some out of town friends at our favorite restaurant. And what I saw sucked joy right out of my cheeks.

Uneaten pizza left on the cutting board, now hard as a rock, unrefrigerated for hours. Dirty dishes piled up in the sink, spilling over to both sides of the counter.  I hung my pretty purse on the hook in the laundry room, swirled the scarf from around my neck, slipped my arms out of a cardigan, pulled rings off my fingers, watch off my wrist, and began unloading the full dishwasher of clean dishes while warm water ran from the tap.

With every plate I stacked, every knife, fork and spoon put back in its proper place, resentment welled up into an emotional lake; familiar self-talk churning the waters with every silent sentence.

Why does everyone depend on me to clean up their mess?

While I pushed a greasy skillet stuck with traces of dried breakfast eggs into sudsy water, rinsed bowls and glasses, H walked passed dressed in shorts and a t-shirt holding another dirty glass. I, however, was still standing in my high heels. “What’s wrong,” he asked as he began making coffee in the corner.

“I didn’t really want to be doing dishes at 10pm on Sabbath,” I replied with my head hanging down into the sink.

“Why aren’t the kids doing them,” he wisely asked.

Murielle lay cozy on the couch under a blanket, ten minutes into a movie, while Harrison was lost in creating a masterpiece on Minecraft after folding a mound of laundry. I didn’t want to ask, interrupt, or impose on my children.

I hadn’t set boundaries before we left for dinner.  I said nothing to keep my kids accountable and I walked into a wreck. Instead of following up, I decided to do it myself, because shame was the voice I was hearing.

You’re terrible at doing this, you know. You are distracted, unorganized and forgetful when it comes to parenting. This is really all your fault. They’ll never survive on their own and Murielle only has a few months left before she leaves for college. Someone else would be better suited to be their mother.

Do you see how ridiculous shame sounds when you actually say it out loud? And shame loves perfectionists. We’ve mastered the art of keeping our shame a secret. I didn’t even realize what I was thinking until H asked me why I was angry. Clarity came as we talked it out.


“Compassionate people are boundaried people,” says Brene Brown in the Gifts of Imperfection. “If we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior.”

If I’m honest, it feels like a lot more emotional work to give my kids a list of chores. I want to avoid an uncomfortable interaction of eye rolls, deep sighs, and potential frustration. I want to side-step the self-imposed guilt of asking my husband who works all day for help.

But the results of keeping my desires all to myself and shrugging off the work of accountability are this — I feel used and mistreated.  And that isn’t the truth.

Jesus gives boundaries, holds us accountable for our choices and then extends compassion when we fail and repent. He is the model for healthy, wholehearted relationship.

It is impossible to practice compassion towards others and yourself when you are standing over a sudsy sink of resentment.

We were not harbors for shame, but light bearers, carrying the countenance of his glory. On some days that looks like forgiving yourself and asking your children to clean up after themselves. Before you enjoy a nice dinner out with your husband.

Have you ever thought about how failing to set boundaries and holding people accountable is keeping you from experiencing compassion toward yourself and others?


In October, I’m hosting a series based on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown where I plan to unpack what loving yourself looks like practically. We’ll be diving into the deep end of wholehearted living. Join me forRedemptions Beauty Book Club and here in the comments? I would be honored to have your input.

Linking with Laura, Jennifer, Emily.


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  1. Mia

    I’ve walked into that same kitchen in a distant city. Several times. Anger ruined the beautiful evening. Boundaries. Hard to enforce when it is “just easier” to do myself. Lack of communication on my part, too busy, didn’t want to bother.
    There is always that next time to remember the last time.
    BTW… are truly delightful!

    • Shelly Miller

      Glad to know I’m not the only one Mia. Thanks for the compliment.

  2. Melody

    I can really relate to this on so many levels and have never thought about it in this way before. Great insight and perspective. Thank you. BTW: I have a Minecrafter in the household too!

    • Shelly Miller

      That Minecraft is somethin’ else isn’t it? It seems so addictive but my son creates some awesome masterpieces and it makes his heart happy, so there’s that.

  3. DeanneMoore

    As we have surrendered to the Sabbath, I am often reminded that God’s commands are for our good—boundaries that are actually gifts to us. As you said our Lord is faithful to forgive when repent. I “turned” lately and walked right into his arms of forgiveness. It was healing, life-giving, and my heart is mending. Great insights Shelly. I walk this path often, wash in another sink…but I want to do better…old habits are hard to break.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, old habits are hard to break. It’s why we need a Saviour. Got your email, thanks for praying. You know how much I appreciate you.

  4. Tresta Payne

    I’ve been stumped for words lately and you just inked them all out here, straight from my own scattered brain. Thanks for putting truth into words and for standing up to resentment. I will think long on this one. (And my husband says those same kind of wise words. So simple!)

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh, I love it when people do that for me Tresta, put words to things I feel but don’t know how to communicate. Your comment makes me happy. Thanks! We’re blessed women to have such wise husbands aren’t we?

  5. Sylv_R

    What a familiar scene! And yes, “Why aren’t they doing them?” The wisdom we need is sometimes quite basic. And we do our kids no favors by going on false-guilt trips, blaming ourselves for what they’re responsible for and not keeping them accountable—even though it usually IS easier just to do it ourselves and grumble (till they get with the program, which takes ages!)

    Sylvia @

    • Shelly Miller

      Sylvia, you are so right. Saying yes and amen to all of what you said here. Lovely to see you in my comments today. Hope you are doing well.

  6. Kris Camealy

    Oh my. You just described me. The whole thing. All I can say is thank you for this. This is a major area of struggle for me. Looking forward to jumping into this book club with you. XO

    • Shelly Miller

      I think God knew what He was doing when he linked us together Kris. It’s kind of uncanny really.

  7. Paula

    Oh, Shelly…..I can “see the scene” and feel what you were feeing. And, then you said it; it is about boundaries. I just read this one out loud for Jim and it seems when I do that, he always says the same thing….”She IS a good writer”. I am sure every mother on the planet has felt exactly what you felt. Once again, we all appreciate your ability to share the depths of your feelings and then relate them it to His word so we can better understand how important it is and how to relate it to our own lives. Accountability is so necessary. You have lovingly cared for your family. As adults “we get it” and it is our responsibility to “help them get it” and it is HARD work!!……..but, don’t feel the guilt too long. You have been an awesome mom….you are just not “done” yet !

    • Shelly Miller

      Yep, I know you can see it, you’ve been in my living room watching it take place more than once. We’re so good at guilt aren’t we? Let’s kick it to the curb and be free of it, shall we?

  8. Janet from FL

    hmmm Maybe I misunderstood, but was this Sabbath Sunday? That means no one is supposed to do work, not children, not slaves, no one. The dishes can wait until the next day. Just leave them soaking in the sink. Clean dishes can sit in the dishwasher. Enjoy some snuggle time with the kids, then all say prayers and go to bed. Just a little accountability advice from another Sabbath Keeper.
    😉 Any other day though, I would agree that the kids should clean up after themselves and do their chores.

    • Shelly Miller

      It was actually on Saturday before Sabbath started to be specific Janet. But thanks for the encouragement, I get that, I do.

      • Janet from FL

        Ok, so then you were trying to get everything done so you could rest on Sabbath. Got it! I would say that most of the time, kids and the husband do not notice undone chores like us women do. We seem to have a homing device in us that finds all the messes that need cleaning. I know my family can step over a mess on the floor, or even kick it out of the way, and never pick up or clean up any of it! I am amazed at what a mess they can just ignore.

  9. Elizabeth

    I look forward to the book club. I will be in and out and out and in, but the subject, the other women, the fellowship and the ACCOUNTABILITY, well I am parched and dry and ready for all of it. Bring it on.

    • Shelly Miller

      We’ll take you whenever you can be present Elizabeth. You’re a warm spot in the room, always.

  10. pastordt

    Um. . . yeah. I’ve stood over that very same, suds-filled sink. And you’re right – establishing boundaries, verbalizing needs – these are good things, healthy things and ultimately, life-giving things.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, I think we all struggle with this at some point don’t we? Thankful that age and experience have nothing to do with our ability to keep learning. I still have a lot I want to grow in to.

  11. soulstops

    Yes…been to that sudsy sink before, and I have been learning to set boundaries and expectations with our girl…Loved that section in the book and I appreciate your honesty..glad you and H were able to talk and enjoy dinner together 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Honestly? There isn’t a section that I don’t like in this book. It’s all good stuff.

      • soulstops

        Agreed…thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  12. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh gosh, I really get this. I’ve felt guilty about giving assignments and guilty about not giving them. It’s just so much easier not to do the follow-up…..or even at times extending what I think at the time is tons of grace–as in–oh you have so much homework, let me do the chore for you. (My dear mother did that for me out of love, but I never learned properly to keep a house). Now, I’m doing the same for my daughter. So, in the end, boundaries and securing them really are a matter of love. Thanks for that reminder, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      This is the rub for me. I do things for my kids because I love them, when actually, not doing them is often the most loving thing to do. I’m working on it though, I am. Great to hear your voice yesterday Lynn. You’re often a bright spot in my day.

  13. Alyssa Santos

    Hellooo! I know this scene and the resentment that bitterly squeezes out of me! I agree that the thoughts we think are often so debilitating! I chose to “make” my kids prepare and pack their own school lunches. They tease me that I’m lazy, but I think they know the scoop. And, don’t you think there’s a certain healthy pride of accomplishment when we let them do some of these things?I am excited to pop in a read about the Brene Brown book. I should get myself a copy STAT and read along with you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Would love to have you join us Alyssa, what you have to say is valuable.

  14. Alia_Joy

    I’m excited to follow along with this book. I’ve read it before but would love to dig deeper with you guys.

  15. Ahyana

    Just the other day I found myself saying to a friend “Jesus wasn’t a doormat. He had boundaries. People didn’t walk all over Him.” She was trying to convince herself that being a good Christian meant letting people, a family member in particular, say what they want and when they want to her. Furthermore she was “wrong” if she couldn’t attend a particular event with this person or be available wen the person wanted to. There is a lot to be said for having boundaries. They have purpose in our lives, and I think they actually help is in living purposeful lives.
    Thanks for sharing Shelly!

  16. Lisa notes...

    I know many of us are relating to this one.

    “Do you see how ridiculous shame sounds when you actually say it out loud? And shame loves perfectionists.”

    You came around to niceness quicker than I would have. I probably would have been mad at my husband the rest of the night for HIM not asking the kids to do the dishes. Sigh. So many lessons we have to learn; so little time. Thank God for his grace!

  17. Amber Cadenas

    It’s mind-boggling, how quickly not establishing boundaries can lead to feeling things like “used” and “mistreated”, which leads to believing things about ourselves (or often for me, how others see/feel about me) that aren’t true. It’s a chain reaction… and I appreciate how you trace it back here, so clearly, to boundaries. Thanks for the wisdom, Shelly.

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