Daily Accountability: The Petal-Thorn-Stem Method

An accountability journal for the petal thorn stem method..
An unaccountable man is a danger to himself and others.

I’ve written several articles on accountability because accountability is super important in life. Accountability is the mechanism that keeps us moving toward our goals, both on the good days and on the bad days. To neglect accountability is to set oneself up for failure. To practice accountability is to establish a safety net of grace.

Today I want to share a simple, but effective method to conduct accountability every single day–the petal-thorn-stem method. I inherited this method from my roommate in college, and we used it as a tool to keep each other accountable on many days. You can use it however you like, but our version of it was adapted to a Christian context.

Petal, Thorn, Stem Daily Accountability Method

Petal: The petal represents the high point of the day. Recall to mind the best thing that happened that day.

Thorn: The thorn represents the low point of the day. Recall to mind the worst thing that happened that day.

Stem: The stem represents the connection between the petal and thorn to some truth about God. We use this truth as the lens through which to interpret and process our experiences.

For example, the petal for a day may be time I spent with family or the incredibly good food I ate. I can interpret this experience as a blessing from God, recalling to mind that every good thing is a gift from God.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

The thorn may represent a moment where someone insulted me or receiving news that I got a bad grade. In the first case, we may recall truths about our identity that override the derisive words of other people. In the second case, we may recall what God has taught us to be truly important in life. This perspective can bring much-needed calm to chaotic life experiences.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:1-2

This is the basic idea, and it will look a little differently for everyone. As an alternative or in addition, you can “stem” petal and thorn back to your purpose or other positive life goals–how can my good and bad experiences be used to advance my purpose in life? Help me grow as a person? Glorify God?

Accountability is best practiced in a social context (“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another…”). Our culture lionizes the virtue of independence, but the truth is we are deeply social creatures and were created to be interdependent, not independent.

However, on days when accountability with another trusted person is not possible, you can practice the petal, thorn, stem method independently.

How do you practice accountability? What do you think of the petal-thorn-stem method?

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