Fire Life


 By Anne Gagliano

As iron sharpens iron.

Accountability is a vague term; it is elusive and hard to define. Yet we all have some sense of its meaning. Accountability means we answer to someone, generally someone with some sort of authority or position over us. It means we have certain responsibilities that we are obliged to fulfill and that a day of reckoning, or a “counting” of the completion of those responsibilities, is coming. It is generally a concept only applied to the workplace where consequences such as the loss of said work can occur. Or it can apply to the community where failures to abide by the law can result in jail time. Rarely do we apply the concept of accountability to our marriages, and my husband Mike and I believe this is a mistake, for the consequences of failing to meet each other’s needs can have the most devastating repercussions of all–complete and utter heartbreak.

Mike and I believe that the family is the cornerstone of society. Strong families make a strong society; disintegrating families create a weak one. Strong families produce capable, confident workers and positive forces within a community. And yet we apply more checks and balances for workers than we do for families. There is more accountability for whether or not you pay your taxes than there is for whether or not you love your spouse faithfully.
That is why we believe you need to create accountability for your marriage on your own volition, because no one will do it for you. The authorities are not going to call us periodically and check on our families, nor would we want them to. Why not? Because in matters of the heart, accountability must come from the heart, from those we love and who love us. True, effective accountability is willing, not forced, and we can only willingly answer to someone we can trust to have our best interests at heart.
That is where true friendship enters into the equation of accountability. A friend is someone you choose to have in your life because of compatibility, like-mindedness, shared values, and shared beliefs. A friend is an ideal person to be accountable to or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, a family member can be that person as well. 
Mike and I have lots of people in our sphere, a mixture of those we minister to, those who are neutral, and those who minister to us. We try very hard to keep a healthy balance of time spent with each type. Time is a precious commodity in our busy world, and we have to be careful in how we spend it. Some folks, unfortunately, are unhappy in their own marriages or may not believe in marriage at all, and these people can have a negative influence. Whether deliberate or not, misery loves company. We’ve seen firefighters surround themselves with these types of people, spending way too much time with them, and the result can be that they pull them away from their spouse.
We’ve all heard of peer pressure being a problem for teenagers, but it continues into adulthood as well. We can’t help but be influenced by those we spend lots of time with. The natural laws of physics demonstrate that it is far easier to pull someone down off a chair than it is to lift them up onto one. If you choose to spend most of your free time with those who have lower values or standards than your own, they will more easily pull you down to their level than you will lift them up to yours.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”–Proverbs 27:17
This is Mike’s and my motto when it comes to choosing peers to which we want to be accountable. In our experience, if we only surround ourselves with people who take from us or who are needy, they will eventually wear us down. We have thus made a concerted effort to seek out those who are as strong as if not stronger than we are in marriage and in life so that we can remain “sharp.” We have been fortunate enough to have found these jewels, these rare and wonderful individuals whom we admire and trust and look up to. We trust them to ask us the hard questions, knowing they will give us help and wisdom. They, too, can trust us, and we have their permission to ask the same stuff:
–How’s your marriage?
–Are you making your marriage a priority?
–Are you remaining faithful to your marital vows?
–Are you finding time to do things together as a couple?
–Are you saying “No” to the things that take too much time away from the family?
–How are you doing personally? Are you finding healthy outlets for your stresses?

Within these healthy relationships, we can glean or give precious advice and encouragement to one another. We can talk of the more intimate details of our marriage and know that this person will never deliberately sabotage our spouse. My aunt, who is someone I trust, once told me that whenever any one of her seven children complains to her of their spouse, she always speaks for that spouse who is not present rather than just side with her own child. Someone to which you choose to be accountable should always do this–remind you that there are two sides to every argument or issue and that you, in fact, may be the one at fault. This is accountability at its best; it points out our own failures and helps us to improve. And that is always the goal: to stay sharp, to grow, to be the best we can be, to be sharpened as only other “irons” can sharpen.


Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 25 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.