Dropping the H-Bomb

Sam Fraser

There is a word in the English language that I have personally experienced and, over the years, have also found to be true for men almost universally. The hardest word for the male gender to accept is a 4-letter word. It begins with the letter H. Can you say H-E-L-P? Or should I write HELP! Although I have no research that proves this to be true, I do believe it must be genetic. To ask for directions is hard enough but to ask for – - – - is impossible. It goes against our maleness. It is down right unmasculine.

So much of what we learn from the world about what it means to be a man is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. From the world’s perspective of manliness, asking for help means I am weak, I can’t make it by myself, and I am a wimp’ or worse. Humiliation and shame move in. However, spiritually speaking, to declare the need for help is to initiate the truth that sets us free. So much of the Scriptures declare that we can’t make it on our own. It takes great courage and strength to confess our true condition.

“I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid” said Adam. Help! The shame of being needy is like being a ‘girly man’ in the world’s eyes.

There is a difference between humiliation and humility. Humility is the ability to ask for help and not be ashamed of having emotional needs. God has designed us for relationships and yet our culture and gender icons espouse independence and self-reliance. That sets us up for humiliation.

‘There’s no crying in baseball.’ It’s just not in baseball, it has become a way of life and applies to all areas of life as men. We learned long ago as boys on the playground that being needy or asking for help was a source of teasing and ridicule so we learned to bury that side of ourselves. Now, we cover it up and become self-contained rather than risk humiliation. In its place we learned to ignore, deny, minimize, and rationalize our feelings. In many aspects of our lives we can get away with that strategy. But when it comes to this on-going issue with our out of control sex drive, we need the support of other men. Not women. Men!

What is a man to do?

Scriptures constantly point to the reality that we need a Savior, that we can’t do it in our own abilities and resources. Paul prays in Colossians 1 that we do not rely on our own ‘puny’ human strength, but rather experience the power of God’s supernatural strength. Truly, accepting that we are needy and must receive help from others is a spiritual reality and is the beginning of sexual freedom.

So many of us try to fight this battle with sexual temptation on our own, isolated and alone, only to end up failing miserably over and over.

In the Every Man\’s Battle workshop, every man who has failed admits not having a band of brothers he can be vulnerable with and share the shame and humiliation of this struggle. It is not that there are no men’s groups out there, rather it is reaching out asking for help that hinders our growth. Utilizing these resources can be the way God leads us back to community, to being whole. No more lone ranger.

There are two steps to getting help. The first is to reach out. The second, actually utter the word HELP! Don’t let what happened to me happen to you. I realized I needed help but didn’t know how to ask. God allowed circumstances which forced me to get help. My situation came crashing down on me. We can come to the rock to be broken or we can allow circumstances to take their natural course and be crushed. Either way God will bring us into a place of restoration and reconciliation with Him. Freedom! If you have a choice I recommend the former!

True Identity

Kent Ernsting

Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? What have I been designed to do? What is my identity?

Perhaps the runaway success of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life indicates that incredible numbers of people are searching for the answers to those same questions. Every man battles with these same issues every day.

Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says ‘Identity is Destiny.’

Who we think we are determines who we become, our dreams for the future and how we go about making those dreams become a reality.

As young boys we are told to, ‘Be a man’ or ‘Act like men.’ But how does our culture define masculinity? Movies, media and athletes practically shout their answers to the question. Is the ultimate man John Wayne, solitary and heroic, who is never intimately connected to anyone? Or perhaps it is a James Bond kind of guy smart, suave and debonair. He has a bunch of one-night stands. The message is that sex, without connectivity, validates maturation and masculinity. Or perhaps it is a sports hero with glorified images of power and strength and athletic ability? Or perhaps manhood is all about money and power. Success is measured by net worth and your value as a man is based on the size of your bank account, your house, the car you drive, or the prestige of your job title.

These are all examples of false masculinity. There is no relational piece to it at all. Where does that whole setup leave us? Isolated and alone. Hiding who and what you really are. If you’re hiding your true identity then you can’t connect with anyone else.

These images of masculinity promise satisfaction but always disappoint. There’s a huge bait and switch going on here.

John 10:10 identifies who is behind the spirit of the age and points to the One who has the solution to this dilemma. ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

If men are to discover and live out their calling as men then we must uncover and embrace our God given identity. At the core of the crisis that men face is that we lose touch with our true identity. We lose the fascination with the story God wants to tell through our lives. The enemy of our soul is so enraged with the image of God that is reflected in you that he will hurl his mightiest weapons right at your soul. The thief is attempting to steal, kill, and destroy your identity, who God says you really are as a man. If he succeeds then he will render you spiritually impotent. He will kill your heart by watering down your true identity and slowly seducing you into living for a small god with shallow dreams.

With our identity stolen, we numb ourselves to escape this false identity by watching TV, surfing the Internet, or working too much. We struggle with pornography or creating fantasies or becoming workaholics. Men are bored.

What is our true identity? Genesis 1:26-27 tells us, ‘Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the bird of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

What did God have in mind when he created man? In the ancient near East the kings had a special advisor. The role of this advisor was to remind the king of his plans and to keep him on course. It is from the name of this adviser that we get our word ‘man.’ The Hebrew meaning of the word ‘man’ is ‘the remembering one who takes action.’ Men express God’s movement and action. Men ask, ‘Am I dangerous?’

God created men to uniquely move into chaos and mystery and have a vision for what it could be and create it. As men we can move into the uncertainty of circumstances that we don’t understand and cannot predict. We can move into the uncertainty of how people will respond to us. And having a vision for what our wives and children can become as image bearers we move into changing our generation. We move into leaving a legacy by embracing who we are and whose we are. We are faced with a choice today. Embrace your true identity or run from it.

On Vulnerability and Reason

Ron Leonard

I’d like to talk about vulnerability. Usually when you talk about vulnerability, you give emotional reasons for recommending greater vulnerability. Let’s say you’re one of those guys who isn’t impressed with emotional reasons for doing things. ‘After all,’ you say, ‘Emotions are just the caboose on the train, right?’ Well, where emotions belong is a subject of several other articles. Let’s agree for now, that they shouldn’t be in charge but that God didn’t make them for us just to ignore.

So, what if you are a level-headed guy who wants to do things thoughtfully, rationally and with his mind in charge? Maybe you might want to know what your emotions are doing but you don’t want them dictating whether you do things such as becoming vulnerable. That’s great! This article is for you.

Before we talk about vulnerability, let’s talk about its opposite. If we’re not being vulnerable, what are we doing? Largely, we’re hiding. We’re also doing such things as lying, clamming up, covering up, and oh yeah, hiding. Why do we do these things? Because we’re afraid that if our real self and behaviors were known, even to our loved ones, we would be blamed, shamed, embarrassed, mocked, ridiculed, or otherwise in trouble. So, hiding is perfectly natural and understandable. It’s also childish.

1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) declares, ‘When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.’

When we were children, we would try to hide our misbehavior in the belief that this would make our lives better somehow. Usually, it made them worse. When we raided the cookie jar, we weren’t smart enough to figure out that as Bill Cosby pointed out, ‘Sound travels.’ Our parents heard our misbehavior from the next room and came to see what we were doing. We tried to cover up our crimes by stuffing the half-eaten cookies back into the jar, but we still had the crumbs on our lips. Now that we’re older, we’re a little better at covering up, but our behavior is still just as childish.

When we were children, we did not have the benefit of a trained rational mind. We as children responded to things based primarily on emotions. It was only slowly that we learned to use our minds more. So, when we continue to hide as men, we are behaving emotionally, not rationally.

God has made men, more so than women, to be guided by their minds than their hearts. This does not make us better, it makes us different. Imagine for a moment being raised by two fathers rather than a mother and a father. Whew, painful!

If you are indeed the calm, cool, thinking man you see yourself to be, then hiding does not belong in your life. God made you a rational, goal-directed person. As a man, he also made you courageous, level-headed, and fearless. Hiding is not consistent with these attributes. As a man, it is time to put away childish ways.

If we know what hiding is now, what then is vulnerability? Vulnerability is exposing all (or at least more) of ourselves to the light of others scrutiny. It is a purposeful showing of things our emotions tell us to hide. Vulnerability is a conscious, reasonable, thought-out, goal-driven DECISION. Yes, there are enormous emotional ramifications, but it is above all a choice and an act of the will.

What are your goals? Is it to have a better family? Is it to have a stronger marriage and a closer connection to your wife? Then choosing to become vulnerable is one of the actions you take to fulfill that goal. It is not something we do to feel better (although we might in the long run). It is something that will definitely be scary and will probably be quite painful. But, isn’t facing down fear and suffering pain for our families what God made us for? Why do you suppose he gave us the heart of a warrior?

Why else should we choose vulnerability?

Why do we hang a trouble light on the hood? So we can see what the problem is so we (and our buddies) can fix them. Vulnerability is like that trouble light. Do you ever wonder why you have the same confused feelings about women and sex that you had when you were a teenager? Why haven’t they changed a bit? Because, they have never been exposed to the light. They’ve never been hauled out of the basement and hung up so they can dry out. No one has been able to see these things clearly enough so they can be worked on.

In nature, discarded things eventually disappear. Bacteria, in God’s divine order, chews up debris. After a short period of being rotten and smelly, it decomposes until it’s gone. This doesn’t happen in our brain. All of the accumulated stupidity of our lives is still in there. We need to become vulnerable so we can let God, our wives, and other men see it in the light and help us dispose of it.

Vulnerability is tough, but we can help. Join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Persistence & 'Programs'

Jonathan Daugherty

How many times in the last week (or day’or hour) have you felt like giving up? Have you been tired, frustrated, or beaten down by life or addiction? What are the answers to your sexual acting out, and how can they possibly be implemented?

For those of us who struggle with sexual sin, ours is a daily battle with temptation. Our culture is becoming increasingly saturated with sexual images and innuendos. Pornography is a booming business and growing exponentially through the ever expanding Internet universe. Marriages keep breaking up due to “irreconcilable differences” or sexual infidelities. How can we curb such rampant impurity and lead a life that is pleasing to God?

Many in today’s culture (and even churches) would be quick to shove a “program of healing” in your face and spout, “Just do this and you will be fine.” This is the modern day equivalent of the old doctor’s quip, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” We have become a society engrossed with programs to “heal” every ailment. We even have 12-step programs for compulsive fingernail biters! (Ok, maybe we haven’t digressed that far, but we’re well on our way.)

Does this mean all ‘programs’ are bad? Of course not. Are most programs useless? Not hardly. But if programs, in and of themselves, were effective, don’t you think we would see higher rates of ‘success’ from those who implement them? The answer should logically be yes. Then why are we not seeing a larger number of people in “recovery programs” finding long-term freedom from their compulsive behaviors?

I believe the answer is found in one word: persistence.

The Bible speaks of perseverance (or persistence) as endurance. The Greek translation for endure is hupomeno and has the connotation of “staying under” or “remaining.” Jesus used this word when He spoke in Mark 13:13 and said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Does that type of long-term vision describe the attitude of our culture today? Hardly! We become impatient and frustrated when a candy bar doesn’t fall from the vending machine in less than 2 seconds. We have severely lost our willingness to endure and persist. Thus, the increased reliance on “programs” alone to remedy our every addiction.

Programs can be useful (such as our EMB workshops), but ONLY when coupled with persistence and relationship. When we persist, or endure, we are engaging in the hard work of “staying under” the leadership and accountability of another person (as it pertains to recovery). Persistence is most interested in the process, recognizing that enduring is not always clean, neat, glamorous, or “perfect.”

We persist because we understand the greater good of “remaining” until the work is complete. Persistence means I will not bail out no matter how intense the pressure is to quit.

Programs are oftentimes primarily interested in outward conduct. Are you “doing” the right things? Are you following each step correctly? And programs can often turn a person away to work on their issue alone, isolated from others. This is why so many people will start a solid program only to find themselves shortly afterward abandoning it as they spiral further into their shame and addiction. We need other people to help us maintain focus when it comes to fighting compulsive behaviors; not a list of rules.

One last note on persisting – it is NOT easy! In fact, one of the sub-definitions for the Greek word for endurance is “suffer.” Sticking to something and not giving up are character qualities that test our resolve at the core of our being. It requires increasing our threshold for emotional discomfort and developing habits of righteousness that lead us to the One who can “bear our burdens.” Jesus is our ultimate example of persistence. He is the “author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God the Father.” Jesus “remained” where God wanted Him and provided us with freedom from our afflictions.

I challenge you today to adopt a new outlook on your personal journey of purity. Instead of seeing the mountain of potential failure spots in front of you, focus on the wonderful Savior who fully bore all your sin, shame, and guilt on the cross and said, “It is finished.” Let Him be your primary motivation for persisting and connecting.

Knowing the ROCK; Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 5

David Mackey

Psalm 31:4”free me from the trap set before me’

Once more let’s review: Just as false intimacy was part of what helps maintain our addiction, TRUE intimacy will strengthen our recovery. This is our design: to have intimacy with both God and Others. In the Psalms, David equated knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress with knowing God intimately.

So far we have found that in knowing God as our rock we are free from shame and we are listened to with acceptance and understanding. These are pieces, deep pieces, of having an ‘In-To-Me-See,’ an intimacy relationship.

We also discovered that in knowing God as our Rock, He leads and guides us in preparation for Battle.

In verse 4 of Psalm 31, David, reveals the last facet of intimacy which we look at in this series. As with Shame, being listened to and guided, David, throughout the Psalms, repeatedly, equates knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress, with safety or being free from traps.

Perhaps if we asked the average Christian what it meant to know God as his rock he would likely come up with this connection. The idea of sitting on a solid Rock in the midst of storm and turmoil is a comfort to so many. Our hymns and songs over the years are full of this comforting imagery.

For us, in this battle, this piece of intimacy seems even more significant. Our battle usually starts out with a trap. It seemed so innocent to curiously look at some pictures. What child/young teen could have ever envisioned the imprisonment set before them? Now, 20 or more years later as we break free from the imprisonment we have more traps than ever all around us.

Think about this idea we look at our battle. Psalm 31:4 says ”free me from the trap set before me.’ What a thought. Indeed, the simple natural feeling and act of masturbation became a trap. It worked best with images’ seemingly simple little pictures. What harm could that be? Yet the trap was so sure, so strong. It kept us ensnared for the trapper to come and the trapper eventually would have taken our life, our very soul.

So to be offered by God a relationship with Him and with others that involves freedom from those traps is remarkable and so very needed.

We could not’. Tho we tried for so long’ we could not free ourselves from the trap. Only intimacy can do it!! Intimacy, true intimacy, with God and with others can seem like a lot of work, especially after so many years of false intimacy. A lot of emotional work. ‘In-To-Me-See’ is often hard and painful but it is real and it brings real connection, real passion. The free stuff is a trap. It is false and once trapped it is difficult to get away from. You cannot do it alone. You need someone to free you from that trap. God offers that freedom in true intimate relationship with Him. He offers it in knowing and being known by him intimately and by knowing and being known by others intimately.

We need the power of intimacy with God AND with others to be free from the trap. And we need, we must have, true intimacy with God AND with others to avoid falling into the snare, the trap once again.

This is so critical. The traps, the snares, as we know, are many and they sometimes seem constant, daily, and all around us.

So this concludes our look at just 4 aspects of intimacy, or knowing God as our Rock, Refuge and Fortress. Amazing love‘ the song says’ How can it be!!! God, the creator of the universe, Jesus who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords offer us INTIMACY. True intimacy in which we are free from shame, free from traps. Where we are listened to, understood and accepted as God’s child (He wants to be ‘Abba,’ Daddy!) and Jesus be brother and friend. Amazing love!!

And in this relationship he will lead and guide us through the battle. We will, while in intimate relationship with HIM and intimate relationship with others WIN THE BATTLES. Eventually, with Him as our rock, our refuge, and our fortress, we will win the war.

Once again I invite you to, in your recovery, pursue the path of true intimacy with all your being. Remember, this is not as much a command from God but rather, it is an invitation. Intimacy with God and others is what we were created for and it will bring real fulfillment and a strong recovery and the Battles will be won!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

For more help on this subject see Every Man\’s Battle.

Behavior Change And Heart Change

Dave McWilliams

Most of us, at one time or another, have wished that we were a different person. These thoughts may come to us when things are not going well or in times when we are in trouble. We may feel shallow or inadequate in these times. Our behavior may have been offensive or unacceptable to others, and we may be embarrassed or overcome with guilt.

Change is very difficult for all of us. What about those of us who have gone through devastating situations, such as a hurricane or flooding, where we have lost a lot of what we own. Perhaps we have moved to a new location and changed jobs, and everything is now different. We can feel lost and left out in many ways. Things may never be the same again. Or we may have lost a friend who has been very close to us and supported us in many ways, and the pain is almost unbearable.

When it comes to making personal changes in our lives, it can be just as difficult. Often the focus is on changing our behaviors and our habits, but these are often not long lasting. As an example, many of us have made New Year’s resolutions, only to abandon them within a few weeks, because it was too difficult to maintain the new behaviors and habits. More often than not, our efforts are pointed at negative habits and behaviors and we put a lot of effort into trying to avoid them. It often does not occur to us to ask ourselves what to do to replace these behaviors.

While heart changes are more lasting, they cannot be made all at one time. They are not an event, but a process or a journey. In the mean time, we cannot ignore our behavior that is offensive to others or destructive to ourselves. If we are an alcoholic, or a gambler, or we struggle with pornography, our behaviors should not be excused while working on building our character.

The apostle Paul talked about making changes in our lives in Colossians 2:20-3:17. He pointed out that when we try to make changes in our lives through rules and regulations, or by trying to restrict our poor behaviors, failure is soon to follow. In his day (as in our time) people would say ‘don’t touch’ or ‘ don’t taste’, which really is nothing more than mere human effort to control our poor indulgences. But Paul pointed out that these rules and restrictions ‘lack any value in restraining our sensual indulgences’ (Col.2:23).

The best phase of our life to focus on restricting our poor behaviors is childhood. The duty of good parenting is to help us to recognize what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The down side to this process is that no parent has it all together as to what is good and bad behavior. When we made poor choices, the way that they were managed had an effect on us, some positive, and others were destructive. The guilt that followed those destructive attempts to change our behavior will remain in our minds for many years until we are finally freed from them. While our minds are filled with the thoughts of guilt, we seldom have the clarity of thought to find direction in our lives. Feelings of loss and confusion block us from finding our way.

Real and lasting change comes from a different place than focusing on our behavior. Lasting change comes from change in our hearts as we take the focus off ourselves and onto the needs and concerns of others as well as our own. Behavior change is external and is often done to deceive others, or to avoid our pain, etc. Heart change does not deny our behaviors, but focuses on internal and character change. Heart change has a purpose in mind that is greater than our own needs and desires. We begin to become aware of how our actions and choices effect others and their well being, as well as our own.

There is another powerful factor that is involved with making changes from the heart, and that is coming to the realization that we cannot do it on our own.

Real heart change comes only through the power of the Spirit of God working in our lives. This is different than behavior change, which is done mostly in our own human efforts. When our human efforts fail, we continue to carry enormous guilt. The opposite result comes as we focus on change from the heart. This change will usually result in freedom within our thoughts, thus giving us the ability to think about life situations much more clearly. We also refer to the results of this type of change as bringing us inner peace.

Paul talked about ways to achieve inner peace as we change from the heart. He sited several concepts of life that will help our hearts grow. Some of these things are compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and bearing with each other. There are many ways to display these principles to others. God did not assign to us only one way to carry out any of these life principles. These principles are found as we seek God’s direction in each and every circumstance in our lives. And as we display them, we let others decide how to use them effectively. For example, if we are going to be compassionate to our spouses, we will let them define the most effective way to show compassion, otherwise it is nothing more than a selfish act.

There is another benefit in changing from the heart. It takes a lot of the pressure out of life. Behavior change usually results in trying to achieve perfection, and usually trying to make it quickly to avoid pain. This is real stress and anxiety and worry over what others will think of us. It often leaves us angry and defensive with others, as they point out our flaws. Heart change accepts our flaws as a part of who we are in the moments that they are revealed. The pain is used to help us change and grow. But the growth process is done without a sense of urgency. Change becomes a journey that is at times slow but consistent. Our flaws and weaknesses are seen as opportunities to work with those flaws so that they become more acceptable to others. Thus, our weaknesses do not totally define us as a person.

For help with sexual integrity, see Every Man\’s Battle.
If you need help in other areas, please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Challenging the Lies of the Heart

Bob Damrau

In Every Man\’s Battle the enemy has his crosshairs set on our minds. What we do comes out of what we believe about ourselves, and in order to have a new life, not just a change of destructive behavior, we must examine our current belief system.

Since our thoughts have sustained a barrage of evil deception, the process of renewing our minds requires us to challenge the lies of the heart.

Webster defines the term belief as: ‘to have trust in or confidence in what is true.’ When we have confidence and place our trust in something we thought was true but was actually a lie, we have a false belief system. When we have confidence and place our trust in something that bears witness to the truth, we have a true belief system. So, how can we know a true belief from a false one?

True beliefs are based on the Word of God; Truth. False beliefs are based on fear. True beliefs support the value and growth of an individual. False beliefs diminish the value and growth of an individual. True beliefs are proven true through life experiences. False beliefs are proven false by destructive, self preserving behaviors. True beliefs create peace and confidence. False beliefs create anxiety and exhaustion.

Our belief systems developed long before we became conscious of them. We believe our false beliefs to be true especially if we were told they were true by someone we trusted. These are called projected lies. For example, your mom told you: ‘You’re no good. You’re just like your drunken father. You’ll never amount to anything.’ Projected lies are when others take their own hurts and project them on to someone else.

Another source of the lies we believe comes from within. These are the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive’survival lies. If you grew up in a family that was abusive or neglectful, your needs were unsatisfied. The very act of having a need made you vulnerable. Being vulnerable put you in a position of being hurt. In time, as the hurts multiplied, you came up with a way to stop being vulnerable. You may have told yourself, ‘I don’t need anybody.’ So developed a survival lie that you don’t have any needs.

Those kinds of lies evolve into false belief systems that tend to control our lives even as adults. So, if we’ve bought into the thought that fierce independence is a good thing, our lives will be marked by isolation and feelings of loneliness. That emotional pain is an example of what we’ve tried to medicate through our acting out behaviors. By the way, most compulsions are ways to dull pain and anesthetize loneliness caused by isolating survival lies.

Challenging the lies of the heart requires identifying our false beliefs and how they are being manifested in our current behaviors, then replace them with truth.

Here’s a practical suggestion: Fold a sheet of paper in half from top to bottom. On the left side write out the lies you tend to believe. This may include thoughts on performance, approval, blame and shame. Then on the right side of the page write down God’s truths that contradict those lies. Check out Romans 5:1, 1 John 4:9-10, 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Colossians 1:21-22 for some examples. Reflect on your responses every day for one month.

Satan’s plan is to deceive our minds in the hope we will lose heart. But the Lord Jesus reminds us to ‘take courage; I have overcome the world’ and ‘the ruler of this world shall be cast out.’

Growing Deeper with Your Accountability Partner

Bob Parkins

If you have ever watched a documentary on wild animals, you probably know the two primary defenses these animals employ to protect themselves from predators. The animals that form herds or communities are constantly protected by their numbers. When attacked by prey, these animals flee danger together. It is those that don’t remain with the herd that are usually killed, typically the young, old, or weak.

1 Peter 5:8 describes our enemy [the devil] as a ‘roaring lion, who walks around, seeking someone to devour.’ This passage is not just an effective word-picture of the realities of daily temptation, but an important warning to flee and stick together.

Sticking together is absolutely an essential part of addiction recovery. James 5:16 tells us that in order to be healed, we need to be transparent with one another through confession. God created us to be in community and relationship with not just him, but one another.

Notice in Genesis 2, after God created Man, he created Woman because ‘it is not good that man be alone.’ God did not design us to be completely isolated from other people. Even though Adam was in intimate communion with God, he still was not complete until God gave him a partner.

Those who struggle with addictive behaviors especially tend to have difficulty forming and maintaining accountable relationships. They resist accountability because it is contrary to the way they have become comfortable living; they live as rugged individualists, or Lone Rangers. Most addicts don’t want to be held accountable. They don’t want anyone to look over their shoulder and want to be the boss of their own recovery program.

But those who do not remain accountable to others in their recovery simply don’t recover. This is not, however, just an issue of control; addicts are also hiding. Allowing another person access to look over your shoulder can leave one feeling somewhat naked or exposed. After hiding behind their masks for so long they have convinced themselves that no one will truly accept them the way they are – they are afraid of intimacy.

Accountability relationships should be supportive and encouraging relationships, although many do not fully utilize the support available to them. It is not uncommon for men to tell me they relapsed, and while they thought of calling their accountability partner for support, they didn’t. Sometimes they were afraid they would bother him, felt ashamed, or simply didn’t want to stop.

I once asked a group of men how they feel when they receive a call for support from their accountability partner. They told me they actually feel important when they are asked for help. It not only helps the person calling, but strengthens the partner as well. They feel valued, and more tightly bonded together as ‘brothers in arms.’ The Bible describes this as ‘iron sharpening iron’(Prov. 27:17).

For those who have difficulty calling their accountability partner when they are feeling tempted, I encourage you to call sooner. There comes a point when you already have decided to act out, and if a call for support is going to be made, it is essential to call way before reaching this point. One of the best ways to train yourself to call your accountability partner for help is to practice. Call your accountability partner when you have a victory. It is much easier to reach out when you feel victorious, rather than shamed. When you call before you are in trouble, it strengthens your confidence, relationship, and may help you prevail over or avoid temptation altogether. You are putting your fears to the test when you call your accountability partner and challenging those old beliefs that you will not be accepted as imperfect. How do you feel when your accountability partner calls you for help? If you feel at all valued, encouraged, strengthened, bonded or closer to him, chances are this is how he feels getting a call from you.

Together with your accountability partner, you are much more likely to succeed in your recovery (Ecc. 4:9-10; Prov. 17:17). For animals in the wild, fleeing danger together is a matter of life or death, and so it is also with us.

Need help finding an accountability partner? See Every Man\’s Battle.
For Drug and Alcohol help, see New Life’s Recovery Place.

God's Mercy vs. The band of bullies

Martin Fierro

Walking down the street you are heading towards home. It has been a delightful day with areas of victories and successes to be proud of. And then it happens before you can realize it: you are in danger. A bunch of guys come out, seemingly out of the blue, and surround you! This band of bullies begin the initial taunt and jeering of your character and personality. You stand there stunned asking yourself, how do they know my weaknesses like they do?

There is an obvious leader who decides to confront you by saying to you, ‘sissy, what are you going to do about it?’ Your heart races, and the fear for your life begins to take view asking yourself internally ‘What should I do? Where can I run to? Who is going to help me?’ So, the gang leader again approaches you and this time physically pushes you in the chest saying ‘loser, what are you going to do about it?’ And before you know it this bully has your arm twisted behind you back which causes an intense sharp pain in the arm as you crouch over facing the ground attempting to levy the pain away. Taking advantage of your position of weakness, the bully gets really close to your ear and whispers, ‘hey loser, what are you going to do now?’
This band of bullies are now in full force laughing and making belittling comments about who you are and your predicament. One of many probable thoughts running your head is how did I ever get into this? And more importantly, a thought that if I get out of this, I will never in my life time walk down this street again.

Feeling helpless, powerlessness, ambushed, overwhelmed, and fearful are common themes in recovery. Such experiences occur when sudden attacks corners us, like being surrounded by the band of bullies. Their main goal is to remind you of your past behavior and who you were when in the throngs of sexually acting out. This band of bullies knows nothing of edifying, encouraging, or mercy. For that is not their job. The band of bullies job is to remind you and distract you from the Truth that God has offered mercy for all your sins, even your sexual vices. And this band of bullies knows that if they can distract you enough from the Truth of mercy, emotionally you will spiral and not experience victory in your behavior, thoughts and feelings.

Mercy is a powerful word in that it is received, as it is accepted. God so desires you to grasp that His mercy is powerful and wants you to take it in to be part of you. When we sit in the shame and guilt of past behavior, tormenting thoughts and feelings feeds a defeated attitude. In that we then become polarized, stuck in the moment. U2, a famous rock band from Ireland, wrote a song entitled ‘Stuck in a moment’ which was written after a friend of the band completed suicide after a long battle with his ‘demons.’ Being ‘stuck in the moment’ is the twisting of the arm by the enemy–when we place our face to the ground in a powerless moment. But crying out for help and receiving that mercy from God empowers us to not be ‘stuck in the moment’ but moves us towards better and hopeful moments.

Being ‘stuck in the moment’ can be pure helplessness but not powerlessness. Your prayer life has a strong part in ushering the power of mercy into your life, and maybe more forgiveness towards yourself.

One can encourage people to take the mercy God offers, but it takes faith to accept that mercy in spite of life events and situations. God offers mercy to you irregardless of your situation brought on by you or by a band of bullies. Crying ‘uncle, UNCLE, UNCLE,’ will not release you from the enemies clutches. It is relying and believing on the mercy of God that you can say ‘Jesus help me’ or, ‘God help me,’ and/or ‘Holy Spirit, help me I am in danger’ –these prayers chase off the band of bullies.

God’s mercy is the element that will pick you up no matter what befalls you. It is the key to your accepting and receiving forgiveness from God. Even though He gives it, you have to receive it by faith.

Continuing with the introduction story: So you are facing the ground and the band of bullies are in full force, so you call out, ‘God help me.’ Then in a powerful quiet approach, three blurred figures come towards the band of bullies. This blurred three approaches with synchronized momentum as they come quickly from behind the leader of the band of bullies, who has no idea what is happening. But then he sees that his troupe is breaking apart and then running off, leaving him all by himself to deal with this blurred three which comes into focus as One. As He approaches, makes eye contact and states, ‘Flee, NOW.’ The leader releases your arm and struts off saying with a defiant attitude, ‘yeah, whatever, I’ll be back, you’ll see.’ As he walks away you fall to the ground narrowly miss hitting your face as your one un-injured arm supports the hard landing.

This Helper is now reaching out to you offering comfort and encouraging you to sit and recover because He will keep watch for you. You are too weak to get up now. ‘Rest with Me,’ He says. Then He reaches out and takes your arm over His shoulder and supports you to stand. He brushes you off, and walks with you home.

On the way home, you finally recognize who it is. It’s your Heavenly Father. ‘Dad’ you say, ‘I am so embarrassed, they made fun of me and all that I was.’ He responds, ‘First my child, I love you for who you are today and who you will become tomorrow and lastly I can assure you I will deal with that band of bullies in due time.’ He smiles and you both continue the walk home. ‘It is sure a long walk home,’ you say. He responds, ‘yes, but I am here right with you to support you if you let me, I wont force myself on you, please don’t do it alone.’

For help in the fight for sexual purity, see Every Man\’s Battle.

Sex and the Brain

Jayson Graves

‘WOW that felt good!’ This is a common cognition when a man has an orgasm, otherwise known as an ejaculation. What most people don’t know is why an orgasm feels so good. In fact, the reason it feels so incredible is the same reason why some men form addictive patterns at the neurological level in their brains through a process known as ‘conditioning.’

Remember back to your senior year of high school when you took basic Psychology 101 and your ‘cool-guy, disco-party man’ psych teacher told you about Pavlov and his dogs? Let me refresh you: Pavlov was a Russian scientist interested in the process of conditioning. He used his dogs and a bell. Pavlov would ring the bell and then feed his dogs, repeating this over and over again. After some time of this he discovered that when he rang his bell, the dogs would begin to salivate in anticipation of these tasty morsels. Herein lies the discovery of ‘Classical Conditioning.’

What happens at the neurological level in your brain when you become aroused also involves classical conditioning in that we have allowed our own ‘bells to be rung’ and as in the case of 98-99% of all men, have ‘fed the dog’ through masturbation, pornography or both. Here’s how.

A man typically becomes aroused in several ways and has the urge to be sexually gratified for various reasons, some legitimate according to the intention with which we are designed, some not. Whatever the case, when a man ejaculates he receives the most potent chemical reward the brain can achieve’the brain releases into his system the highest level of endorphins and enkephalins, naturally occurring ‘pleasure chemicals’ which are about 4 times stronger than morphine!

The average male begins masturbating around the ages of 10-14 at a rate of 2-7 times per week or more. In the first 20 years of his ‘career’ he will have had from 2,000 to 7,000 of these reinforcing experiences. What happens over this time on a neurological level in the brain is akin to an entrenchment process. Imagine if you were to dig a ditch between the street and sidewalk from your driveway down to the store on the corner. Everyday you walk in that ditch to buy the morning paper and over time that ditch gets deeper and wider to the point where even if you wanted to walk on the street or sidewalk, because of the erosion, there would be a tendency to fall back into the ditch. THIS IS THE ADDICTION in the hard-wiring of your brain.

What I try to do in my therapy with men recovering from sexually addictive patterns such as masturbation, pornography, adultery, etc is help them cut-off that old addictive route completely and to create a wholly new route of healthy sexuality and healing. We accomplish this by setting good boundaries. Boundaries are set around behaviors that absolutely cannot happen if sexual sobriety is to be maintained. Also, we set standards around what must absolutely happen behaviorally, emotionally and spiritually in order to maintain the full, healthy lifestyle God intended.

In terms of undoing unhealthy patterns there is a technique that can help decrease unwanted urges and impulses up to 80% in one month: it’s called the Rubber band technique. Simply take a rubber band that is thick enough so it won’t break easily (are you getting scared?) and keep it on your wrist. Don’t even take it off for bedtime, showers, or times when ‘you think you won’t need it.’ Whenever you catch yourself staring at someone lustfully or for more than 3 seconds, have the urge to masturbate, look at pornography, or act inappropriately, sinfully or otherwise act-out sexually, simply snap the band on the inside of your wrist. This will send a pain message to your brain (don’t worry, you don’t have to snap it so hard that you injure yourself) in a way that, where you used to ring the bell and feed the dog, it will now be a pattern more like ‘ring the bell, kick the dog!’

This is a helpful tool in the process of retraining your brain, helping you engage the fruit of the spirit, self-control and freeing yourself of a pattern you have created over the course of many years. Of course, it is important to consider therapy with a sexual addiction specialist and place yourself under the authority of a men’s recovery group that is healthy, willing to hold you accountable on a weekly basis, and allow you a place to connect with and serve others in a relationally healing way.

For help in the battle for sexual integrity, see Every Man\’s Battle.