Thoughts on Courage in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” –G.K. Chesterton

 “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” –Mark Twain

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” –Sir Winston Churchill

It takes courage to face the real me. Those dark parts of my heart. The places I’ve tried to ignore or deny or cover up. I find it much easier to focus on the darkness of other hearts, or the passing pleasure of sin, or escape’anything but look at the darkness of my flesh. In Psalm 32 from the translation entitled The Message, we read of the freedom that comes from facing the darkness inside and letting it out into the light:

Psalm 32: 1Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be–you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2Count yourself lucky–God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.

We try to do it our way; we try to ‘fix ourselves’–anything to avoid the dreadful exposure of our darkness to another.

In C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ the young man Eustace describes how he changed from a dragon back to a boy, but only after unsuccessfully trying to peel the dragon skin off of himself three times before. After these failed attempts, Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, removed the dragon skin for him. In Lewis’ story, Eustace retells the event like this: The very first tear he [Aslan] made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off’.Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off’just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt’and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.

Jesus said to find life we would have to lose it for his sake (Matthew 16:25). It may seem a perilous thing for us to say, “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). How can we have the courage to let God in? To let others in? To look at ourselves?

First John chapter one teaches that this begins with the honest admission of sin. If we say we have no sin or have not sinned, we are lying to ourselves and to God, the apostle tells us. But he also tells us that if we have the courage to confess our sins, the cleansing comes. A simple definition of confession is to agree with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and we must agree with God about it. Sin is there; sin is evil; and sin deserves punishment. When we honestly confess the blackness of our sin before God, we can then thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed on our account.

Do you have the courage to consecrate yourself to him, or will you hold back? Do you have the courage to face the depth, the breadth, and the blackness of you sin, or the pain that it has caused you, others, and even God himself? Have you become so accustomed to denial, excuses, and self-justifications as to be content to stay in that neighborhood? Do you have the courage to move into the unknown–the unknown territory of confession, surrender and consecration?

We find exhortations in Scripture to take courage! The Lord wants us to face the unknown, knowing that he is ahead of us and with us. “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9). Friends, we can know, with anything God is asking us to confront–in ourselves or otherwise–he will be with us. So, in the words of John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.’

Same Sex Attraction

Chris Cole

The struggle of same sex attraction is one that is very complex. Many with this struggle–I will refer to those who struggle with same sex attraction as the ‘struggler’–say that they have felt this way all of their life. It runs deep to the core of one’s gender identity. I want to say that in order to understand the root causes, the struggler needs to do his research. In this article, I will focus on the root causes from a human development stand point. I will also direct you to some resources that you should read and study yourself.

Same sex attraction is rooted in an effort to get homo-emotional, or same-sex, love needs met. These needs include longings for love, acceptance, and belonging. They are to be first met in the relationship with one’s father and mother, and are critical to one’s sense of security. Berger (1995) explains: ‘masculinity and femininity are communicated to us as children through those people in our lives who symbolize to us masculinity and femininity (mother and father). In order to acquire a healthy personal identity, we must encounter loving and healthy relationships with members of both sexes’ (p.58). Home is where these emotional needs are satisfied, and where healthy role modeling of one’s masculine gender by the father is experienced leads to healthy gender identity development in both boys and girls. For boys, another developmental process occurs as he differentiates from the mother and identifies with his father. Nicolosi and Nicolosi (2002) state, ‘Girls can continue to develop in the feminine identification through the relationship with their mothers. On the other hand, a boy has an additional developmental task’to disidentify from his mother and identify with his father’ (p.23). Konrad (1987) highlights that gender development is an acquired social learning process that children experience in the family environment. ‘Gender identity, on the other hand, is a process that begins at birth. As children begin to explore their own bodies, they combine this information with the way society treats them to create an image of themselves as boys and girls’ (p.35). The role the father plays in healthy gender identity development is significant to boys (and to girls). Boys who have fathers who are nurturing, warm, decisive, strong, and are active in their child’s socialization will help that child develop a healthy sexual identity. Again, Nicolosi and Nicolosi (2002) touch on the importance of the father: ‘the boy’s father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son’s maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son’games that are decidedly different from those he would play with a little girl. As a result, the son will learn more of what it means to be a male. And he will accept his body as a representation of his maleness’ (p.24). So, two important things happen when a boy bonds with his father: he receives his father’s love and approval, and also develops a strong sense of male gender identity.

So how does same sex attraction develop? One common experience among gays is the report of having a poor relationship with one’s father. Failure on the part of the father to affirm and bond with his son leads to a deficit of unmet needs in the child. In many cases, fathers were relationally absent (either physically or emotionally), inadequate, withdrawn, passive (with a dominant mother), hostile, abusive, or alcoholic. This impairment in the relationship would result in the boy feeling inadequate in his maleness, lacking confidence in one’s own gender, which then leads to feelings of uncomfortability in developing healthy interaction among his male relationships. Konrad (1987) states that ‘homosexuals experience a critical deficit in their relationships with their fathers while growing up, meaning that normal psychological needs which should have been met by the father/son bond are left unfulfilled’ (42-43). One should note that actions on the part of the father may be unintentional, even seemingly non-threatening. Yet, it is important to note that the perspective of the child is one of woundedness, thus creating a defensive detachment. Again Konrad (1987) explains: ‘it’s not necessarily what kind of father these men are but how their children react to them that can cause psychological damage, perhaps by simply blocking normal attachment to them’ (p.44). As the boy withdraws from his father to avoid further hurt, his same sex love needs go unmet. Thus at the root of one’s ‘homosexual’ drive is an effort to get same sex love needs met that needed to be met in the father/son relationship. Konrad (1987) points out ‘that homosexuals detach from their fathers to prevent further hurt and/or not to identify with them. For some this may have been an unconscious, subtle detachment. But for others, it was an overt vow not to be anything like their father. The severity of this detachment varies from person to person and is more obvious in some than others’ (p. 46). As the boy detaches from his father, there is also a corresponding detachment from his own body. Nicolosi and Nicolosi (2002) make this point: ‘the boy who makes the unconscious decision to detach himself from his own male body is well on his way to developing a homosexual orientation. Such a boy will sometimes be obviously effeminate, but more often he ‘ like most pre-homosexual boys’ is what we call gender-nonconforming. That is, he will be somewhat different, with no close male buddies at that developmental stage when other boys are breaking away from close friendships with little girls (about six to eleven) in order to develop a secure masculine identity (p.24).

As one can now see, those struggling with same sex attraction are striving to get needs met from childhood. As the boy enters adolescence, with the stirring of one’s sex drive, these homo-emotional needs get ‘eroticized’ and misinterpreted as sexual feelings. Konrad (1987) sums it up: ‘Thus the problem with the person who has labeled himself a homosexual’he thinks he’s gay and interprets his normal (but unmet) homo-emotional feeling the wrong way. And based upon his feelings he continues through life reinforcing his gay identity, further hindering the identification process and preventing unmet needs from being met. It’s a terribly vicious cycle that can be stopped only be understanding same-sex needs and satisfying them through proper channels” (p.64). If you are struggling with same sex attraction, your work is to begin to explore the impact of your early experiences. How did you get your needs met as a child? You may want to go to the resources I have referred to in this article. Also find a group you can participate in of other ex-gays. They can help you work through these issues in an atmosphere of acceptance. You may also want to find a good therapist familiar with helping people work through the complexity of issues you face.

For an excellent book on this subject, please see Desires in Conflict.


Resource List Bergner, Mario. 1995. Setting Love In Order. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House Co. Konrad, Jeff. 1987. You Don’t Have To Be Gay. Hilo, Hawaii. Pacific Publishing House. Nicolosi, Joseph & Nicolosi, Linda Ames. 2002. A Parent’s Guide To Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, Illinois. InterVarsity Press.

Thoughts on Endurance in Recovery

Dave Boyle

One of the most famous speeches in history occurred at the time of the Second World War. The British troops were discouraged, as the Nazi’s seemed to be making gains every day. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, stood up to address the English troops one day at a particularly low point of the war and in his raspy voice said, ‘Gentleman, never, ever, ever,””.ever, ”’ever, ”’ever, give up.’ Churchill then sat back down. And we all know the results of the war; the Allied forces came back to defeat the Nazis, and the world was rid of Hitler and his henchmen for good.

But here’s a troubling hypothetical: what if the British troops had given up? What if the Americans had said, ‘this is too hard. I’m not going to take all this time and effort for something that might not work out in the end.’ Where would you be now? Well, you might not be enjoying many of the freedoms that you are currently enjoying.

Given the scenes that have been beamed into our living rooms from Iraq, and the valor of the brave men and women who are over there fighting, I am not about to compare striving for sexual sobriety with the gruesomeness of war. Yet the principle that Prime Minister Churchill wanted to get across to his troops is the very same principle that we need to use in our daily lives to stay pure, and that is endurance.

Don Henley, the drummer for the rock group The Eagles, once told a reporter that one of the reasons for the band’s success is that when the band toured, the repetition of doing the same songs over and over again, night after night, never seemed to bother them, because they loved playing the music. That’s how it must be with us if we are to stay sexually pure. You can look at having a daily quiet time, where you read God’s Word and talk to him, as repetition, or you can look at it as a new and fresh way to connect with God each morning. Going to that recovery group every Friday night–at the same place with the same people–can be repetition, or it can be an exciting challenge to share your victories and help other guys do the same. Going to the therapist’s office each week can be an act of drudgery, or it can be a healing hour where you continue your journey to get to the root of the lust that has been so destructive in your life.

Paul knew a little about perseverance and endurance. In 2 Corinthians 6:4 he says, ‘Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses.’ Later in the same book he talked about those hardships and distresses: ‘I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one (think ‘Passion of the Christ’). Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night on the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countryman, in danger from the Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food’ (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). So I think he is qualified to make the following statement in Hebrews 10:36: ‘You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” So really, endurance isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command. It’s been said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. And if that’s the case, then I say that 80 percent of showing up is endurance. With a web site that gets as many hits as this one, I know that there is at least one guy who is reading this who is ready to chuck his sobriety and go act out. Don’t do it! Endure! Persevere! Pray! Call somebody! Do whatever you have to do to endure in purity. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.