Shame On Me

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“Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” – Job 42:6

In January of 1984, I had my crises of truth. I was a Christian who had back-slidden into destructive sexual behaviors, and the conflict between my sexual and spiritual desires reached its peak. That was the beginning of my recovery and oddly enough, the darkest time of my life. All my porn had to go, of course. I had my cable service turned off, canceled my subscriptions to erotic publications and relocated to another city.

Only then did it hit me that I’d ruined everything good I had been given. By indulging in my sins, I had abandoned a fruitful ministry, a loving family, great potential – all wasted in a public, shameful way. The more I thought about it, the more I sank into a bottomless disgust with myself. I began sleeping through the days, then waking up horrified at myself, remembering what I’d done, each time seeing it in a worse light. I would cry, thrashing around in my bed in fits of weeping and moaning.

The poet Robert Bly wrote: ‘Where a man’s wound is, there he finds his genius.’

As part of my ‘penance’, I called all my old friends to apologize and to let them know that I had repented.  I could only find a few, but one of them permanently interrupted the ‘I Hate Joe’ cycle I had gotten myself into. When I got him on the phone and told him what was happening with me, the dam burst and I poured out my guilt, the miserable state I was in, and my fear that there was no future for me.  ‘Well, Joe’, he said, ‘if banging your head into the wall is going to build up the Body of Christ, please keep doing it. But if it won’t, don’t you think all this energy you’re putting into self-pity could be put into doing something useful with what’s left of your life?’ That shut me up. ‘And who knows’ he continued ‘but someday, after you get through all this, you might have learned something worth passing on?’

I had been drowning in shame, beating myself up but accomplishing nothing worthwhile in the process. That night I decided to find something more useful to do with my pain. Oddly enough, it was that very pain which led me into my own counseling, and then into a desire to become a trained counselor, and finally into the opportunity to work with hundreds of other men who’d made mistakes so similar to my own.

Be sorry for your sin, by all means. But don’t wallow in shame. Instead, take the time to prayerfully consider how God can convert your worst failures into useful opportunities. You just might be amazed at the genius lurking behind the wound.

For more information on Every Man’s Battle, please call 1800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)

The Lie of Illegitimate Solutions

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We are made for relationships. The Bible is full of all kinds of relationships: relationship with God, towards others, and even towards ourselves. The trinity themselves are a model of relationship. Even more than that, it is a model of intimacy. It has been said that people who have addictive tendencies are much more aware of their spiritual nature–their deep need for relationship and intimacy. Specifically, there is an acute awareness that something is missing deep inside; a longing for a deep connection and seeking some kind of oneness, fellowship.

This need for intimacy is God ordained. We are designed for it. We know from the Bible, being made in the image and likeness of God that this is actually true, and short of having an intimate relationship with God and others, addiction may be as close as we can get to our divine design in this earthly life.

As sex addicts, we lack connections with others and in our failure to get our ‘legitimate needs met in legitimate ways,’ we isolate and withdraw into our acting out patterns as a poor substitute for what we really desire, addiction instead of relationship; intensity instead of intimacy. As individuals isolated and alone we don’t stand a chance!

Sexual addiction for most of us, became a way of connecting with ourselves in lieu of knowing how to connect with others on that deep personal level. By the time we had passed through our adolescence and into our twenties, it became a substitute for intimacy with others. A secret self of privacy that was isolated had developed. We didn’t have the communication or relationship skills to do otherwise. Intimacy, the kind that allows us to be fully accepted for who we are, just didn’t happen for us.

The world makes all kinds of false claims and promises, like, if we would only do this or seek that, the special connection we long for will indeed occur. ‘NOT!!! It may satisfy for the moment or even a season but not for a lifetime. Our particular choice, sexual addiction, in the whole scheme of alternatives is at least focused on the crown of God’s creation, woman. In our worship of women, or at least her body or body parts, in whatever form we have particularized, is still going to fall way short.

As men, what makes us so vulnerable to this form of addiction is that we are hard wired as visual creatures. In the United States, it is my belief that we are trained to become sex addicts. We’re told that men stand alone, that being needy is for wimps. We hear messages communicating that women are to be exploited. We hear that anything goes and everything is relative. We’re easy prey for the plethora of hyper-stimulation we receive through the portals to our souls, our eyeballs.

As individuals, isolated and alone we don’t stand a chance. We are dead meat. So we try as best we can. We stumble and fumble along, alone, isolated. We make promises and covenant with God and others. We are deceived into believing that all we need is more determination or will power and effort. We should be able to overcome it alone, on our own, in our own strength. And then we fail again and again. Oh, wretched sex addict that I am, what can I do?

One of the powerful experiences that takes place during our 5 days together at Every Man’s Battle is the transformation from isolation into community, large group as well as our break out groups. For some of us this may be the first time ever, or at least since we have become entrenched in our addiction, that we have been so open and transparent, felt safe and free to express our brokenness, our neediness honestly without judgment or criticism, and to be vulnerable about our pain.

Enough written. You get my drift. Stay connected. Utilize the tools that have been emphasized from the conference. By staying connected, the ability to manage our addiction will be one hundred times easier.

For more information on Every Man’s Battle, please call 1800-NEW-LIFE(639-5433)

People Are More Important Than Things

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Few of us would argue with the title of this article. Yet, in our daily lives, and particularly in the lives of men who suffer from sexual addiction, the truthfulness of this statement is not translated into daily living.

Several days ago the following comments were made in my office: ‘I was enjoying a serious conversation with my son when his cell phone rang and instead of letting it go to voice mail he answered it. He spent ten minutes talking to someone else. I was infuriated! After he hung up I told him that he was rude, that he didn’t care about me, and that I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him if he was going to treat me like that.’

The man who made these comments is a 60-year-old man who is trying to re-establish a relationship with his 40-year-old son. He has a long history of addictive behaviors with alcohol, marijuana, and multiple affairs. Now, after a lifetime of avoiding emotional intimacy with his family, my client is coming to realize the importance of relationships. Yet, at the first indication of conflict or devaluation, he was willing to throw out all that he had worked for with his son.

Certainly he had justification to be hurt. His son was acting rudely by spending so much time with the person who was calling on the phone. The message received by my client was that the caller was more important. But the message explicitly conveyed in anger from father to son was that the whole relationship was being terminated. As he related this story to me in my office, I was struck by the fact that he was still serious about ending the relationship, even after several days to cool down. People are just not that important to him. His relationships with alcohol, marijuana, and sex have been far more loyal over the years than his interpersonal relationships with people.

If we are made in God’s image, and we were made to be in relationship with Him, then the need for interpersonal relationships is woven into the very fabric of our being. Turning to a pseudo relationship with ‘things’ rather than people is like trying to spend your life using counterfeit money. It seems to work at first, but such a life is based on lies and deception, and it always catches up with you. Substituting objectifying sex for true intimacy is no different than using counterfeit money.

When people have become the source of pain, either unresolved pain from the past and/or pain in the here-and-now, the allure of ‘things’ becomes so much greater. It can be argued that obsessive preoccupation with any material thing is actually a smokescreen, a way of avoiding painful wounds of past relationships. Giving up the things of this world, whether it is drugs, sex, food, material things like a new car, or even some relationships, will expose us to that which we are running from and trying to avoid at all costs.

In those moments of exposure, do you find yourself in places of safety, or, do you find yourself in places where you will be hurt again? To open up and talk about the pain with someone who has been deeply hurt by you might not be the best place to start. You’ll only confirm the belief that people are too dangerous and intimacy is an illusion. To face deep emotional pain without preparation, planning, and support is a recipe for catastrophe. Your wife and family deserve better. It would be like trying to save someone who is drowning when neither of you can swim.

Don’t let the things of this world STOP YOU from taking care of yourself!

Therapy, Every Man’s Battle conferences, and even trustworthy friends may be the best place to start the recovery process, rather than with a wife or relatives who are already hurt and emotionally invested in you. The chances of your successful recovery will improve dramatically if you seek ongoing support and help from people who have been where you are now.

People are more important than things, and that includes you too. Don’t let the things of this world stop you from taking care of yourself in the way that promotes healing, better relationships, and a closer walk with the Lord.

For more help, consider attending one of our Weekend Workshops or call 1800-NEW-LIFE(639-5433) for more information on Every Man’s Battle.