What Could Have Been

First, thanks to everyone who has responded to the survey. I’ll be taking it down soon, and will follow with a post on the results.

Next, I just want to address an issue that keeps coming up when I’m working with couples in recovery. I’m hoping that it saves some heartache, especially for wives, and also some exasperation for husbands.

The issue is stating what bad things could have happened but didn’t. Let me explain. A wife went out of town recently and her husband stayed home, lived with integrity, and honored her. Once she returned, they were talking about how the trip had gone and whether or not he had any struggles with temptation. He honestly admitted that yes, he had thought about looking at porn one night. She was irritated, but not angry. She expressed how disappointing it was to hear, and how she wished it was never an issue for him. Rather than hear her pain and empathize, he retorted with something along the lines of “give me a break, I handled it. I didn’t act out. I could’ve gone to a strip club and you would’ve never known, but I didn’t. Sorry, I’ll never be perfect”.

Now, he was genuinely trying to shed light on progress. But with poor delivery. And rather than make her feel safe and secure with his progress, she was simply reminded of how hurt and betrayed she felt. It wasn’t the least bit comforting to know he even thought about what he could get away with while she was gone. As you can imagine, the whole thing went south from there.

For this wife, her declaration of disappointment wasn’t a jab at her husband; it was simply an expression of emotion. It tapped into his shame though, and his response was to manipulate the situation to make her the problem by having unrealistic expectations (via the “I’ll never be perfect” comment). It would’ve been a simple conversation that ended rather quickly had he not popped off.

Remember that reassurance is underscored by empathy, not by painting a picture of how much worse a situation could have been.

 

Silent Struggle

Last week Shelley and I both had the privilege of speaking at Biola University in La Mirada, Ca. We’ve had other opportunities to speak to students at schools and ministry events through Campus Crusade for Christ, and every time we are blown away.

There is so little pretense.

It is almost like they haven’t had enough time in the Christian sub-culture to figure out they need to wear masks. Or maybe better said, there is still enough sensitivity in their heart that when they are invited into authenticity and transparency they can throw caution to the wind and enter that sacred space.

Shelley and I challenged the students to make a decision to be radically vulnerable about their struggles. We urged them to risk rejection and take the first step to open up. We tried to help them understand the value and reward of true intimacy. We talked about teenage pregnancy, bestiality, shame, guilt, pornography, sex addiction, anorexia and body image, work-aholism, abortion, forgiveness and redemption.

The stories that were relayed back to us from students covered all these topics and more. They were vulnerable, gritty, sometimes empowering and made us want to cheer, other times painful and hopeless, bringing us to tears.

Interestingly, two consistent themes came out as we engaged the students’ stories. First, the reality of a silent struggle. So many times we heard, “I’ve never told anyone” or “I’m afraid to tell anyone that I’ve…” I even received a handwritten letter from a student describing her shame and disappointment of struggling with repetitive sexual sin, and I’m the first person she has told [written to].

The second theme was that of divorce in the home. Several students came up and said their folks are currently or have recently divorced due to sexual integrity issues. One girl, in tears, talked about how at 20 she’s realizing that her father’s sexual sin has affected her deeply. It pains her to see her mom so resentful and bitter, and her dad simply declares it covered in the blood of Jesus so it doesn’t need to be spoken of again. Heartbreaking.

All in all, I walked away from that campus with hope. Hope because of the raw, unfiltered, willingness of the students to engage difficult topics. Hope because the faculty and staff decided its important enough to address from the main stage and create an open dialogue about. Hope because God is still in the business of redemption and those stories we heard are, for many, a turning point that will change the entire course of their lives and legacies.

If you are in the silent struggle, it doesn’t have to be that way any longer. If you are the ones divorcing with college age children, it doesn’t have to be that way any longer. Change, real lasting change, may be right around the corner.