Measuring Up

Are we measuring our recovery by what we’re not doing anymore?

In the beginning of recovery it is important to celebrate the victories of not acting out. While taking it one day at a time, we need the motivation and encouragement of seeing the end of a day lived with integrity. We also need the hope it brings; that maybe these days can be strung together to form weeks, months or even years.

But somewhere along the way that has to change.

There comes a point where we can no longer measure down, we have to start measuring up. We can no longer measure our recovery by what we’re not doing, but instead have to look at what we’re being called to. I hear too often, after an integrity lapse, a man say “well, at least I’m better than how I used to be” or “at least I’m not doing what I used to do”. I think in many ways this excuse/rationalization is a way to hold onto hope. It’s a coping mechanism to avoid slipping into the despair that comes with feelings of failure and disappointment. It is an attempt to escape the shame of sin.

The good news is that our hope is not in our best behavior; it is in our Savior. God promises through the words of Paul the Apostle that He will complete the good work He began in us. He is committed to our sanctification and will empower us to fight another day.

Don’t let yourself be lulled into measuring your journey down, against what you aren’t doing anymore. Instead, be committed to measuring up, setting your sights on becoming the man God is calling you to be. Each day lived a little more like the men He is calling us to be is another day farther from being the old men we were.

Key Ingredients of Change

Over and over again I hear people talk about what brings about change in a person. Especially for folks struggling with sexual integrity issues like pornography, visiting prostitutes, strip clubs or massage parlors. Once sexually addicted, the question becomes even more difficult to answer. Psychotherapy and counseling some people say. Only God, others say. Circumstances. The twelve steps. Crisis.

I’m going to suggest there are 3 key ingredients that facilitate change. Sure, we can name a bunch of things that help, but I’m suggesting that if these 3 aren’t present, true change will not occur.

First, being unwilling to accept our personal status quo. I was talking with Shelley last night and, after she expressed a way I had hurt her, thought about the reality that I’m kind of tired of being me. At least, I’m tired of that part of me; that way of living. We all know that feeling where we just sort of realize we’ve become comfortable with the status quo. The question becomes: will we do something about it? People who are unwilling to change reach a point where they consider it adequate to measure the present against the past. The mindset here is saying, “at least I’m not who I used to be” instead of “I’m not yet who I could be, who God is calling me to be”. If we want to guarantee change, we cannot accept that who we are today will suffice for the future God has for us. We must be unwilling to accept our personal status quo.

Second, we must challenge our constants. Sounds pretty underwhelming, I know, but it can be surprising how much we’re willing to accept about ourselves because it’s how we’ve always been. We land at our age, be it 25, 45, 55, 75 years old and we’re “just the way we are”. But how’d we get there? Because we didn’t challenge the constants. To guarantee change is to question our norms, our standards and our default settings. It is to question our motives, why we believe what we believe and why want to believe what we believe. It means we have to question the narrative by which we live, and ask ourselves where it would be more meaningful to just tear up the script.

Third, in order to change we need to humbly submit ourselves to people who are unwilling to accept our personal status quo and who will challenge our constants. You know the people who, when you bring something up and sort of know what their response is going to be, blind-side you with some out-of-left-field question that puts you on your heels? Those are the folks I’m talking about. One of my accountability partners in the early days, Kurt, would always ask “5 whys” when he was digging into something in me. He’d take my first answer and toss it like garbage. Then my second, he’d give a little “hmm” and challenge a 3rd answer to be more insightful. Eventually, even if we didn’t get to 5 (which when we did was super-frustrating and made me hate Kurt some mornings!), we went beyond the status quo, beyond the easy answer, and deeper than I typically thought.

Maybe the people that do that for you are your accountability partners. Perhaps it’s a counselor. Maybe it’s the pastor you listen to on Saturdays or Sundays. Could be the guys at poker night. It might even be what you read that does it for you. We have to humbly submit ourselves to people who won’t let us stay the same.

I believe if we’ll adopt a posture of humility, submit to others’ input, challenge ourselves, and stop measuring progress by what we’re not doing anymore we actually make ourselves malleable. We become willing to see what we were once blind to, and become perceptive to what the Spirit prompts in us. We become moldable in the hands of God to be made like his son.

Prison

This weekend at the Every Mans Battle workshop I heard someone say they finally have hope they can life free. Like they were getting out of prison.

While hard for some people to believe, living the sexually addicted lifestyle is not fun; it is horrible. Sure there are moments of excitement, where getting away with something taboo feels like an adventure. And moments where we feel self-confident and reassured, like we measure up. There are brief periods of feeling like we matter, are wanted and even needed.

Then we get slapped in the face with reality. It’s not exciting; it’s a prison. And a hellish one at that.

The shame that drives the addiction is compounded by living in the addiction. The prison door swings open wide for us to escape, only to be handcuffed and locked up again – by ourselves. It’s not the life we want. Most guys I talk to want to be married, to be in love, to serve and honor their wives, to feel deeply respected by their families, to be pillars of leadership at work, church and home. If singleness or the playboy lifestyle were all they wanted, they would’ve pulled the ripcord long ago.

Instead, the authentic man is trapped inside a self constructed prison. We sometimes look out on the lives we wish we had like an inmate stares through the fence to freedom. To carry the metaphor further, we’ll even try to make a break for it, all the while knowing the guards of the addiction are tracking us down. It feels like it’s only a matter of time until we’re locked up again. It can seem like a life sentence.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be.

Freedom is possible through the power of Christ, changing our hearts, minds and character. Shed the jumpsuit and take the steps of confession, repentance and doing the next thing to get help. Maybe that’s come to the workshop. Maybe its just tell your counselor the truth. Perhaps its call off the affair. Whatever it is, take the next step!