Who Are Safe People?

Jonathan Daugherty

Those who choose to face their bad habits or addictive patterns are brave folks. It takes courage to admit you are not in control and need help. One of the bits of advice that I often give to individuals seeking to overcome their sexual addictions is to surround themselves with “safe” people. I want to take this short article to expand on this idea and attempt to define what makes certain people “safe.”

Sometimes to define something it helps to describe its opposite. Many of us can recognize who unsafe people are before we could recognize the safe ones. Unsafe people are those individuals who draw us toward those thoughts and behaviors that are unhealthy or dangerous. For example, an unsafe person for a male sex addict might be a “loose” female co-worker who dresses provocatively and is always attempting to sexualize conversations. While it may be easy (or easier) to spot unsafe people, how do you find safe people?

The following are 7 key characteristics present in safe people:

1. Safe people are non-judgmental.

When you get serious about dealing with your secret addiction(s) you need people who are not spending their time judging you for your mistakes. You struggle enough with self-condemnation, you don’t need someone else telling you what a mess-up you are. Safe people don’t judge you.

2. Safe people listen.

When you reach out for help you need people who will really listen to your struggles. Safe people let you share your story and all the difficulty you have faced in carrying your secret sin alone. There is a sort of empathy with safe people. While they may not have traveled the exact same road, they listen with their heart and want to truly help.

3. Safe people maintain strong boundaries.

One of the dangers of seeking out safe people is that you might be so amazed at their compassion and care that you begin to move too close too quickly, and possibly confuse genuine help with old patterns in your addiction. Safe people, however, also know how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries that represent appropriate interaction and assistance. For instance, a safe person will not miss their son’s baseball game just because you are having a weak moment. They will give you their time and energy when it is appropriate and falls in line with their other priorities.

4. Safe people protect confidentiality.

Trust is critical in the healing and recovery process. And trust is gained when safe people protect your confidentiality. You must know that the deep, dark secrets you are sharing will not end up in the city newspaper over the weekend. Safe people take confidentiality very seriously and will carry your pain to their grave if they must in order to secure your trust.

5. Safe people tell the truth in love.

Some people who may appear to be safe are really just looking for a way to present themselves as superior. They may tell you the truth (i.e. “If you continue lusting over porn, you will destroy your life”), but they do so in a harsh, angry fashion. Safe people know how to tell you the truth in love. They are not pointing out your weaknesses to pump themselves up, but rather to help you move toward purity and a life that truly brings satisfaction.

6. Safe people pray for wisdom (i.e. they are humble).

Anyone willing to help another person with their most vulnerable area of weakness must understand that they need wisdom. And gaining wisdom requires humility (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”). You can often spot the safe people by how often they ask God for wisdom, knowing that apart from His leading they could lead you astray. These are the kind of people you want around when traveling the road to recovery.

7. Safe people help you get help.

Finally, safe people know their limitations and have a heart of willingness to get you the help you need. They will walk with you as you expand your network of support to include a counselor, support group, or other individuals to help you reach the goal of a godly life. When dealing with life’s difficulties you need those with a servant’s heart to lead you to the appropriate help.

As you walk through life, keep your eyes open for safe people. They will become your greatest assets in a life well lived.

For additional help locating ‘safe people’ through support groups and counselors, visit www.everymansbattle.com or call 1.800.NEW.LIFE.

Rebuilding Trust in Friendships

Clint Thomas

Friendships can be an incredible source of stability, encouragement and strength. God said in Genesis 2:18, ‘It is not good for man to be alone,’ thus the friendship between Adam and Eve began. Also in Hebrews 10:24-25 we are exhorted to, ‘spur one another on toward love and good deeds as well as maintain meeting together for the purposes of encouragement.” In other passages (Eph. 4, 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12) Paul talks of Christians working together as a body in interdependence. All throughout scripture we see examples of the importance of friendships.

A good friendship requires maintenance and care, time and attention. Something we guys don’t think much about this part of friendship, expecting that it won’t require any effort. In effect we sometimes treat friendships as if they have very little value. In large part we have not been taught how to maintain or value these relationships. An unfortunate fact about our culture today is that most men have very few friends compared to women. As a result this has negative effects on our emotional and physical health.

Friendships are primarily about intimacy; knowing another person and being known. The phrases ‘see into me’ or ‘into me see’ describe it well.

Maintenance within a friendship is allowing yourself to be fully known and showing interest in knowing the other person. When this happens a deep connection can be experienced. However, what happens when we are caught up in sin that we are ashamed to share with our friends? Can we be intimate and hide simultaneously?

This is the ultimate struggle in friendships and marriage for that matter; allowing our sin to be known as well as our positive qualities. I hear from wives who are broken by their husband’s sexual sin say, ‘I thought I knew him but I guess I didn’t. I feel so hurt, I don’t know if I can ever trust him again’.

They feel betrayed, foolish and vulnerable. While wives are our closest friends, our other friends will sometimes feel similar.

Friendships are like taking a walk with someone. The further you travel the closer you become. However, at the point you begin to lie, or deceive, you are no longer walking with that person even though they think you are. You have chosen a separate fork in the road.

Rebuilding the friendship is much like walking back to the fork in the road where you separated from your friend and starting from that point forward. Your friend will know that you are trustworthy by your willingness to do this without defensiveness. They will see they are important to you by your willingness to put this kind of effort forward to restore trust with them.

A trustworthy person will have words and deeds that match. What they say and what they do will be the same. They will also acknowledge when they have hurt someone. Taking responsibility for their actions, they will apologize. Their non-verbal communication such as body posture and facial expressions will match this as well. When this repentant stance is taken over a period of time trust will begin to build.

A repentant heart leads to rebuilding trust and reconciliation can be the end result. You don’t have any guarantees that your friend will respond to your efforts but you will never know unless you put the effort forward. When your friend knows that you mean what you say he can trust that it will be safe to get close to you and reconcile an intimate relationship.

The Greek term for reconcile is to bring back to a former state of harmony. This harmony can only be gained when there is true repentance on the offender’s part and therefore safety in the relationship.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle and The New Life Weekend.

Looking at Your Life: Grieving Childhood Losses

Lance David

Most of the men I see in therapy who struggle with sexual addiction and temptation have no idea what is driving their battle. What I often hear from them is that it seems like they were just born with an overactive sex drive. However, something else is going on in the person who uses sex in an addictive manner. Addictive behaviors do not make the addict feel good even though they would seem to. Instead, they numb a person to what seems unmanageable to him.

One of the most common factors that contributes to sexually acting out is shame from childhood wounds. By exploring and grieving these wounds, the roots of the weed of addiction are attacked.

No one would deny that it is important how we raise children. Good parents protect, nurture, correct, affirm, and discipline their kids, all the while knowing that they cannot always keep them from harm. Why is it then that so many adults say their childhood had no effect on them or they had no childhood hurts?

Often I hear statements like the following: ‘The past is in the past. Just leave it there.’ ‘What good would it do to blame others for what they did to me?’ ‘I can’t do anything about it so why bother.’ ‘The Bible says, ‘forgetting what lies behind, I press on…’ ‘ Let’s look at these objections to looking at the past, and consider what a healthy model of grieving one’s childhood losses might look like and bring about.

I would agree that there are ways a person can look at his past that would not be helpful. One such way is to play the blame game. Blame merely keeps a person just as stuck if he doesn’t address his wounds in the first place. Both options do not take the sovereignty of God seriously. God knows everything that has happened to us and his desire is to take the good, the bad, and the ugly and turn it into something beautiful for His glory. When we refuse to look at our past, we keep a door closed that God may want opened so He can move in and through us more freely.

When Paul writes in Philippians 3:13, ‘forgetting what lies behind,’ he is not commanding or even suggesting we forget our past. Rather, Paul is making a rhetorical descriptive statement of what he is doing. Much of scripture is telling stories of the past, many of them painful. Looking at the context of this passage, the past about which Paul says he is forgetting is limited. Paul says he is forgetting the accomplishments he had thought during his Pharisaical days gave him a right standing before God. He was not forgetting his entire life history, merely his religious performance. So this passage should not be used to avoid looking at the past.

One exercise I like to give my clients is an impact egg. I take a piece of paper and draw a large egg on it. Then I draw horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines on the egg to make compartments. I ask my client to draw or write something in each compartment that represents a story of impact in his life. Each story can be positive or negative and they need not be in chronological order, but should include ones as early as a man can remember. I encourage men to tell their stories of impact to as many others who will give a receptive ear. But men should make sure they tell someone who will give them feedback on their emotional processing as they tell their stories. I have heard heartbreaking tales of pain and loss told to me by the person who lived it as if he were describing the scores of a ball game- or worse, with a laugh. What this person needs is the feedback of a safe friend who can create the space to allow the emotion- whether it be fear, sadness or anger- to flow.

Most men learned at a very young age that it is not okay to be a male and show that you have hurts. We have all been made fun of, shamed, punished, or withdrawn from for showing emotion–especially crying. The impact of this is to send our emotional selves, our hearts, into hiding. When we are not able to feel for ourselves, we have to do something to take the pain away. Many turn to sex in an attempt to quell an ache they do not even know they have or just because it has become the repository for all unmanageable feelings. However, looking at our past and the wounds we have sustained can help open our hearts to allow God to break in with His healing touch.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.