Is Confession All That Matters In Recovery?

Jonathan Daugherty

Is confession all that matters in recovery? If we continue to admit our faults and failures, is that enough to live a life of ongoing purity, or is there more to the equation of freedom than simply admitting time and again that we are broken and imperfect? I propose that confession is only half of the equation when it comes to living each day in sexual purity.

Repentance is the ‘other half’ of this coin of recovery.

Confession is certainly necessary for recovery to begin, and even to move forward. To confess is to agree with truth. We confess that we are not perfect (true). We confess that we have a problem with lust – or whatever the particular struggle may be (true). We confess that we need help and cannot overcome our faults and failures alone (true). We confess each time our thoughts or actions do not match up with what God has said is good or right, and in so doing we agree with truth. Confession is an honest assessment and expression of reality. But confession alone does not change behavior. No, confession invites the forgiveness and cleansing of God on to our broken lives, but it is repentance that ultimately changes the course of our recovery over the long haul.

I used to think that if I just got really good at confessing my faults and failures as quickly as possible to when they occurred that I would become a different man. Unfortunately, all I learned from such a venture was how desperately wicked my sinful nature was and how often I must confess. Nothing seemed to change, at least not in significant, lasting ways. I just confessed and confessed and confessed. Mostly, I just confessed the same failures over and over again. This didn’t seem like progress (I’m not the brightest kid in the class, but I can deduce that repeating the same failures does not equal positive growth). Each confession did bring about a cleansing, a sort of “start-over-point” as promised by God (1 John 1:9), but this didn’t seem to do much for gaining traction in overcoming these vice-like sins. There always seemed to be an ‘ingredient’ missing in acquiring the long-term victory my heart craved.

Then I discovered the key to gaining ground against the ever-chasing pull of lust: applying the practice of repentance.

Repentance is the process of turning away from anything opposed to truth. Repentance provides the balance to confession. We confess to agree with truth, and then we repent to turn away from the opposing thought, belief, or action that prompted the confession. Through repentance we train our minds and hearts to focus on that which leads to life and freedom: truth (John 8:32). And as we continually turn toward truth we experience the power of God unleashed on the false thoughts, beliefs, and actions that seek to pull us again into darkness, shame, and despair.

One of the biggest challenges to repentance is pride. We truly believe we know what is best for our lives, even if it may be killing us. We think we can reason our way out of the lustful trap we are caught in, rather than surrendering ourselves, through repentance, to the truth of God’s Word and His ways. Pride is an ugly beast, but so often goes unrecognized as we wiggle and squirm out of the loving invitation of repentance and new way of life. But to become a new person, a free, pure child of God, we must die to our pride and invite, even embrace, the path of repentance.

Another harmful opponent to repentance is minimizing our sin. We deceive ourselves into believing that our problems aren’t as big as they really are and that we can successfully manage our sexuality without anybody’s help (minimizing and pride often travel together). We say we have a ‘little’ problem with porn or that we ‘aren’t hurting anyone.’ The longer we play with the fires of pride and minimizing the further we drift from repentance and the more we will suffer the consequences (Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Prov. 6:27).

Does confession matter in recovery? Absolutely! But without repentance, confession only serves to perpetually wash over the same stain again and again without ever effectively seeking to remove it. Repentance, therefore, compliments confession by guiding us toward the proper focus and perspective once we receive the refreshing cleansing brought about by humble, honest confession. May you allow your times of confession to remind you to take the additional step toward long-term freedom by also repenting. This is the path to true and lasting freedom…

For help on this subject please see Every Man’s Battle.

The Importance of Grace in Recovery

Jonathan Daugherty

My daughter just started kindergarten this week. What an exciting time of new beginnings and endless possibilities. These first few steps of her educational journey are memorable and mark the start of a truly adventurous quest for increased knowledge. The buzz created in our home because of my daughter’s first days of school caused me to reflect on the process of recovery and the essential ingredient to lasting purity: grace.

One thing I can assure my daughter (as well as you who are hiking the trail toward purity) is that the journey has obstacles. Just as my daughter will encounter barriers to her educational growth, so too will you encounter seemingly insurmountable challenges in your pursuit of sexual purity. You may hit a wall of frustration, boredom, or temptation in your recovery. The fact that recovery requires resistance is sometimes discouraging to the point of wanting to give up. But rather than take the path of least resistance (which only leads to more pain and disappointment), press forward on the path to personal purity.

The challenges we face in our pursuit of purity are no secret. Laziness, pride, temptation, even relapse. These obstacles attempt to impede our progress and reignite the deadly flames of shame in our minds and hearts. If we allow them to stunt our growth in recovery, we lose momentum and soon find ourselves contemplating old acting out behaviors. From there it is a short trip to deeper bondage in sexual sin.

What then allows a man to break through these barriers and enjoy ongoing, long-term freedom in sexual purity? A proper understanding and application of grace is a great starting point. Grace is God’s favor poured out on undeserving, sin-stained men just like you and me. It is God’s continual “stamp” of approval and acceptance on His children. As God’s child, you are forever engaged by him within the loving boundaries of grace – even when discipline is necessary. To understand such grace begins to put into perspective the many obstacles along the road to purity.

How do you apply this grace in a practical sense when faced with a very real obstacle such as temptation or laziness? First, you must recognize that something has gone awry in your recovery plan. The ship is taking on water, so-to-speak, and something needs to be done to correct it. Let’s say you realize that you have begun to drift toward certain sexual temptations, maybe lingering on seductive websites or TV shows. You haven’t “crossed the line” to porn, but you are drifting. Applying grace to such a situation would include first recognizing that a drift is occurring, and then reminding yourself that whatever you choose to do from that point on, God still loves you. That’s right. Grace is given, not because it is deserved, but because of Christ’s sacrifice for you. Most often, such a reminder will cause you to see that any more movement toward sin would only bring pain, shame, and disappointment. Grace, therefore, leads us to repentance and purity.

I once knew a counselor who used a very unconventional practice to help smokers overcome their habit (and I am not necessarily recommending it here). After several months in counseling and support group therapy, the counselor would instruct his clients to spend one week carrying a pack of cigarettes in their pockets. Not so they would smoke them, but rather so they knew that at any moment they could pull one out if they chose to. This counselor wanted to teach his clients that they had a choice – they did not need to be controlled by the cigarettes, they could choose what to do with their lives. Grace often reminds us of this scary truth – we have a choice. We can choose to walk humbly before God and others and receive the blessings of God’s grace, or we can choose to live in pride, calling the shots and suffer the consequences of isolation, shame, and broken relationships.

Seeing my daughter’s excitement at beginning school also reminded me that the road to recovery is worth it. There is a benefit to pressing through the obstacles and discomfort to reap the reward of peace and true contentment. Although there may be moments (even seasons) of difficulty and disappointment, the long-term results of a lifestyle of purity are worth it. And for every moment, or season, of obstacles and challenges, we are assured that God’s grace is sufficient.

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.

‘Ka-CHOO’

Martin Fierro

Because a Little Bug went Ka-Choo is a silly focus of a book where Dr. Seuss details the ongoing impact of one seemingly small act, a sneeze, which leads to a large disastrous result. At each step of the intensifying destructive storm, the bug follows along in horror of what has resulted from the onset of his behavior. The end of the story concludes with unsettling chaos within the city, which is not any where near being controlled. The last picture of the bug who sneezed is a display of, ‘oh my, look what I did, I am ashamed of myself.’

When a man truly works through his crisis of truth where he has to confront his sexual addiction, he starts to recognize the impact of his seemingly little action on his life environment (family, friends, co-workers, church etc’). There will be raw moments of discouragement, frustration, embarrassment, shame, guilt. In such, it is virtually impossible to escape the snare of depression.

Recovery and depressed moods do frequently go hand in hand. Once in sobriety, uncovered wounds must be dealt with to truly ‘move on’ from the snare of the addiction. Reconciliation with others and personal healing is an initial focus of recovery/sobriety from sexually addictive behavior. But when the momentum for this recovery/sobriety is not in the optimum desired fashion, or rapid speed, men can become depressed and experience a sense of hopelessness. A ‘why bother’ attitude can settle in as well.

In that, working sobriety is a two-edged sword. The one side is the reclaiming of the healthy life God desires for you and the relationship you are in (or going to be in). The other side of the sword is the pain of facing the feelings and thoughts that got you to this point in life (the seemingly little sneeze idea). The actions towards reconciliation with yourself, your relationships with others and with God will naturally cast a light on your soul where you will have to face the true despair of your actions.

Through the ongoing recovery and reflection of life many men will begin to see the very small acts of life that began the ripple effect leading to the complete snare of addiction. This is why it is so important to have a support group and a professional therapist to assist you through these times. If it is attempted alone, the chances for being stuck in those moments (even without realizing it) are extremely high.

Again, it is a benefit when a man turns away from sexual vices pursuing daily sobriety because it does him well to recognize the triggers that led to the disastrous result. Much of that is the turning back the pages of life, facing painful experiences and feelings while recognizing the results from one situation to another.

For some to recognize the impact of the ‘Ka-Choo’ moments in their life can bring on great despair and grief. In the recovery process depression can set in as you turn back the pages of your life to face and come to peace with wounds (humiliation, incompetence, insignificance, and powerlessness) that occurred in your life.

Maybe you are recognizing that the depressed moods you have been struggling with have caused some difficulty in your life: trouble sleeping, changes in your eating habits, significant weight change, difficulty with concentration, feelings of hopelessness, or thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself. These are significant symptoms and signs that you should seek professional mental health support.

Depressed moods can be extremely powerful and debilitating and should not be taken lightly. To find professional support to manage and work through the depressed moods you are suffering from call 1-800 NEW LIFE. As with the recovery process from your sexual vices, depression is something you should never go through alone. Seek help and talk with others confirming your experience. And most importantly don’t underestimate the ripple effects of depressed moods through your recovery process. It may seem like a simple episode but if the depressed moods affect your daily routine and functioning, seek professional help.

See Every Man’s Battle for support.