Grieving Personal Wounds

Bob Parkins

While recently at an Every Man’s Battle conference, the group I was facilitating had been processing the relationship between personal wounds and sexually acting-out. While it is often exciting to watch men reconnect with their hearts and risk vulnerability by sharing painful experiences, I encountered quite a bit of resistance from the group. Men often ask me the purpose of “rehashing” the past, “blaming” one’s parents, or they will give me a monologue on “choices” and “personal responsibility.” Their questions are fair and deserve answers, but to miss the issues behind them is to miss the heart of the man that asks.

Some wounds leave us so deeply injured that even looking at them can be terrifying. We are not only afraid of hurting again but we dread uncovering unknown fear. Sadly, we trade God’s healing touch for the certainty of the mundanely dulled and bruised heart. To us, this can feel better than the dread of having our hearts split open, spilling into our own consciousness or for others to see. But whether we acknowledge it or not, we still bleed from within. This is why our addictions have kept us in bondage for so many years. Willingly and sometimes happily, through acting-out, we turned our backs on our own hearts as they bleed from within. Acknowledging a wounded heart is not “rehashing,” “blaming,” or skirting “responsibility” for our own actions/transgressions. When we acknowledge our woundedness we are taking responsibility for our hearts, and that honors God.

Acknowledgement moves us closer to truly surrendering these wounds to God so He may begin to heal them. God patiently respects our unwillingness to acknowledge wounds, for a while. Fortunately he also loves us enough, that in our unwillingness, he allows crisis to bring us face-to-face with our wounds and our transgressions. For many men struggling with sexual addiction, a crisis of truth may take the form of having one’s transgressions exposed. While this is usually humiliating, I frequently remind couple’s of God’s graciousness and his heart for them. A loving father does not allow his son/daughter to continue in sin indefinitely without confrontation. Being brought to a crisis of truth is an opportunity and chance for redemption. For some, it may not be possible to reconcile a broken marriage, but for many others it is still possible. Regardless of what is lost, a chance is given to reconcile with God and with self. Reconciliation with self can never happen without an honest look at one’s wounds.

Healing wounds can start with resistance. Like any other feeling, resistance can tell you something about yourself. If you feel defensive or resistant about an issue, you may actually be afraid to address it. Your resistance may be telling you to dig deeper and deal with some specifics of an issue. It is not “rehashing,” but addressing the issue or wound. You may have a pattern of acting-out sexually to deal with the wound. If you are taking responsibility for your wound by addressing it honestly, you cannot be “blaming.” God will honor your efforts to take responsibility and will graciously see you through the process of healing your wounds, if you let him (Rom 8:28).

For more help in the battle for purity and integrity see Every Man’s Battle.
If you are married and have attended Every Man’s Battle, we encourage you and your wife to join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Finding Ms. Right

Sam Fraser

If you read Bob Parkin’s article, Healthy Dating in Recovery, you will find that he gave some important insight for single guys and dating regarding accountability, boundaries, and intimacy. Continuing along those same lines, I’d like to give you a couple clues to finding Ms. Right.

There is a reason God says wait until marriage for sexual intercourse. Among the myriad of reasons, one sure-fire reason is that it is for our own protection. As men, we are often identified as having two brains, (I think most of you know, and the rest of you can guess, where the second brain is, right?). Not sexualizing a relationship is the absolute best remedy for keeping our judgment clear and our priorities straight. But if that bridge is crossed prematurely, our reasoning gets all discombobulated and our judgment becomes blinded. Guys, sex changes everything. Once sexual activity is introduced into the equation, we lose an important part of our sensibility. Our sexual desire, or lust, can become the primary motivation for pursuing Ms. Right Now instead of Ms. Right! How much you desire her body has nothing to do with her being right as a marital partner for life. Don’t be blinded by that second brain. Just because it feels good, doesn’t make it true.

Let’s face it guys, sex is overrated as the answer to all of our problems. God’s plan for finding Ms. Right is much broader than how she makes us feel sexually. If that becomes the main focus, disappointment will soon follow. Sex was never intended as the be all, cure all. Once sex falls short as the answer to all of a man’s problems, some men will turn to sexual addiction as a cheap alternative to the real deal.

So, then, what is the real deal? How do we find Ms. Right? What is she like and how will we recognize her?

A much better criterion for the long haul is to develop a deep friendship with someone that you find attractive–attractive being the operative word, which is something much better and more noble than mere lust. Over and over I have encountered this common factor in successful marriages. When the husband says that his wife has become his best friend, take it to the bank.

Being married to your best friend will provide the emotional spark that can be fostered and kept alive with time and effort. This will keep the connection strong. If you cannot be vulnerable and share your deepest needs, dreams and fears with your girlfriend now, then seriously ask yourself why not? If it isn’t happening now, marriage will not cure it.

One thing that is a common theme for Every Man’s Battle participants is they have a secret life. Having a secret life is the opposite of having marital intimacy. A man who gets married without having the skill or courage to disclose important feelings and thoughts is sure to feel very lonely and isolated. So it is crucial to develop an openness during dating. If you can’t open up now, openness just won’t magically occur once you are married. Therefore, don’t underestimate the importance of having a woman with whom you can develop an intimate friendship. With that said, here are a couple of key factors for evaluating potential Ms. Rights:

1) How well do you share your feelings with her now? Is she safe and trustworthy or does she bring out your dirty laundry and shame you with it already? It needs to be discussed and resolved. If she can’t be a person who is safe and trustworthy then it is better to find that out now rather than later. Most women desire that kind of connection, and nine times out of ten, she will be accepting of our fear and shame, and will reject or humiliate us when we disclose them to her.

2) Take some risks and share feelings that are painful. Women respect men who have feelings and share them, particularly feelings that are hard to share, or that have previously been kept secret. From a male’s perspective, we don’t place such a premium upon that need; so if you can develop that with her in intimate friendship, then you are well on the way.

The interesting thing is that developing that intimate emotional bond with your future wife now will naturally translate into greater romantic intimacy later. Then sexual fulfillment will take care of itself.

The greatest testimony to this is that older couples with secure relationships are far more likely to have highly gratifying sex lives. That is because those couples have special bonds of deep friendship and devoted love for one another, bonds that have been built and strengthened because they have become best friends to one another. Think about it…

Reality Sets In

Wes Mason

This past weekend I helped teach junior high boys at our church’s Disciple Now weekend. The group was made up of kids of all shapes, sizes, and levels of maturity, but all sharing the awkwardness common to the age and matching bright yellow t-shirts that bore the retreat’s theme in big, black letters across the chest: Reality Sets In. These young men were challenged to respond to the reality that they needed God in their lives. For many of them this reality apparently did set in, as several of them accepted Christ during the retreat.

As the retreat progressed my thoughts strayed to another group of men more than a thousand miles away. At that same time 74 men were gathered in the Washington, DC area for our monthly Every Man’s Battle workshop, having traveled from more than a dozen states and as far away as France and Russia. It occurred to me that some of these men may have also made their decision to accept Christ way back in junior high, just like these retreat kids. But now they were challenged to respond to a new reality they were facing. It was a sobering thought. These young guys at a retreat in Melissa, Texas have no idea the kinds of struggles that may be headed their way in the years ahead; these men in Washington probably could not have imagined when they first became a believer that years or decades later they would become so ensnared by sexual temptation.

When it comes to sexual temptation, there isn’t just one reality that sets in, but a series of them; in the workshop we call them crises of truth. As a man moves down the path from small-scale flirtation with sexual temptation to sexual addiction, these realities get more difficult to face; the consequences become less controllable. In this way sexual addiction is like cancer. Most are not terminal, and even the bad ones can often be conquered or managed if caught early enough. If left too long without attention, however, the options to control the outcome become more limited.

So, what do you do when you’re finally serious about working on your sexual integrity and then discover that there are consequences to your past actions that don’t easily erase? Maybe you’ve done all the right things: surrendered, disclosed, gotten into a program, taken actions to make amends, and gotten an accountability partner. You felt the freedom that comes from finally seeing the burden of your secrets lifted. You had reached the darkness at the bottom and are on your way up and out. Unlike your failed attempts in the past, which had an action plan consisting of willpower alone, this time you’re taking this seriously and you’re finding success. Nice feeling.

But it’s at this point, when the battle’s momentum seems to finally be turning your way, that you may face one of the most difficult realities and least nice feelings of all: the consequences of that past behavior. Sexual sin damages relationships most of all, so it is not surprising that relationship repair is one of the most difficult steps in the road to recovery. How do you face this reality and repair the damage to these relationships? Here are some ideas on how to start with the two most affected relationships a man in this situation faces: with God, and with his wife

Relationship to God: We are fortunate that God has a long history of restoring broken relationships. He is well-practiced at it after interacting with us over an entire human history filled with our failings. Our failures, no matter how serious, do not shock God. He is also committed to relationship restoration, going so far as to send his Son to the cross to demonstrate that commitment. We see the historical examples of men who have fallen much further than we have, such as David, who was restored to be a man after God’s own heart. We relate intimately to the words of the apostle Paul in which he shares his pain with the believers in Rome, where he says,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord’Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In your desire to restore your relationship with God, you have the benefit of God doing much of the work. You have a guarantee from God that if you want to restore the relationship with Him, and take the steps toward restoration mentioned above, restoration is yours. No exceptions, no concern that God will reject your repentance and heartfelt commitment to change.

Relationship to Our Wives: Perhaps you’re on that steady path of recovery; you’re action plan is in place, you’re reassured by the knowledge of God’s still loves you and forgives you despite your failings. But your wife isn’t sure she loves or forgives you; worse yet, she may be convinced that she is no longer capable of either. What do you do?

First, it’s important to understand that your wife is not obligated to simply put the past behind her, and isn’t likely to do so, at least not quickly. Worse yet, she may never be able to get over this completely, or at all. Recently on our radio program Steve Arterburn was talking to a caller who was involved with this kind of problem. He asked the caller to go through a mental exercise that is worth sharing. Imagine that you are standing on a floor with your feet together. Draw a line on the floor around your feet, about two feet out. Inside this line is everything in this world you have control over. Talk about reality setting in; you can only control what you do with your recovery, not how someone else responds to it. That small circle of control can make a man feel a bit claustrophobic, especially if he’s the controlling type, a common characteristic of the sex addict.

The good news is that what you do with your recovery is likely to be highly influential in how your wife responds. If she is listening to good counsel, she’ll be giving little attention to your words and a lot of attention to your actions. She needs to see with her own eyes, over time, a man who is living a life of sexual integrity. Very slowly, depending on what she sees in your life, the trust may begin to return.

This slower approach may be difficult to accept, and there may be a temptation to pressure her to come along at your pace, rather than her own. Professional counselors will tell you, however, that if she is too quick to forgive and forget, without resolving her feelings of betrayal, her anger will find its way back into your relationship in less obvious ways.

The challenge for a man who has fallen but now strives for sexual integrity is to demonstrate, over time with consistency, that he is a changed man. If he does that, the reality is that everything else is in God’s hands; not such a bad place to be for a believer, regardless of whatever other consequences may come his way.

If you would like additional help in restoring your marriage, we encourage you to prayerfully consider attending one of our couples groups at our next New Life Weekend.