Defining Ourselves Differently

Its Sunday, and the Every Mans Battle workshop ended just a few hours ago. One of the guys said before he left:

“Today I choose to live as a son, no longer in the shame of my addiction but in the freedom of what Jesus has done for me.”

His perception of himself shifted this weekend. He arrived defining himself as the sum total of his bad choices. He left acknowledging that he has done a bunch of really bad things, yet that’s not who he is. Or better said; Whose he is. He was able to see that the very fact that he had done so many bad things was indicative of his need for a savior. And not just to remove guilt, but to confirm belonging. He belongs to Jesus. In Christ we find the truth that we are dearly loved and infinitely valuable.

Does all this mean he isn’t responsible for the pain he’s caused? No. Does it guarantee he’ll never do it again? No. Does it mean his marriage will be restored? Not necessarily.

But it does mean that he can stop hating himself. It does mean he can stop trying to perform his was into a deeper relationship with Jesus. And the byproduct of those 2 things alone often result in less acting out. The downward spiral is coming screeching to a halt and a new, redemptive ripple effect is beginning.

And that’s just 1 guy!

I love these weekends.

How I Handle Temptation

I was tempted to look at porn this morning.

As part of my job, I regularly read articles about sexual integrity issues and how culture is influencing our sexuality. Every so often I get slimed by an article that takes WAY too much liberty in what it shows in the form of video clips and pictures. By “slimed”, I mean blasted with pornographic material I did not ask for. They could prove their point with substantially less footage. That happened this morning.

An article I clicked on had a tantalizing video that I was tempted to click on. I did not click it. I hovered the mouse button over it for a second or two, but ultimately chose a different route.  I thought it might be helpful for some guys to know what that process of choosing a different route looked like. At least, looked like this time. Its certainly not the same every time. Here’s how it went…

1 – Recognize How I Rationalize (rationalize = Rational Lies): these are the reasons I come up with to justify my sin. It sounds like this in my head – “this video isn’t that bad, its right on the line”, “its part of my job, I have to see this stuff”, “nobody will know, so no big deal”.

2 – Refute the Rational Lies – this is talking myself through the truth and grounding myself in reality – “everyone who matters will eventually know; the truth always comes out”, “you will literally lose everything that is meaningful in your life over 1 click and a stupid video”, “ this is meaningless and completely unsatisfying and you’re only going to compound the already crappy feelings you’re experiencing”.

3 – Physical Move – I had to push back away from my desk, away from my computer. I needed a physical change of posture to reorient myself. It is almost symbolic; a literal backing away translates to a mental and emotional backing away.

4 – Diagnostics – Taking a few minutes to diagnose what I am feeling and why. This morning I felt disappointment due to the fact that all 3 of my kids are sick, and someone in our house has been sick since Christmas. It has been very difficult. I also felt misunderstood this morning, based on conversations Shelley and I had over the weekend.

I also had to assess which of the 3 I’s (Insignificance, Incompetence, Impotence) may have been tapped. This morning it was Impotence – meaning, powerlessness. I feel completely powerless over my kids’ health and over my wife’s stress.  I also felt helpless to get a break; people are counting on me as a counselor today and I can’t just cancel my day and go into hiding.

 5 – Do Something Meaningful – it helped me to switch gears and actually do something meaningful. That happened to be responding to an email from someone looking for help. I believe one of the key reasons guys get trapped in things like pornography is they don’t know what they’re living for.  If we don’t have something to wake up for, we’ll medicate having to wake up for nothing.

6 – Connect – As much as I wanted to isolate and pretend the temptation, the close call, and the small victory never happened, it did. And someone needs to know. They need to know I’m struggling, and be present with me in that pain and those triggers. They also need to about that immediate victory, to celebrate with me and encourage me. We preach this all the time at the Every Mans Battle Workshops; connection, accountability and relationship. So, I texted a few guys; they responded within minutes with prayer, encouragement and a reminder that I’m loved. It’s a sweet thing to give Jesus a chance to show up through people. Maybe if he wanted to be the only one through whom God’s mercy flowed, he would’ve stuck around a little longer, rather than delegating to the disciples.

7 – Stay in the Fight – meaning that temptation didn’t come, then go, and now its all good times and happy. It stuck with me through the day. I had to stay in the fight, deal with my emotions in healthy ways, stay connected with people, remain present in my life, and keep my guard up. Temptation is rarely one and done.

(not so) Happy Holidays

turkey1

The holidays are upon us and for many people, they aren’t so happy. The reason is that the holidays usually mean engagement with family, which can be incredibly triggering. This can be true for both a man struggling with sexual integrity issues and also for his wife.

For men, often family-of-origin issues are at play. It can be an interaction with dad that taps a nerve. Or it could be a comment from mom that just sits awkwardly.  It could be the house or a particular room in the house that brings back old memories. Whatever the event, it can be a trigger that catches people off-guard. Without realizing it, some of the old emotions can surface and subtly lure a man back towards medicating and acting out.

Likewise for wives, family and often (especially) the in-laws can be triggering. I hear stories of wives returning from Christmas with the husband’s family bearing resentment, anger, and also insight! They sometimes see relational dynamics that shed light on their husband’s mannerisms, attitudes and behavioral patterns. In fact, I frequently hear wives say they see the kid come out. In other words, they see the origin of some of the childish behavior they witness in their adult husbands.

All that said, here’s the good news: the holidays can be an incredible time of growth! Personally, we can grow by handling family triggers better than ever before. We can do intimacy (speaking non-sexually) with our spouses unlike ever before.  We can connect with the folks walking our journey with us. We can also let the difficulties drive us deeper towards Jesus.

So, a few of suggestions for this holiday season:

  1. Practice self-awareness through journaling. For both husband and wife, it is imperative to be dialed-in to what’s happening in your heart. Finishing your day with a quick download in your journal can be enough to process some of the emotions that could lead to acting out.
  2. If you know your family situation causes strife and is potentially toxic, prep your accountability partners/support people for daily phone calls to check in. It may be a 10-minute conversation with someone in your corner that can talk you off a ledge.  It can also be a conversation like this that helps you see your family with a new level of grace.
  3. Try to remember that everyone comes to the Thanksgiving table with a story. People show up with that story playing out, and sometimes it’s messy.
  4. Remember that no matter where you are in your story, you are not disqualified from helping someone bump into Jesus.