The Pursuit of Purity

Psalm 119:9: ‘How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.‘  Matthew 5:8: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

Pursuing purity is a reality for every believer in Christ. Yes, even those who struggle with sexual addiction and lust. What seems impossible with man is possible with God. God is able to transform us through the renewing of our mind and lives.

I see purity as an attitude of the heart that will result in a lifestyle change. It is an active decision every day to commit yourself to the pursuit of purity. ‘One day at a time’ is the expression used in AA. Each morning you decide for moral purity. Keeping yourself pure according to ‘Thy word’ requires a daily plan. Essential to your plan is another heart attitude, humility.

Humility is best reflected in the example Christ set for us to follow. Paul, in Philippians 2: 3-8, reminds us of the importance of focusing on the needs of others and not exclusively our own, which so characterizes our selfish nature. Humility of mind reminds me daily that, apart from Christ, I can do nothing. I am dependent on Him to be able to live right. Pride is the opposite of humility, an attitude that says I can do this myself without God. Just remember where that attitude (pride) got you.

So the commitment to be morally pure is a daily one, where you build new patterns of thinking and behaving motivated by a change in heart. Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 1:5-8:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Job made a covenant with his eyes to not look lustfully on a woman. Learning to turn away from lustful thoughts requires the daily discipline of replacing old thoughts and sinful patterns with new and God honoring ones. In your daily plan, be sure to include scripture memorization, mediation, and study of God’s word. Find a bible study group or take a class with others. Learning the scriptures and encouraging one another makes studying enjoyable and enriching. Doing this also helps you build relationships where you can develop accountability and fellowship.

Another part of your daily plan in pursuit of purity is to have a means of confession or honest discussion about your thought life. I know that when we admit any thoughts that bother us to another, the thoughts lose their power. Having another person pray with you can really encourage you. James 5:16 is a reminder of the power of confession, and Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us ‘to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.’ Having another person to share with also helps you overcome the deceitfulness of your own heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Asking someone to mentor you in the spiritual disciplines can really be helpful. Look for people who have walked with the Lord and have a mature walk with God. Ask your Pastor for guidance to find someone to mentor you. Sponsors, like mentors, are very helpful in your specific area of recovery. They guide and coach you in the recovery process. A spiritual mentor may not have specific knowledge about addiction, but would bring the wisdom and knowledge that comes with walking in relationship with God. You need both.

In closing, as you seek God in pursuit of purity, He will enable you to develop the disciplines that have been lacking in your life. Ask Him to give you a heart inclined towards purity. As Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle and our Resources for Men.

Chris Cole

Recovering Accountability

Oh no, not another accountability pep talk! I know: I can’t fight this battle alone; I’m hiding behind a mask if I don’t tell someone; it’s not surrendering my manliness; my objection is rooted in pride that says I don’t need help. But I think I’m one of the ones that can do this on my own, so let’s move on to something more important like the eschatological implications of the vicarious atonement!

Not so fast there brother. Think about this for a minute. One of our greatest problems in dealing with sexual addiction is believing that we know what is best for ourselves, and detaching from others because we do not want anyone violating our manhood by telling us what to do. So we continue blindly down the same road of destruction that brought us to where we are.

Accountability is not just a suggested weapon to have on hand in case we need it. No, it’s one of the most powerful weapons we have in the battle against sexual addiction. The use of that weapon gets us connected to others so we can fight against something that, at least for a moment is more powerful than we are. Ultimately, it provides support in a battle that simply cannot be fought alone. Do you remember reading somewhere that it is not good for man to be alone?

Let’s look at accountability in terms of connection. Connection with others is a fundamental part of our recovery process because it’s an essential part of our character growth. Whether we like it or not most of life involves people. It’s a reality that we all must face, and one that shapes and tests our character.

The deep desire of our heart is to be understood, known and connected to others, not detached. This is part of God’s created design of us. It’s true whether you’re an introvert or extrovert here. Being connected is about being mutually and emotionally invested in another person. It’s how we started in the world ‘ bonded to our mother and, hopefully to our father. Ouch! That one makes many of us wince.

The sad reality is that many of us choose to remain detached and impenetrable. In doing so we develop too much of a gap for others to bridge to our hearts. Simon and Garfunkel wrote about this in their song, I am a rock, I am an island, which includes these words:

I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty; that none may penetrate. I have no need for friendship, friendship causes pain; it’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. Hiding in my room, safe within my womb; I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island; and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.

This is not the experience of someone whose character is healthy and growing.

God’s design is that we develop deep connections throughout our lives because it gives us a context in which to grow, be secure and able to deal with life. To do this we have to move away from ourselves as the primary reference point and towards knowing and valuing others. If we were in those kinds of relationships most of us would not be in the mess we’re in right now.

So, get connected and recover accountability into your recovery plan. At its root accountability is a simple word that means “the willingness to stand up and be counted as part of a committed process.” If you see it in this way accountability is less something I’m held to, or something done to me; rather, it reflects my personal choice and willingness to contribute to an expressed outcome ‘ my sexual purity and integrity.

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

Brad Stenberg

Command and Control

Dan Jenkins

About a week ago I heard President Bush mention that the United States is going to help the new Iraqi government build Command and Control Centers in order to fight the insurgency. When I heard the phrase, ‘Command and Control’ several recollections came to mind. I recall several years ago during the initial phase of the Iraqi war our primary objective was to knock out their command and control centers in order to create confusion and lack of direction among the troops loyal to Saddam Hussein. I also couldn’t help but relate this whole idea of command and control to how the mind works.

Individually, a lack of command and control takes a person down the path of confusion and chaos that is so characteristic of addictive behavior.

It’s been said that an army without the structure of command is led around by its privates. What an appropriate analogy for a sexual addiction! In fact, the rational thinking of your mind is done in the outer layer of your cerebral cortex, and that layer is only a few millimeters in thickness. The cortex makes all the big decisions and psychologists have come to refer to this activity as the ‘executive functions of the brain.’

Below the cortex, running through the heart of your brain like a wishbone, is the limbic system and the source of your emotions. The limbic system is concerned with only a few basic things.

When you walk into a room the first thing your limbic system does is threat assessment, ‘Should I fight or run?’ If there is no threat the question becomes, ‘Is it food and can I eat it?’ If it’s not food the final concern of the limbic system is, ‘Can I have sex with it?’ What do you think would happen if the executive functions that exert command and control over the lower levels of the brain were knocked out by, let us say, a strategically placed cruise missile? The brain would function like an army without an executive commander and the result would be chaos, lack of control, and yes, men being led around by their privates.

Did you know that there are more inhibitory neurons in your brain than there are excitatory neurons? In other words, more effort is spent mentally keeping you from doing things than the energy it takes to do things. Let me clarify this further with some examples. People with brain damage are often impulsive in their actions. They don’t seem to have the executive functions that inhibit impulsive acting out behavior. It takes effort for the rational side of your brain to control the impulsive, emotional side.

Now, add to this that the Limbic system, the emotional part of your brain, does not have an understanding of time or reality. Fantasy seems to satisfy almost as well as reality. For example, you fool your limbic system every time you create a sexual fantasy and your body becomes sexually aroused. You know in your cerebral cortex that this is not reality, but that old limbic system doesn’t seem to know or care.

What happens, then, when you give command and control functions over to that base, lower level, emotional part of your brain? Answer: You stop living in reality. You start living a life of impulsivity and chaos. People who have lost executive functions, either by brain damage or addictive processes, feel threatened by things that should not evoke a fight or flight response. Without command and control, people develop anxiety disorders (see threat everywhere), eat excessively, or become sexually out of control. Sound familiar?

When a person with brain damage has lost command and control over their behaviors, we don’t lay big guilt trip on them. The answer is fairly simple. We structure their environment so they are more likely to succeed. For example, sometimes mentally retarded individuals self-stimulate by banging their heads against a wall. Lectures and shame-based approaches don’t change the self-abusive behavior because it’s not based in rational thought. Instead, we take away a little of their freedom and make them wear a helmet.

People with sexual addictions need some external control too (no, not chastity belts). We call it accountability to someone else. Submit yourself to the authority of another person who can help you make those tough decisions. It’s humbling but the alternative is to stay emotionally retarded.

If your command and control centers are not functioning correctly, seek out someone else who will fulfill that function to some degree. I’ve known very intelligent men who are being led around by their limbic systems because they have a long history or relinquishing control of their executive functions to their basic instincts. It’s very humbling to realize that the path to regaining control involves other people but accountability partners will help you start thinking again with your cerebral cortex.

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