Dignity

This week while I was on New Life Live Radio the overwhelming theme was dignity. Or, better said, the lack, degradation and thievery there of. I want to spend a few minutes here talking about dignity.

Here’s the definition: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

For too many men, we’ve diminished our dignity through our involvement with pornography, prostitution, affairs and other sexual escapades. We’ve jettisoned our own sense of honor and respect. I don’t know about you, but in my addiction I hated seeing myself in the mirror. I just didn’t like the man looking back at me.

Likewise, many wives have diminished their dignity by being willing to accept their husbands’ wanton disregard for them. On radio, we talked with several wives who’ve resigned themselves to marriages fraught with sexual, spiritual, emotional and physical abuse. They’ve mistaken love for license, and in so doing have lost respect and honor for themselves. Many of those wives seemed to believe that they don’t deserve to be treated with honor and respect.

We are all men and women of worth, simply because God handcrafted us in his image. Neither the things we’ve done nor the things done to us have tarnished our true worth and dignity, it only informed our perception of it as rusty and dilapidated. Those things put blinders of shame on us to see ourselves through a foggy, dysfunctional and errant lens.

Part of our (Shelley and I) healing journey has been to recapture our sense of God-given dignity. I had to decide that I’m worth an intimate relationship with another human being, not just relegated to a fraudulent, empty life of sexual fantasy.

I had to decide, through God’s help, that the women I was engaging with, both online and off, were created in His image and, as such, they were women of worth and dignity. My abuse of them was in fact spitting in God’s face and giving him the bird.

Shelley had to decide that she was worth more than lies, secrets and settling for second best. She had to come to the conclusion that what God said about her is more important than what I was saying about her. She also had to decide that her self-respect and the respect of God was more important than anyone else’s respect on the planet.

I hope today you’ll also recapture your sense of dignity. You worthwhile and honorable, deserving of respect simply as a function of God having breathed life into you.

Who is Trust for?

Rebuilding trust is so difficult. But we sometimes make it more difficult, in fact even take steps backwards, when we forget who trustbuilding is for. Men will often say to their wives, “I just want you to trust me again” or “I hope one day you can trust me” but the essence of what they are saying is unfortunately self-centered. What they are really saying is, “I hope one day you’ll be less angry so I don’t have to deal with it” or “I hope one day we don’t have to talk about this anymore so I don’t have to feel guilt and shame”.

Too often we forget that our work in the aftermath of betrayal is to restore dignity to our spouses. One facet of that is restoring trust, which translates to a sense of security and feeling protected. When we become myopic and selfish we begin building trust for our own convenience and to lighten our own burden. What our wives need is to see us bear the burden with courage and to build trust for their sake.

Granted, it is understandable and isn’t wrong to want your wife to be less hurt, angry and beyond the conversation about the past. But, in the meantime, you pave the path for her to get there by sacrificing your own comfort and convenience. So as you pursue trust building, remember to ask who you are building trust for.

What Could Have Been

First, thanks to everyone who has responded to the survey. I’ll be taking it down soon, and will follow with a post on the results.

Next, I just want to address an issue that keeps coming up when I’m working with couples in recovery. I’m hoping that it saves some heartache, especially for wives, and also some exasperation for husbands.

The issue is stating what bad things could have happened but didn’t. Let me explain. A wife went out of town recently and her husband stayed home, lived with integrity, and honored her. Once she returned, they were talking about how the trip had gone and whether or not he had any struggles with temptation. He honestly admitted that yes, he had thought about looking at porn one night. She was irritated, but not angry. She expressed how disappointing it was to hear, and how she wished it was never an issue for him. Rather than hear her pain and empathize, he retorted with something along the lines of “give me a break, I handled it. I didn’t act out. I could’ve gone to a strip club and you would’ve never known, but I didn’t. Sorry, I’ll never be perfect”.

Now, he was genuinely trying to shed light on progress. But with poor delivery. And rather than make her feel safe and secure with his progress, she was simply reminded of how hurt and betrayed she felt. It wasn’t the least bit comforting to know he even thought about what he could get away with while she was gone. As you can imagine, the whole thing went south from there.

For this wife, her declaration of disappointment wasn’t a jab at her husband; it was simply an expression of emotion. It tapped into his shame though, and his response was to manipulate the situation to make her the problem by having unrealistic expectations (via the “I’ll never be perfect” comment). It would’ve been a simple conversation that ended rather quickly had he not popped off.

Remember that reassurance is underscored by empathy, not by painting a picture of how much worse a situation could have been.