Transparency in Recovery: A Vital Life Line

Ron Fevelo

“Transparency” If I may define the term for purposes of this article:

Transparency is the state of seeking to be open, candid and freely sharing about our inner world such that others will become more and more intimately acquainted with us.

Now, on the surface this may sound like a frightening concept and one that can only get in the way of being a “man in the world.” Well, in some ways that makes sense. It would be foolhardy to suggest that a man ought to be in the process of sharing of their inner self with all passersby. No, transparency must be tempered with common sense as well as with discretion. No man can be or ought to be always revealing his inner self.

Now, nearly everybody would agree that men ought to be honest, candid and frank with one another but this is not so easy to pull off in the daily grind of life. One of fundamental reason for this difficulty is that “real” men don’t, ‘show their cards’ so to speak. In a poker game you hide what’s going on on the other side of those playing cards hoping to project a false or deceptive sense of what’s really going on with your “hand.” Even more fundamental than any difficulties we may experience in revealing ourselves in a transparent way as ‘real men’ let us bear in mind that we have a far more daunting and pervasive challenge.

It happened quite a few years ago in a garden; one more beautiful than any before (because there weren’t any before) or since’.the garden of Eden! As the result of ‘the fall’ mankind broke intimacy and transparency with his Creator and had to wear a fig leaf to hide as it were, himself. This tragic occurrence has been the bane of man’s existence ever since. Not only did sin sever the perfection of that closeness with God but it seriously hampered the marital (as well as all other) relationships amongst human beings. (Fortunately, our Lord still knows us totally, intimately and perfectly.)

Many men who struggle with sexual purity will have a strong tendency to be anything but transparent. That is, they will probably increasingly feel the need to hide who they are as they become more and more given to the clandestine and become engulfed in the shame that attends to this situation. Further, this man may likely turn more and more to the object of his affection (porn, affairs, etc) which increases the shame, hiding (non-transparency) and may ultimately lead to (sexual) or other addictions.

So, what does the idea of transparency really have to do with the ‘battle?” Well, for those of you who are concerned that you may need the type of assistance given at the Every Man’s Battle Workshop let me note a few things’ When we seek to change the problems associated with sexual impurity and sexual acting out by entering the recovery process, we will find that those who have successfully established themselves in their recovery will be individuals who are, well, transparent. You will notice that they practice honesty and candor. That is, you will observe that they will talk about themselves; more specifically, they will regularly speak about their inner-world; their shortcomings, their joys and concerns, their fears and victories. They will demonstrate to their world that they know that they have nothing to hide. They are no longer living “the lie,” and don’t have a need to expend the energy to cloak themselves and hide from others.

The lifeline of transparency will connect a man to his inner world, which will allow and enable him to connect with his Lord and with other people more deeply and personally. The essence of this whole process finds its home in the well-known process of living a transformed life, which as Christians know, is an ongoing, life-long process. The process of living a transformed life involves a daily, life-long cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit as we become changed inwardly.

In summation, I believe that we ought to consider that in order to be a man who is going to be true, connected, healed and healthy, we do well to take seriously the idea of setting up a process that allows for others to “take a look” at our inner world. This process occurs naturally as an outgrowth of the process of recovery/transformation. The man who can strive for and begin to achieve the transparent lifestyle is the man who is on the way to being restored to what our Lord originally intended him to be.

How to Be a Good Listener to Your Wife’s Heart

Bob Parkins

Feeling like you are not heard, or misunderstood, is one of the fastest paths to loneliness. When we don’t believe that another person really knows or understands our heart, we can get lost in a crowd, feel all alone. Many men who struggle sexually will know exactly what I am talking about; this may be his daily experience. Tragically, it is also likely that he may feel alone and misunderstood in his marriage.

As a man in recovery learns how to communicate his heart to his wife, it is extremely important that you first listen to hers. This will begin to strengthen the connection between you and hopefully soften each other’s hearts to each other. To go bounding in, expecting her to just listen to you, while you have not listened to her, may become a set-up to recreate the wound that makes you feel so alone and insignificant – possibly leading to relapse.

This is not an article about communication tools or how to communicate (read those too). My primary focus is to encourage you to understand and connect with your wife’s heart and not just what she intends to communicate; her heart is deeper than that. That is not to say that verbal communication in and of itself cannot be intimate, but you can frequently connect at the heart without needing the rules of healthy communication, or even a word.

Likely there are times that your wife will repeat herself. This is both an opportunity and a signal. If your wife is repeating herself, most likely she is signaling that she is not feeling “heard” or connected to you. This can be an opportunity once you recognize the signal, because now you know you have probably missed it. You can clarify her intended message, but the heart needs to be “held.” You may do this simply by holding her. An empathetic word or touch can go a long way. Of course there may be times when a hug is not appropriate. If she doesn’t want you to touch her, maybe she is angry with you, make extra efforts to empathize with her by listening respectfully. The expression on your face may say to her if you care or are just trying to appease her.

Another way to “hear” your wife’s heart is to watch for it. When you first started dating your wife, you may have made an effort to notice things she likes and dislikes. Do this again but in deeper ways. Get to know more fully what makes her happy, sad, what her dreams are, etc. When you know these things, never stop looking for them and use them to exhort and encourage her.

When she is upset after a phone call from her parents: “I know how devastating it is for you when your dad disregards your feelings. Do you want to talk about it?”

When she is screaming at you: “If I hadn’t selfishly had my mind solely focused on work all night, I would have remembered how disrespected you feel when I forget to take out the trash.”

When she won’t say a word to you: “I know when you won’t talk to me, you are usually hurt. I would love to talk about it when you are ready.”

Don’t wait for the difficult moments to engage her. Engage her in the easy ones. It may seem too simple to start dating her again, but it isn’t. First, it will be difficult to be consistent, you won’t always feel like it or fall into old patterns. Second, it may not be complex, but it got you a wife the first time. Just like you hopefully do with your kids, look for connecting moments to share. Just as Mary Magdalene poured her precious perfumes over Jesus’ feet, treat her extravagantly. Extravagance is not about money, although some scrooges will have to loosen up a bit, it is about time, affection, and serving. As you get moving, she will be on your mind more, and it will be easier and more rewarding to continue. You will remember what you once knew about her and learn what you never did.

Healthy communication tools are an essential element to hearing her heart, but this is the long (also essential) way around. When you rebuild the connection between your hearts, it may take time for her to be able to trust it. Be patient and gracious with her, you haven’t earned her trust yet. Many men will come to realize they never “heard” their wife before. Take heart; things may be rough in your marriage right now, but to know and connect intimately with your wife in deeper ways than you have ever known will change things – the best years may yet be ahead of you.

Safeguarding Your Heart

David Mackey

It was 1998. I had just begun a counseling practice with New Life Ministries. I had finally bought a new computer that worked rather then a hand-me-down computer that really didn’t.

More good news, geographically, my New Life Clinic office was closer to one of my best college friends. I didn’t know what an ‘accountability partner’ was then, but he was the guy I first confessed to regarding my struggle with pornographic magazines. Our regular talks and prayer times were a big tool toward my finding victory over the use of porn.

So I called my friend to exchange my office and email addresses and to catch up after many months of being too busy to pick up the phone.

One of my friends first questions was ‘Hey Dave, did you get a filter for your computer?’ ‘What’s a filter?’ I asked, as I tried to imagine how a coffee filter could possibly be used with my computer. Tim went on to explain how late one night when he was just starting to figure out his computer, he came across sites that were beyond his imagination. He wasn’t looking for them, they easily found him. After 25 years one of this guys first inclination when talking to me was concern for how I was doing in the Battle. How cool is that!?!

Internet porn may be the biggest issue for those in the Battle. Pornography has been around for a long time. Sexual temptations have been around even longer. But it was the advent of the Internet which really awakened the world to a need for EMB Workshops. Indeed many of the men who come to EMB Workshops found the use of Internet porn to be THE slippery slope that finally brought them down. Most men’s story is that they started looking at magazines at the ages of 10 to 13. Most men report that they continued looking at magazines throughout their life. Most, often secretly, men carried this secret passion right into adulthood, even throughout their marriages. Other sexually impure behaviors often came into play including actual affairs and connection with real women but the pornographic magazines never really left UNTIL the Internet.

For with the Internet comes way more freedom and access than most men can handle. Indeed we are bombarded with seductive ads constantly. Even pictures can pop-up without our request. Sometimes just the subject line in an unsolicited email can be a powerful trigger. I personally learned this the hard way.

This article is to provide some practical tips on using the Internet on your computer. Let’s look at 3 levels of protection: Our Personal Tools, Passive Tools and Proactive tools to assist in our internet use.

Personal Tools involve some work in our heart and mind. Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Let me encourage you to renew your mind with truth that ‘The Internet Can Be Dangerous.’ Know that in your head. Know that in your heart. Believe this truth so you can approach it appropriately. If you have any love for guns you know that they can bring much enjoyment and good times. But they are dangerous and any gun owner worth his salt, knows in his head, knows in his heart and believes the truth that guns are dangerous. So when they use them they do so with safety constantly on their mind. Treat the Internet the same way! Too often the way we got in this mess was because we treated the Internet as a toy’ it’s not!

Passive Tools involve setting up your Internet and computer services in such a way that access to pornography on the Internet is difficult. Unfortunately one can’t say access is impossible. There is always a way that our devious hearts and minds seem to figure it out.

The first and I believe best Passive Tool is to get a Filtered Internet Service Provider (ISP). Very likely you have ‘aol’ or ‘msn’ as your ISP because they come with computers and/or offer lots of freetime. However, what you need is an ISP which filters porn before it even gets to your computer. I personally have used Integrity-On-Line, Cleanweb, and Safe-eyes. They are very effective and I didn’t even have the titles of porn sites come up when I searched for something else. Do a search for Filtered ISP’s you should find many to choose from.

However, when receiving emails I did receive solicitations. The subject line itself would be pornographic, and I don’t even need to read that. I also found out that if your email account is set up to preview your emails, it opens some of them up and you could be hit with a picture.
To fight this you do 2 things:
1) turn off your preview option on your email account and
2) purchase spam blocker software.
I have used software called ‘Mail wiper’ which worked well for me. This software will automatically send a message to a sender asking if they know ‘you’ the receiver. If they respond then they will be added to your mailing list. If they don’t respond they will be added to your delete list. Your own personal mailing list will not be blocked. McAfee also has a ‘spam killer.’

Proactive Tools involve setting up software which monitors every move you make on the computer. I have heard the Net Accountability, Covenant Eyes and X3Watch are all helpful. Each week an email is sent to the person you designate, perhaps an accountability partner so they will know what you have been doing. This not only protects you from wandering/searching for a way around the filters but also will show what time is wasted playing solitaire. Time stewardship is another problem we who struggle with Sexual Purity seem to have.

To be sure this is not an exhaustive list of that which can be done to safeguard your heart while on the internet. However, these are effective tools. Of course, if your heart continues to pursue Internet porn even after these tools are in place, the best plan is to get rid of the Internet all together. After all we did survive before the 1990’s.

See Every Home Protected Internet Filter.