Imagine you are sitting in a group of men. You have been asked to be honest with this group of men and they have been asked to be honest with you. Then the question comes up, have you acted on a desire to masturbate this week? You feel it deep in the pit of your stomach. It’s that urge to bury it, to hide, to play it cool and hope nobody notices you shifting in your seat. You know you need to be honest to get anything out of this group. You’ve even asked them to ask you this question. You just never expected to have to answer with a yes. Continue reading
Is confession all that matters in recovery? If we continue to admit our faults and failures, is that enough to live a life of ongoing purity, or is there more to the equation of freedom than simply admitting time and again that we are broken and imperfect? I propose that confession is only half of the equation when it comes to living each day in sexual purity.
Repentance is the ‘other half’ of this coin of recovery.
Confession is certainly necessary for recovery to begin, and even to move forward. To confess is to agree with truth. We confess that we are not perfect (true). We confess that we have a problem with lust – or whatever the particular struggle may be (true). We confess that we need help and cannot overcome our faults and failures alone (true). We confess each time our thoughts or actions do not match up with what God has said is good or right, and in so doing we agree with truth. Confession is an honest assessment and expression of reality. But confession alone does not change behavior. No, confession invites the forgiveness and cleansing of God on to our broken lives, but it is repentance that ultimately changes the course of our recovery over the long haul.
I used to think that if I just got really good at confessing my faults and failures as quickly as possible to when they occurred that I would become a different man. Unfortunately, all I learned from such a venture was how desperately wicked my sinful nature was and how often I must confess. Nothing seemed to change, at least not in significant, lasting ways. I just confessed and confessed and confessed. Mostly, I just confessed the same failures over and over again. This didn’t seem like progress (I’m not the brightest kid in the class, but I can deduce that repeating the same failures does not equal positive growth). Each confession did bring about a cleansing, a sort of “start-over-point” as promised by God (1 John 1:9), but this didn’t seem to do much for gaining traction in overcoming these vice-like sins. There always seemed to be an ‘ingredient’ missing in acquiring the long-term victory my heart craved.
Then I discovered the key to gaining ground against the ever-chasing pull of lust: applying the practice of repentance.
Repentance is the process of turning away from anything opposed to truth. Repentance provides the balance to confession. We confess to agree with truth, and then we repent to turn away from the opposing thought, belief, or action that prompted the confession. Through repentance we train our minds and hearts to focus on that which leads to life and freedom: truth (John 8:32). And as we continually turn toward truth we experience the power of God unleashed on the false thoughts, beliefs, and actions that seek to pull us again into darkness, shame, and despair.
One of the biggest challenges to repentance is pride. We truly believe we know what is best for our lives, even if it may be killing us. We think we can reason our way out of the lustful trap we are caught in, rather than surrendering ourselves, through repentance, to the truth of God’s Word and His ways. Pride is an ugly beast, but so often goes unrecognized as we wiggle and squirm out of the loving invitation of repentance and new way of life. But to become a new person, a free, pure child of God, we must die to our pride and invite, even embrace, the path of repentance.
Another harmful opponent to repentance is minimizing our sin. We deceive ourselves into believing that our problems aren’t as big as they really are and that we can successfully manage our sexuality without anybody’s help (minimizing and pride often travel together). We say we have a ‘little’ problem with porn or that we ‘aren’t hurting anyone.’ The longer we play with the fires of pride and minimizing the further we drift from repentance and the more we will suffer the consequences (Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Prov. 6:27).
Does confession matter in recovery? Absolutely! But without repentance, confession only serves to perpetually wash over the same stain again and again without ever effectively seeking to remove it. Repentance, therefore, compliments confession by guiding us toward the proper focus and perspective once we receive the refreshing cleansing brought about by humble, honest confession. May you allow your times of confession to remind you to take the additional step toward long-term freedom by also repenting. This is the path to true and lasting freedom…
For help on this subject please see Every Man’s Battle.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Corinthians 7:10
As we addressed the concept of confession needing to be an adopted life style of the recovering sexual addict; let me lay out for you just one template of what thorough confession looks like. This will be a six step process that does not have to be followed exactly; this is designed to be a template for you. Several of the components are crucial; otherwise, you will fall back into worldly sorrow which is not the least bit productive. We know from our discussion last time that worldly sorrow leads to death, the death of your relationship. You do not want the death of your relationship, for that leads in most cases to the death of you.
Here are a few principles to hang on to as you go through the process of healthy confession:
1. Stay out of your own stuff. Confession is about the other person, not about you, so do not make it about you. Do not defend yourself, do not rebut, do not offer excuses or reasons why you did what you did, focus intently on the person you are offering confessions to.
2. Do not apologize or seek forgiveness until later. This is vital to understand, if you offer ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘please forgive me’ early, you may leave the impression that you are done with the ordeal. Trust me, you are just beginning, and the man who would be willing to just begin again with his wife is a man on the road to recovery. Apologizing too early short circuits healthy confession and forgiveness. Remember, this is not about you. This is about God using you to bring healing to someone you have wounded.
1. Describe to your partner what it is that you have done to hurt your partner. I suggest that you write it down and share it with your partner. Now, she knows full well what you did in most cases, however in order to have intelligent conversation, you two must talk about the same thing. Speaking what you have done will also begin the process of ownership. Yes, that is correct you have got to take ownership. Do not tell her what she did to cause this, tell her what you did wrong. This may be some of the hardest stuff you have ever done’do it anyway. The end result is Godly intimacy.
2. Ask your partner to share with you three feelings that came out of that experience. Feelings? I can not adequately convey to you the importance of addressing the issue of feelings with your wife. So often, when you apologize, feelings are left out of the equation. She has them, and you put them there. She truly needs to know that you realize that they are there. This is a travesty of your sexual sin, men. You are out doing your thing and she is paying for it. When you ask her how she feels about it, you get to look in and see the price tag for what you’ve done… step on in, be a man. As men sometimes we have to go places where we do not want to go, this is one of them.
When she shares with you those three feelings, be sure to give her every opportunity to pick the words she wants. Do not change them to absolve your guilt, listen to the words that she chooses. Make sure that you ask her why she chose those words over the thousands of other feeling words that are in her arsenal. This is not to make her defensive, this is to create conversation so that you can move to step number three.
3. Reflect back to you partner EXACTLY what has been shared with you. Be a tape recorder; push the rewind button and then the play button. Share with her exactly what you heard her say. Do not put your spin on this, do not point blame at her, and do not become frustrated with her. All of these things are about you; remember this is not about you. This is a very necessary segment of this process. Believe it or not, she needs to know that you heard her. She needs to know that you are willing to listen to what she has to say without telling her what she is supposed to feel or say.
Give to your wife the opportunity to clarify her message to you. After hearing you say what she just said, she might think of something different and want to share that with you. The more she has the opportunity to share and clarify now, the less she will do that with growing levels of intensity later.
4. Share with your wife whether or not you are responsible for the hurt she is feeling. Look at it this way, consider your wife as a hit and run victim. Were you an innocent bystander that is touched and grieved by the carnage left by the truck that ran her over? Or, are you the guy behind the wheel? This is important men. Later when the time comes, you can apologize for this thing happening to her or you can apologize for doing this to her. Which ever one of these that you choose will make all the difference in the world as to whether or not you experience Godly sorrow or worldly sorrow.
Tell her you were driving the truck. Now, one thing to remember to help you through this process, you are not taking responsibility for everything ever gone wrong in the relationship, only that one thing that you stated at the beginning of this process.
5. Share with your wife how you feel for her hurt. Men, follow me on this one for just a moment. Picture in your mind the throne of God. However that looks to you is fine. Seated next to God is you. It is take your kid to work day, and there you are for the day watching Dad (God) do what he does. Interesting thing is that He has His arm around you, holding you close to Himself. He is very happy that you are there with Him. What is it that God is doing at this moment in time? He is not looking at you, He is looking at your wife, the moment she found out what you did. He is looking at her heart. Men, my question to you is, what is the look on the God’s face? What do you see?
Do you think anger is the correct response, is God angry with you? No, in the most grace filled way let me say, that this is not about you, this is about her. God is not looking at you; He is looking at your wife. He is very glad that you are there with Him. Why, because He wants to invite you into a deeper sense of what He feels for your wife when you hurt her with sexual sin. God has you close so that you know that He is not rejecting you (Isaiah 41:9). There is another reason why God has you close, He wants you to see what He truly feels for your wife.
What is the look on God’s face? Maybe it is compassion, sorrow, a broken heart, maybe sadness. Do you think it would be all right if some of what God is feeling for your wife began to move into you? Do you think it would be OK for you to begin to hurt the way God hurts for your wife?
Now you are getting a deeper picture of 2 Corinthians 7:10 ‘Godly sorrow leads to repentance…’ Imagine if you will that God asks you a question, ‘What are we going to do about this?’ I believe that God would want to use you as a tool in His hand to bring healing to your wife even though you are the one who brought the hurt to her in the first place.
Men, do your best to communicate to her what you are feeling for her, not for you. This is not the time for ‘I am sorry,’ or ‘would you forgive me.’ Think about looking into the soul of your mate, tell her what you see. Here are some ideas for your use: ‘It saddens me that you are hurting so much,’ ‘it breaks my heart that you are left with this,’ ‘I can see that you are in a lot of pain.’ Some of the most powerful exchanges between a husband and a wife that I have ever witnessed have come out of this time. Those times were not because of the husband’s eloquence, it was because of the struggle for words. Men the words are not nearly as important as your heart attempting to communicate the heart of God. You at this point are God’s messenger.
6. Seek forgiveness and pray for you wife. Now is the time to say that you are sorry for hurting her for just the one thing mentioned at the beginning of this process. Seeking forgiveness before this would be premature. Men, ask her for forgiveness in a humble way. After you have done this, pray for her. You may not be a man who prays out loud much’learn to, your wife needs you to. Listen, when you pray, do so in such a way that your wife hears you ask for God’s forgiveness as well. She needs to know that you place yourself under His authority. This will allow her to trust you sooner in most cases. Be sure to pray specifically for the three emotions that she mentioned, ask God to specifically heal those through the power of the Holy Spirit. If appropriate, hold her at the end of this process.
If you are interested in a handout that greatly helps the flow of this process you can contact my office in Tampa at 813-626-5394. If you would like to e-mail me the results of this process please do. My email is Dspeicher@crosstownchurch.com. If you have questions concerning any aspect of this process contact me as well. Some marital situations are very volatile after betrayal, so be sure to use wisdom as to when to implement.
For more help see Every Man’s Battle.