Courage

I’ve talked to some courageous men lately.

If you do a little Bible homework, you’ll find courage/courageous used more than 50 different ways. It speaks of the wind, the heart, stones, the will, rationality, and boldness to face fear.

What I mean by courage is the bold willingness to face the darkest parts of themselves (and sometimes others). It takes guts (along with a healthy dose of desperation!) to look in the mirror and face the man we are. To compare ourselves to Christ and ask where we fall short, and then invite his correction? Not for the faint of heart.

In this past week I’ve talked to men who have looked rejection, failure, insecurity, loneliness, abuse, addiction, shame, disappointment, a forest-fire-charred family tree and raging wives in the face and stood firm. They’ve held their own pain, and their wives. They’ve held their kids faces and reassured them “daddy isn’t leaving”. They have tossed in the towel and moments later gotten back in the ring for extra rounds, taking Ali style jabs thrown from the sinful flesh of the old, sinful man they are toe-to-toe with.

And in every re-engagement, every surrender to the process, every decision to take their finger off the nuclear button, Jesus is made known. He is glorified. His strength shines through.

If you’re at critical mass reading this, I reassure you there are men fighting the good fight. If you’re dialing in the codes and ready to blow the whole thing up – reconsider. If you’re still in the affair – end it. Porn stash – delete it. Online persona – erase it all. Women’s underwear – throw them away. Inanimate objects – trash them. It doesn’t have to go this way any longer.

 

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.

Recovery Resentment

I want to write about a strange phenomenon that happens for wives in the recovery process that I’ll call Recovery Resentment.

The confusing thing about this resentment is it seems to show up most often when a husband is doing really well in his recovery work. You might think a wife would be happy, thankful and excited about the changes she sees, yet at times she may seem angry about it.

What typically happens is a husband gets discovered or does disclosure, gets plugged into counseling, attends an Every Man’s Battle workshop, jumps into a group or develops friendships and becomes accountable, and finds himself hopeful about his future. For some guys, it’s the most free they’ve ever felt, and they experience joy unlike anything in a long time. There are powerful insights about addiction and personal idiosyncrasies, and realizations that can sometimes explain decades of lifestyle choices.

Then there’s his wife. She gets the backpack of his pain. She has to reconcile her whole life and make sense of her hunches and where she overlooked the clues. She has to find a way to not feel crazy as she looks back on her life. She has to struggle through sticking around, riding the roller-coaster of feeling love towards her husband one minute, hate the next. The disparity between how joyful and hopeful he is and how hopeless and devastated she feels becomes stark. For some wives, this is where resentment starts to creep in. And it’s a real catch-22: she feels resentment that she’s been put in this situation, and also resentment that her husband is changing and things may be getting better. Talk about confusing!

Here are some things I hear from wives that indicate the recovery resentment is building:

  • “He starts to feel better and I start to feel worse”
  • “He gets to attend a retreat, while I am stuck giving up more time of my life to his recovery.”
  • “He gets to hang out at breakfast with his friends once a week while I’m stuck getting the kids ready for school”
  • “I have to struggle through a day of triggers reminded of pain and feeling anxiety, while he seems to pass the day without thinking anything of it or feeling any remorse.”
  • “We’re having to spend money cleaning up his mess, when for years I’ve wanted to spend money on _______ and he’s refused to do so.”
  • And finally, one I heard last week that I think strikes such a chord for so many wives, “Sure, he’s changing, but who is he becoming? And how long do I have to wait to see if I like who he becomes? I don’t want to waste more of my life only to find out I don’t like who he is, or worse that this new man decides he is getting rid of me!”

The key here is to remember that the emotional craziness and the building resentment are all part of the grieving process. Not everyone grieves in the same way, but know if you (or your wife) experiences recovery resentment it is not abnormal. It is grieving, and that means making sense of chaos.

A few steps to take if you’re a husband watching your wife experience this:

1)   Don’t call her crazy or too difficult to please.

2)   Be patient, continuing to put one foot in front of the other and work your recovery.

3)   Let your heart break that your actions have brought this on.

4)   With input from your accountability folks, make sure you are diligently practicing empathy. Your excitement for your recovery and new found freedom cannot overshadow your connection to your wife’s pain.

5)   See #1

 

For wives going through it, a few suggestions:

1)   Be sure you have your own support; women who can help you process the resentment without having to make decisions based on it.

2)   Make time for yourself, and give yourself permission to use that time.

3)   Insist he maintain his commitments to the household on top of recovery work.

4)   Remember that his enthusiasm for his recovery is a good thing. There is growth. Its not the same old, same old. You can certainly ask him to temper his enthusiasm, but don’t forget that his excitement for change is a direct offset to his stubbornness to stay the same.