Category Archives: sexual addiction

Shame and ministry of seeing vulnerable people


When Jesus saw her [someone crippled for 18 years], he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” (Luke 13:12)

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

When you think of Jesus’ ministry, you may think about the miracles or the sermons or the conflicts with the priests or the conversations with his disciples. But notice how much of his ministry is the work of seeing invisible and burdened people; people with shame. He sees lepers, the blind man Bartimaeus, the bleeding woman, the Samaritan woman, the centurion with a sick child, the rich young ruler and many more.

He had to see them; he had to go through Samaria. Why did he have to go? He had to go in order to meet broken people where they lived (or sat or lay).

Crossing the chasm of shame 

This past weekend I taught at Biblical Seminary on the topic of pornography and sexual addiction. The MDiv course, was designed less to help current and future pastors help addicts and more to help ministry leaders address their own struggles with sexual shame.  The truth is that we all carry around in our being some form of sexual shame. It is something we want to hide and keep from others. We don’t want this shame to be seen, even if our shame is caused by the sins of others.

During the class I asked everyone to consider one of their experiences of shame and to then list on separate post-its what sensations, images, feelings and thoughts that it might evoke (HT to the post-it queen herself–Heather Drew–for this idea!). Then, I had them consider what sensations, images, feelings and thoughts they had when they recalled a time they felt loved and cared for by someone who knew that shame story they carried. Students then placed their post-its on opposite walls of a hall. Silently the class first examined the shame side and then moved to consider the grace side. While it was easy to move from shame to grace in our activity, we considered the chasm shame creates and the impossibility of really being seen AND loved at the same time.

When I asked students how they moved from shame to grace in their own lives, the stories contained a common element. There was someone who pursued them, who stuck out a hand and drew them out of their shame. This someone was someone who saw them and love them just the same.

This is the central ministry of Jesus. He crosses the chasm of shame and sees (and touches) the unloved. Lest you think that God the father is a distant member of the trinity, remember that his first action after Adam and Eve sinned was to go find them. He pursued them. He saw them. He engaged in conversation. He provided a covering for them. Some of the most beautiful images of this ministry of seeing us in our shame and pursuing us just the same is found in the book of Hosea. Depicted as a wayward wife who has returned to prostitution, God’s people are pursued by him, bought back from the pimp and invited back into the marriage bed.

The main ministry of Jesus is pursuit of broken people, to see them and touch them. It is not to put them in a program of change as we are often want to do. Rather, Jesus invites those he loves to remain connected to him, to follow him. Consider the invitations Peter received before and after the crucifixion:

Peter said to him, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “if I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8)

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17f)

What if the work of the church is to see and serve shamed individuals? How might this change how we evaluate Christian ministry outcomes?

 

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Seminary, pornography, sexual addiction, Uncategorized

Of dogs and addictions


Our six-year-old cocker spaniel has learned a new trick. After having lived with us for over 1.5 years, she has figured out that she can open the pull-out cabinet drawer that contains our trash. This only happens when we leave her penned in the kitchen. I suspect we left some wonderful smelling meat scraps in it one night and the desire enabled some higher level problem-solving skills (she’s not the brightest dog in the world). Now that she has learned how to do this, we’ve taken to bungy cording the drawer. A few nights ago, we forgot and came home to a mess of coffee grounds and torn up trash all over the floor.

Interestingly, our dog responds in quite a predictable manner. Normally, when we come home, she is at the door to greet us by dancing around and putting her front paws on our legs. But each time we have come home to a mess she has made, we see her cowering and ready to bolt. The last time we came home to this mess, she squeezed out the door before we could get into the house so she could run away. No, we don’t beat her. She knows she has done wrong.

I’ve wondered what goes on in her head during the time she is into the trash. Does she know it is wrong? When does she start feeling bad. The moment we arrive? Has she been cowering and feeling guilty as soon as she spreads trash around? One more funny behavior: when we send her to her crate (in the basement) for a time out, she goes right away. But then, after a bit, we see her outside of her crate but sitting patiently. Then, she’s at the bottom of the stairs looking to see if we will let her up. Then, her front paws on the first step, waiting in anticipation that we’ll say all’s forgiven.

And this relates to addictions how?

Most individuals who struggle with an addiction have the strong feeling of guilt even as they partake. Guilt rarely is enough to stop us from acting out. Even knowing that we may well be caught does not stop us as much as you might think it would. The desire to have what is right at our fingertips can easily overwhelm all sensibilities and logic–that will race back to us as soon as we finish partaking or as soon as someone finds out. Our initial response may include running away. Guilt and shame prevail for a time and then we creep back into life hoping that the troubles we have caused will blow over and life will return to normal.

Of course, we are not dogs and so we must use the gifts God has given us (a brain capable of higher order planning, the Spirit) to learn from our mistakes and misdeeds. We can

  • remove ourselves from proximity to the addictive agent
  • plan for accountability, especially during vulnerable times
  • examine the roots, shoots, and fruits of our addictions with a trusted friend/counselor
  • remind ourselves of the power to say no and the foolish, false promises of addiction

For more of what I have written about addictions and interventions search the word in the seach box at the top of this page.

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, Psychology, sexual addiction

New Resource for Men with Porn Addiction


A friend of mine, David White, published a book late last year with New Growth Press entitled, Sexual Sanity For Men: Re-creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture. I commend you this book for several reasons.

  1. The topic is absolutely important. David doesn’t offer a white knuckle approach to dealing with sexual temptations. Nor does he gloss over the difficulties and give the simplistic bible answer as to why porn use is bad for you or that Jesus is a substitute for porn (see week 11, day 2 for how why he rightly says, “Jesus is not going to become like porn for you” and why many addicts imagine that he will.)
  2. The book design is perfect. By saying this I am not talking about its physical attributes. Ever read a book that has decent sized chapters and then a few questions at the end? If you are like me you might glance at those “for further thought” questions and then move on to the next chapter. The result is that you get lots of content quickly but make little to no application. David’s book is written in the format of daily readings (5 per week) for 14 weeks. Each reading is about 2-3 pages with specific reflection  and self-assessment questions with space to write. I suggest a reader complete on own but then meet up with a group of guys and discuss (hold accountable) what your read/wrote.
  3. The focus. The material and questions spend what may feel like an inordinate amount of time on discovering how deceived we are. You could feel like he is beating a dead horse. But I would suggest that David is intentionally helping readers peel back layer and layer of deceptions that allow sin to continue. How else could believers imbibe sin if they weren’t first deadening with deception? For example, he asks the reader to note where they wear the “fig leaf of ministry” as a way to mollify guilt.

I would encourage readers to add one question to each day/week: “What is one thing I am going to endeavor to do today, with God’s help, in light of what I just read?” If we only stay with the assessment, we can become defeated and discouraged by the amount of mess we find. But, God gives us a way of escape. Where is it today? Don’t promise yourself the world. You’ll break that promise. Endeavor to make one small, incremental change today. Tomorrow, you’ll do it again. And, don’t try to do it alone.

You can find David at www.harvestusa.org.

*received complimentary book from NGP but review is my own and not the result of free books. I get plenty others that never make my recommended list.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews, Christianity, pornography, Sex, sexual addiction

Good Read: Covenant Eyes on Porn/Trafficking Connection


The link between the demand side of sex and trafficking has already been established by good research. But, few are aware of some of the connections and many think that porn use is only a personal decision without larger consequences.

I commend to you this link to a well-written essay by Luke Gilkerson of Covenant Eyes. (Covenant Eyes provides technology to track and filter unwanted sexual content for Internet users.) In this essay he summarizes the linkages and reminds readers that one of the best ways to get the message out is with a good video. He provides an extensive bibliography of videos on the topic of sex trade, porn, trafficking, and their impact on victims, families, and users.

Good stuff for you to consider.

8 Comments

Filed under pornography, prostitution, sexual addiction

Book idea: Sexual Crises in the Church


Pastors and church leaders have to navigate a variety of sexual crises that may arise in their congregations. These crises may or may not be crises for some churches even while they devastate another community. And surely these are not the only crises a church may face. But matters of sexuality often unnerve the leadership.

What crises am I referring to? Sexual abuse allegations, date-rape, infidelity among attendees and, pastoral (or leader) sexual abuse, couples living together, sex offenders returning to church, sexual addictions, individuals struggling with sexual or gender identity issues, etc.

Where would they turn to get helps in thinking about the various issues, practical pastoral responses (to the individuals involved as well as the entire congregation)? I’m thinking about a one source document that might survey biblical foundations, explore possible responses as well as prevention plans where appropriate. Why wait til the Crisis to consider how one might want to think about it?

Anyone seen such a resource? I’ve got some other writing assignments but I could imagine an edited volume on the topic. Maybe I’ll skip grading today and see if I can start a proposal.

5 Comments

Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, pornography, Sex, sexual addiction, sexual identity, sexuality

OP Ed piece on pornography you should read


I subscribe to a listserv that documents abuse and exploitation around the world. Recently, I received notice of an article in the National Review (by an anonymous psychologist) entitled, “Getting Serious about Pornography”. The writer documents the known impact of pornography on men (i.e., the objectification of women) and at the same time tells of her own experience of being abandoned by her husband due to his porn addiction. I include her first paragraph. Click the link above for the essay on the original website.

Imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family simply by distorting a man’s perception of his wife. Picture an addiction so lethal it has the potential to render an entire generation incapable of forming lasting marriages and so widespread that it produces more annual revenue ­ $97 billion worldwide in 2006 ­ than all of the leading technology companies combined. Consider a narcotic so insidious that it evades serious scientific study and legislative action for decades, thriving instead under the ever-expanding banner of the First Amendment.

According to an online statistics firm, an estimated 40 million people use this drug on a regular basis. It doesn’t come in pill form. It can’t be smoked, injected, or snorted. And yet neurological data suggest its effects on the brain are strikingly similar to those of synthetic drugs. Indeed, two authorities on the neurochemistry of addiction, Harvey Milkman and Stanley Sunderwirth, claim it is the ability of this drug to influence all three pleasure systems in the brain ­ arousal, satiation, and fantasy ­ that makes it “the pièce de résistance among the addictions.”

For more click the link above. It is well worth the effort.

3 Comments

Filed under counseling, marriage, News and politics, pornography, Psychology, Sex, sexual addiction

Check out my podcast on sexual addiction


CCEF is giving away my talk last year at their annual conference on sexual addiction. You can listen to it her: http://www.ccef.org/counseling-strategies-individuals-addictions

I’ll be back there this November to talk about another sex topic: when sex in marriage doesn’t work. No, I don’t have it on the brain, it was their request and conference title….well, I guess that doesn’t exonerate me afterall.

1 Comment

Filed under addiction, biblical counseling, counseling, Sex, sexual addiction

Happenings


I’m passing on a couple of items from my schedule…

1. Speaking. I’ll be speaking at Macedonia Baptist Church (Norristown, PA) on the next two Wednesdays (8/12 and 8/19) for their Summer Bible Conference (theme: Mental Health Awareness). This week will be on Sexual Addiction and the 19th will be on the topic of Anxiety.

2. School. We start late this year on 9/14. For those interested in our course offerings, check out Biblical’s site for course listings. Note that we have entry level, advanced, and post-MA courses on Monday nights. I’m teaching an on-line course (Social & Cultural Foundations of Counseling) and two face to face classes (Counseling & Physiology, Psychological Assessment). Should be fun!

3. Conference 1. The AACCis hosting it’s World Conference in Nashville Sept. 16-19. My colleague, Bryan Maier, and myself will be speaking there. On the 16th, Diane Langberg and myself will be presenting a 3 hour preconference workshop about addressing the problem of pastoral sexual abuse. Later in the week, I’ll be lecturing on the use of the Bible with trauma clients.  If you like zooy places, then come as that is the best description I have for the Opryland Hotel.

4. Conference 2. November 13-15 is the annual CCEF conference, entitled, Sex Matters. I’ll be presenting on the 14th, “When Sex in Marriage Doesn’t Work.”

5. Newly published. The latest issue of the Journal of Psychology & Christianity(v. 28:2) is just out on the topic of Theophostic Prayer Ministry and related issues. I and my George Schwab have an article in that edition: “God as healer: A Closer Look at Biblical Images of Inner Healing.” Plus, a number of the other articles site previous work that Bryan Maier and I did a few years ago where we critiqued TPM’s theological bases. 

6. In the works. I’ve just completed work on a booklet, “Sexual Addiction: When is Residential Treatment an Option?” It is intended to be an ebooklet published by a local ministry. We are researching the best way to publish such a booklet for those caught in the trap of an addiction. If any of you have any great ideas for the best way to get that out on the Internet (including issues around document delivery, sales, and pricing), I’d love to hear about it.

3 Comments

Filed under "phil monroe", Anxiety, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling skills, sexual addiction, teaching counseling