Tag 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?

 

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, pornography, sexual addiction, Uncategorized

Help and Hope For Porn Addiction: 2 Questions


Recently, I made a presentation to a group of men about the problem of porn use/addiction. It proved to be a lively conversation and I didn’t get an opportunity to get through all of the content. Below are 2 questions I was asked. Consider these answers:

  • What is wrong with watching porn with my wife? We both enjoy it and it spices up our sex life?

Besides the clear command to avoid all sexual immorality and to not lust after another? Supposing you want more than that here are some additional thoughts. God has given us imagination as a tool to be used for our good and our pleasure. Therefore, it stands to reason that imagination is highly important in the bedroom. However, it should be used as a tool to honor each other and to promote oneness. As soon as our eyes our off our spouse (whether in a literal sense or a figurative sense), we are seeking to use another for our sexual pleasure. Porn necessarily brings images of others into your bedroom thus moving away from reality and oneness. The images porn uses are not accurate or real and only encourages disappointment in the real thing.

And may I note that I have only heard this question from men. Given my experience of hearing so many wives who have been hurt by their husband’s interest in bringing porn into their own lovemaking, I am suspicious that the wife enjoys it as much as might be thought. At the end of your lovemaking and/or porn use, does she feel special? Does she feel honored? Does she feel she cannot measure up to what is not the screen?

Despite the injunction against porn use by Christians, do not take this to mean that the sex life of Christians must be boring. Seeking to satisfy the pleasures of your spouse gives ample room for creative fun in the bedroom.

  •  How long can I enjoy looking at [name of well-known female star]  and not begin to lust? Is it always wrong to enjoy female beauty?

Of course there is no specific answer that can be given as to how many nano-seconds are pure and at what point the look ogle turns lustful.  Is it possible to enjoy beauty in a person not your spouse? Yes. I would suggest that it is impossible not to notice beauty when you see it. However, I would quickly add that some forms of beauty are more likely to turn lustful in a split second. Noticing Beyoncé’s lovely singing voice probably won’t turn to lust. Noticing her Super Bowl attire…that is another matter.

Here’s what I would like you to consider. The question you are asking, “how long can I look before sinning” may reveal a dangerous motive. It seems that you might be asking, how close can I get to the cliff without falling over? Is it okay to have one foot on solid ground but lean over the edge? Can you see the danger in this thinking? Instead, we ought to humbly recognize that it is easy for us to move from momentary admiration to fantasy. It is good to accept that we will notice beauty and that we must guard our very next thought.

One more thought for you. While noticing beauty is part of who God has made you, is it possible that you have well-trained yourself to search for beauty? Is your head on a swivel? Have you long practiced taking the second and third look? If so, then you are likely not merely noticing beauty but actively looking for images you can use for your own fantasy.  

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Filed under addiction, pornography, self-deception, Sex, sexuality, Uncategorized

When is residential treatment an option for you or someone you love?


Harvest USA, a local Philadelphia ministry,  is just about ready to unveil a new booklet that will be available for purchase via download. I wrote this last year after trying to help someone consider whether or not residential care was necessary to address an ongoing battle with sexual addiction.  They sent me an advance hard copy to preview and so I’ve included a pic of the front page on this post. Sorry, I couldn’t provide a better, color shot.

As you might expect, when a sexual addiction is discovered, confusion reigns among the addict and the family. What should they do? What does it mean? Where can he/she go to get help? Strong emotions and the nature of the crisis may lead to quick decisions. Whereas one family wants to find the best, most intensive solution, another family may try to solve the problem “in-house” with accountability from the pastor.

This is a short booklet designed to help the reader cut through some of the confusion and answer 8 key questions to help them decide whether it is necessary to seek treatment in a residency setting. The booklet concludes with a list of books and short-term and residential programs around the country.

I’ll let you know when the e-version is available for download.

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Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling

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.

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