I find myself losing hope even as I write this email. I'm addicted to sexual sin and I can't figure out how to stop. That's the basic point, I guess.
I've never even kissed a guy since I was a little kid, but there have been so many other things ... porn, masturbation, cyber sex. I did confess to my parents and a few other trusted advisers, but I guess they were too embarrassed to actually keep asking me about it, because even though I asked them numerous times to make sure, they don't. I know that this is my problem and so I need to be responsible for being accountable to them.
I'm writing because it doesn't work. I'm writing because I'm addicted to it and I feel guilty and then give up and just do it because I want to. You always hear about guys being the ones visually turned on, but I guess I'm wired like that too. Visually and mentally and emotionally — sexually freaked out. I want to have a healthy marriage, and I'm terrified of having to tell whomever I would marry of all the things I've done. I'm terrified of my sins being passed on to my children and them being weak in the same areas. And I'm horribly terrified that I'll never have freedom from this and be addicted my whole life. I want out. How do I do it?
I also have such a longing to be close to God, I want to be obedient and clean and holy ... but then I fall. Am I just weak? I'm involved in church, I read my Bible and pray. I think I'm the double-minded man from James 1. I want it both ways. I don't hate sin like I should, like God does. Sometimes I can hold out for days and then it all falls apart again. What do I do?
You may be wondering why I would answer such a candid question here. At first, I wasn't sure it was appropriate. But given the stats on masturbation, porn use and sexual addiction among women — and the overwhelming cultural assurance that all this and more is normal and expected — I decided it was not only acceptable, but necessary.
You are not alone in your struggle. Nor are you alone in wishing it were otherwise. For all the propaganda of the sex industry, and all the people around us who are convinced this is what a sex drive is for, we still suspect (if our consciences aren't numb) that such actions go against what we were made for.
Our sexual yearnings are not wrong. Far from it. They are part of our made-in-God's image design. What ruins us is when we use them in ways other than what God intended. And as you undoubtedly know from what we've been saying on Boundless for nearly a decade, where sex is concerned, marriage is what God had in mind.
As you pointed out, these sins are harmful precisely because of the way they damage your shot at your real desire: a healthy marriage and family. The combination of masturbation, pornography and fantasy are deadly because they make godly intimacy with another, real, person so difficult, if not impossible. Theophilus describes the wrongness of it this way:
Masturbation is wrong because it goes against what the sexual powers were designed for, because it is inseparable from illicit fantasies, because these fantasies take on a life of their own, and because it draws the erotic longing backward into Self instead of outward. It doesn't "release" lust, but reinforces it, so that next time the temptation is stronger yet.
So what can you do about it?
For starters, run from temptation. For many, that means crippling your computer with vigorous filtering and blocking software (we use Safe Eyes) and refusing to use machines that don't have it. For added protection, I especially like services like Covenant Eyes that give you the ability to have every website you visit e-mailed to an accountability partner.
Boundless columnist Mike Ensley has written about his own sexual sin and his need to clamp down on the computer. He writes,
Is the Internet a temptation? Why do you still have access to it when you don't have to? Get accountability software. Give your wireless card to a friend so you can only go online when they're around. Have a friend, parent or mentor install a blocker and set the password. Get that DSL connection out of your bedroom. Whatever excuse you're using to keep that temptation there — need it for work, personal Web page, etc. — it's not worth it.
For some, even that's not enough. No matter the safeguards, they can find a way around their passwords and the temptation is just too great. If that's you, stop tormenting yourself. Secure your peace of mind by making your home a computer-free zone. You can live without it. And when you're not at home, only use computers with screening software. (That means the library's out. Thanks to our warped understanding of "free speech," their computers are among the least protected.)
If your work requires a computer and your company doesn't automatically use blocking software, or doesn't even offer it, ask for it. You don't have to give details, just say the Internet is a distraction from your job and you'd be more productive at work if your computer had the ability to block certain categories of websites. It's hard to imagine any employer saying no to someone wanting to be more productive.
As for your efforts to get some accountability, I'm so sorry you had such disappointing results. What you need are believers who won't blush when you confess your sin; ones who are honest about sin's grip and are willing to walk through this with you. Just because the people you asked thus far weren't up to the task, is no reason to give up on the idea. Far from it.
Keep praying and seeking out godly role models who can hold you accountable. In our church, there are pastors and a ministry dedicated to helping congregants who are mired in sexual sin. If your church has a formal outreach, that would be ideal. If not, you can ask the pastor if there are any elders or others in leadership who specialize in helping people with sex addiction. It's important to seek out help from a married couple if at all possible, as opposed to meeting alone with a man, even if he's a pastor. If you're not comfortable asking your pastor in person, I think it would be just as effective to inquire by e-mail. Especially if your church is small, it's understandable and I believe, wise, to want to be discreet.
What type of accountability should you seek out? 2 Timothy 2:22 says, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." This Scripture holds the key to your freedom. It's up to you to flee, and to seek out pastors, counselors or mentors who have pure hearts and are willing to do the hard work of walking with you through this. Such believers will be able to pray with you and help you.
But don't just pray. Fast. It has the power to focus your prayers and bring breakthroughs that often don't come by prayer alone. The late Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ pointed out many reasons for fasting, among them: "Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the 'first love' for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ," "fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21)," and "fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life," among others. For details on why and how to fast, including both medical and spiritual guidelines, visit Campus Crusade's Guide to Fasting and Prayer.
As you're tending to the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting, don't forget the importance of guarding your mind. I like how Gary Thomas describes it in his book The Beautiful Fight. He says we must "pivot."
The biblical instruction is clear: We need to take charge of our minds.... Paul urges us to exert ourselves more strongly in the arena of our minds than in any other area of the spiritual life: "Finally, brothers and sister, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
Some Christians act as if they are helpless victims of their own thinking, as if they can't stop certain fantasies, infatuations, negative thinking rumination on fears, or hateful prejudices. This simply doesn't square with a biblical worldview that tells us to "pivot" toward pure thought. We are taught to stop thinking about evil and to start thinking about what is pure and admirable and excellent.
The more you practice right thinking, the easier it will be to follow with right living. There are also tactical things you can do to combat temptation. At night, when the feelings and desires to sin start, get out of bed. And stay up till you can lay down and simply sleep. You may have a few long nights and even find yourself in a chair or on the couch when morning comes, but running from the temptation is key to overcoming it.
During the day, get moving. Strenuous physical exercise has the double benefit of using up your energy and releasing endorphins. The more active you are, the better. If you you're really tired when you lay down to sleep, it will be easier to do just that.
Hopefully this short column will give you enough help to make a good start. For a more in-depth look at sex addictions, please read "Help for Female Sex Addicts" on our pureintimacy.org website.
Finally, if you make these changes and are still falling, you should get professional help to work on root causes. Please consider calling our counseling department for referral to a Christian counselor. I've included that information below.
I pray, with God's help, you'll be victorious.
Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.