Quitting pornography (or any unwanted sexual habit) is tough, no doubt about it. But accountability partners make it tougher than it has to be when they slip into one or more of these three mistakes—or rather, these three pairs of mistakes, because for each mistake, there’s an opposite that’s just as problematic. Take a look and see if your accountability relationships slip into any of these:
- Assuming freedom isn’t possible OR that freedom is yours for good.
Certainly, in a culture as hyper-sexualized as ours, you can expect to experience sexual temptation throughout your life, but that’s different than expecting that you will repeatedly give in to lust throughout your life. Despite what the culture believes, lust is not inevitable, and if you believe it is, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A past marked with many sexual falls will tempt you to despair that you can ever change, but don’t let these bully you into believing that chastity isn’t possible for you. Throughout church history, fathers of our faith like Paul, Athanasius, and Augustine all affirmed that chastity—though it may be difficult to achieve—is within reach for those who have the Spirit of Christ. Base your hope not on your perfect record, but on Jesus’s triumph over sin and death.
But be mindful of the other extreme: believing that today’s victory means the battle is done. Yes, Christ has set you free, but even those who have walked in sexual integrity for years would do well to not assume that the enemy has given up. Ongoing sexual integrity becomes easier with time, but just like your body needs ongoing nutrition to remain physically healthy, healthy and holy sexuality requires ongoing care as well.
- Focusing on just the surface OR on just the deep.
If the focus of your accountability is all about what you did and didn’t do, without ever diving deeper into what inside of you compelled you toward what you did, then you’re setting yourself up to continue in your sin. Compulsive unwanted sexual behavior is an indicator that you’re looking for something, and hint: It’s not sex! Your accountability relationships should be a place where you’re getting help uncovering what’s under the surface. “The thoughts of a man are like deep waters, but a wise man draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5).
With that said, you can also err in the opposite direction by focusing so exclusively on what’s going on under the surface (e.g. family of origin problems, attachment issues, unmet needs, childhood wounds, inner vows, present pains, demonic influences, etc.) that you forget you’re still responsible for the choices you’re making right now. The rejection you lived through growing up may help explain why you experienced so much temptation when your friends went camping without you, but it doesn’t excuse your choice to sin. It also doesn’t mean you can’t heal from your past and learn to walk in whole relationships today. Your accountability relationships should be a place where you can access and express your inner experiences and also learn to integrate those experiences into the life of the man or woman God is making you to be.
- Waiting without working OR working without waiting.
Chastity is not just something that happens to you, it’s something you participate in. You’re going to have to show up, share honestly about successes and failures, and practice receiving forgiveness when you least deserve it. You’re going to have to look at your history, learn to regulate difficult emotions, and practice new ways of thinking and relating. You’re also going to need to resist temptation (James 4:7). All this can be painfully difficult. And all of this is your part to do. Jesus “stands at the door and knocks” (Revelation 3:20), he doesn’t kick the door down and barge in.
Even so, with all the work before you, God is willing and wanting to do more for you than you can possibly do yourself. You will need to participate in cultivating chastity, but chastity is also a gift—a work that God develops in you. Even secular 12-step programs affirm that sobriety comes through “believing that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” and then deciding “to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him” (Steps 2 and 3). How does a farmer produce his crop? He works the field, plants the seed, and tends the fruit as it grows. But how does the crop actually grow? He doesn’t know. Nobody does. It is a work of God. If sexual integrity is the fruit we’re after, we must wait, relying on and drawing from God who produces the growth (see John 15:4, 5).
Doing accountability well is more of an art than a science, more of a relationship than a method. So give each other grace as you seek to help each other along toward greater freedom and chastity in Christ.
Regeneration is here to help.
Question: Which of these mistakes have you been most prone to slip into? Any other mistakes you’d add to this list?