I long for people to be more courageous with their stories.
Over the past decade and a half, I’ve had the honor of seeing many men and women take journeys against impossible odds— to fight for a marriage that seems hopeless, to give up sexual sins others consider normal (the “normal” list is growing), or to pursue healing from past sexual abuse.
But outside one or two key friendships, many of these people remain largely silent about their stories.
The rationales for silence are many.
- I still struggle from time to time, so my story’s not worth sharing yet.
- People in church see my particular area of struggle as worse than the rest.
- I don’t want people to define me by this. It’s not who I am.
But boiled down, most rationales like these are expressions of shame—of feeling inferior, dirty, or defective because of whatever the problem is or was.
This is important to know for two reasons.
First, misdiagnosing the problem means applying a treatment that won’t work. If shame is the problem, silence cannot heal it. In many cases, it makes it worse.
Second, each of the above rationales is focused on “me.” They’re self-concerned and self-protective. Shame cripples our ability to turn freely toward others without concern for ourselves.
Meanwhile, others with struggles of their own need to know they’re not alone, that someone else isn’t giving in, that change can come.
Whether your story includes pornography, adultery, homosexual sex, alcohol, drugs, debt, depression, abuse, worry, workaholism, materialism, or something else, the same voices that beckon to you in your dark hours are beckoning to others.
If you’ve begun your journey to freedom, you’re further along than all those who haven’t taken their first step. Yes, maybe some will see your weakness as the worst of all. Let Christ deal with them. (Interestingly, people with very different kinds of struggles believe others view theirs as the worst. Someone’s got to be wrong.)
For the sake of others travelling a similar path, will you tell your story to others? Yes, some may look at you funny when they first hear. Truth is confounding to a world bathed in sitcoms, sound bytes, and sexual chaos.
But I guarantee you, even if not at first, someone will hear you and come back to hear more.
Questions: What’s helped you share your story with others? What’s hindered you? Leave a comment below.
Saint, sinner, storyteller,
P.S. Come hear some great stories from some courageous men and women next Thursday (April 3 in Baltimore) and Saturday (April 5 in McLean) at Regeneration’s annual fundraising events. We’d love to have you as our guest!
My struggle is unique in that as a Christian I abused a child, and there is much hate toward people with my specific lust. I do still struggle at times, but I see value in my victories as well as struggles. I’ve shared with those who are trustworthy such as my employer and pastors/leaders at church for accountability and support, and those are safe for me. I also have shared from a friend’s struggle with incest and kept it anonymous where people can know there are others fighting and winning. While sharing struggles with pornography and lust can do good, mine still carries a huge stigma that I know would be an unnecessary risk.
Paul – First, it sounds to me like you are already sharing your story, including with some leaders around you who are helping you and also with another man who has reciprocated by sharing his own difficult struggle. Second, if I’m reading your words correctly, it sounds like you are getting the accountability and support you need to make sure you’re not in situations where children could be harmed. If this is the case, you had to put others first and take a big risk to get this far. I commend you! (If I’ve misunderstood, and children are still at risk, please do get whatever additional help you need right away.)
This also brings up two points I didn’t address in my post: 1) Pressing through fear and shame by sharing your story doesn’t necessarily mean sharing indiscriminately with everyone. 2) Sharing our stories can help us secure the relationships necessary to be able to walk in purity even though we face ongoing temptation.
Thank you for commenting, Paul.