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Podcast: Sex and Self-Worth

We are wired for intimacy and long to know our true identity because we are wired this way. God created us in His image so there is something innate in us that aches for that intimacy, that connection, that other.

Join Josh and Kit as they discuss the entanglement of Sex and Self-Worth.

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

Josh 0:07
So I’m here today with Kit Elmer, and we’re going to talk a little bit about today about this whole concept of sex and self worth, it’s really common that people are linking these two, like, there’s a search for self worth, there’s a desire to be valuable, to be loved, to be beautiful, to be strong to be wanted, link between those kinds of things and sex. So we’re going to talk a little about why that is, and, and hopefully get into a little bit about If that’s you, what you can do about it. So Kitt. What do you think, what’s, what is this link between sex and self worth? For some people?

Kit 1:06
Yeah, I think it’s really, really commonplace. And I, I definitely can see it in my own life looking back many, many years ago as a really young girl. And then, and then, fast forward to today, where I meet with a lot of young women, I can see so many of the same themes, where, you know, as a little girl, I was lonely, I was wounded. I was, you know, looking for something to give me a sense of, you know, something, and I was listening to all kinds of romantic songs, you know, and, and I thought, wow, you know, that’s what I need. And so when I started to be aware of boys, and they were aware of me, as like, Oh, this is, this is what I need to do. And I and I kind of was desperate enough that it was like, oh, okay, well, I need to give him a little my body. Well, then. All right. And so I did that at an early age. And that probably locked me in to some things to have, you know, oh, if I do that, then then maybe he’ll he’ll stick around. Oh, yeah. sticking around. And I see that with women that I meet with too.

Josh 2:09
So here’s here’s a question. For the average woman, let’s stick with women for a minute like it is there? Is there a knowing about that? Is there like a I know why I’m doing this, I know that I’m, I’m hooking up with this guy, or having sex with my friend or watching porn? Or because I’m trying I’m wanting to feel more valuable? Or is it kind of like, I don’t know why I’m doing this.

Kit 2:29
I think a lot of times, it’s I don’t know why I’m doing it. I’m doing it. And I still feel the same. So I’m even more frustrated. Now. I still have the same issue. But now I’m even more frustrated. And when they begin, I’ve seen this happened a number of times with clients where it’s, they begin to get some insight into that, that I think that’s what I’m doing. And it just breaks their heart, you can see them just begin to go, like, oh, oh, my gosh, that’s what I’ve been doing. And and it’s not, it’s not working. And I’ve been doing that over and over again. It just makes them sad makes them you know, realize that they were doing something without even knowing if that was actually destructive to their to themselves.

Josh 3:19
Yeah, so i think i think so let’s back up a little bit. I think the same is true for men, I think the majority of men who are wrestling with unwanted sexual behaviors start off with I don’t want to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s bringing some type of destruction or, or dissonance inside my gut, that’s not the man I want to be. It’s not the way I want to feel. They don’t know why they’re doing it, they just know I keep going back to the porn or I keep going back to the sexual encounters. I can’t figure that out, I want to stop, help me stop the behavior. And it’s not until they start getting some help and start unpacking stuff that they realize I’m actually looking for something underneath these behaviors, I’m looking for something. And in many cases, it is it is a deep sense of validation in their manhood or validation in their identity. It’s a it’s almost like a search for self worth. It’s a search for please, somebody convinced my heart convinced my soul and it’s me deep down, that I am man enough that I am that I am somebody that I can make an impact in the world that there’s that, you know, this place is different because I exist in a good way. And then as they unpack then those are some of my words for it. But other guys might say it differently. Other women would maybe define that differently. But then they unpack and realize I was looking for some substance in my in my own heart in my own view of myself. And then it does become this tragic thing because it’s I think it’s I mean, it must be a way of the Well anyway, jumping

Kit 4:45
well and what’s one thing that’s really hard is that once they realize that, oh gosh, there’s there’s a lot of kind of complicated sort of stuff in there and sometimes People get scared. And they’re like, I don’t want to go there. That’s too hard. I think I’ll just go back to that behavior. And, and trust that, sooner or later it’s going to work.

Josh 5:14
So give me an example of like, what the stuff that’s too hard that they begin to get?

Kit 5:17
Well do you know, so they might begin to realize that they’ve been making some traces because of some woundedness. Like things that remember that their mom said to them when they were growing up, or their dad said to them when they were growing up, and and they’re like, Oh, my gosh, I didn’t realize how much that hurt me. I didn’t realize how, how much that really makes me filled with pain, even now about the kinds of things that I believe about myself. But I don’t know that I want to go there. I don’t know if I want to, like face the pain that my that that happened with my mom or my dad, or those are things I believed for most of my life. I’m not sure I want to go through that wall. You know, that brick wall? I think I’ll just leave it intact and go back and swim in the water. I was swimming in before. Yeah. And so that kind of, you know, in their, in their mind or in their spirit, somehow they’re they’re like confirmed in an in an untrue way. Yeah, that that’s where they need to go back to instead of facing the the other reality, which would lead to more freedom.

Josh 6:20
And then I think another another piece of that is, maybe I can still work this out without having to go back. Yes, and unpacking that stuff. So maybe I can stop this current stuff that’s killing me without having to go back and explore Yes, that where this stuff came from the Genesis that some of the soul reaching places. Another example of some of that stuff we don’t go back to is our own sexual wounding when we were little, whether it’s exposure to something, a line as a cross abuse, we experienced a decision that we made in our own youthfulness and curiosity that was actually really wounding to us and to another person. Those kinds of things can be really, really scary. Like, I cannot even talk about that, because that involves not just me anymore. Now it involves me and my family. And man, I don’t want to upset that applecart.

Kit 7:07
Absolutely. And you know, the other part is that if if someone has been acting out, sexually, and believing that it’s this good thing, you know, but it’s actually feeding something inside, you know, I was just thinking about a young woman who, you know, she was in this relationship, it was, she knew it wasn’t a good relationship. But it was it was almost like she was addicted to it. Now, after so long of going, she’s in a habit, she was in a, you know, it was either an addiction, or it was just this really strong habit. And so to break that off was, you know, more than she could imagine doing.

Josh 7:49
Yeah, I think one of the links for people with between the search for self worth, or search for self, and sex is connected to our, our, our our Genesis is people that were created in God’s image. And God is not a he’s not a he’s not a solitary figure. He’s a trinity he is, he is three in one and creating mankind in his image, male and female, there’s something in us that knows that we’re not meant to be alone. And that it searches for a deep sense of connection and connectivity. Like, I think it’s a it’s a, it’s an old misunderstanding among at least some Christians, this idea of all I need is Jesus, just Jesus in me and we’re good. We’re actually not scriptural, like old or new testament it like you cannot find a biblical foundation for I’m good with just Jesus, like we actually are wired for intimacy. And in my experience, intimacy and identity are like they just revolve around each other. I mean, think about our, our beginning. This is by God’s design, like every human being on the planet, is, is a product of intimacy, whether it was a good intimacy or not, they’re a product of two people becoming one flesh. That’s by God’s design, I think there’s something hardwired into us that’s so even as we search for our identity, we can get that twisted up or misdirect that search for identity by trying to connect in unhealthy ways or prematurely in, in sex outside of marriage. And then in marriage, I think that they’re their spouses who end up losing themselves or searching for their own self worth, by pleasing their spouse by being the perfect wife by being the perfect husband. And so they’re still not finding the true core of who they are and believing that value. So you tell him my story. I didn’t mean to, you know,

Kit 9:40
I mean, I was just thinking about how, you know, I didn’t get married until I was 32. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 29. And so I had a long time of misunderstanding who I was and who God was and sexuality and but you know, so I was just the connectivity thing, like for a long time, I was Really I misunderstood it. I misunderstood it. And in fact, I didn’t understand it until well into my marriage. Yeah, yeah, I mean, even married, I still didn’t understand what God intended. That it wasn’t about my being dependent. And, and in complete, but there was this healthy way to be interdependent and to be and to be in a marriage relationship, both sexually and, and every other kind of intimacy in a way that I wasn’t losing myself, but it was actually bringing out the best in me. So, you know, I think it’s a thing that we don’t that we could talk a lot more about. The, like you said that the fact that we’re hardwired for connectivity, but we don’t understand it.

Josh 10:52
Yeah. So when we I think we could think about like, regenerations tagline is becoming whole. And I think one of the ways to think about it is that that what we end up doing in our misdirected fallen, sinful way is, we feel somewhere deep inside that we’re not hold that we’re incomplete. And so we try to become complete in the arms of another person or through a fantasy, as opposed to God desires to bring two holes together and make them one yes. And, and there’s a there’s a big difference between those two, what we end up doing, if we’re incomplete, if we if we’re trying to be complete, in union with somebody else in a faulty way we end up doing is really trying to suck life that the other person is not equipped to give to make us something that we cannot become in that way. As opposed to, I’m becoming a whole person and my spouse or my friends, my community, or they’re all people becoming holds well. And we are giving to each other that you use that word interdependent, which is a that’s a very different word than codependent or emotionally dependent or simply dependent.

Kit 11:59
Oh my gosh, that it plays out so differently, what your relationship looks like, when you’re living one way or another is completely different. And I think about all the times that both in my own marriage, but also when people come in here, and they’re having issues in their marriage, whether it’s you know, sexual issues, often it is and then emotional, relational. But you know, they’re like, well, if my husband will just get Okay, if my wife will just get okay, right, marriage can just be okay. And the fact is that we say to them over and over again, this truth that you’re on a journey to the wife, you’re on a journey to the husband, and your marriage is on a journey. And each one of those things, in and of itself is important to, you know, to explore and to let heal. Yeah, in the process.

Josh 12:48
I remember in college, I didn’t date much at all, in high school in college, but and not because I was virtuous It was really I was just afraid, I was afraid of rejection, I was afraid of being in a relationship and getting hurt or being or hurting somebody from my own baggage. But I remember, I remember a couple relationships I was in where I they were just weren’t healthy. I was not healthy in those relationships. I was codependent I was emotionally dependent. And I remember watching a friend of mine, a couple friends of mine who were dating each other. And their relationship just intrigued me because they were so different with each other than I felt I could ever be in a relationship. Specifically, I remember one time we were all away on this kind of, you know, friend weekend, they’re probably like 20 of us. And I was watching them, that when they were together, they were obviously really, really enjoyed each other. But then they seemed very free to kind of walk away from each other and do other things, you know, even having to do this great, I don’t wanna do that, I’ll go do something else. And there was no kind of like, you know, cleanliness, it was just an end, and they didn’t seem threatened. When one was talking to other people, it was a lot of freedom. And I was like, man, I want that. So even though I didn’t know is going on for me, I didn’t know the ways that I was looking for validation from from other people in that way. I knew that I wanted something different than what I experienced. I longed for it as I saw it in their relationship. So maybe let’s just kind of use that as a as a turning point in this conversation. If anybody’s listening and they recognize, yeah, I see that I’m pursuing sexual relationships, or I’m pursuing pornography or fantasy, or I’m in an emotionally dependent relationship, I’m looking for something that’s to validate my own worth to give me an identity. What can they do? What can help them to change?

Kit 14:28
Well, you know, I think, obviously, the first step in anything is really just being willing to look at that and say, That’s true. You know, acknowledge it, like really, you know, be like, Well, no, I think I’ll get busy and not stop thinking about it. But really, to be like, okay, like, if that’s true, then what does that mean? And be, you know, willing to talk to God about it, and Have the courage to say, if that’s true, then what does need to change? What do I need to start? How do I need to start thinking differently? How do I need to start behaving differently. In fact, I actually remember having a moment like that in my, in my early 20s, where I knew I was on a on a bad track, and I wasn’t even walking with the Lord at that time, but it but he was walking with me, I just didn’t know it. But you know, somehow, he made it clear to me that, you know, wow, these these guys that you’re dating, and this track that you’re on is just really not good for you. I started exercising and running and just like stopped just kind of stopped in my tracks and was like, all those things I was doing or weren’t weren’t good for me, I’m gonna try some new healthy behaviors. And it’s interesting, I didn’t know God then. So I wasn’t going to him. But it wasn’t long after that, that he, I started to, like, be drawn to, to God more. Well, I was out of the darkness and out of the cycle of, of that all of that behavior and thinking and so when I got out of it, I started to see see life differently and see myself differently. And see, I chose a very different person to date after that, which was my now husband.

Josh 16:15
Yeah, I mean, I think, Bobby, so to reiterate what you’re saying, I think one way of thinking about that is one practical steps you could take if you find yourself continuing to seek out validation worth identity in other relationships, is to begin exploring the good of who you are like, what, what do you love to do? What makes you come alive? I think for a lot of people who wrestle in this way, they don’t know why I don’t know what makes me come alive. What I know is, is what makes other people seem interested in me, or I know, it seems to keep other people around. You know, my body seems to draw people or when I, you know, when I drink, you know, seems to loosen me up. So I feel more comfortable or, you know, whatever. Yeah. And I think instead, like, well, what actually makes you I mean, I think that question alone, like, what makes you come alive? When was the last time you felt truly alive? in your own skin?

Kit 17:08
Great question. I think it’s a great question. And you’re so right, a lot of people when I asked that one, they don’t, they don’t know. Yeah. So we spend a lot of time on that, you know, you know, think about the last time you felt like, wow, I just really love doing this, you know, and, and then do more of that, you know, this healthy, this healthy thing, you know, like, so it’s it is good, it’s really good to do that, because God designed us, you know, very uniquely and he has things that, that he wants us to enjoy in this this life that he’s given us if we can look around, you know, and and see it.

Josh 17:46
Yeah, I think the the, one of the other realities about that is it’s, it’s allowing the Holy Spirit room to affirm who he’s made you to be, as opposed to kind of selling yourself so that you can get someone else’s attention. You can get that connection, momentary connection with another person. And, and if you can do that in conjunction with the Lord or with with mature Christians who can affirm like, I see something in you with this, it’s really good. I know, I know, here one of the exercises that some guys will do as they’re trying to break free from sexual addiction, pornography addiction, is to ask, like, in trying to answer the question, what I used to love to do, what were some things in the past that were I when I felt alive when I was a kid, and some guys who’ve done that they’ve said, You know, I haven’t drawn? Since I was a little kid, I used to love that, right? I haven’t been out into nature. So I used to love that used to play guitar. Number one guy that was the kids in the ministry years ago. He used to love to play guitar, I think you’ve even been in a band. And so he picked up his guitar and started playing again, and just feels like I love this. What did I do, I traded this for something else.

Kit 18:48
You know, we’ve talked about this a little before, but not to get into a whole big conversation about true self and false self. But I love this quote, your true self is who you are, before the world told you who you are. Hmm, you know, that there’s, there’s these internal intrinsic things that God has given us that are true about us that we love, and that we enjoy. And we’ve gotten caught up. So often, all of us in being you know, believing that we are what people tell us we are, well you like this or you like that, or you should like this, or you should like that, or the enemy’s saying this is actually who you are. And so to get back to what’s really true, you know, before I started to believe what everybody else said,

Josh 19:32
and you know, the other piece of that is is just like what makes you feel truly alive is not necessarily something that you’re that you’re good at in the eyes of the world. That’s true. You know, you can pick up your guitar doesn’t mean you have to be like, you know, Van Morrison or something like you just, I just love to play I know not very good. I’m not gonna I’m not gonna be a professional musician, but this life brings me joy. Yeah. All right. All right. So we’re gonna take a little extra time because because we don’t want to stick on that one way but but Part of what we’re getting after there with that question. And so you can broaden that, that answer of like, what makes you feel fully alive? We’re trying to get after is, like becoming that whole? You. Right? So that’s one category is I became a whole person by, in part by identifying what makes me come alive, what what are my spiritual gifts? What do I just enjoy? What are the kinds of relationships that I really actually enjoy and not because of, you know, the hookup. So here’s another nother couple of ideas about just breaking free from that cycle of seeking validation of the person. One is, I’d say, an abstinence from those kinds of relationships, whatever they are. So if it’s pornography, yes, options for pornography, if it’s going out, drinking too much having sex, somebody abstinence from from doing that. If it’s relationship after relationship, or going back to that same old relationship, it’s breaking up with that person, those

Kit 20:58
are really, really significant. I can relate to every single one of them. I

Josh 21:02
think, even you know, we’ve known folks who have decided after identifying like, I don’t seem to be okay, if not in a dating relationship. And so for a year, I’m not going to date at all, I’m going to work on my friendships, I’m going to work on some, some hobbies, I’m going to travel. But I’m, and even when I meet the one I’m not dating for this year, and it kind of entrust that to the Lord, that has been radical for many, many clients, those kinds of decisions. And, and I can relate to it in my own life, too. So those are really, really practical, powerful suggestions, and not something to do alone. You still need relationship, you still need people in your corner who can both hold you accountable support you, be there for you encourage you, yeah, cheer you on. And, and remind you again, and again, who you are. And I threw out there, you know, absence of pornography. But But you know, anytime we’re talking about abstinence from an addiction, whether it’s an addiction to sleeping with people, unhealthy relationships, pornography, we recognize that you’re going to need a community a network of support around you, as you’re seeking to walk away from that addiction. It’s not just so easy as like, I just won’t do that. It’s just like turning a light switch on and

Kit 22:12
off. Well, and that’s a lot of what we do to in coaching. I mean, that really, I think it’s been a really helpful tool for a lot of people I meet with to have somebody that understands, that won’t judge you if you don’t do it, all right, you know, but is there to say you can do this, you’re strong, you you know, and that kind of encouragement.

Josh 22:31
Yeah, or somebody. I mean, one of the things that we coach guys in a lot is call your allies and you’re tempted call somebody, which is hard to do somebody who once called it, you know, picking up the 1000 pound telephone, it just, you know, I can text, I can pray that you’ll pray for me, but to actually call you and tell you I’m really struggling right now is a hard thing to do. I don’t mean to gloss over that one. But for the sake of time, I want to mention one other thing. There There are spiritual realities. Here. Scripture teaches that, that when two people have sex, they become one flesh. And we have experienced and there’s not enough time to get into all this in this podcast. But we have experienced and seen in people a stark difference when they have sex with someone else, or multiple people, it can actually make a difference in their own experience of who they are and their identity. And this is spiritual reality. And so there is there’s something called breaking soul ties or breaking one flesh unions. It’s actually literally praying through and asking Jesus through the power of his cross and resurrection, to break that unwholesome that unholy union that was initially intended for sex within marriage or for union and marriage, but has become misused to pornography lost sex outside of marriage. And so finding someone who can pray with you be happy to do that with you here. But you can pray with you through each of those one flesh unions and break them that that alone that process can actually help to alleviate some of the power and the cycle that people find themselves in. Yes. So kid, anything else you throw in there,

Kit 24:04
I just want to just, you know, to affirm that last issue, that’s a big one. And it is important to pray through those things.

Josh 24:13
So we try to cover a lot of ground but we started with this connection between sex and self worth. And I want to just end with this this closing thought which is really what all this points to God’s designed initially for, for any kind of relationship, whether it’s a friendship, parent, to child, husband, to wife, Pastor to parishioner, all of those are really meant in their own unique ways to point us to what really fulfills us and who really gives us identity which is our union with God. That’s those are all the the signposts pointing to that and when we seek our union with others to give us identity, it’s actually where we’re, we’re at idolatry. It’s it’s trying to milk Something that’s not really giving us the milk that we’re after. And so that’s a journey. It’s a process but but God has a true identity, a whole ness for each one of us. And so instead of beating ourselves up for these repeated patterns, this journey is really meant to redirect us to the one who ultimately so desires to be one with us. And so desires to grant us an identity that’s that’s far greater, far more rewarding, far more, work more with wild and then we would typically think, from our experiences here, so let me just pray to close us, Lord, we’ve covered a lot of ground and I know that we’ve just scratched the surface for so many, but we do pray for anyone listening who’s identified themselves and anything we’ve said. Or do we want to affirm the good, the desire to be someone of value someone of worth? Someone who’s beautiful or strong, who has meaning, purpose, someone who belongs Lord, these desires are so good, you’ve, you’ve sown the desires into us, because you want us to find you and to find our value our worth our being our identity in you. So, Lord, continue to lead us for that we would actually connect with you and discover who we are. In Jesus. We pray these things, the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.

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