I’m still reading this book, I’m through the third chapter now. (Yes, it kind of went by the wayside with everything else I’ve been dealing with. It’s ok). And once again I am inspired.The title of the chapter is “Rejoice in the Lord’s Mercy: Guilt frenzies the soul. Grace calms it.” Max talks about the one and only time he got drunk, and how the guilt from that experience could have affect him and how guilt does affect us.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got stuff to be guilty about. Some of it is true guilt: where I have sinned and I deserve to feel guilty. Some of it is false guilt: where I tell myself I’ve messed up by doing or not doing or saying or not saying something I’ve put on myself. For example: I don’t need to feel guilty about not doing work at the library that isn’t my responsibility. I need to take care of my responsibilities, and if I want to help more as I have time to, that’s great. But if I don’t get something done that is technically my coworker’s responsibility, I don’t need to feel guilty about that.
What came to mind for me while reading this chapter was my addiction to pornography. I actively struggled with it for five years, starting when I was 15 and breaking free of it when I was 20. It was a long five years of constantly feeling guilty. Max describes two types of guilt: guilt that says “I did something bad” and guilt that says “I am someone bad.” My addiction caused me to feel the latter. I felt like I was worthless, someone who could never be free from the shame and guilt that accompanied the words and images I was putting into my brain. I was so deeply entrenched in it that even going to a Christian college with blockers on the internet didn’t help – there were always ways around it. The end of my freshman year I was asked to lead a mission trip to Cambodia the following year, because I’d been there a few times before. Then I left for a summer of working at my church’s camp as an intern: long hours, little pay, wonderful people.
That was the hardest summer of my life. Every weekend felt like a massive spiritual battle. I was depressed, stressed, slightly overworked, and guilty. Even at a Christian camp where we were rarely allowed (or had time) to be on a computer, I still found ways to feed my addiction. Finally, one weekend I had had enough. I was tired of the constant spiritual warfare, tired of the lies, tired of feeling guilty. I wanted out. Initially, I just wanted out of being a Christian. I decided I was done with God. I would let Satan win. All the non-Christians I saw seemed to have an easier time of it anyway. I told God I didn’t want Him anymore and was horribly cruel to a coworker, who reported me to our boss, the camp director. He and his wife lost no time in sitting me down and asking what was up with me. I told them I wanted to go home. She looked at me and said “Anessa, there’s a hardness around you that has never been there before.” I didn’t say much, just that I wanted to go home. He said “take the rest of the day off and think about it. If you still want to go home tomorrow you can go.”
I jumped up from the picnic table where we were talking and headed out to my favorite place on the campground: a canyon overlook where you could see for miles. I ran down the path and the urge to really end it, to just keep running right off the edge of the cliff, was so strong. I was crying and not really looking where I was running and so I didn’t see a tree in my course. I hit it and sank down at the bottom, sobbing. I didn’t even pray, I wasn’t a Christian anymore. But through my sobs I heard His still, quiet voice “I love you.” That was it. That was all I needed, I was His, then and forever. The war for my soul was won that day and that fact has not changed. But I was still an addict.
Convicted more than ever, I went back to college that fall and asked one of my bosses to be my mentor. I knew I needed help. At our first (out of two) meetings I confessed to my boss that I was addicted to pornography. Her eyes got big and she said “that’s beyond my comfort level. I can’t help you with that, you need a counselor.” She told me to go to the counseling center on campus and I did. I was in counseling for a while, I don’t remember how long, at least a year. It was hard. I counted it a good counseling session if I only used one tissue instead of 3-5. We worked through my past sexual abuse, my guilt, strategies to combat my addiction, my depression (although my dysthymia wasn’t diagnosed until later), social anxiety, a lot. I don’t think I ever would have stuck with it if I had not really wanted to change.
I kept my addiction to myself for a long time because I felt ashamed – porn is a guy’s problem (not true!) and I was always the goody two-shoes quiet girl in the corner. I have slipped up a few times in the 10 years since college. I have found complete freedom in God’s grace and by being open and honest. I consider that I was truly set free when I stood up in front of my church during an Easter musical with a sign that said “pornography” and then the man portraying Jesus came up, put his hand on my shoulder and turned my sign over, so that it read “Freedom in Christ.” It was part of a show, but just doing that was so powerful that I still get tears in my eyes while writing this, because Christ does give freedom and grace in abundance. I know they say that once an addict, always an addict, and I feel the tug of temptation from time to time yet. I still resort to my strategies I created during college to have something else to do when I’m bored and feeling tempted. I have freedom in Christ, yes, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to flirt with temptation – I’m human, not infallible. I live in freedom through the grace of God, and it is a great grace. Max says: “I found a forgiveness that is too deep to be plumbed, to high to be summited… God’s grace is bigger than your sin.”
Chances are, you’ve either looked at pornography or are addicted. It’s so everywhere these days. If you are convicted, like I was, then get help. God’s grace is bigger than the guilt and defeat that porn gives. Here’s a list of sites that can help:
Another story of freedom from porn:
I have heard marvelous reviews of a program called Covenant Eyes (and experienced it slightly myself, although I don’t currently have it on my computer). You can find out more about it here:
One final note: you cannot overcome a porn addiction on your own. Get help.
Have you experienced freedom from an addiction? What are some strategies you use to fight addiction?
Full disclosure: clicking the picture of the book above will take you to the Amazon page for the book where you can read more reviews and purchase it if you’d like. I receive a percentage of the sale, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to pay more for the book than you normally would. It just helps me out. Thanks!