Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Deadly Shame

     John Gibson was a pastor and seminary professor who also happened to have his name on the list of customers that utilized the Ashley Madison website, a "business" that is all about connecting people to have an affair. A few weeks after the site was hacked and clients information was dumped and made public, Pastor John Gibson killed himself, leaving behind his wife and two kids. His wife said it wasn't something they couldn't have worked through, and there was forgiveness for this betrayal, but Pastor John couldn't extend the forgiveness that he preached and taught about to himself. 
     I've read hateful words directed at the patrons of the Ashley Madison website. People have equated karma with female dogs in regards to these unfaithful low-lifes. Even Dr. Phil has wished for them to get what's coming to them. But should any of these cases end in death? Not that Dr. Phil implied hoping for such doom, but many want them to pay dearly for their actions.
     I get that. People have been lied to, betrayed, led to believe life was one way when it was really another. They are hurting, their trusters have been demolished, lives turned upside down. My wife equates it with their personal Twin Towers crumbling. It is traumatic. And they deserve healing, the truth, and amends. 
     I see the perpetrators a little differently. Yes, their actions caused devastation, major riffs in relationships, and for those who are of a certian faith and "men of the cloth," the label "hypocrite" is very appropriate. However, I see brokenness in the Ashley Madison patron, especially among those who call themselves pastors. There are deep wounds that would cause one to behave in a way that is contrary to their morals and belief systems. There has to be major pain that would cause them to risk, at the very least, hurting their spouse, and at the worst, losing their marriage and ministry. But people who are broken can be restored. Marriages that have imploded can be rebuilt. Lives can be redeemed, if one is willing to work for it. That is the business God has called my wife and me to. And He is a professional Redeemer. We are priviledged to witness it in the couples we counsel, and we have experienced it fisthand in our own lives. 
     I am constantly praying for the minister who hasn't received yet the help he/she needs. Unfortunately, most people don't reach out unless they're caught. But I believe for every broken person that comes into the light, there are 50 you don't see. And we are waiting in the wings to be of assistance.
     I'm praying the Holy Spirit will use this post to bring someone into the process of redemption and break the powerful hold that deadly shame can have on one's soul. Broken lives matter, too.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Looking For Dad

     I am reading Andre Agassi's memoir. It is compelling. It all starts with his fractured relationship with his dad. The further I get into the book, the more I am convinced he could be one of my clients. I haven't finished it so I do not know if there is any kind of resolution between Andre and his demanding, controlling and unaffectionate dad, but thus far in the book, he looks for a caring, compassionate, loving father figure in anyone who has the potential. And when he does find those characteristics in a surrogate, it is like manna from heaven to him. 
     I work with pastors, most of them dealing with sexual addiction issues, which is the symptom of the real problem. And with practically every man I work with, there is a dad wound, a void. It is always part of my treatment plan to explore the client's relationships with his parents, especially his dad, because behind the walls of the house they grew up in lies at least part of the answer to why they are stuggling today. 
     I ask them to tell me about their dad and almost all of them start with some sort of family loyalty statement: He was a good man, a hard worker, etc.. I'm glad they have that impression of him and that they want to honor him. However, at this juncture in our journey together, it doesn't serve our immediate purpose. We're trying to find the cracks, the negative impressions, the wounds that have contributed to pornography use or habitual masturbation or an affair and beyond. I tell them this is not about blame, it is not about bitterness, and it is not about dishonoring their fathers in any way. It is about that little boy getting to receive healing around the wounds that were inflicted on him regardless of how hard working and honorable his father was. Honor, respect, and feeling pain from the past can co-exist but usually that very honor and respect keeps men from getting in touch with that pain because they don't want to feel like they're betraying their father and are still seeking his approval. Numbed pain gets treated someway, somehow. 
     Habitual use of pornography is not just about sexual perversion, it is about medicating pain. I walk the path to the past with each man I work with to see as specifically as we can what was inflicted at such a young age that they would feel the need to secretly behave in a way that is contrary to their morals, belief systems, and their marriage vows. And there's always some sort of fracture, yet it got numbed, stuffed, because as kids, all we're trying to do is survive whether we have the proper tools to be healthy about it or not. If we don't have them, we'll come up with them. But we were just kids, so our tools are crude and ineffective for the long term. That's why a boy needs a dad to show him the way, but if Dad wasn't present to guide him or was actually the source of pain or sent a perpetual harmful message,  the boy has to find alternate ways to cope and survive. 
     Many men struggle with pornography because in their fantasy they can be as manly as they need to feel. It is a dad's job to teach his son how to be a man, what a true man is. If he didn't do his job and was actually counterproductive, this void can be filled by fantasy and pornography when someone's sense of manhood takes a hit. Temptation to act out sexually and immorally is actually a pain flare up. But that pain has been covered up. Men are so out of touch with that pain that they just go for medication, the porn, the fantasy, the escort, the affair partner, whatever meets that topical need because in that moment, they can feel as manly as they need to feel. For many, I see their unhealthy choices as the result of a little boy looking for his dad. 
     G. K Chesterton once said, "Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God." I've seen that played out in the lives of the men who sit on my couch in my office or that I Skype with. There is an unmet need, a gaping wound with a band-aid on it, and the pain has been quickly medicated by sexually acting out but never really treated for what it is or healed, thus a cyclical, habitual pattern of sinful behavior continues. 
     The great news is God is there to heal the wounds, fill the voids, and ease the pain. But do you know what that pain is or where it is coming from? I hear Jesus asking the blind beggar, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And the afflicted man told him exactly what he wanted healing for with no generalities. 
     Maybe you don't know exactly what it is that's causing you pain so you can't be as specific, but I believe Jesus is there to touch that precise area in your soul that has been wounded for far too long. I hope you'll look for your Father in the right places. There is so much hope. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

50 Shades of Confused

     My title for this article doesn't make sense, but that is the way I feel about society's acceptance of a pornographic movie being released this week, "50 Shades of Grey." I was hoping, by some miracle, that the movie would flop, sending a message to Hollywood that we don't want more of that kind of depraved film making and that the SpongeBob movie would take first place again this Valentine's Day weekend. Alas, I just read that pre-ticket sales for "Grey" are astounding. Instead of sending a message to Hollywood, they are sending a message to us: You are a bunch of voyeurs and we're going to capitalize on it. Yes, I said, voyeurs. What else would you call it? "Grey" is rated "R" by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) for "strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language." We're not okay with a peeping Tom lurking in our neighborhood and enjoying a view through somebodies bedroom window unbeknownst to the victim,  as we shouldn't be, but we are okay with people paying 12 bucks, walking into a movie theater and watching sexual exploits, "unusual behavior" and "graphic nudity." Confusing. 
     One of the stars of the movie was quoted in an online article as saying something to the effect of, "Don't pass judgement until you've seen the movie." Flat out, I do not need to see this piece of... film to judge it. The MPAA has already summed it up for me. It would not be good for my soul or my marriage to be a consumer of this phenomenon. But, still, I will judge it. Better yet, I will assess it, or at least where we are as a society when it comes to sexual health.
     I am a certified sexual addiction specialist with the IACSAS (International Association of Sexual Addiction Specialists). I have experienced personally what pornography can do to a marriage and I am now committed to helping others who's lives have been rocked by sexual addiction. I read an article on about teens and pornography use. In it was the statement that viewing pornography was "normal and natural." Reading those words caused head-shaking on my part. Is it normal and natural to have an intimacy disorder because fantasy has over-ridden reality? Is it normal and natural to have a spouse experience post traumatic stress when she discovers her husband has been consuming pornography? Is it normal and natural to experience sexual impotency in real life relationships because of the frequency of self-gratification that pornography provides?
     Anyone who buys a ticket to "50 Shades of Grey" is a consumer of pornography and exhibiting voyeuristic tendencies. Now, one could argue that consuming pornography and being "legally" voyeuristic are not harmful, but I know the effects of these behaviors, as noted above. I have seen lives destroyed, marriages shattered, jobs lost, and futures altered because of the "normal and natural" role pornography plays in a person's life. I even conducted the funeral of a young man who had killed himself, and countless sexual images and pornographic paraphernalia was found on his computer after his death. Think I'm being overly dramatic? Can pornography really cause someone to commit suicide? I firmly believe it can be a contributor when mixed with depression because there are extreme, euphoric highs involved, and very low lows. Pornography destroys lives. I cannot be convinced otherwise.
      In the movie "From Here to Eternity" there is a scene in which two lovers are famously kissing on the beach when the tide comes in and splashes over them. That is uncategorically one of the most romantic clips in cinema history. The reality of that situation would be salt water getting in orifices and sand infiltrating swimsuits. It is Hollywood. I shudder to think what will actually occur when people see the 50 Shades movie and try to attempt some of the activity displayed on the screen. Do not forget, this is a production with actors playing a part that they have been paid huge sums of money for. They were cast because they are attractive people and are creating a piece of fiction.  I predict disappointment when it doesn't play out the same as it did for Mr. Grey and what's her name, anger and frustration if someone doesn't want to give it a go, actual physical pain that was in no way pleasurable, and feelings of being abused and for very good reason.
     The popularity of "50 Shades of Grey" isn't a reflection of how far Hollywood has gone, but how far we've come since it is our dollars that fuel Tinseltown. If we didn't buy, they wouldn't create (don't hold your breath for an "Ishtar 2"). And since my hopes have been dashed that this movie will flop, I will continue doing what is my passion to do, helping those whose denial has been broken through enough to realize they need help. Maybe I'll stand outside the theaters this weekend with my business cards.