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Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit,
you would stay out and your dog would go in.
I continue to find this quote amusing. The more I ponder it, the more theologically profound it becomes. It connects to my deepest longing and my deepest wound. The longing to be known and loved. Favor (grace) states it is finished. Shame asks for just a little more (or a lot) to merit it.
Far more paralyzing than guilt, there's shame. Guilt says you did something wrong. Shame declares you are wrong. Show them you're better. Show them you're a good Christian. Show them you can be pure. All the while shame continues it's malicious whisper: if they really knew you, they'd walk away. And, the kingdom of darkness is delighted to see that the wound inflicted in the beginning, in the garden, lives on.
Remember Adams response, immediately after the fall, when God shows up. It wasn't a surprise visit. They had a history of walking together, but this time
Adam (and Eve) hide. When God asks, "Adam where are you?" Which is, by the way, an interesting question. Had God lost track of them? Anyway,
back to the story.
Adam replies, "...I was afraid because I was naked."
They hid, not because of what they did but because they were
afraid to be seen. That is shame. Shame says hide. Don't let anyone see your nakedness, not even God.
Now partnering along with shame is the enemy’s half-truth promise, "...your eyes will be opened...You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil."
Which gives us the pathological state of fallen man. Don't let them see your nakedness but (and it is a BIG but) you know good. You know evil. Do enough good to outweigh the evil and eventually, eventually, just maybe, you can let people and God see you.
So how's that working out for you? For me, well not so good. Because along with this inherited (family of origin) wound are all the other paper cuts in life. Some by others, many seem to be self-inflicted. All saying I'm less than, not quite enough.
Oh, and because this is appearing in the PLA newsletter I suppose I should throw sexuality into the mix. Man, we're having some fun now.
You know John 3:16? This was my personal version for the longest time:
For God was so disappointed in me that he had to kill his Son to be able to tolerate me.
Let me iterate. I've been on this journey and inviting other men to join me for 25+ years and to a man each one of us experienced an event(s) that fused three things together:
shame – sex – secrecy
By this I mean that something took place sexually, but no one talked about it openly, so something must be wrong with me - shame - and thus,
the desire created or pain inflicted, must be kept a secret.
Sexuality, shame and secrecy have formed a traumatic bond. Keep in mind, some trauma can have a pleasurable side to it. So now we are set up to duplicate the event (in a myriad of ways) in pursuit of the original pleasure. Or, we can even pursue the original pain, as perpetrator or victim, in order to try make sense of it. All of this is being an attempt to answer or drown out shame's haunting question: What is wrong with me?!
Wow, this shame stuff is pretty powerful. If only I was a better Christian I wouldn't be dealing with it so much. Because I don't see those who followed God suffering from shame. Okay, well maybe, Peter after he denied Christ.
In Romans 7:24, Paul makes a deeply shame- based statement, "Oh what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?" And Paul has an immediate reply, "Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord...So now there is no condemnation—shame—for those who belong to Christ Jesus..."
Which brings me to my closing thoughts. Have you ever felt, If I could just improve my prayer life, just stop doing this, read the Bible more, etc.? I wouldn't have to be so needy, so dependent on God. After all, a mature believer's behavior shows they aren't as weak as when they first came to Christ. And, right there, arguably, is the most sinister act of shame. To be ashamed of our need for a savior.
Remember Heaven goes by favor not merit.
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by Blake Williams, PLA Executive Director
Accountability. It is a difficult word to define, even for those of us who work with it daily. Without accountability, Pure Life Alliance could not be effective. Our efforts in all other areas of purity would suffer immensely. Truth be told, without accountability we would simply close our doors—that is how crucial it is for us.
Our groups are governed by a list of group guidelines. Members and leaders are to be familiar enough with them so as to have a working knowledge of them. That is just a fancy way of saying, “Be sure to use them regularly.” One of these guidelines explains the role of an accountability line:
“We agree to hold other group members to their accountability line as we are held accountable to ours. Without a mutually agreed upon, effective level of accountability there is little likelihood of change.”
Every member of any PLA group needs an accountability line. Until recently we emphasized just two components to the accountability line—behavior and needs. These two parts enable someone to observe their behaviors as an indication of their needs. Effectively, each of us has needs we must fulfill. Sleep is a need. Food is an obvious need. We can not live without water, so it too is a need. These are easy to understand, but what about the more intangible needs?
Is love a need?
What about the desire for impact?
A longing to be valued for what I am rather than what I do?
These intangible needs are often at the root of an addiction. Remember, addiction is unhealthy. That is to imply, we humans often find sinful behaviors that appear to meet these God-given needs. So understanding the connection between our behaviors—moral or immoral—and our needs is a sign of health and maturity. It also allows us to be rightly motivated for behavioral change.
I taught a PLA leader training on strengthening the accountability line, The Third Leg of the Stool.
Viewing behavior and needs as two of the legs of a stool allowed the visual of needing a third leg for stability and strength. I taught that our beliefs are the third leg of the accountability stool. Our beliefs about who we are, God’s character, our purpose and calling—these are the perspectives that undergird our view of personal needs. Our beliefs form a foundation on which everything else rests.
Furthermore, once we’ve uncovered unknown beliefs we must evaluate them against the Truth. So many of our beliefs are not informed by our Lord. They
are often lies perpetuated by the enemy, by our selfish hearts or even by the world around us. The challenge is to right-align our beliefs with the Word of God, so that we may accurately understand our true needs. At this point our behaviors align with truth as well. Our actions then will honor the Lord and be healthy for us and for those we love
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I have worked mostly with the wives of men who are sexual addicts. When the spouse first finds out that their husband or wife have been acting out sexually outside their marriage, there is the “blindsided effect”. The spouse may have had thoughts that their marriage is struggling, but thought it was something else, usually never cheating. The betrayal of finding out that your spouse has been sexually acting out with pornography, prostitutes, co-workers, or other forms is such a blow to the marriage they thought they had, the marriage they wanted and hoped they would have with their spouse.
Many spouses feel trauma in the initial discovery of the sexual addiction, and then the trauma may be repeated as they learn the ways their partner has and will lie and cheat to continue the addiction. Disclosure needs to be done well and correctly to limit the depth of the trauma. When a disclosure happens outside a professionally trained counselor’s office, it usually ends up with more traumatic events for the spouse.
The initial discovery often comes outside of professional counseling, but a full disclosure should always be done with a professional counselor. Preferably the sex addict’s counselor and the spouse’s individual counselor in one room. This has been the best scenario for healing that I have been personally involve in and found that it can lend itself to be a healing cornerstone in the sex addict, and their marriage.