“…and the truth will set you free.’” – Jesus in John 8:32
November 2008 – I am sitting in a circle of chairs with other men at my home church. It is the third time I’ve attended this group and after listening to their stories and remaining silent for the first two weeks I for the first time introduce myself honestly. “Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m a sex addict”. They respond with a “Hi Kevin” in affirmation. I share only half of what I had planned, as if God wants to make sure I come back to share the other half. Instead of condemnation, shock, or disgust I receive nods of understanding, soft smiles and affirmation. I have crossed over from feeling “terminally unique” to joining a community of Christians who support one another in their recovery from the very same thing. This is the first time I’ve confessed this sin to anyone since I was thirteen. I am twenty-four.
March 2009 – I am parked at the ministry house I have been living in for several months. I have already spent many minutes trying my best to craft a set of lies to avoid expressing my true feelings about a situation (lest I offend someone) and make the situation appear so that I hadn’t failed but things just hadn’t worked out (lest I let someone down). In the midst of my attempts to devise a good lie the words of Jesus come to me from the Holy Spirit like a thunder bolt. “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I realize that this is not an isolated incident by any means. I have often spent hours crafting lies to avoid offending anyone or letting anyone down. I pick up my phone, call the people I was planning on lying to, and tell them the truth. In this situation everything actually works out for me. There are no negative repercussions, only positive consequences from my truth-telling. I realize this won’t always be the case, but I know I have to continue to be honest to deal with reality.
In my previous post I explained how my surroundings had encouraged me to stay in denial. This however did not excuse why I choose to stay in denial. There are two reasons why I stayed in denial despite many opportunities to step out of denial.
First, I had no hope. Beneath my duplicity I had a nagging belief that this was all a show, that I was being dishonest and in reality I was truly hurting. I could have at any time chosen to deal with those feelings and beliefs alone or after finding a safe person. But I didn’t. I didn’t because I knew if I was honest about my life I would have to acknowledge that I was broken and hurting and at the time I had no hope that anything could fix me. In my mind honesty would not be the first steps towards healing but the first and only step to despair. It was simply a risk not worth taking. The Devil that I knew (denial – and its familiar consequences) was less dreaded to me than the Devil that I didn’t know (honesty – and its unfamiliar consequences), so I chose the Devil that I knew. In recovery lingo, the pain of change was greater than the pain of staying the same, so I chose to stay the same.
Secondly, over the years I have lied countless times to cover up my failures and this created an image I felt comelled to maintain…with more lies. I lied to avoid letting others down and keep my performances for affection as pristine as possible. The lies crafted an image that was impossible to maintain without more lies. The image that I created was that of a golden child who excels at everyone, is loved by all, and never lets anyone down. Striving to maintain this image was exhausting to say the least; it was impossible to do and always required more lying. I doubt many really saw me this way or had these expectations for me but I honeslty believed if I did not keep performing I would be rejected. This image I had crafted became my slave master, one that never relented, never let up, and was never satisfied.
When I actually started being honest about myself, owed entirely to the work of the Holy Spirit and safety of the recovery community of my home church, I was relieved to find that the sky didn’t fall, the universe didn’t collapse, and I was okay. As I continued to hear stories from the recovery community I slowly began to believe that God might be both powerful enough to heal me and gracious enough to restore and redeem me. When I introduced myself in front of 150 of my peers at our young adults service the way I do in a recovery setting. “Hi, my name is Kevin and I am celebrating my recovery from sexual addiction, co-dependency, and unbelief” I broke down the image I had so carefully crafted over the years. It was truly one of the most freeing experiences of my life. Once again, the Word of God did not return void, and as I started to step into honesty I started to step out of the captivity of denial.
I wrote this journal several months ago and have only continued to become more transparent and honest with both myself and with others. One of the core beliefs of sexual addiction is that “if people get to know me, they will reject me.” This belief, the belief that my behavior controls the rejection or approval others extend towards me, and the belief that the approval or rejection of others determines who I really am have historically kept me trapped in lies and dishonesty. I never performed enough as it was, so I certainly had to lie about my failures and lie about my true desires lest I offend anyone.
That day parked in front of the 511 ministry house was a watershed moment for me. It was like God flipped a switch and I really feel He dealt with one of my character defects in a powerful and instantaneous way in that moment. While I still am tempted to lie, or speak half-truths, the compulsive secrecy and lies is just gone. I don’t think I could even go back to that if I tried. It’s just not in me any more. Even if I did try my recovery groups would call me on it.
As I have been honest I have discovered some wonderful freeing truths.
Some people will reject me once they get to know me. This is okay. Some people in this world just are not going to be up for being in relationship with me and this does not dictate my value as a person. Such people reject me for their own reasons, and quite frankly I would rather have someone reject me for who I am than like me for something I am not as this would just require me to consistently pretend to be someone else around them.
Far more common than this reaction, most people respond well to my transparency and honesty and do not reject me based on my past sins or current struggles as a human being. In fact, I think many of my new friends would suggest that my authenticity is what attracted them to me as a person and as a friend in the first place. The wider world is far for forgiving and gracious than my family of origin and I am very slowly learning it is not as unsafe as my homelife.
Furthermore, my honesty and transparency about my past has freed other to talk honestly and openly about their stories as well. Some have just voiced issues they would not otherwise have brought up. Others, sparked by something I have shared, have gotten into recovery or counseling and are getting a lot of healing and freedom.
The truth has to truly set me free and this freedom motivates me to be all the more candid and honest in life and in my writings.