In church and Christian culture, there are times when we are told that we do not have to be perfect to be loved or accepted, but let’s be honest—we rarely act like this is true.
There is a real danger of becoming overpowered by fear. Whether it’s fear of not loving God enough, going to hell, or getting our theology wrong, many us have lived in fear of failure rather than the joy of freedom.
Sin is a prime example of this. We’re told we’re free from the power of sin and death, yet it’s the one thing that many are frightened of the most. For us porn addicts, it can be a daily cause of anxiety and tension in our lives:
Will I give in today? Will I be able to resist the triggers that I face? Will I have to go to my accountability group and confess everything? What will their reaction be? Will I ever be able to stop?
And the cause and effect of all of this both lie in the same thing: shame.
Shame causes us to try and feel better about ourselves by looking at porn; looking at porn causes us to feel deep shame. Round and round we go. Paralyzed by shame. Isolating ourselves more and more because we don’t want to face the shame of being labeled a failure. Either by ourselves or others.
Ask anyone how they perceive someone who feels shame but yet is vulnerable enough to reach out and seek the help they need and we lift them up as brave and courageous and a great example.
But put ourselves in the same position of being vulnerable with others and we can revert to our old feelings of unworthiness, failure and consequently, shame.
I was brought up like many in a tradition that said I could never be perfect yet demanded that I leave church every Sunday with my halo, squeaky clean, and sitting nicely.
I was taught that all have sinned and fallen short, yet I did my utmost to prevent others from seeing the real me. The me I was too ashamed to have brought into the light.
I was taught that nothing I did could ever change God’s love for me, yet I acted as if every time I looked at porn, that God was ready to give up on me.
This is shame at work at its most efficient. Shame stops us. Shame knocks us down and says, “Where do you think you’re going? Not so fast!” (Tweet This!)
The temptation is to remove shame as quickly and as painless as possible. Shame’s only purpose is to lie and tell us in which areas of our lives we believe we are unworthy or unlovable, but Brene Brown, the shame researcher and writer, says you answer shame by dancing with it.
I think she is onto something.
The answer lies not in denying shame or ignoring it but looking it in the eye and reminding it and ourselves that we are loved and we are enough and nothing we’ve done up until this point is enough to write ourselves off.
Shame drives us to be so worried and terrified of failure. It tells us that failure is final and devastating. But failure is sometimes necessary. Failure is not a good enough reason to hide away. We need to stop believing the lie that it is, because you are not a bad person when you fail. Failure merely means you are alive. Which, if you didn’t know, is a good thing.
Giving in to porn, losing your sobriety, falling off the wagon—these are never the end. (Tweet This!)
How useful shame has been to your recovery so far? I’m guessing not so much. I’m guessing that beating yourself up over and over again only accentuates the shame. I’m guessing that it only causes you to cover your face.
What if tomorrow, when you wake up, you aren’t afraid of failing or losing your sobriety? What if you’re not afraid because for the first time you understand that if you do, you are still in the game, still in the fight, still cherished, still loved, and still accepted?
This means that in those times that you do look at porn your whole identity hasn’t come crashing down around you because you know that your identity is based on something that shame cannot touch: God’s love for you. (Tweet This!)
And when you’re not ashamed of who you are, you won’t hide or try and only allow the nice parts about you be seen. You will stand a little taller and a little more confident.
We’ll see you. Failures and all. We don’t care as much as you think we will. We still love you. We still believe in you and we’ll continue to do so.
Stand up. It’s time to start dancing.
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