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Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction

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Overview

“Mark has eloquently unraveled the mystery behind addictive behavior: when our relationships are not alive and growing, the temptation for various kinds of addictions is unleashed”—Dr. Gary Smalley With today’s rampant availability of Internet pornography, sexual addiction has become a national epidemic that affects up to 10 percent of Christians. As devastating as any drug habit, it brings heartbreak and despair to those it entangles. But there is help for men and women caught in sexual addiction’s downward spiral. This book offers a path that leads beyond compulsive thoughts and behaviors to healing and transformation. Sensitive to the shame of sexual addiction without minimizing its sinfulness, Dr. Mark Laaser traces the roots of the problem, discusses its patterns and impact, and maps out a biblical approach to self-control and sexual integrity. Previously titled Faithful and True, this revision includes an all-new section that deals with sexual addiction in the church. Other important changes reflect cultural trends, incorporate current research, and place a greater emphasis on spiritual growth. This book also addresses the unique needs and issues of female sex addicts. Whether you know someone with a sexual addiction or struggle yourself, Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction points the way to understanding, wholeness, and holiness.

Details

  • SKU: 9780310559764
  • SKU10: 0310559766
  • Title: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Release Date: May 26, 2009
  • Category: RECOVERY
  • Subject: Christian Life - Personal Growth
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Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

Sexual Addiction and Sin

* * *

I recently talked with a pastor about the shame of being a sexually addicted Christian. By every indication this pastor is successful. He has developed a large church "full of many gifts of the Spirit." Well liked by his people, he preaches wonderful sermons. He is married, has children, and appears to be a normal family man.

Yet this pastor leads a double life. Many days he is drawn to a local park, where he meets men whose names he does not know and engages in sex with them. Most of these encounters last less than thirty minutes, and no words are spoken. He then returns to his office feeling emptier than before. Looking for intimacy, he finds instead only frustration and fear. When will someone from his church find out?

This pastor knows he is committing the sin of sodomy. He prays, fasts, reads Scripture, and yet he cannot stop. He is alone. Who can he tell? Disclosing this behavior would cost his job, family, career, and reputation.

SEXUAL ADDICTION AS A SIN Sexual addiction is a sickness involving any type of uncontrollable sexual activity. Because the addict can't control his or her sexual behavior, negative consequences eventually result.

Whenever I speak to Christians about sexual addiction, someone always asks, "When you call these sexual behaviors an addiction or a disease, aren't you forgetting that they are sinful? People should repent, change their ways, and get right with God." I always agree with these statements. The sexual behaviors that become addictive are sinful. People should repent, change their ways, and get right with God. Repentance, behavior change, and a deeper relationship with God are all goals of the healing journey for a sex addict. I usually respond to this question with another question: How long do you expect repentance and change to take?

Sin and addiction have some common characteristics. Like an addiction, sin is uncontrollable and unmanageable. In fact, God had to sacrifice his only Son because we could not manage our own lives. Sexual addiction is about trying to control behaviors-and failing. Just like alcoholics, sex addicts tell themselves they can quit tomorrow if they want to. They like to think they are in control, but they are not. Indeed, their inability to give up the illusion of control is precisely what prevents sex addicts from healing. It is the same with any sin. Our attempts to control our lives prevent us from trusting God to care for us.

Addiction provides an escape from feelings. Despite experiences of God's love and power, people of faith sometimes have fearful, distrustful natures that drive them to seek an escape from feelings. Consider the prophet Elijah. After he defeated the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel, he was afraid for his life. Rather than face his fears, he ran away and hid in a cave. Jonah ran from his fears of God's preaching assignment and ended up in the belly of a whale. The disciples fled in fear from those who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just like an addiction, this drive to escape painful emotions is unmanageable. It is our inherited sin nature. Addictions provide a way of escape; a false solution; a means to control loneliness, anger, anxiety, and fear.

Addictions, being unmanageable, also lead to destructive consequences. Addictions destroy lives, break up families, ruin careers. Sin too has its consequences. Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death.

Most sex addicts experience devastating shame and believe they are totally worthless. In the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve sinned they were naked and unashamed. After sinning, however, they felt shame. Because we are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we also feel shame when we sin.

Therefore, a clearer understanding of addiction provides a deeper understanding of sin. Sin is more than just a list of immoral behaviors. Sin is the lack of a relationship with God and the destructive behaviors committed as a result. Sin is unmanageable and causes people to distrust God, to control their own lives, and to commit behaviors destructive to themselves and others. Sin causes shame and leads to death. Unmanageability, escape, shame, and-for some-addiction, are interwoven into the very fabric of sin.

SEXUAL ADDICTION AS A DISEASE

Sexual addiction is also a disease-a situation in which something normally healthy becomes unhealthy. Both sexual addiction and disease have observable symptoms and a natural progression that, if left untreated, get worse and eventually lead to death.

Defining sexual addiction as a disease is also consistent with a definition of sin. Sinfulness has a cause. We inherit original sin when we are born. And sin has symptoms. We don't trust God. We make unhealthy choices. We try to control our own lives. Like disease, sinfulness is a degenerative process. The Bible continually warns us that we can sink deeper and deeper into sin. Sinfulness can eventually kill us.

The concepts of addiction and disease clarify and deepen our understanding of the consequences of sin. In accepting that sexual addiction is a disease and a sin, we must also accept that the devil, the personification of evil, is at work in sexual addiction. He uses many devices to create sexual addiction, including unhealthy family dynamics, abuse, and feelings of shame. The devil convinces us we are evil and irredeemable. He sows hopelessness by convincing us we won't get well. There is no question in my mind that we are engaged in spiritual warfare when we attempt to heal sexual addiction.

"MORAL" SEXUAL SIN

Sexual addiction is a disease and it involves sinful behavior. It is not my purpose to provide a theological definition of what is sexually sinful. Most immoral behaviors, such as infidelity or child abuse, are plainly sinful. However, there are sex addicts and sexual activities that, on the surface, appear moral.

Consider the example of the sex addict who never engages in sexual activity with anyone except his wife, yet uses sex with his spouse as an escape from intimacy, not as an expression of it. In this case, the sex addict treats his spouse simply as a body and not as a spirit. Here, sex, although it is with a spouse, is really no different than masturbating. In these situations, the same characteristics of addiction apply. Over time, the addict wants more and more and becomes bored and unfulfilled in the marital sexual relationship. On the surface, he is faithful. But God, looking at his heart, discerns his motives.

These sex addicts don't know how to be emotionally or spiritually intimate with a spouse and believe they will find intimacy in sexual contact. Using sex to mask their loneliness, they are unwittingly driven deeper into loneliness, never revealing their feelings. They might even say to themselves, "As long as I remain faithful to my spouse and as long as sex is good, I don't have a problem and our relationship is good." In fact, the relationship is not good, and the sexual activity becomes an addictive way to avoid the pain of the poor relationship.

Whether their sexual behavior is inside or outside of marriage, sex addicts are lonely and isolated. They use sex for all the wrong reasons. The question is not whether or not their sexual activity is considered moral. The question is whether or not sex is an expression of intimacy or an escape from it. One definition of sin suggests it is any activity that separates us from God and from others. By this definition, purely physical sexual activity in a marriage devoid of intimacy is perhaps addictive and could be considered sinful.

Sex addicts may have family and friends. They may be active leaders. However, no one really knows them. They haven't told anyone who they are, what they feel, and what they've done. Christian sex addicts think if they were really known by those around them, they would be hated, shunned, laughed at, or punished. A key question of this book, and one every believer needs to consider, is: Will Christians help to heal, or will they help to increase, this shame, loneliness, fear, and woundedness? Unfortunately, in too many cases we have "shot the wounded," rather than healed them.

(Continues.)

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