Read an Excerpt
Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction
There Is Hope
Once there was a young pastor who became a full-time individual, marriage, and family counselor. He, his wife, and three children lived in a nice, suburban neighborhood. The family had many friends and liked where they lived.
In addition to counseling, this pastor was an interim preacher at a local church, taught a course at the local Christian college, and served on the school board. A popular communicator, he spoke for various groups and was frequently interviewed on radio and television. He also enjoyed volunteering at a hospice. All in all, this pastor was well liked and respected by his community, and many turned to him for support, advice, and encouragement.
However, this pastor was also a sex addict. He had masturbated excessively since college. In graduate school he began visiting X-rated bookstores and massage parlors---a habit that continued into his professional career. Although he was afraid he would be caught and publicly humiliated, he could not stop practicing his sexual addictions.
Needless to say, his marriage, which on the surface appeared loving and stable, was very troubled. He and his wife were so busy with family and careers they had little time for each other. Lacking skills in intimacy and believing his wife didn't really love him, the pastor thought himself justified in finding a woman who would.
When several hurting and vulnerable women in his counseling practice looked to him for help, he initiated sex with them. He confused sex with love and believed he really cared for the women, never realizing how much he was hurting them.
The pastor was tormented by self-doubt. He didn't like himself very much, and he wondered how these women could be attracted to someone like him. Time and time again he vowed to end the affairs, and time and time again he fell into sin.
Eventually, a colleague found out about one of the affairs, and the pastor was fired from his counseling practice. Hurt and disappointed, the colleague and several others confronted the pastor. One, a doctor and recovering alcoholic, said to the pastor, 'Your behaviors with sex seem like mine with alcohol. You're out of control. Why don't you let us find you some help?' The doctor hugged the pastor, for the doctor knew the pain of uncontrollable behaviors.
Though shocked and afraid, the pastor was also tired of his double life---tired enough not to resist the efforts to find him help. Several days later he entered the sexual addiction unit at Golden Valley Health Center.
In the months that followed, this pastor discovered the pain and joy of healing. It was a process filled with upsetting childhood memories, guilt for his behavior, and anguish over the abuse he perpetrated on others. His addiction had cost him a great deal. He would never counsel or preach from a pulpit again. Several of his clients sued him. Some looked at him and his behaviors with hatred and disdain. But the process was also filled with the joy of being honest, of a new life, and of restored relationships with his wife and friends. He began to discover the peace of healing and decided he wouldn't trade it for the world.
Saved at the age of sixteen and ordained ten years before he found healing, this pastor always felt unworthy of God's forgiveness. Although he was admired by others, he felt they would hate him if they knew the truth. Only by embracing honesty and undertaking the transforming journey away from sexual addiction did he truly come to know God, redemption, and restoration.
Sex addicts, like the pastor, commit a secret sin. It is so sinful that almost all are too ashamed to talk about it. Yet their sin, a profound violation of God's law, threatens our culture and the very core of the Christian church.
The secret sin of sexual addiction grows from seeds planted in childhood and symptoms may go undetected for years. In adolescence, the indicators of this disease may be confused with normal sexual development. In adulthood, the disease grows progressively worse. Ultimately, if untreated, its victims will die.
The secret sin is an addictive disease that has existed since the beginning of time, yet for centuries it has been misnamed, mistreated, ignored, or completely undiagnosed. Even though it has killed, humiliated, and wounded countless people, some still believe it doesn't exist. Those who suffer from sexual addiction have been laughed at, scorned, and persecuted. Too consumed by shame to ask for help, they have been confined to lives of loneliness and isolation. Only recently have we recognized the secret sin as a disease and offered treatment to its sufferers.
Christians are not exempt from this disease. Experts speculate up to 10 percent of the total Christian population in the United States is sexually addicted. If true, this means that in a congregation of 500 members, 50 are sex addicts. And this percentage may be increasing. In one study, two-thirds of all Christian men admitted to 'struggling' with pornography. In another study, 40 percent of pastors surveyed confessed to looking at pornography. Although these findings do not indicate the respondents are fully addicted, it is tragic that the percentages of those interacting with pornography are far higher now than just a few years ago. This is due in large part to the availability of pornography on the Internet. Christians who struggle pray ceaselessly, read the Bible constantly, and consult countless pastors, but they still can't stop. Discouraged, many leave the church.
Sexual sin is not new news to the church. Voices among us have consistently protested this immorality and called for repentance. Yet sexual sin remains a difficult topic to talk about. When 'one of us' commits a sexual sin, the rest of us are shocked and embarrassed by the apparent hypocrisy and massive failure of faith. In response, we turn inward to our own shame, fears, and confusion, and try to keep the situation as quiet as possible.
It is time to bring the problem of sexual sin into the arena of public discourse within the Christian community. The church can no longer ignore sexual addiction or pretend it exists only 'out there,' for it plagues both our families and our congregations. Healing the Wounds of