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About the Author
Jessie Minassian loves Jesus, sunshine, and sand between her toes. She's a speaker, author of a handful of books, and the resident "big sis" at LifeLoveandGod.com, a popular website for teen girls. A native Californian, Jessie now lives near Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two daughters.
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Overcoming the Sins no Girl Wants to Talk About
By JESSIE MINASSIAN
NavPressCopyright © 2015 Jessie Minassian
All rights reserved.
The Silent Sufferers
I was a silent sufferer.
We might as well get this out of the way up front. Instead of leaving your curiosity spinning the entire book, wondering what juicy secret I'm hiding, I'm just going to air my dirty laundry on the first page. Sometimes it's best to tackle the hardest things first, right? Kind of like jumping into the deep end of the pool instead of inching in slowly, or pulling off a wax strip in one fell swoop instead of hair by hair. Why delay the pain? I'm just going to take a chance and lay it out there for you.
I was trapped by a sexual addiction for thirteen years.
It all started when I was seven. A friend showed me a cartoonish "birds and bees" anatomy book her parents gave her and then pressured me to masturbate or she "wouldn't be my friend" anymore. (Great friend, right?) Not long after, a bully of an eight-year-old made me lie on top of her and do the same. I was so ashamed and so embarrassed that I never told anyone, not even my mom, who I trusted with everything. I hated what they had made me do, but I became addicted to the feeling. And it didn't take long for that addiction to cripple me inside. Their sin against me, wrong all on its own, introduced me to a sin that was wrong all on my own. I hid the addiction well. By day I was an outgoing, God-loving girl, but by night I was a sin-crippled, shame-filled mess.
My heart was convicted that masturbation was wrong, so I fought against it. Well, I tried to, [begin strikethrough]most[end strikethrough] some of the time. But the truth is, I was way out of my league. I loved God, and I was a "good girl" in so many ways, but I was fighting a losing battle. Sexual addiction takes some serious ammo to slay, and I had no idea how to kill it. And my failure killed me. I tried—don't get me wrong. In fact, I went through seasons where I "did better." There were even times when I thought I was all better. But then I'd go back to my vice—like a dog to its own puke (see Proverbs 26:11)—and the fall would be twice as hard.
Hypocrite. Sicko. Dirty girl. The self-imposed labels stuck good and tight, glued to my heart with a nice big dose of shame.
The cycle went on for a long, long time: sin, repent, try harder, sin, repent, try harder, over and over again. Life marched on: junior high, high school, college, boyfriends, missions trips, and dance recitals came and went. I played sports, won awards, started Bible studies—lived a completely normal life on the outside. I appeared to be just fine to everyone watching. But for all those years, inside I was caught in a sin cycle that spun so reliably that it would make a washing machine jealous. It affected my view of myself, but more important, it had a detrimental effect on my relationship with God.
But here's the good news—the really, really good news (and boy am I glad to finally get to this part!): I found freedom from my sin—real, genuine, not-going-back-to-that-mudhole-ever-again F-R-E-E-D-O-M. And can I just tell you that it's so good to be free? It's like nothing else on earth. Once you taste that kind of freedom, after years and years of crippling shame, it's like the feeling you get when you walk outside for the first time after being in bed puking your guts out for a few days. You walk feebly out the door, breathe in that crisp air, feel the sun on your cheeks, and then swear on your dead cat's grave that you'll never take another day of health for granted ever again. Freedom from a habitual, secret sin is like that—times ten.
So that's my story (at least the part of my life that applies to this book, and happily, there was—and is—much more to my life story than my secret sin!).
I was a silent sufferer, and there's a good chance you're one too.
Maybe you try to numb your pain with a bottle, razor blade, or pill. Maybe you're addicted to pornography or shoplifting. Maybe your insecurities get all up in your head so you starve yourself or purge to be thin. Maybe you're attracted to other girls. Maybe you're in a sexual relationship with your boyfriend. Maybe your struggle is with more than one secret sin. I could spout off all sorts of statistics that prove you're likely to struggle with at least something on that list, but I don't think it would be especially helpful or needed. For one, you likely already know just how many girls struggle with one or more of these issues. Two, if you don't, a quick Google search should bring you up to speed. And three, the statistics are rising so fast, my current data would be obsolete by Tuesday. So instead of wasting space here on stats, I'd rather just get to the point: You're not alone.
If you're a silent sufferer, there's also a good chance you're not getting help because you're too scared of what people would think if they "knew." Maybe you think, like I did, that you're the only one on the planet who struggles with something so shameful, so you go on suffering in silence—trapped in silence. But as long as you suffer and sin in silence, you will never find the freedom that Christ died to offer you—the freedom I found and the freedom I want to help you discover.
There is part of me that really, really doesn't want to start this book with an indelible record of my secret sin. I realize that putting all this on paper for the world to read means that everyone—from complete strangers to my best friends—are going to know about my past. They might judge me. They might misunderstand me. They might think differently of me. And when I think about my two precious, innocent daughters reading this book someday? I'm not gonna lie: It makes me tear up just thinking about it. Someday my children will know that their momma struggled with that. Yeah, there's part of me that wants desperately to "select all" and "delete" right about now. But I'm not going to, and I'll tell you why.
From the world's perspective, I'd have to be crazy, drunk, or just plain stupid to volunteer information about my secret sins to the masses. But there's method to my madness, and it has everything to do with you. I care about you. The reason I chose to confess my sin at the very beginning of this book is so that you know you have nothing to hide. See, I've been helping girls overcome secret sins for a lot of years now, and the number one, biggest lie that Satan gets girls to believe is that they are rogue sinners—that they're out there sinning on their own. He wants you to think that you're the only one on the planet who struggles with something that gross or stupid or unforgivable. He wants you to cower alone in embarrassment. He wants you to hide out in fear. He wants you to wallow in shame. Why? Because he knows that if he can isolate you, his battle is half won. That's why I'm willing to risk vulnerability. I want to empower you with the truth that you are not alone!
We're going to look at a variety of secret sins in the next chapter, but before we get there, I want to talk about one common denominator between all of them. No matter what your struggle, one of Satan's favorite kinds of ammo—one of his biggest missiles—is shame. That's why I want to begin our journey toward freedom by talking about it.
The Problem of Shame
I think I'm going to have to start out here by explaining exactly what I mean by the word shame. See, there's a type of shame we probably need a little bit more of in this world. There's a good kind of shame—a natural emotion that comes from doing something we know we shouldn't do. Here's an example.
In the fine city of San Francisco, they had to put an official citywide ban on nudity because of the excess number of "naturists" who would walk down the street sans pants, ride the bus in the buff, or chill in the city square getting some air down there. Seriously—that's just wrong. Who wants to sit on a bus seat that just had some old guy's sweaty cheeks rubbing all over it? Sick. Yet when the city voted (narrowly!) to ban public nudity except at certain festivals, a bunch of protestors angrily stripped down in the courthouse to let the whole world know how unfair the new "clothes on" rule was. Now, can we just say it together? People, have you no shame?! Healthy shame is the kind that tells us it's a good thing to keep our booties and ta-tas covered up. (I'm well aware that before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve were plumb naked and felt no hint of shame—and good for them! But sin has entered the world, and now clothes should be a part of our daily routine.)
God put a mechanism in the human heart that lets us know when we're in the wrong. It's called a conscience, and that little human feature sounds the alarm when we stray from God and His way of living. Just so we're clear, He installed it on purpose (so it's a good thing to listen to it and not stifle it). Your conscience produces a whole spectrum of emotions—regret, embarrassment, fear, and yes, shame—when we violate God's Law. By definition, shame is "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety." In other words, when we know we've done wrong, we feel it down deep. That can be a good thing! In chapter 6, we're going to see how feeling sorry about our sin can be beneficial and how you can use those emotions to your advantage. But for now, we just need to understand that there is a normal kind of shame that is (or should be) par for the course when we do stupid stuff (see Ezekiel 36:31-32).
That said, when we talk about shame in the context of this book, I'll be referring to a different kind of shame. It's a debilitating, overboard type of emotion that cripples and haunts you. It's the kind of shame that tells you you're beyond redemption—that you're too far gone and far too gross for even God to love. That kind of shame isolates, crushes, and leaves you for dead. That kind of shame allows Satan to win.
McKenna is one of the beautiful "little sisters" I've been blessed to counsel, pray for, and cry with. McKenna is a silent sufferer, allegorically and, for a time, quite literally. The sexual abuse she endured at the hand of an older coworker left her unable to speak for a long time. She came to LifeLoveandGod.com consumed with shame over the abuse and also the fact that it led to a sexual addiction she still struggles with today. Sin and shame have a way of tearing us up and stealing our joy, and by the time I met McKenna, she was in a dark place. I recently asked her to think back to that time in her life. She shared,
After the abuse, I continued to [sin] because I believed that I was permanently dirty and sinful anyway. The sin caused me to push away from God for a while because I felt too sinful and ashamed. Even now, sometimes I feel like I'm irredeemable and figure that I can never heal from my sin even if I stop.
I appreciate her honesty so much! And it goes without saying that she's not the only one who feels that way.
Note: I'm happy to say that McKenna's story isn't finished yet! Even though she is still in the process of finding healing from the abuse and freedom from her addiction, she understands that God is at work in her life. Our most recent talk was filled with hope: "I do believe that I can break free, even though it will be difficult. I feel like God is staying with me through this and can help me overcome it." Amen! Don't give up, sister.
I share McKenna's story because she explains so well what happens when we allow shame to take over. It's as if shame closes our ears to God's forgiving voice but gives full volume to the Enemy's condemning lies. Are you familiar with Satan's lies? Sheesh. I am! "You're too sinful, Jessie. God could never love a hypocrite like you. You're so far gone, you might as well just keep on sinning." Yeah, I know all about his lies. Ephesians 6:11 warns us to put on God's spiritual armor so we can understand and stand firm against Satan's strategies. Well, here's one military strategy we should definitely be aware of: Satan's arsenal includes excessive shame. He wants you to drown in it. He wants you to believe you're alone in your shame, because if you think that way, you won't get help. (Side note: Satan also tries to use shame to get us to sin. Have you ever felt embarrassed, left out, or too uptight because you didn't want to do what "everybody else" was doing? That's unwarranted shame in action!)
If you're convinced that no one will understand, everyone will think less of you, or others will shun you if you come clean about your sin, let's just say there's not a whole lot of motivation to be open about it! Who's out looking for abject humiliation? Me neither. So we go on trying to do this solo sin-slayer thing, which doesn't work very well (as you may have found). Satan may be damned, but he's no dummy! He knows that just as there is strength in numbers, there is weakness in isolation. And shame pushes us to isolate ourselves from potential help.
Second reason Satan loves shame: It simultaneously starves truth and feeds bondage. When we allow shame to rule our hearts, we become spiritually anemic and vulnerable to Satan's attacks. Put another way? Shame is like cancer. Did you know that cancer cells steal nutrients from healthy cells? Cancer cells eat up the fuel intended for the rest of the body, causing the healthy cells to starve. As the healthy cells get weaker, some cancers then attack the organs and, if not treated, can eventually kill the person.
Shame is like that. A girl's shame eats up the spiritual nourishment meant for her body, leaving her weak and vulner able. All her energy is spent just trying to survive, trying to cope. The shame attacks her healthy "organs"—her heart, mind, and relationship with God. If the shame isn't treated, she might even die—a slow, numbing, spiritual death. Shame's cancer-like nature explains how even a spiritually healthy Christian girl can eventually "starve" to death from unconfessed, secret sin. And that's why I'm so passionate about rooting out unhealthy shame! I don't want to see you die; I want to see you thrive.
Shame keeps us from getting help. It starves truth and feeds bondage (like cancer). But there's a third reason Satan loves shame: It actually perpetuates addiction. The words I shared earlier from McKenna touched on this. When we feel so ashamed and down and defeated that we can't imagine ever breaking free, we lose the motivation to try. We start rationalizing our sin—giving up and giving in. We sin. We're ashamed. We feel defeated, so we sin again. Shame is that spin factor on the sin cycle that keeps you whirling around like a crazy top!
For all three of these reasons, shame has got to go. Now, remember, I'm not saying we should ignore our conscience. We should feel badly when we sin! But there is a place to take that sorrow, and it's called the Cross. (In chapter 7, we're going to spend some more time talking about healthy regret and godly sorrow.)
The Antidote to Shame
Good news: There is an antidote to shame! But before I share that secret, I need you to do something for me. I want you to take a look at Psalm 34. By the time this book is over, you're probably going to be sick of hearing me talk about it. It's my favorite psalm on the topic of pain and sin and God and growth and prayer and contentment and praise—oh yeah, and shame. So why don't the two of you get acquainted? Even though I'd prefer you read it in your own Bible (so you can highlight and make notes to your heart's content), I'm going to print the whole thing here in case you don't have a Bible handy. Enjoy!
1 I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. 2 I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. 3 Come, let us tell of the Lord's greatness; let us exalt his name together.
4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. 6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. 7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! 9 Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. 10 Even strong young lions sometimes grow hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord. 12 Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? 13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! 14 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
15 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. 16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase their memory from the earth. 17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
19 The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to rescue each time. 20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!
21 Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. 22 But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
Excerpted from Unashamed by JESSIE MINASSIAN. Copyright © 2015 Jessie Minassian. Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Note to Parents xiii
Chapter 1 The Silent Sufferers 1
Chapter 2 What's Your Secret? 19
Madison's Story 41
Chapter 3 The Disconnect 45
Chapter 4 Calling Sin Sin and Learning to Forgive 65
Chapter 5 Let Freedom Ring 85
Lexi's Story 96
Chapter 6 Kicking the Habit 99
Chapter 7 Mercy for a Fall 123
Constance's Story 135
Chapter 8 Can I Get a Little Help Here? 139
Chapter 9 A Little Big Thing Called Hope 153