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Updated: Jul 5

Sexual struggles are so difficult to talk about. This is probably even more true in religious circles—where we grasp the power, holiness, and sanctity of sexuality—but we rarely know how to talk about it, so too often we err on the side of silence. Tragically, this leaves those who are struggling to wrestle alone, unguided, unknown.


Fortunately, there is a better way. In the safety and confidentiality of counseling, we can bring light to the places that have so long remained secret. As you unburden yourself from what you’ve been holding, you can breathe freely and explore what you would rather carry instead.



There’s so much hope if we can find the courage to look for it, especially with a trusted partner. We have age-old strategies, such as finding supportive communities like a Pure Desire church group. We are also learning a lot through new research, such as Jay Stringer’s studies, discussed in his book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.


Stringer’s book combines a wealth of counseling experience addressing sexual issues with thorough research compiling thousands of participant responses. The results shed fresh insight into these problems that have stumped so many people for so long. Far too many people try the standard approaches, continue to feel stuck, and then give up, believing there’s no hope for them, believing they are too bad, too dirty, too perverted to be redeemed.


But it’s not true. Unwanted chronicles people with heartbreaking pasts, those who believed they were too far gone—and how they found healing and freedom. Here are some of my favorite parts of the book:


  • For many people, their unwanted sexual desires, fantasies, and behaviors actually reveal their own woundings; the problematic behaviors are indicators of where God wants to bring healing. Far too often, these whispered truths are blocked by shame and darkness, but when we can offer ourselves compassion and get curious about what God might want to teach us, we can address the root.

  • Efforts to minimize or eliminate lust are not only ineffective, they are also attempting to stifle a God-given longing. Rather than trying to avoid lust, Stringer advocates pursuing delight, purpose, and beauty in ways that are holy and good. He also provides lots of tools to accomplish this.

  • Traditional accountability models often fail because they are too shallow and too problem-focused. Many of these arrangements focus on consequences, failures, and trying harder. They use language like “maintaining purity,” which can feed shame and perpetuate problems. However, Stringer’s research finds that effective accountability groups do two things: 1) They focus on “key drivers, past and present, that influence unwanted sexual behavior.” 2) They emphasize “mutual participation and personal growth rather than dwelling on the powerlessness of their addiction or compulsive behavior.”

  • The book discusses the Six Core Experiences of Unwanted Sexual Behavior: Deprivation, Dissociation, Unconscious Sexual Arousal, Futility, Lust, and Anger. There’s so much that can be unpacked about each of these, but suffice to say a person wrestling with unwanted sexual behavior will resonate deeply with this section of the book.

  • Not addressing our pain nearly always means we will spread it to others. One of the core endeavors of an experience to address unwanted sexual behavior is to find and honor your pain so it can be healed. In this way, there is an element of learning that we are strong enough to address these hurts directly, because keeping them in the dark never really works in the long run.

  • Four Steps of Sexual Healing: Reclaiming your body, leaving sexual sin, forgiving yourself and others, and ending generational curses and soul ties. Again, there is so much here that can be unpacked, but Stringer’s framework providing a clear path is quite encouraging.

  • Stringer also discusses relational skills and how to flourish without unwanted sexual behavior, seen in his exploration of the balance between what he calls “attunement and containment,” similar to but more specific than what many Christians know as “truth and grace” or “truth and love.” He also encourages healthy conflict and discusses how to repair after such conflicts. He explores several other dynamics as well, inviting people to thrive in purposeful community, knowing others and being known in a way far more beautiful than perhaps anything they have experienced before.


I don’t want to overstate the importance of this book. Many people in sexual brokenness have read it and walked away unchanged. However, if you’re craving freedom from your unwanted sexual issues, this book might be a great place to start. Here’s the Amazon link (I’ll get a small percentage if you buy it here):


If you already know the root of your sexual issues is from abuse perpetrated against you, I also recommend the work of Dan Allender, such as The Wounded Heart:


If you find yourself wanting to work more through your unwanted sexual behavior, such as pornography addiction, infidelity, etc., feel free to contact me. There is hope.


In a bizarre turn of events, the best golfer in the world was arrested and charged with felony assault this morning due to an apparent "misunderstanding" (ESPN's Jeff Darlington). From a Christian counseling lens, there's a lot we can learn from what happened.


Summary of Events

  • A vendor was tragically killed by a bus in the early morning hours, and a roadblock was set up by police as a result.

  • According to ESPN's Jeff Darlington, an eye witness to Scottie Scheffler's arrest, "players, tournament officials and broadcast media were allowed through the roadblock. "

  • As Scheffler approached the roadblock in a marked PGA courtesy vehicle, he attempted to drive past it on the median.

  • "A police officer approached Scheffler’s car and told him to stop but Scheffler continued to drive another '10 to 20 yards.' That’s when Darlington reported the officer “officer attached himself to the side of Scheffler’s car” and Scheffler stopped as he turned into the entrance of the golf course. After about 20 to 30 seconds, Scheffler rolled down his window to speak to the officer, Darlington said. According to Darlington, “the officer grabbed Scheffler’s arm to pull him out of the vehicle.” Scheffler was then pressed against the car and handcuffed, Darlington said." (https://golf.com/news/scottie-scheffler-detained-what-we-know/)


Interpreting Events Critically: Considering Context

Most of the initial accounts have done a remarkable job staying neutral, but big news has a way of inciting outrage. Certainly as this story gains traction, speculation and judgement will abound. However, the story becomes much less outrageous when we consider context:

  • It was dark outside, and there were flashing police lights. Both the officer involved and Scheffler likely had trouble seeing clearly.

  • The motion, intensity, and emotional connotations of the police lights likely contributed to autonomic arousal in both Scheffler and the officer.

  • From the officer's perspective, someone had just died, and he was put in the incredibly stressful position of negotiating droves of frustrated drivers at one of the most prestigious sporting events in the country.

  • A miscommunication is plausible in this chaotic environment.


Biblical Wisdom

Scripture offers many applicable insights here, a few of which are included below:

John 7:24 — "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."


Proverbs 18:17 — "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes

and examines him."


As with many issues we work on in counseling, readers have a choice about what to focus on. Unfortunately, social media and major news outlets have too often conditioned us to identify enemies and passionately crucify them. But we have alternatives. Rather than a "gut reaction," we can have a "brain reaction" or perhaps even better — a "heart reaction." We can consider both perspectives and take an empathic stance. We can see things with nuance and understanding rather than in absolute terms. We can be blindly loyal to those we align with, or we can see the ubiquitous imperfection yet incomparable Image-bearing value in each person. We can judge others based on how God judges us: with love, mercy, and grace. After all, as we determine what "right judgment" is, wouldn't God's example be the best one?


Matthew 7:12 — "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."


There can be a sick satisfaction to aligning with others against a common enemy. But Jesus did the opposite. When crowds persecuted individuals, Jesus joined those facing the crowd's ire (John 8:3-11). He also gave us the "golden rule," which reminds us how the police officer must feel right now.

Luke 6:37 — "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven."


From a mental health standpoint, forgiveness is one of the healthiest things we can do. As the number one golfer in the world, Scheffler could have been indignant. He could have called out the police department for how he felt unjustly treated, for what must have seemed to him like an absurd overreaction. But he didn't. His statement on his Instagram story is a great example of a mature, humble, magnanimous response, clarifying his intentions, acknowledging the chaos, and putting it all in perspective of the tragic death that set these events in motion.


How Forgiveness Paves the Way for Reconciliation

Scheffler could have leveraged this situation for financial gain and/or fame. He could take legal action against the police department. He could massively increase his social media following by contributing to the media firestorm surrounding these events. Instead, because Scottie responded the way he did, the ground is fertile for reconciliation. It sounds familiar:


Matthew 5:25 — “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison."


Scheffler did everything he could without compromising truth to make it possible for the police department to apologize and/or dismiss charges. He didn't make it combative and he didn't point the finger. The subtext of his message was forgiveness, and it paved the way for the police to reconcile with Scheffler.


Application

  • How do you see yourself in the police officer?

  • What have you learned from this situation?

  • How has this example inspired you to respond to issues in your own life?

  • What actions can you take right now to reconcile and forgive?

UPDATE:

Almost two weeks after his arrest, charges against Scheffler were dropped. In his Instagram story responding to the announcement, Scheffler reiterated that he feels "no ill will toward Officer Gillis" (https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/40240096/charges-dropped-scottie-scheffler-louisville-arrest).

Imagine you knew you were going to die within the next 24 hours. Imagine you had known for years in advance the exact time of your death and you had spent years preparing your loved ones for your departure. I bet your words in the last 24 hours of your life would be terribly important, the overflow of your dearest values. Your deathbed words. And as your departure underlined your final words, I imagine their impact would deepen in the shadow of your passing. That’s how I imagine Jesus’s last hours, especially his prayers in Gethsemane. In his final moments of solitude, knowing he was about to face excruciating torture and death, what was on his heart?


Consider the magnitude of Jesus’s deathbed prayer to God in John 17:21. Jesus prayed for his followers to experience oneness—a oneness so close that it reflects the Trinity. He also explained the stakes: “so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” In other words, our ability to reconcile with others reveals the heart of God to reconcile the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). There is a supernatural power in how we love one another, and it is so compelling that it literally helps others believe in God.


Perhaps the potency of this approach is precisely because this is not the way of the world. Maybe more than any time in human history, we now live in a disposable age. We have been conditioned that if something is not working, we throw it away and get a new one. But far too often, it costs us dearly.



Weber Spirit grill

A couple years ago, I bought a slightly used Weber grill on Facebook Marketplace. The owner decided to sell it after the wind blew it over and damaged the instrument panel. It was broken, but rather than investigate to see if a fix was possible, the owner sold it to me for pennies on the dollar. After I brought it home, I called Weber and learned it was still under warranty. I paid a few bucks to ship the parts and spent a bit of time making the repair, and in the end I had a like-new Weber for less than $100 and less than an hour of time. Not only that, but in the process of repairing my grill, I gained a better appreciation for its craftsmanship, how to protect it going forward, and how to provide what it needed if other issues should arise. Okay, maybe I’m stretching this analogy a bit too far, but you get the point.


A person is infinitely more valuable than a Weber grill. Yet I have heard story after story of well-intended counselors advising a disposable approach. There is an important place for boundaries (see Matthew 18:15-17), but far too often we jump straight to boundaries without any real attempt at reconciliation. Too often, as each party stays in their hurt and dutifully builds boundaries to protect themselves, the chasm between them widens. The problem is that if our goal is to protect ourselves from those who hurt us, we lose the vulnerability that facilitates emotional intimacy and growth. Jesus proposes a better alternative. In his deathbed prayer, he doesn’t pray for protection from one another—he requests protection for one another so we can be unified.


One final thought: in difficult situations, there is usually at least one party who feels the situation is hopeless. They see the damage on the instrument panel and believe the grill is totaled. We should just sell it, they think, unable to conceive a better alternative in their hurt and frustration. It’s okay to feel hopeless and overwhelmed. But I hope you won’t stay there. The Bible makes it clear we are to do everything we can to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18), urgently resolving problems (Ephesians 4:26) as a matter of utmost importance (Matthew 5:24). Unfortunately, we often don’t know how. That’s where an appropriately trained counselor with a high value for reconciliation can come in. They can hold onto hope when you feel hopeless. They can give you the Weber customer service number and tell you about the warranty. Often, the repair is easier than you think. And even when it isn’t, there are very few endeavors on this planet more worthwhile.


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