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  • Writer's pictureLee Freeman

Freedom from Unwanted Sexual Behavior

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.


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