Specializing in Family Counseling, Men's Issues, & Trauma

How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography….Part II

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How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography: Part II

Check out Part I here: How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography: Part I

The initial conversation is over.

We started STRONG, sending a clear message: we know about the problem (breaking the silence), we care (empathizing with our son), and we can help (our action plan).

Now it’s time to take the next step, active disciplining of our sons, guiding them into MANHOOD.

EXAMPLE TALK:

 

Who is Present: Dad and Son

Who is NOT There: Other family members or friends.  In fact, Dad has taken steps to ensure there will not be interruptions by others, which would only serve to destroy your son’s confidence in opening up.

Setting: The fire pit in the Yard.  Your son has built the fire (as was agreed upon) and he is excited to show you his handy-work.

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Son: Dad, what do you think?  Pretty good fire, huh.

Dad: Yeah, you did a great job and didn’t even burn the house down!

Son: Well, if I did you are the one who taught me to build fires.

Dad:  That’s true.  Well, let’s get to what we are here to talk about.  I told you I would follow-up with you on the issue of sex and sexual temptation.  It can be a tough and uncomfortable topic for guys to open up about, so the squirming I see you doing is pretty normal.

Son: Yeah, it’s pretty awkward. . . (trailing off).

Dad:  It definitely can be and that’s why I am going to take the lead in this as your dad and carry more of the weight.  I am just going to ask you trust me enough to follow.  Part of my job is to show you how to be a man who serves his heavenly King.  You see, we will all bow our knee in submission to something.  Our choice is whether we will bow to God or to sin.  As you get older, you are going to see a lot of boys and men proudly bowing their knees to sin, thinking it makes them more of a man.

Son: Yeah, I definitely see that at school.  Guys think it’s cool to talk dirty and try to get girls to have sex with them.  It’s really not.

Dad: I agree.  The truth is tsmartphone-459316_1920hose things haven’t changed.  Guys were doing it when I was in school too, we just didn’t have all the technology you have today.  I want to talk with you about how what we see and think about can impact us physically.

Son: But I already had the puberty talk with you, dad.  I know my body is changing.

Dad: Yes, we did have that talk, and I know you are aware of some of the facts about how your body is transitioning from being a boy to a man, but knowing some facts and really understanding what is happening are not the same.  I believe you when you tell me you want to have sexual integrity, to really tackle this issue.  If I told you gaining understanding would really help get you to your goal, would you be willing to take on the challenge, even if it may be a bit uncomfortable?

You are calling your son up, seeing his desire to live a life of integrity and inviting him to accept the difficulty as part of the challenge.  Guys thrive on being called up.

Son: Yes, but it does make me feel weird talking about it.

Dad: The enemy wants us to stay silent and alone, to be scared into trying to do it all on our own.  Why do you think he would want that?

Son: I guess it makes us weaker.

Dad: Absolutely!  Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, but the truth is he is a coward, and wants to get us alone and discouraged, too fearful to reach out for help.  When we are alone we are right where he wants us, ready to be picked off.  You and I talking, in spite of our fears, is an act of FIGHTING BACK!

Son: That’s a cool way of looking at it. I hadn’t realized that before.

Dad: Well, let’s talk about the physical part of sexual temptation.  I know you and I have talked about becoming physically aroused, getting erections, masturbation, and orgasming, but there is more to arousal than those things.  There is a lot going on in your brain.  In fact, you can be aroused without any of those things I just mentioned happening.  Have you ever found yourself noticing or enjoying looking at a girl?

Son: Yes . . . (a little bit timid).teenage crush

Dad: Sure, and that’s a form of being aroused.  What’s it like when you notice a girl you think is attractive?

Son: Well, I just think she is pretty, and kind of look at her.  Don’t guys just do that?

Dad: Guys do notice girls, but there are things going on which they often don’t take time to notice.  For example, have you ever noticed having some enjoyment or excitement when you are checking a girl out?

Son: Yes, I guess I have.  It kind of just feels good.  I don’t know why I like looking, but I just do.

Dad: I really respect your courage in being willing to talk about this.  Let’s keep that going.  When you are looking at a girl you think is beautiful, what do you notice about her?  What are your eyes drawn to?

We are giving our son a chance to talk about his natural attraction to girls without having to resort to locker room humor.  He has the chance to talk candidly with dad about what it’s like to notice and take pleasure in looking at girls.  This ability to have an actual discussion which is not crass is especially important for Christian young men who are trying to live in INTEGRITY.  Often times, we talk about the fundamentals of our sexual attraction and experience, but do not talk about the pleasure involved.  Unintentionally our boys begin to believe the only guys getting to enjoy having sexual attraction are those boys who are giving free reign to their desires.  The message turns into sex being burdensome to Christians while being fun for other guys.  Let’s pick this back up after dad and son have had a chance to talk a bit more. 

Dad:  We’ve talked a bit about the physical arousal and pleasure in noticing girls.  Now I want to examine what we allow ourselves to think about, what goes on in our minds that no one can see but God.

Son:  I know I have thoughts I wish I didn’t have sometimes.  I know they aren’t right, but sometimes it’s so hard. . .

Dad: It really can be.  What’s it like for you when you give in, when you have those thoughts you regret?

Dad opens the door for his son to talk about the challenge of guarding his thoughts in a hyper-sexual world which mislabels impulsivity as being authentic to yourself.  We rejoin the conversation a bit later.

Here are some follow-up questions to use with your son to help the two of you talk about when he struggles in his thought life:

  • What do you do after you have struggled in your thought life?
  • What are you thinking about yourself when you mess up?
  • How long do you feel down/think these thoughts?
  • Do you ever get discouraged?
  • How often do you think other guys struggle in this area?
  • What does God think about your struggle?
  • Does struggling sometimes mean you are not serious about your walk with the Lord?
  • Do you ever just want to give up? (if yes, when does that happen?)

 

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Am I Going Crazy? Denial & Sexual Addiction

 Denial with Sex and Porn addictionSteven: “It’s not like I do this kind of stuff all the time. She is overreacting. Most guys look at porn and masturbate way more than me. I can’t believe we are taking up time and money sitting here talking about this issue. I’m sure we are taking up time people with real problems need.

Anna sits across from him on the couch in my office, with eyes red from crying, shaking her head. Is he for real? Does he really believe the words coming out of his mouth? What more, does he think she is foolish enough to believe them? The thought nearly throws her into a rage.

Anna (to me): “Am I overreacting? I mean, I feel so confused, like I am going crazy. But the thought of him looking at all those other women online and then lying to me about it is more than I can stand.

Denial and Sexually Addictive behaviors go hand in hand. They work together to allow sin to flourish in a man’s life. This is why understanding and rooting out denial is a top priority in Christian Counseling. Here is a basic framework for understanding what denial is, how to recognize it, and steps to deal with it:

What is denial?

Denial is the distortion of the truth through various means, allowing for the protection and continuation of destructive behavior. It is dishonesty, pure and simple. Deception can occur not only in what we say, but how we say it, both to ourselves and others. In denial, the facts are distorted and presented in such a way as to minimize the discomfort to the perpetrator.

Why Does He Need Denial?

We can understand this mystery by using a simple word picture. Imagine holding in one hand, your beliefs and convictions about sexual integrity. These beliefs are based on what the Bible has to say about sexuality and subsequent behavior. In the other hand, you are holding a behavior the Bible distinguishes as sinful (ie: viewing pornography, sexual conversations in chat rooms with anonymous partners, soliciting prostitution).

Now imagine holding these items up next to one another. They do not work together. In fact, they are fundamentally opposed. Attempting to continue possessing both leads to significant discomfort or friction. We call this cognitive dissonance. In other words, a person’s beliefs and behavior are at odds. A solution is needed desperately to lessen this uncomfortable friction.

How Does He Use Denial?

Denial becomes the lubricant, alleviating the uncomfortable friction between convictions and actions. In other words, Anna’s husband changed his perception of himself, his behavior, and his impact on others to allow him to continue act out sexually.

How To Recognize Denial:

Denial is sometimes difficult to spot, as it can be carefully woven into what the person is saying. Attempts to detangle or challenge it are often met with more denial, leaving the listener confused and upset. Here are 3 fictionalized men presenting with denial in regards to sexually addictive behavior. They represent some of the most common situations I see in my practice.

Examples of Denial:

Ryan: “I can’t believe you are making such a big deal about this! It is ridiculous! Now we are in an office with a guy we are paying to agree with you and say there is something wrong with me. You have to control everything. Why can’t you just be happy and thankful for what you have? If you are going to drag me into counseling for this, I should tell him about how you rarely have sex with me. I have needs, and if you are too selfish to notice them I have to get them met on my own.

Ryan is escalating and going on the attack with his wife. He is trying to make her believe she is being crazy by suggesting he has a problem. Not only that, but he is attempting to blame her for his actions, making a manipulative, guilt laden accusation. It’s a kind of smokescreen, which he hopes will distract his wife from the problem.

Joe: “ I can see how you would be upset. It’s a tough problem and may have impacted you in a way I did not intend. Anger is not going to help us figure this out, though, we have to be rational. I have been looking at porn, but it doesn’t effect how I feel about you. I love and want to be with you, only you.”

Joe is taking this hurtful behavior and reducing it down to a set of facts. He appears to be empathizing his wife, but he is actually putting her down by insinuating her experience of emotion is lessor and immature. He is also compartmentalizing. Joe wants his wife to accept that he is able to look at other women and lust after them without this impacting his relationship with her. For such a “rational guy” it’s an idea that is completely out of touch with reality.

Peter: “You always seem to get overly reactive and upset in stressful situations. It’s like when you get home from work all stressed out and I have to help you see reason again. We are Christians, but a lot of men struggle with this issue. I struggle with it quite a bit less than most guys. The stuff they look at is disgusting. I looked at naked women, but never went to those extremes. I can and have solved the problem, when you found out and I saw you were hurt, I stopped looking. Why are we here? What else is there to do?

Peter attempts to distract his wife by making broad statements about her behavior. He’s attempting to justify his own behavior while invalidating his wife’s emotions. He is also comparing himself to other men. In his mind, if other men look at pornography, it is not quite so bad. This is especially true since he has heard of men who look at it more frequently than he does and the “stuff they look at” he calls “disgusting.” Peter is practically a saint compared with them.

Dealing With Denial:

Denial is a form of deception in which a person attempts to deceive themselves and others. The goal is to be able to do both what they desire and change or control the way others respond. In the cases above, the husbands are attempting to reach into their wive’s lives and change their perceptions so they will respond in a more favorable manner. Wives who have experienced this do get angry, and it’s easy to understand why. So what can be done about it?

DON’T:

  • Attempt to argue the points he is making through denial.
  • Try to convince him to change his mind.
  • Tell him what to do/Tell him how it is.

DO:

  • Let him know his reasoning does not change the reality of his actions impact on you.
  • Tell him your perception of the problem, but own it as your perception.
  • Tell him what you have decided you are going to do.

Here’s Why:

1. If you attempt to argue with his denial, he is prepared for this action. Do you really believe he thought you’d go down without a fight? He has been preparing for the inevitability of this conversation for a long time. He has been examining how he might present the situation most effectively, addressing points and counter points over the months or even years leading up to this moment. You, on the other hand, are walking into it blind.

2. The best way to handle your formidable debate partner, is not to engage in debate with him. If you do, his response will be predictable. He will have additional denial tools he uses to combat your arguments. He may dig in his heels and get stubborn, focusing solely on disarming your arguments, rather than the content of your message.

  • Instead, if you tell him how you believe his actions have impacted you and your relationship with him, you are staying in your yard. In other words, you are telling him how the situation is for you. It’s less threatening and much more potent if you speak about what you know, and what is happening in your mind.

3. Finally, in anger, I have seen many wive’s issue ultimatums to their husband’s. These are grand speeches or statements, fueled by emotion, and aimed at giving her a sense of control. The problem is, they never actually work. Like it or not, you cannot make him do anything, and, if you are honest with yourself, you don’t really want to.

  • The changes he needs to make should come out of his choice and desire to make them. If you do it for him you will spend the rest of you relationship looking over your shoulder for him to mess up. You will never be at rest because you must keep the pressure on him to ensure he “stays fixed.” Instead, let’s put you in a secure and safe position.
  • Decide what steps you are going to take as a result of his choices. These decisions you have made are independent of him, meaning, just like you cannot make his decisions, he cannot make yours.

If you are ready for things in your relationship to change, then start changing them. You control and are responsible for the part of the relationship you can change. And that change starts today. A few options are to attend counseling of your own, go to a support group, and cease sexual activity with him.

Denial happens in sexual addiction. It’s a sad truth, however, if you know how to spot and deal with it, as outlined above, you have moved from powerless to able.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Sex Addiction Counseling at The Relationship Center

Thinking Errors of Single Men

Single Man ThinkingAs a counselor who has spent several years specializing in working with men, I have come to recognize a few toxic thinking patterns prevalent in guys.  These thought patterns are like bad, outdated software, limiting the performance of an otherwise capable computer.

In other words, toxic thoughts will keep you from realizing your full potential, in any avenue of life.  Let’s identify some toxic thought patterns and examine solutions.

 

Balancing emotion and logical thought

People experience both emotion and thought as part of their ongoing, daily existence.  However, the content and management of these varies greatly across individuals.  Some men are more given to thinking obsessively and becoming emotionally overwhelmed.  Others stay firmly in the arena of logic, reducing most of life to a seemingly objective set of decisions.  Often times, men who are unsure in their ability to manage thought and emotion tend to attempt to live on the logical side, avoiding emotion.  Emotions are experienced, but they are a private affair, being held and dealt with internally.

There are some real advantages for a guy to stay on the logical side:
  1. He’s good at it.  He can put together a reasoned, logical argument, and pick apart another stance with little effort.
  2. It renders him emotionally safe.  In other words, he has no significant emotional investment in his interactions with others.  As such, he is behind a kind of fortress wall, keeping him from harm.  He can have a debate with you, but doesn’t know how to have a relationship.
  3. Probably hardest reason to hear: it often positions him as superior.  Now, most guys who actually do this will quickly have a logical argument explaining they are not attempting to be superior, but let’s have the courage to take a look.   The problem is his way of thinking becomes the measuring stick by which he assesses all others.  If something makes sense to him (is logical), it is possible.  If something does not make sense, then it cannot be true.  He holds the standard by which others thoughts and feelings are assessed, and he’s rigid in clinging to his assessment.

These men tend to exhibit excessive focus on task accomplishment and career identity, insensitivity to the needs of others, and a way of relating to others which is seen as “aloof.”  It’s like you need to remind men who operate like this that Vulcan’s were actually a fictional character on Star Trek, not an ideal to be aspired to.

Solution: You need both emotion and logic.  Life is not a math problem, nor should it be a soap opera.  Learn to identify what you are thinking and what you are feeling, noticing the connections between the two.  Pay attention to what you see in yourself, like a curious observer, having the courage to take in what’s there.  From this stance, you’ll be in a strong position to allow the Lord to refine the man you are into the man He has for you to be.  Finally, allow others access to your previously private experience of emotion.
 

Rigid categorization of people, events, ideas

Decisiveness is not a bad trait, however, attempting to quickly define people, events, ideas using an “all good or all bad” system is not workable.  Often, it is a tool of convenience, quickly simplifying life.  Simply place things in one category or another.  Single men using this way of thinking will quickly attempt to have others “figured out” and respond to them accordingly.  People are either worthwhile individuals he will engage or simply part of the background.  Again, this way of thinking provides the illusion of safety, similar to being logical.  It prevents the man from wasting his time or getting hurt by taking risks in relationship.

Solution:  Life is a bit messy.  Let go of some of your control and allow things to unfold.  Stay engaged, rather than checking out in relationships and see what happens.  You might notice some successes in forming close relationships, as well as some failures along the way.  However, the failures likely won’t be as devastating as you thought.
 

The “there’s something better” stance in life. 

It’s a position of always looking around rather than being where you are.  The man fantasizes about what he might do or could do given the opportunity, all at the expense of the life he is currently living.  It allows him only limited availability for the life he is actually living.  Additionally, contentment with where he is currently at is seen as “settling”, a word sure to turn the stomach of any man.  Stewardship is the answer.  A man can and should have aspirations, but not at the expense of where is today.  These aspirations should not take the form of fantasies that anesthetize him from reality.  Instead, he needs to remain firmly in the reality of the present.

Solution:  Stewardship.  What has God given you today, and what are you doing with it?  Not what you want Him to give you or what you might have tomorrow.  Tend what you have to the best of your ability.  Work to refine and be an expert with little.  The benefits are huge.  Read Matthew 25:14-23 & Luke 19:12-19.
 

Parable of the Three Servants

 14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
 
16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of  how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography

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Everyone knows the statistics about boys using pornography, unless, they live on an island in the middle of the ocean. Of course, they’d probably have internet access there too!

There is an epidemic of boys turning to internet pornography, using it frequently and developing a habit which could plague them for years to come. It’s an issue I am seeing more and more of in my office, as a therapist specializing in working with families and men’s issues. Parents come in upset, unsure of what to do, having found their son is looking at porn. It’s very important how you respond. Your son doesn’t just need an anatomy lesson, he needs a Biblical moral framework through which to understand himself and the problem.

Here is some clear, practical guidance on this particular issue from the counselor’s office:

1. Let’s Avoid the Extremes:

Responses can often arise out of one of two camps:

On one end, we have the worldly, secular perspectiveBoys are just curious about their sexuality, arousal, and the female body. They will do exploring which is normal, healthy, and should be encouraged. The chief goal here is to avoid them experiencing any shame about the pornography and sexual content they are viewing. We will dress that in some kind of secular morality, where we tell the boy it is okay to be curious and look at porn, just don’t objectify women.  Maybe he should look at sexual content in which women are featured as powerful.

Confused yet?  It’s the post-modern mindset. There’s no right or wrong, just perspective. Feeling any kind of shame is bad. This kind of thinking ends with a self-serving man who worships his own desires, spurning correction. Wow, that’s sounds bleak! Well, so life is without God.

The second extreme is not much better. Parents find out their son has looked at pornography and react purely out of fear, without any wise counsel. They respond as if the boy is now permanently damaged, beyond repair. The parents drill into the child, “We didn’t raise you to do this kind of stuff, don’t you get how serious this is”, and so on and so forth. The boy learns a few things from the experience:

  1. If you are struggling, don’t go to mom and dad, they don’t know what to do and will overwhelm you with their response.
  2. Either I am the only person weak enough to struggle with this, or other people are just hypocrites and fake.
  3. If I really loved God I wouldn’t struggle with sin.

2. Get Some Perspective:

Instead of these responses let’s try something different. Pornography use is serious. It’s an issue of lust and can be destructive to the boy’s life, just like any sin. Sin is destructive, leading us to harm. We are all born sinners leaning towards our own destruction, and will struggle with it on an ongoing basis until we die. Sexual sin is often times, in my experience working with boys, the first time they have encountered and really had to deal with their sin nature in an ongoing way.

In other words, up until this point, when the boy has said an unkind thing or taken what does not belong to him, the solution has been simple. He goes and apologizes or returns the item. He feels remorse, and in many cases, no strong desire to return to the destructive behavior. However, now enters sexual temptation.

For the first time, he is both genuinely sorrowful and ashamed of what he has done but is drawn strongly to act-out again. The boy questions his commitment, sincerity, and relationship with God. After all, if he was truly sorry, wouldn’t he stop? Do you see where this is leading? The sin natures a fundamental problem, all people must come to terms with, and for many boys, sex is the issue which first brings it out.

They can either deny the existence of sin, as in the case of a humanistic perspective, there is no God and therefore, no sin, only socially imposed morality creating unnecessary shame. Or we can accept, as the Apostle Paul did, that we all struggle with sin.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:14-15 (NIV)

Here is Paul, a man who has seen Jesus, and been sent as an apostle to grow the church among the Gentiles, talking about struggling with sin. It is a humbling statement, reminding each of us, we need a savior. Parents, which of us has fully mastered our sin nature? I answer with a confident “none.” Our son’s need to hear this, not to give them an excuse to sin more, but an encouragement, helping them too understand the grace and forgiveness of God.

3. The Talk:

Now, how do we engage this boy in a meaningful dialogue, avoiding the extremes and having an accurate perspective on the problem?

Who: Present, at least initially, should be all three people (Son, Mom & Dad). Which parent has the closer relationship with the boy? That parent should take the lead in the three person conversation initially. If mother is the closer parent, this is fine. You can be part of this initial conversation. However, over time, Dads, this is a matter of you son coming into manhood and God has placed you in his life to offer guidance and direction on this journey. You should transition to the parent taking the lead in this issue. If you are uncomfortable or unsure how, speak with a counselor, pastor, or another, older man who is spiritually mature and has successfully walking his own sons through understanding sex and sexual issues.

Where: A comfortable, private environment, without distractions.

When: Not right after you, parent, found out. Talking through things while emotions are high and you have not had time to process them is unwise. Taking a day or two to put your thoughts together and get counsel is appropriate. But wait, what about the issue at hand? If I don’t address it now, that’s a mistake. No, if you don’t address it wisely, that is a mistake.

Communicate to your son this is an issue you will be revisiting, and set a day and time. Additionally, make sure he no longer has access to pornography (ie: limit internet access). Those two things you can do now. Your task, when you initially find out about your son’s porn use is to let him know and plug the holes in the boat (ie: discover routes of obtaining the material and block these access points). That’s it. There is nothing wrong with telling him this is a serious issue, and you are glad he has brought it to you. Simply tell him you will need to talk further about it later.

Length: Not long, 30 minutes max, unless your son wants to talk longer. This is typically more of a problem for mothers. It is at this point I have to remind you as a counselor, your son is not a girl.

Boys do not typically sit and talk at length about issues. They are mission/task oriented in their communication and do not do well with ambiguous dialogue.

Content: Bite-Size. We are not covering everything in one marathon talk. If you want to train your boy to cringe and hide from you every time you have a concerned look on your face, ambush him with long conversations. Think of one or two small things or “bites” you are looking to accomplish in the discussion. He can only really take in a piece at a time, and overloading him only serves to alleviate your anxiety (and then leads to frustration as he “checks out” of the conversation).

EXAMPLE TALK:

Setting Porch at the Family Home.

Present- Son, Mom & Dad.

Not Present (equally important)- Siblings, who are at a friend’s house.

DadSon, as you know, your mother and I are aware you have been looking at pornography and we are concerned about this. As your parents, it’s our job to guide you into becoming the man God has for you to be, and this material is harmful. Now, I recognize this can be very embarrassing to talk about, maybe you wish we would leave it alone, but that would be unwise.
Son: Yes, I know I shouldn’t have been looking at that stuff. It’s very embarrassing to talk about.
Dad: I hear that, it’s awkward to sit down and have this discussion with your parents.
Mom: Son, would you be more comfortable if you and your father had the conversation without me present? I wouldn’t be offended, it matters to me what you think.
Son: I’m okay.
Mom: All right, if that changes, will you let me know?
Son: Yes.
Dad: When was the first time you looked at pornography on our computers?
Son: It’s been a while, I really can’t remember when.
Dad: Had you looked at it prior to your last birthday?
Son: No, I hadn’t yet. I guess it was about two months after that, sometime in June, I think.


*Why is it so hard for him to remember? The two most common reasons I come across are deception or a combination of shame and avoidance.

  1. Deception usually happens with young men who are more immature and impulsive. His parent’s faith in God is exactly that, their faith, not his. His primary driver, in this situation, is preserve his own freedom to do what he wants.
    • Conversations about serious issues are especially boring and pointless to him. He will do all in his power to end them quickly and limit any consequences he could face.
    • He is short-sighted, sacrificing his integrity to ensure he is still allowed to go out Friday night with friends.
    • The approach with this young man will be primarily behavioral with small amounts of discussion. More specifically, he learns by having his privileges restricted by those outside of himself. He does not self-regulate (make changes himself).
    • If this describes your son, more in depth conversations will occur following the consistent implementation of discipline. Obedience will be present prior to any understanding.
  2. Shame and avoidance are present when a boy is conflicted about his behavior. Typically, this is a young man who has a personal relationship with God and a more mature perspective.
    • He does not need anyone to tell him what he is doing is wrong, he feels the weight of this for himself.
    • He experiences significant shame for his actions and has attempted to correct his behavior himself. However, the behavior has become a cycle for him. In other words, he looks at porn, feels shame and guilt, repents, promises himself he will not do it again, attempts to move forward and put the past behind him, and then stumbles again.
    • This young man feels such shame, he attempts not to think about what he has done, hence the avoidance. He works to forget what has happened, which makes recalling events difficult. In a sense, whereas the first boy deceives others, this young man works to deceive himself because reality is painful.
    • Handling this young man will involve more guidance and relationship, relying less on behavioral interventions (grounding, loss of privileges, etc).

Dad: Okay, where did you go to find the images?
Son: I didn’t have to go anywhere. I wasn’t even meaning to find them. I was playing around on Facebook and visited a friend’s page. He had some pictures of girls in swimsuits with a link. I knew it was wrong, but I clicked on the link. . . (trailing off).
Dad: Sounds like you were kind of caught off guard. Temptation works like that sometimes. So you clicked on the link, and then what happened?
Son: It took me to a page with pictures of girls, some of them in bikinis and some of them without clothes. I just kept looking and clicking.
Dad: Wow, so the link took you to a page with some very powerful images on it. You started looking and struggled to stop.
Son: Yes, and I felt terrible. I prayed and asked God to forgive me. I told myself I would never do this again.
Dad: And then what, how long did you go without looking again.
Son: Like two weeks. At first, it was easy, but then it got hard. I kept thinking about looking again. Eventually, when you and mom were out and I was alone, I went back and looked. I felt horrible all over again. I prayed again and really meant it. I told God I was going to stop.
Dad: It sounds like you have really been wrestling with this problem. You even did what mom and I have taught you to do by taking it to the Lord in prayer. I am glad you did that.
Son: But it didn’t work.
Dad: What do you mean?
Son: I kept doing it again. Pretty soon, I didn’t even pray anymore. I mean, if I was really sorry I would stop, right? Why would I keep doing something over and over again? If felt so fake.
Dad: I am hearing this has been confusing and difficult for you. Can I help you to understand it?
Son: Yes, I guess.
Dad: Good. Son, this is the first time, probably, you have had to deal with a sin issue that doesn’t go away easily. Do you remember the time we caught you lying about your homework?
Son: Yes.
Dad: We talked about it, disciplined you, and then what happened?
Son: I didn’t lie about homework anymore.
Dad: Yes, exactly. I bet you weren’t even very tempted to lie again.
Son: No, I wasn’t. I didn’t like how lying made me feel or getting in trouble.
Dad: To this point in your life, sin has been like this for you, kind of simple. However, now, as you are getting older, you are going to start having challenges like this, which are very different. It means you are going to be doing some really amazing growing in you understanding and faith. You know all those Bible stories we have taught you over the years?
Son: Yes.
Dad: Well, many of the people in those stories struggled with issues that weren’t really that easy, or simple. In fact, many of them had a decision to make: get discouraged and quit, or trust in God.
Son: I did trust in God, and He didn’t take this away.
DadThe reason God didn’t take it away is because your sexuality is a gift from Him. God made you to be sexual and does not want to take that away from you. God wants you to grow to enjoy this part of how he made you, within the plan and boundaries He has set. The issue is that Satan always tries to distort what God has given us with sinful motives and actions.
Son: I guess that makes sense.
Dad: This is a lot to take in, so don’t worry about understanding everything right away. Today’s conversation has been about getting the problem on the table. From here, I am going to help you in two ways. First, I am going to work to help you plug the leaks in your life. You and I will see where you are getting access to pornography and put some boundaries there. Boundaries help to keep us away from situations that are harmful. Believe it or not, I have boundaries for myself when it comes to the internet and what I look at. Second, you and I are going to meet to talk through this issue. We’ll set a weekly time to get together, maybe sit out by the fire pit. I know we both like that.
Son: That sounds okay. I do like sitting by the fire. Can help set it up?
Dad: Sure, in fact, I think that could be your responsibility. Well, do you have any questions or concerns?
Son: No, not really.
Dad: Well, how are you feeling?
Son: Kind of relieved. This wasn’t as bad as I thought.
Dad: Great. These things can be tough, but they can be talked about. Let’s end in prayer.


Let’s summarize the talk:

  1. We broke the silence, talking with our son about a difficult, sin issue.
      • We worked to identify when the problem started and hear a little bit of how our son felt. Notice, we did not go in depth or attempt to find out all the details. This is because this talk was the beginning, not the totality of what we are doing.
      • When we attempt to have too epic of a conversation with our teenage son, in a way, we are doing the same thing he is, attempting to make the problem disappear in one stroke. It doesn’t work and we get discouraged.
  2. We empathized and validated our son. He got to hear us recognize how difficult this is for him and how trapped he must have felt.
  3. We put together a plan of action to instill hope. We included the practical step of taking away opportunities to view pornography while also making a plan to have ongoing discussions.

This article is only an introduction to the topic of pornography and teenage boys. There may be questions or concerns you have in regards to the issue. If that is the case, you are welcome to contact Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC at The Relationship Center. We would welcome the chance to advise you.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 3

Part 3  The Confusion of Relapse:

Sobriety & Lapses

Among the most compelling questions for people struggling with addiction and those who love them is the phenomenon diagramed above.  In short, the variations in the amount of time between addictive acting-out lead to a sort of false security.  Let’s examine this more closely.

In the diagram above, there is a line representing time, progressing forward predictably.  Circles, showing the addiction cycle (explained in the two previous pages) are superimposed on the timeline.  The circles remain the same, except for one characteristic, size.  Some of the cycles are larger, allowing more time between lapses, and some are smaller, with very limited time between acting-out.  However, the end result is always the same, destructive behavior.

Now comes the confusion.  People mistake sobriety with recovery.

Sobriety is ongoing time spent refraining from the destructive, addictive behavior.  Periods of sobriety can vary, from very short, hours or days, to very long, months or years. 

Recovery is the active, ongoing change of the individual’s way of living.  It involves the alteration of the person’s very foundation, making them incapable of producing the fruit of destruction any longer.  In recovery, a person lives for what they are now free to do.

In simple sobriety, life is about a list of “don’ts.”   Recovery does not happen without staying active in treatment!  For the addict, this means accepting that you cannot do this on your own and need help.  For those who love them, you must no longer enable the addict by accepting their excuses about lapses being isolated incidents which will not be repeated.  Life would be easier if this were true, but it is only a seductive fantasy.  This easier life does not exist, it is a manifestation of avoidance, an essential component of an addictive system.

How do you recognize if a person is truly in recovery, or simply remaining sober?  It’s a prudent question, asked by the people who have been hurt.  There simply is no completely safe way to love.  However, in true repentance, certain evidence should be present.  Specifically, if the individual has truly surrendered to Christ, they have become a new creation, or a new “tree.”  As such, we examine the fruit they are now producing:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. -Galatians 5:22-25

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help. At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help. Contact us today!

Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 2

Part 2 The Individual’s Tendency for Cycle-Preservation:  Why does a person seem so committed to their destructive behavior, even when they say they want to change?  Again, we will use the simple concept of a circle to understand this aspect of addictive/destructive behavior.  A circle is a circle because the curve remains constant.  In other words, at any point in the circle, the line’s curve is the same.  The result is a circle that will continue to repeat itself indefinitely.  The steps of pre-occupation, impaired thinking, ritual behaviors, addictive acting-out, and shame & despair will always lead to one another.  But. . .

What if we change the curve?  If the curve is altered, at any point, to any degree, the circle changes and the cycle cannot repeat itself.  It is here we find freedom.  There is a catch, however.  If alterations can be made to the curve in one direction, they can also be made it it’s opposite.  Changes can be changed back.

Addictive Cycle Change & Correction

Why, if someone is making healthy changes in their life, would they go back to the way they were?  Perhaps, we have sat with them as they recalled their past behaviors with horror, disgusted at themselves.  What does lapse into destructive, sinful behavior mean?  The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 7:15-19-

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

The mind can be thought of like an old-fashioned set of scales, the kind that required weights to be measured against one another.  The mind desires balance, not health.  Often, our way of achieving balance is to give-in to our sin.  Changes, even those which are healthy, blessed by God, create a time of imbalance.  The scales are skewed and the individual experiences discomfort.  It is at this point, corrective actions are taken remedy the problem.  The individual sabotages success, going back the old curve, the old cycle, and achieves balance once more.

It is not a matter of whether or not a person will work against their recovery, it is a matter of when.  Much of the work in Christian Counseling and support programs is found in identifying and changing this sin pattern.  As believers, we see our sinful nature as a result of the fall of man.  Man, ultimately, is in need of a Savior and there is hope.  Paul goes on to say:   

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:24-25

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help. At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help. Contact us today- www.therelationshipcenter.us

Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 1

Part 1:  Understanding Addictive/Destructive Behaviors as Cyclical:  When you think of your own or a loved one’s  addictive/destructive behavior it is helpful to imagine a circle.  A circle is a continuous line with no beginning or end, flowing into itself.  There is no defined point of entry, no easily identified trigger that sets the whole process in motion.  Instead, at any point you engage in the circle of behavior, you will eventually experience the entire cycle.  This seemingly pointless, disorganized string of destruction leaves those involved confused, angry, and hopeless.  They are unable to answer the question of “why” effectively.  In other words, does John act-out because he feels great shame or does John feel great shame leading to his acting-out destructively as a means of medicating himself.

Below is a diagram of a basic addictive cycle.  Not every addictive cycle is the same, so this example is not meant to be definitive.  However, it is a solid guide to understanding some of the basics of destructive cycles.  Let’s look at the components that make up the cycle:

Addiction CyclePre-Occupation:  The individual enters a time of rumination or internal obsessing on acting-out.  This can also occur in the form of obsessing on not acting-out.  It is important the individual acknowledge obsessive thought patterns are a part of addictive/destructive behaviors.  Rather than hiding this pre-occupation, they should be actively processing it with their counselor and support groups.

Impaired Thinking:  At the heart of destructive cycles, are faulty belief systems, which work to perpetuate problems.  Both addicted individuals and those with other destructive behaviors live according to these beliefs.  Some examples include-

  • I do not need others.
  • If others really knew me, they would reject me.
  • It’s not okay to show my emotions.
  • I don’t deserve love.

Ritual Behaviors:  Leading up to the actual acting-out, are a series of preparatory behaviors.  Often, when individuals have not fostered self-awareness via counseling and support groups, they are oblivious to their own ritual behaviors.  These can include, but are not limited to- isolating themselves from loved ones, looking for possible times or ways of acting-out, engaging in risky/”all most” acting-out behaviors.

Addictive Acting-Out:  The identified event of behaving in a addictive, or, otherwise, destructive behavior.  It is the “identified problem”, the piece of the cycle the addict and others point to as needing change.  However, it is only one of a set of steps.

Shame & Despair:  Inevitably, the individual experiences the impact of their destructive behavior.  If they have not been caught, this is the point at which they convince themselves they will never do “it” again.  The chief objective here is secrecy, and in the event they have been discovered, it shifts to minimizing the damage they have done.  In other words, the individual will attempt to convince themselves and others that what has happened is not “a big deal.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help.  At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help.  Contact us today- www.therelationshipcenter.us

Emotions 101: Creating a Common Language

Most people think they know what emotion words are and what they mean.  Say the word “sad” and instantly each of us has a host of definitions, memories, and thoughts which define what the word means.  It is precisely this phenomenon which is the issue.  The definitions of emotion words are not held constant, and, as such, can be very subjective.  Think about your chosen profession.  One of the first things you needed to do was understand accurately the language of the profession.  This meant moving beyond a common knowledge of terms being used and growing into a professional/expert understanding.  We apply the same principle here.  Good communication between you and others doesn’t just happen, it takes work, and one of the first steps is the establishment of a common emotional language.          

Click Here for CORE FEELING HANDOUT (1)

Group 1ANGRY & GLAD:  The easiest to allow others to see, at least at a surface level.

ANGRY:  Anger is a surface emotion.  Using the example of a tree, anger composes the trunk and branches, the parts readily visible to others.  As in the caseTree_roots_cross_section of a tree, there are extensive roots which are not able to be seen, deep underground.  Anger always has roots, and these roots are comprised of a combination of the other emotions.  Anger itself is not sin, but how it is expressed can be.  By its very nature, the experience of anger can provide you with false sense of power and mastery.  It may be one of the only ways you feel you are taking control of your life,  As a result, you may no longer have to experience fear or other difficult emotions.  You may make a kind of agreement with anger in these cases, “If anger will allow me the illusion of safety, mastery, and control, I will rely on it.”

Other Words for Angry:  irritated, uptight, impatient, upset, agitated, offended, cross, disgusted, disagreeable, annoyed, critical, displeased, bothered, enraged, aggressive, indifferent, hateful, furious, hostile.

GLAD:  Sharing this emotion can often be pleasant.  It is the one on this list, you might, at first glance, say is the only “good” one.  Emotions simply exist, the notions of “bad & good” are irrelevant.  Others knowing about your gladness is generally not very threatening, and in many cases, the risk of vulnerability is minimal.

Other Words for Glad: secure, content, appreciated, relieved, alive, excited, loving, compassionate, joyful, calm, peaceful, committed, understood, satisfied, confident, patient, healthy, strong, determined, respected, important, whole, worthy, valued.

Group 2SHAME & GUILT:  Difficult to experience and often forced by circumstances, such as being caught in the wrong.  The depth and intensity of these Shame & Guiltemotions can often lead to two faulty conclusions:

1- Emotions are very painful and I don’t want to feel them again. 

2- Shame and Guilt were so deeply intense/consuming, they are my deepest emotions (I have gotten to the very core of who I am).  However, Group 3 emotions go deeper.

SHAME:  It is a condition of finding the motives of your heart as corrupt.  Shame is a deep recognition of your deficits in both character and motivations directing behavior.  It feeds your need to hide, regardless of the costs.  You will typically avoid having to feel shame, but when it is finally experienced, it can be nearly intolerable.  Since shame is difficult,  you may resist openness with other emotions.

Other Words for Shame:  worthless, abandoned, ugly, inferior, ashamed, helpless, humiliated, detested, weak, bad, ignored, unloved, failure, inadequate, rejected, ungifted, degraded.

GUILT:  If shame is admitting your motives are sinful, guilt can be understood as the emotion which occurs when those motives reach fruition via your behavior.  While shame ultimately deals with the condition of your heart, guilt is the acknowledgement of how this condition has manifested tangibly in your actions in relationships with others.  It pushes  you to acknowledge your destructive impact on both yourself and others.

Other Words for Guilt: embarrassed, tormented, humiliated, regretful, alienated, disgraced, despised, stupid, worthless, bad.

Group 3FEAR, HURT, SAD & LONELY:  The deepest and most difficult to acknowledge.  Intimacy can be achieved when these are allowed to surface. 

FEAR:  The other 4-letter “f” word.  Its been said that men don’t get afraid, they get concerned.  You might chuckle at this, but when is the last time you spoke with someone about your fears?  This is a direct question, making a bold assumption- that you have fear.  As men, we experience fear, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.  In some cases, it has been such a long time, maybe since you were a young boy, you don’t even know how to recognize it anymore.

Other Words for Fear:  terrified, shocked, frantic, desperate, anxious, unsafe, concerned, apprehensive, vulnerable, tense, suspicious, uneasy, pressured.

HURT:  To experience hurt, requires that you have been vulnerable, in some way, to harm.  Often, hurt is equated with having been weak at some point in life.  You may see being weak as a mistake which you cannotHurt be allow to happen again.  You may even have disdain for the the part of yourself which was vulnerable to harm.  However, hurt is experienced, not by those watching life from the sideline, but the brave who take the field.  Courageous play necessitates the risk of harm.  You were not hurt because you were weak, you were hurt because you had the courage to take the field.

Other Words for Hurt: defeated, victimized, fragile, wounded, destroyed, hopeless, rejected, crushed, miserable, sick, torn up.

SAD:  If you choose to live courageously, you will experience sadness.  Sadness is a healthy response to many situations but has a requirement.  For you to experience sadness, you must have cared.  If you experience great sadness, you cared deeply.  The man who is aloof or detached, appearing not to care, may not be a pillar of strength. Instead, he is risk averse.  This man skillfully hides within plain sight.  Great men know what it is to be sad because they have the courage to care.

Other Words for Sad:  depressed, trapped, exhausted, hopeless, helpless, overwhelmed, miserable, remorseful, misunderstood, upset, crushed.

SadLONELY:  You were created with the need for relationship, first with God, then with others.  At the suggestion  they are “needy”, most men wince.  It is a word equated with weakness.  You may be much more comfortable in the role of provider than you are in the role of recipient.  Women, in general, are more accepting of the reality of needing others.  If you attempt to live apart from accepting your relational needs, you will feel deep loneliness.  Answer a few simple questions: Who do you share the content of your heart with?  Who knows you intimately?  When do you rely on others, apart from  times of crisis, during which you have little choice?  There should be ready answers for these questions.  First, a substantial relationship with God, via the forgiveness provided by Jesus Christ death on the cross, must be present.  Second, the relationship with your spouse should be deep and meaningful.  They should have access to your heart.  Third, other men who choose to serve and honor God need to be part of your inner circle.  Without such relationships, you cannot get your needs met.

Other Words for Lonely: alone, not chosen, empty, abandoned, despised, friendless, alienated, isolated.

Is Pedophilia caused by biology?

A pedophile's internal tormentA recent article in the LA Times on Pedophilia is misguided.  The title is quite sensational “Many researchers taking a different view of pedophilia,” and, no doubt, had a desirable effect of drawing readers to the content.  However, the use of the term “many”, seems an interesting choice, given that the names of only three researchers were given, one of whom, Dr. Eric Cantor, serves as the APA’s editor for their newsletter on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Psychology, a very politically motivated publication.

 

Sexual Orientation:  The use of terms like “sexual orientation” has become so common place in today’s media that a great deal of assumption is made on the part of the user that there is a socially uniform definition of the term.  Furthermore, this definition is accepted as accurate, without challenge.  Indeed, simply questioning the meaning of a term in regards to sexuality can spur such potent reactionary anger, the questioner is left resolved to silence in the future.  It is important to challenge misconceptions about what sexual orientation is, however.  Clinically, sexual orientation is not simply a matter of behavior, nor is it focused solely on the direction and persistence of attraction.  In the case pedophilia, application of the term sexual orientation focuses on the individual’s behaviors pursuing sexual interaction with children, in addition to an ongoing desire for such contact.  The use of the term is inappropriate and appears more directed towards creating an understanding of a troubling issue by combining it with an accepted sexual term.  If, the molestation or viewing of children sexually is part of an individual’s orientation, then it is an expression of  their identity, and all protections afforded to other sexual orientations are now granted to pedophiles.

Harmful Behavior:  Excessive individualism appears to be at play in this case.  Focus on the person is valuable and warranted, however, this attention should not lead to ignoring the individual’s impact on the world around them.  Pedophilia, like many other sexually deviant behaviors is manifested by a small minority of the population.  It is destructive to those who practice it and those they impact.  In the LA Times article, a reference is made to a man, Paul Christiano, who, though he never acted-out directly with a child (though we are taking his word), pursued acquiring child pornography.  Simple economics teaches us his role was the creation of demand.  Demand spurs opportunity for others to provide services and materials that meet the demand.  The end result of this process was the violation of innocent children.

It is with great curiosity and horror, that I, as a therapist who has worked extensively over the years with children who have been sexually molested, watch pedophilia being compared with romance, a mutually beneficial and consensual activity.  Men (statistics show us most sexual offenders are men) frame their actions with love and care for the child.  It is justified as an expression of love and intimacy between the two.

As a clinician, I will take a moment to explain what is actually going on here.  One of the key components of antisocial behavior is a toxic compartmentalization and justification of motive and behavior.  What this means, is all of us, as human beings, have some capacity to place the parts of our lives in a kind of mental box.  Think of the mind as a garage, full of boxes, each containing different items.  Men, seem to have a much greater tendency towards this way of organizing life, and there is nothing unhealthy about it.  The content of boxes, though different, should be in agreement.  Great distress, cognitive dissonance, is experienced, when the contents of one box are in conflict with the contents of another.  For example, Paul Christiano, has a box in his “garage” telling him that what he is doing is wrong and should not be done to children.  He also has a box containing child pornography seeking behaviors.  He places his “pedophilia box” away from the “convictions box” in the garage.

Additionally, he begins convincing himself because he is not acting out with children directly, but rather, viewing pornography, he is not doing something “wrong”, or probably more accurately, something “as wrong” as molesting a child.  If a man can compartmentalize and organize his mind in such a way that his behaviors are acceptable to him, he has laid the groundwork for doing extremely harmful things.  Paul elicits sympathy from the reader by noting he saw himself as a monster when he was a child.  We can and should sympathize with his internal struggle, but his actions, chosen by him, harmed the children, whom he victimized vicariously through the actions of other.

Biblical Perspective:  There are many desires present in the heart of man.  The nature of their expression is of utmost importance.  An individual may experience sexual arousal and attraction towards children, but it would be a sin to victimize the innocent.  The individual can and should seek help.  As a Christian therapist, I encourage individuals that therapy is a safe place where  such struggles can be addressed without condemnation.  However, as a licensed clinician, mandated reporter, and a Believer, the protection of innocent children requires accountability for those who act on such desires.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

Discovery vs. Integrity in Sex: Secular Humanism vs. Biblical Truth

download (6)We live in an age of self-discovery and self-actualization.  It’s a tenant of Secular Humanism.  The great quest is to delve into “who I am” and learning to embrace whatever one might find.  Humanistic psychology has championed this approach, and pushes individuals to see the goal of life as fully exploring these various facets of the human experience as a means of life at its fullest.  If this approach is applied to sexuality, the issue is no longer one of integrity, but of discovery.  Any desire, thought, or action should be embraced and greater truth will be found.  It may surprise many, but Paul speaks of this way of thinking in Romans 1:18-25.

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.

Paul understood this way of thinking, by way of God’s revelation, is humanity’s corrupted pursuit of a god, which is idolatry.  As people in a modern society, we might scoff at the idea of 88308565serving an idol, but as in the case of many things, idols have evolved over time.  The modern idol is not a statue or image, but one’s self.  God is created by accepting what appeals to the individual.  In a sense, the person can move down a buffet line of ideas and thoughts, selecting the amount of each that seems right to them.  The plate is gradually filled and steadily transforms into a mirror, providing a reflection of the individual holding it.  Although, in the case of idolatry, whether an image, statue, or mindset, it has always been man’s worship of himself.  Self-exploration is a good thing, and a part of the work we do at The Relationship Center.  As believers, however, we seek to also to know who God is, as our guide and template.  As we discover the ways in which we are not like God, we surrender to His transformational work, allowing Him to mold us into his image.

Let’s apply this concept to sexuality.  If, for instance, a man is drawn to look at pornography and struggles to reconcile this behavior with his faith, he has a choice.  One of his options is to re-examine his beliefs about sexual behavior and change these.  He might reform his belief system so that looking at porn in no longer a problem, but simply an expression of his sexuality.  In regards to his faith, he begins to ignore or reinterpret aspects of scripture which contradict his new found thinking.  While he does not realize it, he is creating an idol.  God’s word about Himself is no longer held as truth, instead, this man defines who God is.  More specifically, he begins to bow at the altar of sex, serving, according to Paul, a created thing rather than the Creator, God.  What if, instead, the man knew what the Bible, the inspired Word of God, said about the created thing, sex.  The man, with God’s grace and help, transforms this area of himself to conform to the image of God.  In this instance, he bows before God.  Sexuality becomes an area which God is able to bless.