Most of us know it’s the right thing to do; but those of us with an addictive personality are afraid of taking that courageous step forward of going first.
My initial approach was to give you the proof and reason why this would be helpful in your relationships. The problem is, telling you won’t help very much. What holds you back is not the lack of knowledge, but the strength of the emotions––especially fear––that keeps you from being vulnerable, exposing the secret life that holds you in bondage.
So, I decided to take a different approach. I wanted you to hear “straight from the horse’s mouth.” This saying comes from horse racing culture and literally means to hear from the original source––not from the owners, trainer, or jockey, but from the horse itself.
I took the subject of “the process of healing” to the men in my Seven Pillars of Freedom group. These men are some of my favorite heroes. They are a band of brothers: men who truly have each other’s back. It’s amazing!
None of us knew each other when we started the group, but now, it’s like having a family reunion every week. They do a good job holding each other accountable, showing incredible compassion and empathy for each other. We know each other’s stories. Each week, every man takes ownership of his story and accountability to the group.
Last week, four of the men disclosed their struggle with their wife. None of them had an easy, comfortable experience. It was a difficult process for all of them.
Initially, I asked them why they disclosed their struggle. Here’s what they said:
I knew I was at the crossroad for me.
I realized I couldn't live like this anymore.
I loved my wife and children too much to keep up the charade.
I wasn't living. I was just existing and I couldn't do it anymore.
As each one shared, the other men in the group were nodding their heads in agreement. They could identify and empathize with what the others were sharing.
We have two kinds of values. Those we aspire to, such as learning to love, being compassionate and loyal, developing courage, and being a great father and husband. Then, there are the practiced values, such as avoiding conflict (lying by commission and omission), isolating, procrastinating, or struggling with anger or rage.
Each of these practiced values are driven by the answer to the following question: I asked the men in my group, “What were you feeling before and during your disclosure?” Their response was exactly what you would expect:
And an intense desire to run away!
These emotions and values will end up creating destructive patterns in our lives and with those we love. We need to be aware of what drives our decision making; it usually is not associated with our aspired values. The aspired values are usually driven by compassion, commitment, and courage—ultimately they are driven by love.
Although the men were not motivated by feelings associated with aspired values, they chose to disclose because it was the right thing to do: face their issues and not on their own. They turned to their wives and to the men in their Pure Desire group.
Being honest and confessing our struggle is not enough.
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.Proverbs 26:11 HCSB
We don’t want to go back to our old patterns, so we move to a new paradigm—to a new way of thinking. We embrace the values that are eternally important to us. We seek to make decisions based on what we believe instead of what we feel.
All of the men expressed relief and even freedom after they disclosed their struggle. They expressed the importance of having difficult conversations. They learned to embrace vulnerability in their lifestyle.
Then I asked, “Looking back, knowing what you know now, would you still have disclosed your struggle?”
They answered expectedly:
Lots of hard work but well worth it!
Well worth the cost.
My life, marriage, and family have been changed for the better. I got a second chance!
I would be glad to do it all over again.
In our fears we have learned to live and be comfortable in isolation. Isolation is a lifestyle of living for ourselves. As scripture says, we see dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB).
Truthfully, we need each other. We need to hear the voice of our wife, even when she expresses her disappointment, anger, and pain with our choices. We can learn and grow from her input.
We need the men in our group, that band of brothers who have each other’s back, even when we fail. The men who won’t minimize or deny what we’ve done (when we fail), but who continue to value us. The men who have learned to love us, and each other, for who we are.
These men, after being in a healthy group for almost a year, have learned to continue to live a life of authenticity where they can develop a lifestyle without secrets from the important people in their lives.
They are still in the healing process, but their marriages continue to grow in both trust and intimacy. Their wives now appreciate and encourage their husband’s participation in group; they recognize the value of community.
I struggle to imagine life without community: my wife, sons, friends, and group members all who know my story. They love me for who I am. I have no need to isolate or hide.
Paul says it best in Romans 12:5, 15:
So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the other...Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Romans 12:5, 15
This so beautifully illustrates community: when one of us cries, we all cry; and when one of us celebrates, we all celebrate together.
This is the life God intended for us.
Harry is a Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional and a Clinician at Pure Desire Ministries. He has been with Pure Desire since 1993. Harry is a licensed pastor who has served in ministry for 30+ years. He also has contributed to Pure Desire resources: Seven Pillars of Freedom and Connected.