Men have the ability to talk for hours without revealing a single intimate detail about our lives.
We’ll talk about sports, work, politics, anything really—as long as the conversation stays superficial. It might sound cliché, but most of the guys I know avoid conversations about feelings or struggles. Most us of would swim through shark-infested waters rather than admit failure and weakness.
This dynamic was on full display at a men’s retreat I attended one year. We spent hours analyzing the sermons, commenting on delivery, and attempting to outdo each other with our insight. Intellectually, we were having a great time, but I hadn’t yet experienced any of the profound moments you expect to find when going on a retreat. I feared we would spend the entire time debating the nuances of biblical facts and return home with little to show for our time together.
In a moment of clarity (or insanity), I decided to violate this unwritten code and drop a grenade in this room of Christian leaders.
“I told my wife I was struggling with porn,” I said.
I watched in slow motion as the blast wave of my confession made its way across the room. One by one, the men broke eye contact with me. I couldn’t tell if it was from judgment or disappointment. For a moment, I wondered if I had made a mistake. Perhaps they were contemplating how to remove me from my leadership position?
But as I continued, they slowly leaned in to hear more.
I told them my struggle had started in the fifth grade when a friend dropped a magazine on my lap. Though I was barely able to understand what I saw at the time, the image was permanently etched into my mind. And it awakened a curiosity I could not quench. Over the years, this developed into a pattern of fail, repent, repeat that lasted well into my marriage. I explained how I ultimately realized that I would never find freedom if my sin stayed hidden. I told them about my decision to tell my wife, her reactions, and our journey to find healing.
I didn’t hold anything back. When I was done, there was silence. For what felt like an eternity, no one said a word. No one dared. Finally, the most respected member of the group spoke up.
“My struggle began when I was 13,” he said. “My wife still doesn’t know.”
I was surprised by his response, but grateful as well. He set the tone for the rest of the evening. He let everyone else in the room know it was ok to be vulnerable. They would not be judged here.
Confess your sins to one another
I expected perhaps one or two other guys might have a similar experience, but 100% of the men in the room that day had their own story. While the details were different, they all had at least one thing in common: All had been struggling in solitude and failing.
James 5:16 teaches, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
Most who struggle with pornography read this verse as, “Confess your sins to God in private and He will heal you.” We try this over and over again and then wonder why God has abandoned us to fail. This verse calls us to confess our sins “to one another.” Unfortunately, confession is usually the thing we avoid the most.
Our conversations that day could have gone much differently. In an attempt to deflect attention from their own failures, these men could have condemned me. They could have lectured me on purity or quoted Bible verses. They could have simply said nothing, and lead me to falsely believe I was the only one to have that particular struggle. But they didn’t.
Because of their courage, we were able to support each other and learn the meaning of 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Confession provided a way of escape, and the support of others provided the ability to endure it.
While I may not have had to face consequences from the men I spoke to, I did have to face the fallout with my wife.
When I told her, she was shocked. Her ideal image of me was shattered. Even worse, she felt betrayed. Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). I knew Jesus saw it that way, but I didn’t realize my wife would as well. I had bought into society’s lie that it was “no big deal.”
In my mind, my problem had little to do with my wife. It wasn’t until my sin was out in the open that I could see the impact it had on her.
She was able to forgive me, but she lost her confidence in herself and no longer believed I thought she was beautiful. The next couple of years were difficult.
One day we were hiking together and passed a tree that had been uprooted in a storm. As we looked at the tree, we couldn’t help but see it as a symbol of our marriage. Our marriage seemed strong, but our roots had been shallow. Like this tree, one strong gust of wind had knocked us over.
We stood in silence for a while, staring at the tree. Then my wife noticed new growth coming out of the root ball reaching upwards. The tree had been knocked over, but it was refusing to die. We also noticed while some roots had been exposed, others remained firmly attached to the ground. Our roots in Christ were strong, and our commitment to work it out was unwavering.
After a moment, she turned to me and gave me a curious look, studying my face as if seeing me for the first time. Then, with an almost surprised tone, she said, “I love you.”
I had heard her say those words a thousand times before, but this time it was different. This time, she knew my struggles, my shame, and my failures. She knew every twisted and broken part of me, yet was deciding to love me anyway. She repeated the words over and over, “I love you, I love you,” each time building in excitement until she was almost giddy.
In that moment, I experienced a love I had only experienced once before. It was a powerful, godly love like the love Jesus had offered me. Jesus knew my sin intimately, yet loved me enough to die for me and offer forgiveness. Do you know that love?
If you find yourself struggling with porn or other sexually explicit material, know you are not alone. Confess your sin before God. Let Christ work in your heart. Then find a mature believer you can trust, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
For more help listen to “How Can a Good Man Be Tempted by Porn?”
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