Wednesday, November 27

Thinking about . . .

I have a handful of podcasts I listen to now and then. While doing some Thanksgiving prep in the kitchen, I just listened to one interviewing a man who had a pornography addiction from childhood.

This is such a tough issue. It strikes at the things we hold most sacred, things we have a hard time talking about and fear the most. Sexuality. Intimacy. Addictions.

I am very grateful this man shared his journey so that I could learn from it. I have a dear friend whose young adult daughter is struggling after her boyfriend broke up with her. They messed up together and the young man wants to work on himself and felt he needed to do that alone. It is such a delicate matter and has had me thinking a lot about how I can show love better.

How do we treat those that sin differently than us or "more seriously"?
Do we intentionally or unintentionally reinforce that individual's feelings of being unworthy of love and connection?
How do we help others get back on the path to happiness? Can we?
How do we show love to those who may have to learn the hard way while keeping healthy boundaries for our own safety?
How can we help someone understand the gravity of the path they are choosing without making them feel isolated and judged?

This man's first exposure was a magazine he saw in the gutter at age 7. He struggled with pornography through his teen years (before the internet), but was able to clean up his act and served a faithful mission. But then pornography got him again. He thought marriage would fix this problem but his struggle became worse than ever because the stress of life just does that.

Ten years into his marriage, he made choices which cost him all that mattered -- his wife, his children, his home, his membership in the church, and even his freedom. This man said even when he had lost everything, he still hadn't hit rock bottom. Ugh. How sad. But he has come back. He said it took him ten years to climb out of his addiction - a complete change of heart, a conversion. His addiction began as a youth to escape from family conflict and pressures. Life is full of stress. We all find healthy and unhealthy ways and habits to manage. (I have been learning a lot about this lately, surprised to discover my own unhealthy ways of stress management and the long term affects on my relationships and body.)

But what I was most impressed by in the man's story was the role played by ward and stake members that helped and hindered this man's journey.

  • How did leaders and members respond for that year and a half when they saw him in the foyer at church in jeans, a t-shirt, and a surly expression? He'd felt unworthy to come into the chapel but he'd shown up to be as close to the community of saints and saving ordinances as he could muster at that stage.
  • How did they show him they wanted him there? I believe everyone is needed and wanted in our wards. We are all struggling along our own humility-pride spectrums with personal cocktails of vices. Leaders of this man gave him a calling. A stake calling. I loved President Uchtdorf's talk at General Conference inviting those who struggle to come join us. "And that is what happens when they join with us—they have many opportunities to transform their talents, compassion, and time into good works. . . The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet. "
  • When he was still in his downward spiral, he gave tribute to the inspired bishop who made a point to support his ex-wife and children as they struggled along the victim's road. There are so many resources more readily available these days, thank goodness!