Help. Hope. Healing.

A Gentle Path

By Rex Goode

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I have a friend that I met over the Internet, not same-sex attracted like me, but struggling nevertheless with an addiction to pornography. He usually seeks my help and advice through email, but I got a call from him last night. We had a very long talk. He had been doing very well and then had a relapse yesterday. He was trying to analyze the reasons and see what he might have done differently.

One thing that he said made me a little sad. He said he was so frustrated that he was starting over at Square One AGAIN. I told him I didn’t think that was true at all, but that he could make it true if he didn’t give himself credit for the progress he had made.

One thing that I keep harping on with him and others is that the path out of sexual addiction is one that must be taken slowly and gently. To think that we will one day wake up and magically declare our problems over is a sure way to fail. It is not like that.

We must look at the entire picture. We must give ourselves credit for improvements and continually look for new ways in which to improve. It is not effective and right to expect a miraculous and overnight change. In all of our other endeavors in life, we recognize the value of steady progress.

Part of why we get so anxious over this is that it does involve a very serious sin. It makes for an urgency that isn’t true of other things to overcome. Yet, at the same time, in calculating it based on its severity, we set ourselves up for failure.

We ask ourselves, “How can I justify taking a gentle and self-forgiving approach to overcoming these things when the scriptures have said that sexual sin is so serious?”

This was one question my friend asked. His acting out involves viewing on-line pornography and fantasizing. He felt that it was so serious to do these things that he had to consider it a major setback to slip once after several weeks of sobriety. I don’t think that the Lord views sin any less just because we are addicted. He said:

For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance (D&C 1:31);

How, then, can we allow ourselves to take a gentle course through this recovery process, knowing that to be easy and gentle with ourselves means we may have to refuse to be hard on ourselves if we slip?
One thing that helps me is to remember that God is omniscient and knows the end from the beginning.

My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee (Abraham 2:8).

We may not know when we are going to stop, but God does. It is important to choose the right long-term program that will yield permanent results instead of choosing over and over the same wrong short-term program that always results in failure.

It seems to be absolutely necessary in the providence of him who created us, and who organized and fashioned all things according to his wisdom, that man must descend below all things. It is written of the Savior in the Bible that he descended below all things that he might ascend above all. Is it not so with every man? Certainly it is. It is fit, then, that we should descend below all things and come up gradually, and learn a little now and again, receive ‘line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little (Discourses of Brigham Young, Pg.60).’

This is where willingness comes in. All we really have is willingness. The strength to put that willingness into action rests in God, not in us. Willingness may not seem like much, but in the economy of God, I think it is priceless. Pure willingness is so much more than just good intentions.

It is a matter of living in the present, offering up the widow’s mite of willingness when we are so poor that being willing to change amounts to being the sum total of our income. Do not ever think that willingness is not enough. When it is all you have, it is like a vast treasure.

And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had (Luke 21:1-4).

No matter how far you fall or how deep seems the abyss, hold on to your willingness to change and offer it up to God. I believe that the atonement covers everything that our willingness cannot yet do.

Be gentle with yourself and pay attention to what you need to do today to make progress. Don’t make grand and important plans of being a conquering hero. Make yourself a servant first. Honors will come later.

Don’t try to live too many days ahead. Seek for strength to attend to the problems of today. In His Sermon on the Mount, the Master admonished, ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ (Matthew 6:34) (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, Pg.239).

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6 Responses to “A Gentle Path”

  1. Tim B said:

    I’m really glad you added this here. I remember your counsel to be gentle with myself a long time back, and it was very helpful then and since. I think it’s at the heart of many of the things I say in recovery settings. It works.

  2. julie said:

    This is great for me since I am my own worst enemy. My therapist keeps telling me to quit being so hard on myself. I’m starting to get to the point that I can tell when I am being hard on myself and stop doing that. It’s hard though when I feel like I should be punished more severely. I think this goes back to a time when my grandfather punished me for something wrong I did as a child.

  3. Rex Goode said:

    Tim, thanks. Being gentle on myseslf was a hard lesson to learn for me too, but it makes all the difference in results that last.

  4. Rex Goode said:

    Julie. I think we definitely learn being hard on ourselves from our families. I think I learned being gentle on myself from my mother. She was definitely there with discipline when needed, but I never felt like she thought I was anything less than amazing. If I had let her belief in me outweigh the words of my abusers, I would not have ever dealt with sexual addiction.

  5. julie said:

    ha – I just read what I wrote and it didn’t make sense. I’m glad you understand jibberish, Rex, because you knew exactly what I meant:) I understand what you say – My grandmother was also like your mother, but my grandfather had a much stronger presence. I believe I was frightened of him in so many ways, even though he only layed a hand on me once for punishment.

  6. Rex Goode said:

    It did make sense. 🙂

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