The Sin We Don't Share
Disclaimer: This post is extremely personal (and a little long), and a part of my story I share intentionally with certain groups of people. Some of my family will probably learn new things about my story from this post.
Almost 5 years ago (August 24, 2015), I got the horrible news that my favorite seminary professor committed suicide because his name had been found on the Ashley Madison site after their big hack. This came as a complete shock as this professor was one of the most beloved on campus. He was constantly helping students with their needs, specifically car troubles. And, if you had the honor to sit under him in class, you were constantly entertained while learning.
His family revealed that he had struggled for a while with depression and pornography. They expressed that he had carried so much shame over his struggles that it eventually drove him to hopelessness and despair. And ultimately, his family suffered as well.
His death hit me pretty hard. In one sense, it was because I knew and loved his family. But, in another sense, I thought "that could have been me."
I saw my first pornographic video in sixth grade. I was searching something, and a video popped up. I clicked on it, and that click sent me down a spiral for the next 6 years. I struggled with this sin, and I struggled in secret. No one knew. I confided in no one. I suffered in complete silence. It messed with every romantic relationship I had through high school. It messed with the way I saw myself. And it caused a pretty deep depression in high school. I had suicidal thoughts, and considered myself worthless. I was known as the "Jesus Girl" who could never do anything on Sundays because she had church. I was a leader in the youth group. How in the world could I share this deeply shameful part of my life with everyone?
Then, when I was 17, I truly met Jesus for the first time. I remember the forgiveness and kindness I felt from my Savior. I remember the loving conviction. For the first two years of college, I walked with God through a painful detox of those behaviors. I was not always perfect, but I learned about what love and sex should look like. I learned about having a positive self-image. But, still, I told no one about that past struggle. I was truly convinced that women did not struggle with porn, and I was completely alone. The shame that comes from sexual sin is so powerful that I honestly can't explain it to someone who hasn't experienced it.
Moving forward. After moving to New Orleans, I had opened up to a few people about those past struggles, and I realized that every time I shared a little weight came off my shoulder. Like someone had literally taken a piece of that shame off of me. After Dr. Gibson died, all I thought about was prevention. How could I possibly help others not carry their shame to the point of death?
I started a small group where we did a small Bible Study, and spent about an hour in prayer. We prayed for things we would have never shared in our Sunday School class or in front of our seminary classes. That season was the most intense season of prayer I've every experienced. Even if we didn't struggle with certain things anymore, sharing them with the group to eliminate that shame (and, honestly, preventing us from falling back into bad habits) was so therapeutic.
Women, you are not alone in your struggles. No matter what you are going through, don't let that shame get in your head. 1 in 3 women have reported watching porn, and in a German Study 17% of women reported being addicted. This is not just a male's sin. Sin doesn't discriminate, but lucky for us neither does forgiveness.
Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
We are commanded to support our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we're physically weight down with burdens, we're not going to feel strong enough to receive grace and mercy. But, if we can take just a bit of shame, pain, or burden off of someone, we can make a world of difference. Specifically, sexual sin can be the most secretive. I've known so many people who have made mistakes sexually, and the first thing I thought was "I had no idea."
I've become more open with my story, and I have been approached by multiple women thanking me for letting them know they're not alone. They've asked me about how I dealt with the shame, how I worked through the habit to eliminate it, and how it has shaped my relationships since.
Share your story. Share your struggles. Start with one trusted person. I promise you will start a domino effect of relief, grace, love, and mercy for yourself. That is the most freeing process in the world.
If you'd like to know more on the harmful butterfly effects of pornography, listen to the podcast "The Butterfly Effect" by Jon Ronson. I had the honor and pleasure of participating in this podcast (I think in episode 5). It's all about how the founding of Pornhub has had harmful effects no one would ever think of.
There is also a non-profit called Fight The New Drug that educates on the harmful effects of pornography on the brain, the heart, and the world.