Over the past decade, I can’t count how many emails I’ve received from individuals struggling with porn and the like who I had no connection with, but still felt comfortable enough to confess all of their “sins” to me. It seems strange on one hand that someone would choose a person they have no relationship with to divulge all their secrets. But on the other hand, it makes perfect sense.
When you have no connection, you have no real risk of rejection.
And as much as I’d like to help those people when they send me spontaneous emails, the reality is I can’t. I can only point them in the direction of real help. This is the problem with an anonymous confession absent of any authentic connection.
That being said, I understand identifying yourself as a person who needs help can be a very scary proposition. Who can you really talk to, and more importantly, how will they react? Are there any rules of engagement, or as long as I confess my issues to someone I’m headed in the right direction?
Here are 3 things to consider if and when you decide to come forward with your struggle.
1) Confession alone is incomplete.
This is the other issue I have run into with people who randomly and spontaneously email me their laundry list of sins. In the past, I have always responded and sent them a small number of suggestions as to where they should begin to seek help. But 99% of the time (and that’s not an exaggeration) the response to those suggestions was deafening silence.
Because for the most part, those individuals weren’t seeking help. They were looking for someone to come clean with so they could reduce or temporarily relieve the guilt and shame they were feeling at that moment.
I know that sounds judgmental, but I was that guy myself in the past. It’s easy to confess to someone you don’t know or have any attachment to your indiscretions. It’s harder to do the follow-up work of recovery afterwards.
In the Bible you see the connection between confession and repentance. They go together. Confession is good, but it’s incomplete when there is no repentance to follow. And when it comes to “confessing” your sexual struggles, it’s the same thing. There needs to be some sort of meaningful action after the fact.
2) Choose someone who cares for you and empathizes with you.
In the Live Free Community we have over 1,000 men who are supporting each other through their shared struggles with unwanted sexual behaviors. Yes, most of these guys didn’t know each other before they joined. And yes, it’s online and not in person.
But the concern is there. The empathy is present.
This is why we offer this resource. Because we know for some, online is the only option for finding people who will truly accept them for who they are. And once inside, it becomes clearly evident that the community goal is not just confession, but growth.
However, if you are fortunate enough to have someone (or someones) in your life that truly cares for you (not conditionally) and is willing to empathize with your struggle, then that person is a great place to start your road to redemption.
A person who cares will accept you.
A person who cares will challenge you.
A person who cares will encourage you.
But a person who only deals with you on their terms will not be much of a help, and maybe a tremendous source of pain in the end.
Additionally, empathy is the key here.
Sympathy says I feel sorry for you but can’t identify with you. In other words, they understand your struggle but from their own limited perspective. So their advice or encouragement, while well-intentioned, will often miss the mark of truly helping you.
Sympathy sucks to be honest.
Empathy means putting one’s self in the other person’s shoes in order to understand WHY they may be struggling. Through this process of discovering why a person feels the way they do, one can better understand and provide healthier options.
Confession only really works when there is both connection and empathetic care.
3) If it all goes south, it’s them and not you.
This is probably the main reason people send in anonymous confessions when they have no idea who is really going to read them. Because in the end, there’s very limited risk.
If Carl, Joe, Mary, or some unknown service representative responds to your confession in an unfavorable way it’s pretty easy to move on. Whether you are met with condemnation or just a healthy challenge that you don’t particularly like, it’s a simple process to just break off that communication and try another alternative.
But when you are talking about real relationships (in person or online), the rejection or judgment you risk incurring is a real concern and can lead to broken relationships.
There’s a lot to risk.
However, realize that the relationship you may be risking is not as valuable as your wellbeing and health. Staying stuck and quiet to maintain a connection that’s not going to be there for you when you really need it is a bad trade off.
If your confession and attempt to get help is met with hostility or shame, it’s not your fault. It’s theirs. Your honesty and transparency is an act of courage and integrity and their rejection doesn’t change that fact.
The truth is that the person you just confided in about your porn addiction, masturbation, etc. will hear that confession and respond with love and concern if they truly care about you. And if not, then that relationship is most likely transactional by nature, meaning they are in it for what they can get out of it…. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And those one-way, conditionally based relationships are not going to help and may even harm you.
That being said, understand that not everyone who cares about you will feel qualified enough to help you in an area that may seem foreign to them. And so if they say that and suggest you find a source of help and support tailored to your needs, don’t assume that they are rejecting you. They may be just expressing genuine love at a higher level because they are more concerned with your welfare than being seen as your savior.
Confession is needed when it comes to finding freedom from unwanted sexual behaviors. It’s the first step. It’s why 12 Step meetings start with, “Hey my name is ________, and I’m a __________.”
But it’s only the beginning and needs to be followed up with a plan and some action. And ideally, it needs to be carried out with a person or group of people who have an empathetic connection to you.
Yes, confess – but don’t stop there!
As always, If you have any questions about this or need any advice on your sexual and/or recovery journey, ask us anything you want HERE and we’ll answer your question in an upcoming Office Hours segment.