“I don’t find joy in being a father.” These were the words that I blurted out to my wife on the way home from a wedding about two years ago.
The words didn’t just come to me on the way home. In fact, my wife wasn’t the first person to hear them come from my mouth. Earlier that evening, at the wedding, my wife had to leave to go home to feed our two-and-a-half-month-old who was at home refusing to take a bottle.
As if from a scene in a movie, as she walked out of the reception hall the DJ said, “I need all couples to make their way to the dance floor.” I grabbed a drink at the bar and made my way over to a table of singles (or at least non-dancers) and I worked up the courage to say aloud what I had been repressing for a couple of months.
“I think I’m a good dad. But I don’t like it…like at all.” My audience awkwardly laughed and as I downplayed the seriousness of my thoughts, they gave me some empathetic support.
Their unenthusiastic support was more than enough for me to finally tell my wife. When I first had the thought, “I don’t enjoy being a dad,” it was like a wounding to my soul. I knew I wasn’t happy. My wife knew I wasn’t happy.
It was clear that in some way or another the kids were a trigger to this. But I also knew that a good dad wouldn’t think that.
A good dad would enjoy his kids. I tried to escape into my work, but I struggled to focus on work knowing that I was ignoring my kids and leaving my wife, who had just given birth to our third daughter, to deal with all three.
When I was home with the girls, my brain would be thinking about all the work I didn’t do because I was feeling guilty about not being at home. Guilt compounds.
You have a thought or do something you shouldn’t do and you feel guilty about it. You suppress the guilt only to feel guilty about that. You know that you should tell someone, but is there ever a good time?
You’re too busy, they’re too busy. You don’t want to make too big a deal out of something that isn’t a big deal. And this isn’t that big of a deal, right?
It was a fleeting thought or a one-time thing.
You’ll feel better.
No one needs to know.
You can make it through this.
Whether we’re talking about my depressive state and feelings toward my family, pornography use, or any other thought pattern or behavior that is plaguing you, I have found Jesus’ wisdom to be true. “The truth shall set you free.”
I wish there were another way, but when it comes to secret struggles there isn’t enough white-knuckling to get you through.
That car ride home, the one where I finally told my wife how I was feeling, was awkward, tense, and included quite a few tears. Freedom wasn’t found in that car ride, but I know the journey toward freedom began there.
The journey sent me further down before I started making my way up, but it was the choice to be transparent that got me moving at all.
I wish that was the only time I had to choose transparency. It’s one of many.
And that is outside of all the times I should have, but refused, to be honest with myself and/or others. Early in our marriage, I wrestled with pornography use.
I had confessed it to my wife but downplayed its seriousness. We had a few conversations about it and I had a few close friends with who I was more honest.
I was able to find some level of freedom. More freedom than I had since high school.
I relapsed, backslid, whatever phrase you want to you. I knew this would hurt my wife plus I had experienced freedom for so long, I could keep it to myself and I could be strong.
Then our young adults’ group at church was having a conversation on pornography. How could I lead that conversation knowing this was hanging over me?
In what is becoming my M.O., I blurted it out and told my wife. I also had conversations with my pastor. I’ve continued to have conversations with the youth pastor at our church who has started a group for men looking to fight against pornography and lust.
We’ve seen a lot of freedom for men who choose transparency.
It’s a difficult thing, transparency. Admitting a weakness, vulnerability is a challenging thing. You don’t want to tell people where you are weak, what if they use it against you?
And unfortunately, that insight isn’t without basis. There are people who will take your transparency and your vulnerability and use it against you. This means we should be wise in how we share and with whom.
Even at the risk of being hurt, we must choose vulnerability. We must, for ourselves and for others.
A 2018 study showed that up to 81% of patients lied or misled their doctors. If we count telling your dentist that you floss, then I’m guilty as well. Why do we do this?
We all have the same desire to appear better than we are. We don’t want to feel guilt or shame. But we gain nothing through the lie.
Honesty is often met with grace and it’s only when we are honest that problems can be properly addressed. Healing, physical or otherwise, will come much faster when we choose transparency.
Plus, we aren’t the only ones who benefit. I call it “making elbow room.”
There are certainly people who are uncomfortable with honesty. There are almost certainly people in my congregation who don’t know how to respond to the fact that I have struggled with pornography or have faced depression brought on by parenting.
And, of course, there is a time and a place. I do talk about other things. But when I bring these things up, I do it to make elbow room, clear space for others.
If you have a struggle, a doubt, or a secret sin I guarantee someone else does too. They may not have the courage to bring it up until you make room for them.
Choosing vulnerability takes a level of security that only comes when our identity is anchored in Jesus Christ.
When we believe we are who He says we are and not what others, or even ourselves, say, then we can be honest about our struggles. Followers of Christ should be the most vulnerable and most transparent as the whole premise of our faith is built on grace and mercy.
We must make time to have communion with God, root ourselves in His Word, and gather with fellow believers so that we have the strength to be honest with one another. We need to do this for our own healing. We need to do this so others can find healing as well.
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