ARE WE FREE TO SCREW UP-blogMy friend Steven wrote a post on Monday about slip up or relapse. My other friend Seth followed it up Wednesday with a different take on things.

Now, I guess it is my turn. I appreciate all that has been said and want you to know this has been a huge conversation around XXXchurch recently, especially when it comes to our X3groups. We have a diverse group of people working and writing here at and sometimes we don’t see eye to eye on everything. That is ok. That is how I think we will continue to grow. 

We have long had a policy where X3group leaders needed to be sober for a minimum of one year before they could take over a group.

We recently interviewed someone to become a leader, and though all his references came back sparkling and I personally vouched for this guy, in his honest interview he told us he’d looked at porn four months earlier.

I wanted this guy, but the person in charge of all the X3groups kept citing that rule at me. “We have a rule for a reason,” he said, but I still wanted this guy to lead. Should we throw the rule out the window for this guy? Is a year’s worth of sobriety our end goal or is there something bigger we are missing?

In the midst of this discussion, I was reminded of the Macklemore song “Starting Over,” where he wrote about having a relapse after three years of sobriety. It has these lines in it:

Those 3 plus years, I was so proud of
And I threw ‘em all away for 2 Styrofoam cups
The irony, everyone will think that he lied to me
Made my sobriety so public, there’s no f**kin’ privacy
If I don’t talk about it then I carry a date
08-10-08, but now it’s been changed
and every wanna put me in some box as a saint that I never was,
it’s the false prophet that never came
And will they think that everything that I’ve written has all been fake
Or will I just take my slip to the grave?
Uh, what the f**k are my parents gonna say?
The success story that got his life together and changed

Feeling sick and helpless, lost the compass where self is
I know what I gotta do and I can’t help it
One day at a time is what they tell us
Now I gotta find a way to tell them
God help ‘em
Yeah, one day at a time is what they tell us
Now I gotta find a way to tell them
If I can be an example of getting sober
Then I can be an example of starting over

The whole song’s powerful, but I especially love that thought about being an example not just of sobriety but of starting over, and thought that would be a powerful thing to apply to this potential X3group leader.

Some on our staff disagreed. They felt like the year minimum of sobriety is essential to cut down on addicts “deceiving themselves” about their level of freedom, and that the longer you are sober, the more you start to “honor your days.” In their estimation, that length of sobriety is a powerful motivator to continue. 

I see their point, but I honestly don’t think there is a difference between a slip-up and a relapse, because every person I talk to denies they are addicted in the first place and has a hard time even admitting to a “relapse.” If the goal is “Don’t Look At Porn,” then a slip-up of 10 minutes with porn is the same thing as a relapse of 3 days with porn. Either way, you looked at porn and killed your goal. 

So the question then becomes: should that be the goal?

Is the issue not to look at porn, not to get drunk, not to sleep around? Is the goal to go 100 days without porn, 200 days without alcohol, a month without a sexual encounter?

Do we need to be examples of being sober? Or examples of starting over? (Tweet This!)

Or can we be both?

I am a fan of Macklemore and I love this song. I’m thankful for people like him being so honest about having a slip even after a few years sober, and a lot of that thankfulness comes from something I’ve been asking myself lately: Am I a Christian so I can now never mess up or am I a Christian because I can be accepted no matter how much I mess up?  

So much of Christianity is about saying, “Yeah we used to be sinners but now we’re free so we need to have our stuff together.”

That’s a cool intent, but isn’t that just legalism? Is the point about sobriety just to see how big a number you can get under your belt? If so, then the bigger the number gets, the more pressure you are under to preserve it. The more pressure there is, the more likely you are to crack. 

Unless you’re free to mess up. By which I mean: if I look at porn today, I’m still loved and I am still accepted. (Tweet This!) I don’t have to wake up every day worried that this is the day that it all finally comes crumbling down. I am free knowing that, even if I do, I don’t have to feel shame. And that feeling actually releases me to enjoy God and to enjoy my life. I’m not living by a checklist of rules – I’m living in love. (Tweet This!) 

We shouldn’t feel shame because we should be surrounding ourselves with others who don’t pretend that they have got it together either. Gradually shame doesn’t have any power and we become free. But screw the number of days. 1 year or 1 minute, I’m loved and accepted just as much.

As you know, if you focus on sobriety all the time, that will then be your goal. However, that’s not the Gospel; transformation is.

So I am already changing it a bit. Our groups now regularly narrow in on our journeys and how we are transformed and are transforming. How we are free from what used to so easily entangle us and how we can now live changed because of it. 

We have seen engagement even more now. People calling and texting one another. We extend the X3groups beyond the online portal and into our living rooms and truly have become a sort of spiritual family. 

Why? Because it’s the way of the Gospel: shared stories of life change. I can’t wait to hear the stories that come out of our X3groups as they learn they are accepted and loved, free to mess up. 




Are you ready for REAL CHANGE? Get some REAL COMMUNITY in your life by joining an X3group. These online small groups offer support and encouragement you need while breaking free from sexual addiction. Join NOW!


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Are We Free To Screw Up? by Craig Gross is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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