“That is why we never give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. We have small troubles for a while now, but these troubles are helping us gain an eternal glory. That eternal glory is much greater than our troubles. So we think about what we cannot see, not what we see. What we see lasts only a short time, and what we cannot see will last forever.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 18 (ERV)
So you’ve messed up.
You’ve indulged in sexual fantasy, used pornography and/or masturbated. Or you had sex with someone. Perhaps unforgiveness and bitterness has consumed your heart and peace of mind. Maybe a spirit of envy, self-pity, pride or self-righteousness is controlling your life. You have violated your conscience, compromised your integrity and a sense of guilt, shame and helplessness is all that remains. Now what?
If repentance and the demonstration of a contrite heart are sincere, the blood of Christ extends to us mercy and forgiveness. As we march forward, let us continue to seek and gain strength from the Lord through the avenues He has given us.
And instead of relying on increased willpower, we need to release the brakes in our lives and make the necessary changes. In other words, letting go and replacing our limiting beliefs and changing the images we have of ourselves.
Identify Your Unique Patterns of Relapse
1. Write down your clear and specific goal(s). If celibacy, chastity or purity in thoughts/behavior are your goals, then it is rather obvious what you are striving for.
2. Identify the unimportant, day-to-day decisions that seem reasonable at the time, but which actually place you in a position (physically or emotionally) to relapse. These could include the specific items, places, relationships and daily routines we talked about in Articles #74 and #79.
3. When we make these seemingly unimportant decisions, we place ourselves in an “at-risk” situation. There is greater likelihood of thinking, fantasizing or behaving in ways contrary to our goals. Describe (write down) a few “at-risk” situations that could be problematic for you. Spending time alone with someone you find attractive could be an example of an “at-risk” situation. Or not making any plans for Friday night (even though you know being home alone on Friday night with nothing to do usually leads you to feeling more lonelier than usual and you start thinking and doing things that you know will lead into downward spiral).
4. In the present example – flirting, kissing, backrubs and other forms of foreplay are lapses in behavior that comes close to, but falls short of, a relapse. Identify (write down) your typical lapses in thoughts or behaviors (what you are thinking or doing right before the actual relapse).
5. Recognize you can correct yourself and put on the brakes (even when it’s awkward to do so). If acting out sexually is your issue, you can button up and zip up your clothes and leave the situation.
6. Identify (write down) what constitutes an actual relapse (in your unique opinion and circumstances). Of course this would be actively engaging in same-sex fantasy or behavior (if chastity or celibacy is your goal).
** Note: Sexual temptation or indiscretion may not be a primary issue for you. Maybe it’s a negative thought process, an attitude problem or some other adverse behavior. Identify YOUR unique issues, YOUR goals and complete this exercise again.
Develop A Basic “Alternative to Relapse” Plan
The key is identifying in advance the concrete and practical steps you can take so that you can live your life consistent with the values and beliefs you hold about homosexual attractions and behavior. With each step that follows, don’t hesitate to have your accountability partner or support group to (1) process this plan with you and (2) be available when you most need their help and support.
1. Clearly identify your goal(s).
2. Identify alternatives to seemingly unimportant decisions.
3. Identify what you can do if you find yourself in an “at-risk” situation.
4. How will you respond if you have a lapse in thinking or behavior? You don’t have to “go for it” or helplessly follow through once you’ve crossed a line.
5. Specify an alternative to relapse. Stop and contact your support system. Regroup. Conduct a spiritual check with the Lord. Continue to work toward your life goals.
** Note: Remember, accountability (within a spiritual friendship or fellowship) is a gift and an essential aspect of the sanctification process. As we connect with, encourage, confront and correct each other, the character and perseverance of Christ will grow within us.
For many people stuck in the resistance of change, looking for ways out of the maze of sameness is very difficult.
In a way, we really are not stuck. We just keep recreating the same experiences over and over and over and over again by thinking the same thoughts, maintaining the same beliefs, speaking the same words, interacting with the same people and doing the same things. With the Lord’s empowerment, we can break through.
(1) Define what you want. You can’t take action when you don’t know what you are striving for. Do something that “stretches” you. In learning something totally different from your norm and outside your typical comfort zone, you will learn several very important things about yourself:
- You will no doubt discover you have more ability than you think you do.
- You will learn to look at the world very differently, with new eyes.
- You will become braver and more confident in your abilities.
(2) Find new friends. I know that sounds harsh. If you are still hanging out with the same group of friends with whom you have continually expressed your disappointments in life, chances are you are all just rehashing the same monotonous dialog and going nowhere with it. Seek new friendships with people you see are happy and excited about life. Those people will fan the spark in you to step out of your daily comfort zone. You don’t have to dump your old friends but you can limit your time spent with them.
(3) Look at what you have done the last five years. Have you changed anything? Your hairstyle? Your daily routine? Your friendships? Your knowledge or skill set? Your interests and hobbies? If you are truly serious about attaining greater success and happiness, start with easy changes to make.
STOP telling yourself you are miserable.
STOP telling yourself you can’t do it.
STOP filling your head with negatives.
You ARE awesome, you ARE brilliant and you ARE amazing!
God said so.
There is a lot to be said for “self-fulfilling prophecies”.
(4) Be on continual lookout for helping hands. There are people who want to help you. There are events and circumstances that are happening around you almost daily that will be positive steps to achieving your goals. You have to expect them. Anticipate them. You have to get up every morning and tell yourself you are an open vessel to recognize and receive whomever and whatever God has put in your path that is a helping hand to reaching your greatest desires.
For some of us just having a signature wound or an enduring condition called “same-sex attraction” is a trial. A painful, spirit-crushing affliction. But as followers of Christ we are called to engage, to endure and to trust. Transform your inner critic into an inner coach. Hopefully (as we conclude this 4-part series), you are beginning to lay out a practical (and strategic) game plan to do just that.
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“Managing your same-sex attractions”?
When I use this phrase what I have in mind is this: although we may experience or contend with homosexual attractions, we can identify ourselves in ways that are in keeping with traditional Christian beliefs and values. We can take steps to structure and live our lives in the context of vocation, stewardship and Christlikeness. I believe God wants us to know that it is okay to struggle. He will help and advocate for us. He will still love us and accept us.
© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2015.
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