I’ve seen this probably five times in the past week in e-mails and comments I’ve received: I just CAN’T tell anyone (yes, most of them had “can’t” in all CAPS, just to emphasize the point).
Now, I try to be very compassionate when responding to e-mails because I know the whole world doesn’t appreciate my dry sense of humor. Not to mention, these women are struggling, hurting, and looking for help. I take that into consideration and refrain myself from saying,
“No, what you actually mean is you don’t want to tell anyone.”
It’s obvious that she can tell someone; she just “told” me. What she is really saying is that she does not want to tell someone she knows, because she is afraid to tell someone she knows, and that fear is so crippling that she truly believes it just might kill her. I get it, but we need to start calling it what it is.
What we have here, ladies is a classic case of fear. Women are OK telling me via e-mail a) because they know it’s safe and b) because I have no idea who they are. The same anonymity that shelters us in our addiction is the same one they try and hide under while trying to find help. I know this is true because when the opportunity comes for me to meet these women in person, a majority of them lose it.
I honestly believe this is the biggest lie the devil tells us. He wants us to believe that we really can’t tell anyone. No one will understand and no one could possibly help us.
It’s a lie I believed for years.
I was exposed to pornography when I was thirteen. Up until that age,I had been raised by my grandparents who absolutely love the Lord. My grandfather is the type of person that telemarketers don’t want to call because he will end up telling them about Jesus. Devout Christians- grandparents of a porn addict. There was no way I could tell them!
My mother caught me once. Her reaction confused me. She took responsibility for my sin, asking what she had done. How had she failed me? What was wrong with her? What’s wrong with you!? Guilt upon guilt. Shame upon shame. No way I could tell her.
Then there was church- a independent fundamental Baptist church in small town, Ohio. Everybody knew everybody. My family had been attending that church since the early 80’s. My grandfather was a deacon. My grandmother taught Sunday school. My mom sang in the choir. Church never even talked about sex. There were just vague references to purity in youth group. How could I tell anyone here? My family would find out! Everyone would find out. Would they even know what I was talking about?!
Ironically, statistics say that self-identified fundamentalists are 91% more likely to look at porn. (see stats here)
I just didn’t have the desire to give anyone a heart attack. I didn’t have the desire to be judged. I was already doing a perfectly fine job of punishing myself and treating myself like a freak. I did not need help in that department.
So, years of silence convinced me that I could never tell anyone.
Then college #1 came, and I prayed that I would get caught. If I got caught, then I didn’t have to tell anyone. Someone would already know. So, yes, I prayed I would get caught. I did everything I could to keep from getting caught, but my hope was that I would make a mistake. (It’s one of those twisted logic prayers we pray. You know, the one that you pray as you type in the web address- “Please, God, help this address not to work.”)
I got caught and was then told I couldn’t have this problem… because I am a woman. Right.
That sealed the deal. I could never tell anyone… ever.
Then, college #2 came, and someone else started the conversation. The dean of women got up and said, “We know some of you struggle with pornography and masturbation, and we are going to help.”
Still, with such a blatant invitation, I struggled to confess. I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell anyone. They were lying. They didn’t really want to help.
But I told, and you know what happened? That night, Sarah, one of the members of the dean staff, came to my room, and called me into the hallway.
“Jessica, what you wrote was brave, and we’re going to help you.”
In that moment, I saw the truth. I could tell someone. There was help for me. There was hope. But, most of all, I saw that the devil was a liar. That moment was so liberating. The heaviest lie was destroyed. I dared test the door of my prison, and watched as the bars fell. A prop. They had been a prop. I had spent years in a cardboard prison that I thought was made of iron.
I get fear. I understand fear, and I understand the fear, guilt and shame that surrounds being a woman who struggles with pornography. But please, stop telling yourself you can’t do this. Fear is not of God, at all. Start focusing on truth right there. Be honest with yourself. Why can’t you tell anyone? Are you afraid? Do you feel you just don’t have someone right now?
Whatever reason you have, ask God to fill that need. If you just don’t feel strong enough- ask Him for strength. If you just don’t feel peace- ask Him for peace. If you don’t see someone- ask Him to send someone. Stop running from freedom because you just “can’t.”
Dare to test your prison bars, and watch them fall.
(PS: There’s a great article here on this topic.)