If you are reading this and you haven’t heard, Ashley Madison, the online dating site for singles and married people, guaranteeing you an affair if you are married was hacked. Every email ever used to sign up (AM never verified the email addresses) was released by the hackers. There were quite literally over 30 million emails in the released database, along with billing info, sexual preferences, etc… It is quite an embarrassment for way too many women and men.
There is something incredibly freeing about being a disgraced pastor who struggled in his recovery. It feels to me as no one would be surprised to find me in the Ashley Madison database. I have no fear of getting caught, and I don’t have to look over my shoulder. My name is expected to be in that database by anyone who knows my story. Even after the dissolution of my first marriage, my trip to rehab, and months and years in recovery I struggled with sexual sobriety. Not everyone is so “lucky.” Please remember, my current shalom cost my family, friends, students, church, supporters and me more than words can adequately convey.
I’ve purposely not posted anything about this to date. I wanted to wait. I wish I could have waited longer. I am only writing now because I think many are more concerned with “getting caught” than guilt over their actions. They are fearful of what might happen, rather than distressed over their choices. Additionally, I read two pieces urging Christ followers and Christian leaders to do things that I fear will do more harm than good.
Ed Stetzer wrote, in an article
for Christianity Today, “Confess to your spouse….Confess to someone else…. If you are a pastor, confess to your church.”
Much of the article is right on, and yet the advice I quoted here is at best out of order and at worst, sadly mistaken. In an earlier post
, I wrote about the danger of “blanket confessions.” If people, and particularly leaders follow his advice, I fear they will cause a lot of unnecessary pain and turmoil. I am not saying that confession will not have to be made. It might. But let me offer a different path..
If you are on that list:
- Talk to God about it (on your knees) Your physical posture is connected to your spiritual posture. Spend an extended time crying out to God. If you journal — then journal (honestly as if no one will ever have a chance to read it). Take time to tell God your fears, your guilt, your shame, your weakness and your failures.
- In the midst of this awareness, pray for your ability to accept the fact that you are not unique, that you are human and that you have limitations and weaknesses. List the weaknesses you see if you need to. If you need to bitch and moan to God about making you as screwed up as you currently feel yourself to be, then take the time to do it. This is a long process, but coming to a place of acceptance of our own limitations is really important if we are going to find healing.
- Pray for those that, if they found out, you have damaged. Take time to consider how you have damaged them; and how you have violated relationship with them. Consider your spouse, your kids, your parents, your siblings, your church family, your supporters and prayer partners, and your friends who you’ve lied to.
- AFTER you’ve done this work (sometimes it is while you are doing the work of acceptance) Confess to God your wrong doing — your attempts to be God (perfect), Your desire to be seen as something other than you are, the violation of relationships that you have committed (not loving as you ought).
- Take an inventory of what you actually did. Those of us that have been to the Ashley Madison site know that they lure you in with promises. You sign up and find out quickly that simply signing up does you no good. You have to pay to have any hope of having an affair, meeting someone, or even chatting with someone. At this point many people simply realize the scam and duck out. Some like me, pay to go further down into the muck. Once you are in you can chat with people on the internal email link. You can cruise all the data on others that are in the system and try to make connections. None of this means that you will. I never got that far on this site. Others may have. Once you meet, you have to decide if you are going to follow through. The person may not, and often isn’t who they portray themselves to be and so you back out then. Others go further and physically commit adultery. All of us that went to the site are clearly adulterers are still adulterers. But then again, most people are. This is not permission to minimize. Please don’t do that. If you are going to the Ashley Madison site something is really, really wrong, and you need help. Something is broken inside. By not getting help you will only increase the problem
- Get help:There are 12 step groups across America to help people controlled by their lust and their libido: Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous to name a few. The Church has tried to copy many of these: Pure Desire, For Men Only, Prodigals International, and Celebrate Recovery. If you are a pastor, I strongly recommend going to one of the big ones on the first list rather than the Church copycats. The reasons for this will have to be given in another post. For a full list and the idiosyncrasies of each program see Gracefall’s Resource Page.
- Look for a sex addiction therapist. Then go see them. Or call us.
- It is possible that you are not an addict. You may simply have abused sex much like some non-alcoholics abuse alcohol. It is not likely, however. The group you choose, and your therapist can help you make this determination. Remember that the only one that can say you are an addict is you.
- Recovery tells us that the keys to recovery are Honesty, openness, and willingness. Listen to your sponsor and your peer group. Quit running your own show. Only then can you begin to move forward. They will guide you to the whens, hows, and wheres of confession.
- Once you have completed the above, prayerfully consider what and when to tell your spouse. If necessary get guidance to help you tell your Church leadership and empowerment to tell the congregation. (Please note, that it is rare that a congregational announcement ever be given. Normally this only happens healthily if there are victims in the Church body.)
- Remember you are not alone. There are countless thousands of us that are walking a recovery path with you and before you. We go to meetings to find out that we are not alone and find experience, strength and hope. Please don’t give up. Please don’t add to your stupid, impulsive actions and exponentially add to the damage you have already done. You have not tried and will not try anything that many of us have already tried. You can learn from our mistakes. Please do so. Know that people like me will love you no matter what, not for who you want to be seen as, but for who you really are.