Sexual Brokenness and Healing, Part Two

This week, Dan continues talking with Jay Stringer about his new book, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, and about the need to change the conversation about engaging sexual brokenness. In Part One Dan and Jay discussed the core belief that healing and deep, lasting change must begin with honest engagement with our stories—the earliest environments that helped form our present behaviors. They also return to the category of shame, which is so often a thread that can be traced through an individual’s experiences of harm, brokenness, and unwanted behavior.

Jay: “One of my core premises is that God is not ashamed of our unwanted sexual behavior, but understands it to be the stage through which the work of redemption is going to play out in our lives.”

Dan: “We can presume evil’s intent is always to ruin. If it can ruin one’s identity through sexuality, we know that there’s this unbelievable bondage to shame. And it is virtually impossible to escape unless that shame is addressed.”

So much of the bondage is that we continue to pursue behaviors that reinforce the core beliefs we have about ourselves.

In that context, unwanted behavior—rather than being shamed, stifled, or ignored—can be a doorway for healing the wounds of the past, the parts of our story that have been neglected. Entering that doorway (“listening to your lust,” as Jay said last week) can be a profound interruption to the addictive cycle that marks unwanted sexual behavior.

Dan: “The greater failure to own heartache certainly creates the soil for these reenactments, these patterns to be played out because the more we play them out, the more shame we feel. The more shame we feel, the more it—the magazine or the acting out—becomes the antidote momentarily.”

One of the dynamics Jay and Dan discuss more closely is the sense of meaninglessness and futility that drives many men toward pornography. The pleasure of instant gratification offers the feelings of power and control that can be so elusive in a life marked by disappointments and mistakes. Rather than exclusively looking at this as a moral issue, though, Jay and Dan bring in the category of narcissism—the wounded ego that seeks out controlled pleasure just a click and a scroll away.

Dan: “Desire for beauty, wholeness, sweetness becomes so hard in a world in which I feel futile, I feel fragmented, I bear this shame and my own accusations.”

It is this integration of disciplines—story work, rigorous research, psychological insight, emotional awareness, addiction studies, a theology of restoration—that makes Unwanted such a groundbreaking and vital book. It can be daunting to follow all these threads, to realize that our patterns and behaviors have such deep roots, and the cost can be high. But Dan and Jay end today’s conversation by turning briefly to what gives them hope—which they’ll discuss more next week.

Dan: “The price for engaging this is joining a new conversation. But the greater price is to step into our story in context, our relationships, our history, our past, our struggles. In that sense, you’re asking us to wildly believe that there is no condemnation. And if shame no longer has its authorial power, then a curiosity can come that opens the door to levels of humility, and frankly, levels of hope and redemption.”