Jesus took my guilt and shame
One morning, while still in bed, I had a big light bulb moment. I suddenly realised that I had got myself into a big hole. I was drowning, and I wasn’t really sure how I got there. I had become addicted to pornography.
I was, I like to think, a respected Christian. I had a good life, a good job and dreams for the future. So, how come I ended up in this place of despair? It had begun, as so many things do, many years before, in a place of loneliness and pain, depression and fear, and, to be honest, stupidity. It started slowly; my moral compass was gradually and incrementally eroded. None of which is an excuse, but (following years of counselling and support) gave me some explanation for what led up to the moment of sinking in the Slough of Despond, and what the triggers were. The guilt and the shame were my own, but there were reasons. If only I had dealt with them earlier and been honest about the fear, anxiety and depression I was living with, then maybe… although you can’t go back in time. All you can do is make sure you never go there again and (hopefully) help others. I was brought up learning that all pornography was wrong. Once I had crossed that line, sitting alone in secret, the slow, painful movement towards the chat rooms and addiction grew. I shouldn’t have been anywhere near it. I knew that. But my repentance and remorse came too late.
Honesty is everything. Telling my family, closest friends and church leadership where I had got to was the most painful thing I had ever done. If only I had gone to them earlier. If only I had sought advice. But I was a Christian with supposedly everything together, and admitting I had issues would be a failure. I was not allowed to fail. So, I had to bottle it all up. And my problem became a very dark, hidden thing. I would not have got through it all without the brilliant care of those I confessed to, my counsellor and even my very understanding doctor. The entire process, from the light bulb moment to now, has taken over four years. The depression and thoughts of suicide would have overwhelmed me if it wasn’t for the brilliance of those who looked after me, going above and beyond anything I deserved. I was given the right advice and care, undertook courses and am standing now.
Those around me helped me understand that I had done something that was damaging me, but that it shouldn’t define the rest of my life. As Brené Brown puts it, “Shame is ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is ‘I did something bad.’” Or, as the US rapper Lecrae puts it, “Guilt says, ‘You failed.’ Shame says, ‘You’re a failure.’ Grace says, ‘Your failures are forgiven.’” I had done something bad, but that did not mean I had to live with the shame for the rest of my days. Isaiah 61:7 says, “Instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace, you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Jesus came to take my guilt and shame. I had to repent and take responsibility for where I had got to, but forgiveness means not living in that darkness anymore, and I need to learn to forgive myself for my failures. If God can forgive me, then I should seek to do the same. As Isaiah 43:25 states, “I am the one who blots out your transgression for my sake, and I‘ll remember your sins no more.”
I still have anxiety attacks and suffer from depression. I still live in fear of others finding out about this deep sin and some of the worst of me. I still struggle to accept the forgiveness shown by those around me, let alone my Saviour. But I am (slowly) getting there. However, I hold on to my faith and those around me. Thinking about it, maybe it would be more honest to say that God, and those around me, hold on to me.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2023 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Winter 2023 edition of Ascend