How many marriages have been damaged and ruined because of sexual sin? How many people have had serious financial issues associated with affairs or pornography? How many people are unable to have close relationships within their marriages because of the damage that shame has created?
Questions like these go on and on. To say that our country and our world have been damaged by the increasingly sexualized culture would be an understatement. According to a 2007 study by the American Psychological Association, our culture has been infused with sexual representations of girls and women, suggesting that this sexualization is good and normal.
Perhaps this is one reason pornography is now a multibillion dollar industry. One of the main reasons pornography has become so epidemic is its widespread accessibility. What used to be available only in a city’s red-light district is now widely and quickly available on the Internet.
However, pornography is just one aspect of an array of sexual integrity issues in which individuals can struggle. As clinicians we see individuals who are struggling with other sexual risk-taking behaviors such as anonymous sex, multiple sexual partners, prostitution, sadistic and masochistic behaviors and exhibition/voyeurism. Although the psychological community has currently decided not to include sex addiction as a formal diagnosis, there are still very real physical and psychological consequences for individuals and their families when they engage in these risky behaviors. Their lives are greatly affected and impaired, and the individuals often suffer anxiety, depression, relationship problems and incredibly high levels of shame as a result of their choices.
Several surveys conclude that hypersexuality and other sexual addiction issues are more commonplace in American life, even among Christians, than we care to admit. In a 2014 survey by Barna Group for Proven Men Ministries, 77 percent of men between the ages of 18 and 30 who self-identified as Christians responded that they viewed pornography at least once a month. One-third of the Christian men surveyed reported that they had had sex with someone else while married.
A 2014 Kaiser Family Foundation study of adolescent sexual health reported that nearly half of surveyed high school students had sexual intercourse in 2013. In counseling sessions we will often hear teenagers talk about the pressure they experience to engage in sexual conversations, sexting or sexual behaviors. Often a driving force for these behaviors is popularity or acceptance from their peers. This is true for our Christian as well as non-Christian clients.
As followers of Christ we know God sees all things. The myth that secret sin will not hurt others is damaging both to the individual and to the family.
Not only does sexual sin affect the life of the individual, it also affects the lives of his or her spouse and family. When an individual’s sexual sin is exposed, the results are devastating. Marriages and families often are destroyed. Spouses are especially affected in many negative ways, including:
- Lack of trust
- Feelings of anger
- Thoughts like, “I’m not enough” or “I don’t measure up”
- Difficulties with forgiveness
- Self-image problems
Children are affected as well. They could feel ashamed of their parent’s behaviors and lack understanding as to why their mother or father would struggle with sexual integrity. Without proper counseling many children in homes where sexual sin has been a problem may never understand what sex is really about in a healthy marriage between one man and one woman.
The real heart of the problem of sexual sin is that people try to meet their need for emotional intimacy in an unhealthy way. Think of it like this: Satan wants us to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. God has placed a legitimate need in our hearts for intimacy. We see this fact in Scripture. Genesis 2:18 says: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Sexual addiction, whether to pornography, compulsive masturbation, repeated affairs or other sexual stimuli outside of marriage is counterfeit intimacy. This attempt at intimacy leaves a person feeling worthless, empty and helpless. The more a person uses this distorted sense of sexuality, the more it hinders them from being able to develop healthy and wholesome relationships. In 1 Corinthians 6:13 we’re told, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord.”
As believers we know that while the world will define sexuality differently and often be more accepting of risky sexual behaviors, God has called us to a much higher standard of sexual purity and integrity. Through the amazing grace of Jesus sexual addiction can be overcome. Through the power of God a person can be set free.