“Can I help someone, even if I’m not better?”
Fantastic question! No really, it is, and I get asked it a lot. As I ask for stories for my book or talk with women who want to share their testimonies, I get asked this over and over again. As if I do this ministry because I never fall.
Let me be the first to tell you I am not perfect. Beggar’s Daughter did not start some day when I woke up with the glorious revelation that I had life figured out and would never fall again. That’s actually one of the biggest issues I faced even doing something like this– because I am still recovering! Pornography and lust have lingering effects on the human heart and psyche, and when I’ve figured them all out and conquered them all, it will only be because I am dead. There is no other way.
It’s a common misconception that people in ministry are perfect. Maybe it’s something we bring on ourselves, but I will be the first to stand up and announce that I am not, by any means, perfect. That’s what enables us to minister properly. It is not about me or the 101 cool ways I found to beat porn, this is about me and 101 stupid ways that I still fall and the 1 God who loves me enough to not give up on me.
Of course, there is a huge difference between being addicted to something and having the occassional hang up. You have probably seen this in other areas of life. Lying is one that we encounter a lot. You meet the people who are perpetual liars. They lie so naturally that it makes me wonder if they even know they are lying. Then you have the people who lie on purpose. They know they are lying and they do it anyway. Then you have those who don’t really like lying but they pull it out every now and then for personal use. Then there are those who only tell ‘little white lies’ and then there are those that one breath of falsehood cripples them. We are used to varying degrees of depravity; we just think sex has different rules. It doesn’t.
If I can, I am going to try to outline different ‘levels’ of addiction.
The hardcore addict. An addict, in all reality, has very little control over their actions. I am not excusing it at all, but the reality is that for an addict, you are truly at the mercy of the whims of your body. You are completely crippled by and to your desire. If the mind says, “Porn… now!” the addict is essentially incapable of saying no. It is not temptation; it is invitation. The mind and heart are so set in their ways and, in most cases, the addict doesn’t even realize they are addicted. It becomes a part of their lives, like brushing their teeth or taking a shower. It is just something they do, and they, frankly, don’t care what you or anyone else has to say.
The “hopeless” addict. This is someone who has been able to recognize the reality of their situation, and wants to fight. This person wants to change but may feel unable to do so. They are trapped, locked into patterns and thought-processes that are familiar to the ‘hardcore’ addict. The only difference between the two is that this one has acknowleged that there is, in fact, an issue. Improperly handled this frustration with circumstances can result in anger and fear of judgement. The addict in this stage can be highly insecure and yet very guarded. They are faced with a choice: give in or fight, and may have to face that choice multiple times before they finally choose to fight God’s way.
The unstable victor. In my opinion, this is the hardest stage. At some point the person realized that she has the victory through Calvary and that the only thing between her and freedom is her. This stage is full of small victories and failures and life can be extremely unstable; she may even feel depressed. For women breaking free of masturbation, this period is marked by physical pain. Guilt and shame after failure are intense as are joy and relief after small victories. The up-and-downs of this phase can take a toll on the heart. Life feels like it is measured two steps forward three steps back. It’s a painful emotional roller coaster ride of growth.
Depending on the amount of growth, giving up in this stage can result in either a relapse into sin or new sin altogether. Many women in this stage may turn to a different addiction that they view as a ‘lesser’ evil in order to find stability. Some women will turn to lesbian pornography or sex games stating that it isn’t “technically” pornography (after all, I’m a woman, it’s not like I haven’t seen it before). In a way, it can be like the old board game Chutes and Ladders- large chunks of growth can be undone in a split second decision.
There are different phases within this overall phase: The Healing Heart, The Healing Mind, The Healing Body. I am going to tackle those later.
The relieved survivor. This is a super quick phase, for the most part. The battle, we think, is over. There is a break, and as the reality of real freedom washes over heart, body and soul, the joy is almost unspeakable. It is electric. The problem is though, that joy can be a little numbing. It can make us a little stupid– a little cocky. Take that, Satan. So there! Booyah!
In all of the excitement of finally being free, we can overlook traps set at our feet, but when we fall this time, instead of guilt or shame, it creates a startled response. New triggers are creeping up and we realize that this is not going away.
That brings us to what, I believe, is our final stage this side of Heaven.
The alert soldier. This person realizes that the devil is pretty good at what he does– that he is a tricky little liar and that new traps are always being developed. She recognizes her weakness and is on alert to protect it because it will, forever, be a weakness. Not a struggle, just a weakness. Her feet are firmly planted in Christ and she is confident and healed but she knows she is not above temptation. The arrogance has worn off and the battle rages on. She may fight in different arenas but her weapon is always on her hip, ready. And sometimes, she misses it. Sometimes, she falls, but this time that failure is followed by an immediate sprint to God and an evaluation of how she can not fall again. This is a battle, and Satan is going to have to try something new if he plans on getting her again– that trick will not work anymore. The fight no longer obsesses her, it no longer knocks her off her feet, she just knows. She is aware.
So to answer the question of “Can I help someone, even if I’m not better?” The answer is: Sure, it depends on where you are.
If you are unstable in your own walk, then it would probably be a bad idea to be the sole support for someone else who is struggle. If two people don’t know how to ice skate, they don’t want to hang on to each other on the ice. However, another woman can still learn from you. You don’t have to hide your failures until you are all better. You never know what healing your pain can bring to someone else or how your perspective can help them, but there should be someone else involved or you two will just keep tripping each other up.
I won’t lie, I probably started Beggar’s Daughter near the end of my ‘unstable victor’ phase. The days I did not fall far outweighed the days I did, and the raw honesty that comes from that battle speaks volumes. Did I have specific women I mentored at the beginning? Oh no.
It wasn’t until I was able to look at the fight in retrospect that I started actually intentionally stepping out to help people. Part of our healing is to help others. Everytime I get an e-mail or interact with young women who struggle, it reminds me of where I’ve been and, sometimes, it helps me heal from hurt I didn’t even know I had.