Confessing a Struggle

1st John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

A friend of mine published an amazing book called Struggle Central. In it, he chronicles the various struggles he’s faced in his life so far. He does so boldly and through a series of “confessions” in which he explains his story and the work God has done in his life. God has redeemed my friend, and God has redeemed me. So I have a confession of my own to make:

My name is Katie, and I have struggled with an addiction to pornography for a very long time.

I say “have struggled” because even though I’ve found victory in it, it never ceases to be a struggle. People talking about it, spam links show up in my inbox, sites like tumblr where I can be browsing innocently and suddenly something appears and I have to scroll away as quickly as possible, and the general nature of today’s culture make it a difficult thing to stay away from.

There is no white-knuckling through a pornography addiction in the 21st century when thousands of hours of smut are just a click away.

This post makes me laugh because I was just telling a friend of mine yesterday that I felt like I was going to be called to write a blog post that I was not going to like writing…and I was sure right (as I sit here feeling convicted at 1am to write this). This confession makes me deeply uncomfortable, no matter how many times I’ve confessed it. I have even confessed it to a room full of my peers and professors during chapel, and writing it in this blog still makes me nervous. There is a dark part of me that winces whenever light is shone upon this particular issue, but I bring it up because I think it is important to start a dialogue about it.

For too long I have gone to churches where the pastor stands on a stage, tells the congregation that pornography is bad, and tells them they have to repent or else they are hurting themselves and everyone around them. The intent behind the meessage is good, but I think it is the method that scares people even more. As the church (to generalize, of course there are always exceptions) we have induced shame instead of creating an environment for healing. We’ve boxed up the issue and have put a big “just don’t do it” sticker on the front without actually addressing the contents of the box.

The church often fails to address the loneliness, the pain, the emptiness, the lust, and ultimately the hole that people are trying to fill when they view pornography.

It took me six years to confess it to someone because the shame I felt, magnified by the messages I was getting from the church, crippled me and kept me from speaking out. As an 18 year old I was scared out of my mind to confess that I struggled with pornography because all my life it had been made into the big bag wolf and I sure wasn’t going to admit to associating with a villain.

I felt scared instead of safe, alienated instead of welcome. Even to this day when I struggle, the old doubts pop into my head and the shame comes roaring out and I find myself pulling away and nursing the wound because admitting the struggle means admitting that I’ve somehow failed and that brings me shame.

I have a feeling I will write more on the topic as time goes on, because it is a topic I have long felt called to discuss. As a woman, as a Christian, and as a struggler I have a lot of personal experience with this particular vice and if my personal experience can bring someone healing, then I am all for sharing. It still scares me, it makes me nervous to wonder what my family will think, or what the friends I have never told will think, but I also think it is important to be open and honest so that others can feel comfortable being open and honest.

After all, it was my friend Tom’s honesty through his book that inspired me to write this post in the first place.

Feel free to post any thoughts you have in the comments below. I want to facilitate a discussion, not just preach at people. 

If you are interested in more from Thomas Mark Zuniga, author of Struggle Central, feel free to check out his blog.

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You are Wanted

I haven’t been blogging because I have been blessed with the chance to be in Oregon and spend time with my family. It is wonderful and I would not trade it for the world.

That sentence makes me smile because it shows how much I have changed, and a part of me deep down is proud. There is joy in healing.

So since I’m happy as a clam spending time with family, and cooking up some posts for another day, I thought I would simply leave you all with a song. It is a reminder that you are wanted, by God, by friends, by family, by the world. Even when you feel like the least desirable thing in the world, there is someone out there who would love to sit by your side and talk with you.

I’m sure of it (because I’m one of those people who is here to sit by you and listen).

Enjoy.

The Power of Needs

I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to write on this week. I half-wrote two other blogs but felt that they were not what I was supposed to post. Today, however, I realized what was really on my heart.

Needs.

If you pay any attention to humanistic psychology, you’ll probably recognize Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If not, here is a visual:

Image

Essentially Maslow was making the point that everyone has needs, and if basic needs aren’t met then higher needs cannot be met. If someone is starving, odds are they are not particularly concerned with relationships (belonging needs). When belonging needs are not being met then odds are our self-esteem needs will not be met. In a lot of ways this holds true to my own life, and I’m sure this will resonate with some of you.

Due to my upbringing and other circumstances in my life, I became self-sufficient very early on. To me, needs indicated weakness and I did everything in my power not to appear weak. I ignored my needs to feel safe and stable, to be cared for and in relationship with others, and to feel respected or seen. Instead I tried my best to stay out of the limelight, to stay detached from people (therefore keeping myself safe), and focused on my basic needs which were more acceptable. After all, everyone needed food, water, and shelter.

Of course it was not all bad and please don’t take this as the situation always. The hierarchy is meant to be a fluid and dynamic thing. We move through the layers and sometimes we face relapse and fall back to a lower one, but we’re always changing and shifting. There were times where relationships were important and where I wanted to be known for my achievements. However, my fear of being needy still carries over into my life today and when I find myself irritable or upset, I just have to look at the pyramid and it can usually help my figure out why.

Typically I get stuck in the “belonging needs.” I have a very difficult time reaching out to people to fulfill my need for community and love. Even when I do reach out, I have trouble when it comes to voicing my needs, so I walk away feeling frustrated because a need was not met. Yet I have learned something from all this and it is as follows: If I am not willing to be my own advocate, people are not going to be able to read my mind and fulfill my needs.

In other words, I need to learn to voice my needs because that is going to be the only way they get met. If I keep waiting around for people to read my mind, my mood, or my actions and figure out from there how to fulfill my needs then I am going to be waiting a very long time to feel loved. Instead, I am learning that I have to reach out and make requests and let people know that I need them. Then my needs are fulfilled and I’m able to ascend the hierarchy and continue toward realization of the bigger picture.

Don’t wait around for people to become mind readers. It is okay to need things.  

You’re Not Alone

I wish I could shut my brain down sometimes.

Tonight is one of those nights where I want to sleep but my mind keeps buzzing. Usually I sleep like a baby. I’m very good at deep breathing and using meditative techniques to fall asleep quickly. However, tonight even those seem to be failing me as my mind races a mile a minute trying to process everything that has happened in the last couple days and everything that is going to happen in the next couple days. It is stressful doing all this planning in my head when all I want to do is sleep.

There isn’t really a life lesson to learn out of this, or any piece of wisdom I have regarding how to quiet a worried mind. Oftentimes meditation and deep breathing work, but there are situations where I think it is alright and normal to lose a little bit of sleep trying to process through what is happening. So I write this short little blog not to teach but to simply say this: If you’re up late worrying about something, you’re not alone.

Just like I’m pretty sure I’m not alone even as I sit by myself in my room typing away because I can’t bring myself to sleep. I know there are people out there who are having a similarly sleepless night. I know there are people in the world who are worried about something, or who keep replaying the day over and over again in their heads. To all of those people unable to sleep tonight because something is on your mind: You’re not alone and it is okay.

Maybe I’m writing this because I need to hear it too. I need a written reminder that no matter what I’m going through, or how little I sleep tonight, that I’m not alone and it is okay. 

The Dreaded Question

What are you going to do after you graduate?

I’ve begun to dread this question.

It seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue whenever I bring up my December 2013 graduation date. If I had been asked this question last fall I would have been able to give a long-winded, five-year plan for my life. As it stands today, my only answer is this: I don’t know.

You see, I’ve learned that my life seems to work in two-year increments. I try to plan further ahead but those plans never see the light of day. In high school I was sure that I was going to go to a four-year state college and study English. Plans changed my senior year when the local community college offered free tuition for two years to any graduating high school student with a 3.5 GPA or above. I put in two years and in those two years I graduated with my associate of the arts degree, switched my major to psychology, and had grown a lot as a person.

My next plan had been to go to a state college and finish out a degree in psychology, but even those plans fell by the way side. The Dean of Students at my community college encouraged me to apply to at least one school in Southern California on the off chance that I would be accepted. You see, I’d fallen in love with Southern California after a few vacations and it was my dream to go to school there…but I nipped that in the bud because it seemed so impossible.

I found Hope International University and instead of going to a state school like I had planned, I packed up all my stuff and moved. It is a decision I have yet to regret. Yet my tendency to plan did not stop there. By my second semester at Hope I had decided that I was going to eventually apply for a 5-year PsyD program. I would put in my time and then figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Then last December happened and I realized that planning away five years of my life was not what I wanted, nor was it what God had in mind. I think I’m finally beginning to understand why my life has to work in two-year increments. When I get caught up in the plans I have for myself I forget to live, to serve, and to love. I begin to cling to my plans instead of to God. I begin to pursue my own desires instead of the paths that will bring me closer to God and refine me into a more loving, mature individual.

So when people ask me what I’m going to do after I graduate and I say “I don’t know,” what I really mean is, “I’m leaving my future open because I can’t predict where I’m going to be spiritually and fiscally, where my family is going to be, or what opportunities might arise if I just wait for a while.” It is hard for me to proceed without knowing exactly what is in store for me but I know this: It is going to be good.