423 Communities Cycle of Shame

You are not alone 

Many people feel isolated because of their struggle with sexual sin. “If others really knew my struggle, they would reject me. If my wife (girlfriend, husband, or boyfriend) knew, he/she would leave me.” With nowhere to turn, those who struggle in secrecy rarely find victory.  

The enemy of our souls keep us isolated so we believe the lies: “No one will understand. No one is as bad as me. I will never overcome this. I am beyond help. I am worthless.” The Bible calls the devil “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1st Peter 5:8). Sexual immorality continues to be one of his oldest, most destructive, and effective tools. 

  • Culture has consistently eroded the traditional roles or men and women 

  • The majority of Christians struggle at some level with sexual purity 

  • Internet pornography is accessible, affordable, and anonymous 

 Together there is hope 

 423 can make a difference. It is a safe, confidential environment where we allow God’s grace, not guilt and shame, to encourage healing in community.  

 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another,  

and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” 

James 5.16 

 Other men and women, boys and girls are achieving sexual purity…you can too! 

 The elements of change 

 “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (1st Samuel 16:7). Our typical method of finding sexual purity is to try harder to change our behavior. However, this ‘white knuckle’ approach does not work. We cannot simply stop ‘acting out.’ Jesus taught, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts” (Matthew 15:19). These thoughts cause people to act impure, because their behavior is tied to their thoughts, and their thoughts come directly from their hearts. We must guard our hearts! 

 “Watch over your heart with all diligence, 

 for from it flow the springs of life.” 

Proverbs 4.23 

 As we journey toward sexual purity, we must be honest about our heart longings, asking God to renew us from the inside out. If our heart’s desire is to please and honor God, then our thought patterns will steadily move in that direction. As our thought patterns change, so will our behavior. We must be patient. It will take time, but we can change.  

 423 is all about the journey toward heart change within a community of trustworthy friends in recovery. 

 The cycle of shame 

 Shame:  Many people confuse guilt and shame. Guilt is about what we do. Shame is about who we are. Shame is our internal assessment that we are bad, flawed, or worthless and leads to emotional pain that cannot be ignored. 

 PainIt is difficult for a person to identify pain in their lives. Often it looks like loneliness, inadequacy, panic, hopelessness, and particularly anger. For many of us, addictive sexual activity becomes our only relief from emotional pain. 

 Wrong Sexual PleasureUnfortunately, wrong sexual behavior is an effective medicating device. It works! Our pain goes away… but only for a short time. Our body releases a naturally occurring drug called dopamine, similar in makeup to morphine. Our pain relief is short lived and replaced with deep, toxic sense of shame coupled with destructive thoughts like, “I’m defective. I’ll never change. I’m worthless!” 

 The cycle begins again. 

 The downward spiral 

 The cycle of shame causes a need for greater levels of pain medication as we build up a tolerance to dopamine. As we engage in stronger ‘doses’ of sexual sin, our addiction, shame, and pain continue to grow. In our pursuit of a ‘better sexual high,’ we may engage in riskier, more exotic and dangerous types of sexual pleasure. Our sense of separation from God widens and we are tempted to fully surrender to the power of sin.  We know we are on the path of destruction, yet we become adept at denying the truth even to ourselves.   

 Breaking the cycle of shame 

 There is a way to break this downward spiral, but it cannot be done in secret. Healing is only possible God’s way. We must humble ourselves by confessing our sin to the Lord and to other people in recovery according to James 5:16. The power Jesus Christ and the support of a reliable recovery community can help us break the cycle of shame.  

 There is hope!