A typical man or woman joining 423 Men or 423 Women expects to hear more of what they’ve always heard regarding their sexual misbehavior; that is, to be told by people they deem more capable, powerful, wise, and godly than self to, “Just stop it.” New members are baffled, early in their recovery, when no one there tells them what to do or stop doing.
423 Men and 423 Women is not about stopping a person’s bad sexual behavior. It is about discovering the reasons for his or her bad sexual behavior. The intended byproduct of 423 Communities is sexual sobriety, but that is not the focus of recovery. The program is designed, rather, to help members find out who they are and why they do what they do. Many people in the program find sexual freedom, some for the first time since preadolescence when they first started experimenting with sex, before their activities grew into a full-fledged addictive pattern of relapse. Most 423 members are desperate to quit their bad-sex addiction, and have finally arrived at a place where they recognize their need for help. This realization makes them pliable and teachable, which is a great starting point for change, but 423 leaders do not carry a hammer of shame to pound errant brothers or sisters into submission.
The new 423 member has grown accustomed to shame. Like a dumb puppy who cannot stop chewing slippers, peeing in the house, barking at nothing, or biting the neighbor’s kid, he is a sorry-eyed “bad boy (or girl).” He’s worse than a puppy, because his behavior is no longer cute, experimental, and innocent. He is a full-grown ugly mongrel, utterly incapable of change no matter how many times you smack him with the rolled up newspaper of shame. His pathetic plight is made much worse by virtue of his profession of faith because, while “knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he still gets “tangled up and enslaved by sin again” and again and again. He cannot help himself. He is a very bad boy (or girl); a dirty dog returning to the smell and taste its own vomit:
There is a way out of sexual addiction, but more shame will not do the trick. New members may feel as though they deserve a pummeling in 423 Men or 423 Women, but are soon amazed and relieved to learn that, like “wise men from the east” following their encounter with Jesus, they must return home by “another way” (Matthew 2.1, 12 ESV). Loading up with shame never worked before, so why would it work now?
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8.1 ESV). Condemnation, denunciation, disapproval, blame, criticism, censure, disgrace, dishonor, discredit, negative remarks, head shaking, finger pointing, and tsk tsk-ing are simply not effective techniques for lasting and positive impact. The addict has already received enough shame, from self and others. It’s time for a change, a real change. If people are to replace their pursuit of porneia with a new passion for the person and work of Jesus Christ, then they must trust Him for “another way,” a way that actually works.
The journey of self-discovery works. We’ve seen it work over and over and over again.