When it comes to screen time, every family will have different amounts of time that they think is “enough.” What’s important is giving it some thought, creating age-appropriate limits (with built-in flexibility for special circumstances), making media choices you’re comfortable with, and modeling responsible screen limits for your kids. Try these age-based guidelines to create screen rules that stick.
Preschoolers. There are lots of great TV shows, apps, games, and websites geared for this age. But too much time spent in front of a screen can interfere with activities that are essential for growing brains and bodies.
Go for quality and age-appropriateness. Not everything for preschoolers needs to be a so-called “brain-builder,” but there’s a difference between mindless and mindfulentertainment. Our reviews can steer you toward titles that help preschoolers work on developmental skills like sharing, cooperation, and emotional intelligence.
Sit with them, and enjoy the discovery process. There will always be moments when you need to rely on the TV or an app to distract your preschooler while you get something done. But as much as you can, enjoy media together. Little hands and developing brains really benefit from your company (and guidance!).
Begin setting limits when kids are little. Habits get ingrained early, so try to establish clear screen-time rules when your kids are young. For games, apps, and websites, you may need to set a timer. For TV, just say “one show.”
Elementary and Middle Schoolers. At this age, kids love TV shows, games, movies, and online videos. They begin to explore more and hear about new shows and games from friends. Because they can access these things by themselves, it’s crucial to continue to supervise their activities and help them stick to your rules.
Start with an endpoint. Use whatever tools you have — your DVR, Netflix, OnDemand — to pre-record shows, cue them up, or plan ahead to watch at a specific time. That way, one show won’t flow into the other, and you can avoid commercials. If your kids are into YouTube, search for age-appropriate videos, and add them to a playlist to watch later. Because most games don’t have built-in endings (and are, in fact, designed to make kids play as long as possible), set a timer or some other cue that says “time to stop.”
Help them balance their day. Kids this age need guidance from you on a daily plan that includes a little bit of time for everything. And staying involved works: Kids whose parents make an effort to limit media use spend less time with media than their peers do, according to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ worksheets to create a family media plan.
Practice what you preach. It’s tempting to keep reaching for your phone to check email, texts, Facebook, or the news. But your kids will be the first to call you out for not “walking the talk.” Plus, they’ll pick up habits from you. Model the media behavior that you want your kids to emulate.
Help them make quality choices. You still have a say in what they see, hear, and play. Put in your two cents about the importance of quality shows, games, and movies.
Crack down on multitasking. High school kids who’ve discovered texting, IM, Facebook, and music tend to do them all at once — especially when they’re supposed to be doing mundane tasks like homework. But a University of Michigan study found that humans are terrible multitaskers and that the practice actually reduces the ability to concentrate and focus.
Find ways to say “yes.” Look for movies they can watch. Find games you’re OK with. If your teens ask to see something you don’t approve of, help them find alternatives.
The talk. The birds and the bees. The awkward conversation with your parents you dreaded as a child. It probably went something like this: “Well, when two people love each other very much…” followed by a vague description of the physical act of sex, contraceptives, pregnancy, and STIs.
But were you ever taught about consent? What about affirmative consent? Did your parents and the adults in your life practice consent with each other, and with you? The #MeToo stories about non-consensual interactions, specifically ones that live in the grey area or ones that happen in childhood, are something we should all strive to eliminate from the next generation by educating our kids today.
If we can teach our kids about consent and show them how to practice it through our actions, through those little teaching moments, then maybe, these stories can be less common.
Here are seven ways to teach your kids, and the kids in your lives, about consent.
Practice consent by example Before children even learn to speak, they learn by observing and mimicking the world around them. It’s called observational learning. By practicing consent with our partners, friends, and other children, we can begin to model what consent should look like to those ever-watchful eyes.
This also extends to how we practice consent in our relationships with our children. By giving children choices in expressing consent in how they would like to be touched, we teach them how to express it when we’re not around. For example, If you want to kiss your child goodnight, ask them, “May I give you a kiss goodnight?” and respect their answer.
Give them bodily autonomy Giving children choice is a gateway to giving them the tools to express their consent. You can ask your child “Do you want to wear your blue shoes or your yellow shoes today?” In the same way, it is important to give children options when it comes to their body. For example, if they have a rash and they need ointment you can say, “You need ointment for your rash, do you want to put it on, or can I help you?”
Giving children simple choices every day shows them that they have bodily autonomy so that they can carry that into other interactions. In the same way, it is important to not take that bodily autonomy away from your children. A common way children lose their bodily autonomy is through adults coercing them to hug and/or kiss relatives and friends. It’s important to show children that they have a choice. If they say no, you can give them alternatives, like “How about a fist bump?” but the key is to respect a “no” that may follow.
Teach them to listen to their bodies Consent isn’t just a verbal interaction, so it’s important that we teach children to listen to their bodies. What feels good and what doesn’t feel good to them? Teaching them what it feels like to be present in their physical self, and what it feels like to have their physical needs honored and met, is key to them being able to appropriately express their needs later.
Teaching children about their physical pleasure is something that Sue Jaye Johnson, a journalist and filmmaker, talks about working through with her daughters. In an interview for the Future of Sex Podcast, she talks about how her daughter will ask her to rub her back and how she then asks “Well, how would you like me to rub your back?” giving her daughter the space to think about her pleasure and express her physical wants in a productive way. In the same way, we also need to teach our children to listen to their gut feelings and instincts. Our bodies are a powerful tool in telling us that something doesn’t feel right. By encouraging children to give credence to these feelings and voice them, we encourage an understanding of their own pleasure and needs and how they might express that to future partners.
Give them the tools to express their physical wants and needs Once a child has language at their disposal, we can begin to help them express their wants and needs though their words. We can teach them polite ways to decline affection like “No, thank you. I don’t want to hug right now.” But we should also be teaching them that they can just say “no” and that that’s ok, too.
Rather than teaching our girls the narrative that if a boy teases you, he likes you, we should be teaching our kids that if they don’t like something and ask someone to stop, they need to stop. If their words aren’t heeded, that may be the appropriate time to involve an adult or remove themselves from interaction with the offending kid. In the same way, it is important to teach kids to ask permission, with words and gestures. They can offer a hand to hold or hold out their hands for a hug, but they also need to ask, use their words, and know that someone may say no.
Teach them how to handle physical rejection While we need to teach our kids how to say no, we also need to teach our kids to recognize and accept the rejection of affection. It’s important to encourage them to stop when someone says no, and to step in as adults when we recognize our kids being affection aggressors, holding other kids a little too long or a little too hard.
We can teach kids to accept rejection and redirect them. We can tell them that just because a friend doesn’t want a hug, that that doesn’t mean they don’t love them and we can direct them to show affection in other ways. You can tell your child to use words of affirmation, acts of service, or gifts to express affection. While channeling affection is important, it’s also important to just teach that it’s ok that someone doesn’t want something, in the same way that they may not want things at times. They are in control of their bodies, just as someone else is in control of theirs.
Turn awkward moments into teaching opportunities Something I’ve talked a lot about with peers is how their parents handled sex scenes in movies and television growing up. As a millennial, the general binary in my generation is parents who fast-forwarded through sex scenes and parents who made you endure the sex scenes in a tense silence. In addition to this binary, there are a lot of movies and shows from my childhood, and from generations prior, that display non-consensual interactions in a way that makes them seem okay.
What if we didn’t let that slide? What if we took media and created a dialogue, especially with older children and teens? If you’re watching a movie with your kid that has a sex scene, use the time that could be spent being awkward to talk about what’s being done right and what the characters should be doing regarding consent in the interaction.
Believe them and advocate for them Finally, and most importantly, it is essential to believe children and advocate for them. If your child expresses discomfort or unease, ask them about their feelings and validate them. This is a crucial step of Emotion Coaching. When you believe them, it creates an open channel for communication between you. It teaches them them to trust you and trust their own instincts. So in turn, they might also believe the story of someone else.
Ask them if they want or need intervention. It’s then your responsibility to advocate for them with whomever is making them uncomfortable. That might mean talking to a parent, teacher, coach, or other adult. Sometimes we’re the ones that need to step in and have those tough conversations until our children are old enough to have them on their own.
Rather than having “the talk” with your kids, think of teaching consent as an ongoing dialogue—a million little conversations and day-to-day actions that can help them feel comfortable and safe in their own bodies, and respect the sanctity of someone else’s.
When you look at pornography, what you end up
seeing is a long line of naked bodies. When you look at pornography for years,
you end up seeing years and years’ worth of long lines of naked bodies.
I do a lot of work with guys who, in their
past, looked at porn for years. They don’t look at porn anymore, but they have
a very hard time controlling where their eyes go when real-life women approach
them. While it seems natural that we should be able to control the physical
movements of our eyes, the connection between exposure to pornography and how
it conditions us should not be such a surprise. It is, in fact, one of the
greatest tragedies caused by porn.
Porn teaches men that women are bodies. I’m
using a broad definition of the word “porn” here. I’m referring to any
seductive display of a woman’s naked body, whether that’s a pornographic video,
a Playboy image, or a scene from Game of Thrones. I’d
even throw in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, the
gateway to porn for scores of men, as its seductive photos have created the
same conditioned response: women are bodies.
We know this message
isn’t true, and we’ve seen its tragic consequences in our culture, yet it
continues every time a pornographic image is consumed.
A Hyperbolic Example
Let’s look at a hyperbolic example. A baby boy
is born on an island separated from the human population. All he sees his
entire life are videos and images of nude women either having sex, desiring
sex, or posing seductively.
Then, at age 25, he is placed into the general
human population. How is he going to view the women that he meets and interacts
with every day?
That’s a scary thought, but it shouldn’t be
surprising. He’s going to see women as two-dimensional sets of body parts whose
only purpose for existing is his own sexual gratification. This has nothing to
do with how a woman is dressed, for this will happen regardless of the style or
fashion. Throughout his entire life his eyes have darted straight to her body
parts, so that’s what they will continue to do, because he thinks that’s what a
I say some of this because I’m still shocked
at how secular culture can embrace pornography in all its forms, yet somehow
not see the connection between it and the sexual objectification and abuse of
women in the real world.
But I also say it to set the table for the
real men who are now caught in the trap they have built for themselves over
years of being conditioned by porn. Most of us are at a point where we aren’t
condemning the man who is looking at porn, or who has looked at it in his past,
but are extending a hand of grace and help. But now this man’s physiological
responses to women have been trained to see them as sexual objects and to
subconsciously glance at their body parts as a now-instinctive act of
consumption and gratification.
Can this conditioned response be stopped?
The good news is, it can be. But not without
some intentionality and hard work. For most men it will take more than a sermon
or a lecture to get their eyes to do what their mind and heart want.
The Problem with the Porn Mindset
The foundation of this rewiring process begins
with our approach to how and why we are avoiding pornography in the first
place. If you’ve been told to not look at pornography because it’s bad and
sinful to do it, you might be able to cut out porn from your life, but your
porn mindset is likely to remain. Porn did something to your mind, something
that has to be undone. More than just training yourself to avoid pornography,
you have to rewire your mind from the porn mindset.
The problem with the porn
mindset is it doesn’t see all of a woman (or man), it only
sees their body parts. We all know we are more than body parts.
We all know our mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives are more than body
parts. We know that we are all complex beings. We know that what makes
relationships both rewarding and challenging is that we are complex beings.
Every woman, just like every man, has strengths, weaknesses, stressors,
anxieties, pain, joy, personality, values, and a long list of other attributes
that separate humans from the animals.
for sex doesn’t allow for this. His design for sex is that all of
someone is embraced in a lifetime commitment. When you deal with all of
someone, conflict is sure to come! But the bond of commitment is there to
sustain it. All requires selflessness, which is the definition
of love. Sex and body parts are only one ingredient inside of this recipe, not
something that was designed to be indulged in on their own.
When tempted to lust, the only way to get
beyond the body-part-mindset is to understand that behind every woman’s body is
a full, whole, complex woman. She is a soul. There is a depth and sacredness to
this that I can’t put into words.
If you’re married, you know what I’m saying is
true because you see it every day in your own wife. There may have been a day
when you first met that you only saw her physical attributes, but you now know
she is a much more complex equation than that (praise God). The same is true
for every woman on the planet.
Let the Rewiring Begin
Porn has taught you to
see: BODY. You have to be rewired to see: WOMAN. And to apply what this means. You
look into her eyes because that’s where she is. She is a she,
not a that. She’s not an object to be consumed.
Body parts separated from the person are only
things. God didn’t call you to consume people, taking life away from them, he
called you to bring life to people. This is the foundational
calling of all Christians.
We live on a planet full of human beings.
Full, whole, complex human beings. Porn has taught us that women aren’t fully
human and we’ve been conditioned into believing that lie whenever we consume
them for our selfish gratification.
The path of rewiring means taking the truths
of Scripture and letting them renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) away from the
lies porn has taught us.
woman is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), full of his dignity,
honor, and complexity.
woman is fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by God himself
woman has a soul.
woman is God’s.
Repeat these truths to yourself daily when you
spend time praying and reading your Bible. Repeat them in prayer all throughout
The next time your eyes want to go toward a
woman’s body, remind yourself of the truth that she is a whole person and all
that means. Look her in the eyes and see her that way.
I was shocked when they announced the title of
the next book study that we would be doing. I was sitting in a room in my
church next to Zack, surrounded by other small group leaders. “This is a
conversation that we need to have more often in church,” my pastor said. “The
world is talking about sex, but the church is often silent. We need to change
He went on to share how struggles with porn
addiction, adultery, sexual promiscuity, and uncontrolled lust were shattering
church families and individuals within our own body. “That’s why it’s crucial
for all of us, as leaders, to equip ourselves within the area of biblical
sexuality so we can lean into the brokenness and pain all around us.”
He held up the book that would become our
newest study. It was titled, Finally Free:
Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. I sat there
amazed that a church pastor and leader was initiating a book study for all his
church’s small group leaders on the topic of sexuality and purity. This wasn’t
the norm in mainstream Christianity. Topics like porn, masturbation, and lust
weren’t everyday conversations within the church.
My heart silently rejoiced.
This would be a game
changer and much-needed shift in our church culture and I couldn’t wait to dig
We would finally have open and honest
conversations about one of the most crucial and personal areas of our lives.
Why We Need to Embrace Conversations About Sexuality
As modern Christian women, I think many of us
would be surprised if our pastor initiated a book study (for men and women) on
the topic of sex, sexuality, and purity. Although these conversations are
slowly becoming more common within Christian circles, they’ve been largely
ignored by many churches for far too long. This silence has created a Church
culture of embarrassment and shame when it comes to topics surrounding
sexuality. This is tragic.
God and sexuality have become opposites rather
than complimentary companions. And as a result, this is the one thing
Christian girls don’t know about sexuality.
We forget that God is the author, designer,
and creator of our sexuality. We forget that conversations about lust, secret
sins, porn, masturbation, and erotica should be happening within the Church. We
forget that we are spiritual beings as much as we are sexual beings. We forget
that the Church should be the first place we breach these topics, not the last.
We forget that our sexual struggles are something God wants us to bring to Him,
not work through on our own. We forget that our sexuality is a beautiful part
of God’s greater story.
One of the driving motivations in writing my
new book, Sex, Purity, and
the Longings of a Girl’s Heart, was to help bring these
conversations back into the church. Back into small groups. Back into Christian
circles. Back into normal conversations.
Jesus Wasn’t Shy About Sexuality
When Jesus met the woman at the well in John
4, He wasn’t shy about her sexual struggles.
He wastes no time in getting to the heart of
her sexual pain and brokenness. She tries to keep the conversation on the
surface by talking about theology and religion, but Jesus takes a deeper dive.
He goes for her heart. He asks her to call her husband, already knowing that
she had been married five times and was currently living with a man who was not
her husband (v. 16-18).
He sees straight into this woman’s inner
longings and knows she has been trying to fill a spiritual need with temporal
fixes. He offers her love, compassion, and calls her to embrace the Living
Water that will never run dry. Amazed and astonished by His insight and
willingness to meet her in her brokenness, she runs off into the city rejoicing
in God and telling everyone about the Messiah.
That same Jesus who
leaned into that woman’s sexual pain and brokenness is the same Jesus we serve
and worship today.
He is not a God who is shy or embarrassed by
our sexuality, but a God who created that aspect of our lives and wants to help
us embrace it rightly. If Jesus Himself wasn’t shy about pursuing conversations
about sexuality, then we, His Church, shouldn’t be either.
“As you think back on your personal journey,
what has shaped your beliefs about sex? Whether negative or positive, what has
been most influential in your life?
So much of the confusion surrounding our
sexuality is a result of being discipled by the world. The only way to redeem
our sexuality is to turn back to the One who created us. Instead of continuing
to listen to the world, we need to be discipled by the One who designed us. The
One who loves us and created us. The One who understands our sexuality and has
a good and beautiful plan for it.”
Conversations about sexuality belong in the
Church and amongst God’s people.
Will You Help Start the Conversation?
He holds the answers to life, health, and
freedom in this area. I pray you will join me in leading the charge by starting
these much-needed conversations within your own church. I pray that my book
would also be a helpful tool and resource for you as you begin talking about
sexual issues more amongst women.
God and sexuality go hand-in-hand. Let’s be
intentional as Christian women to disciple one another in the area of sexuality
as much as we do in everything else.
love to hear from you below!
is the climate of your church right now? Is sexuality a normal topic of
conversation or is it taboo?
do you personally wish more Churches would talk about regarding sexuality?
can you do to lead in your church by bringing these conversations to the
THE APOSTLE PAUL: HIS SECRET TO FIGHTING SEXUAL SIN
Hugh Hefner didn’t invent sexual sin. It is a problem that has been around since our ancestors walked east of Eden, and it will be around until the new Jerusalem descends upon us. The good news is that the Bible promises that we can experience foretastes of that coming freedom in the here and now. But how?
The Apostle Paul commands the Christians at Colossae, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But how do we do this? If we rip this verse away from the letter, we’re likely to apply it the wrong way, so we need to look closely to understand what Paul is talking about.
1. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Not About “Do More,
philosophy was circulating in the church at Colossae that was championing asceticism:
if you want to remain pure, then separate yourself from the
pleasures of the body that are so often a source of temptation. This philosophy
said if you really want the fullness of divine life within you, then insulate your
But Paul delivers a
crushing blow to this philosophy:
If with Christ you died
to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the
world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not
touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to
human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in
promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they
are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)
No value. That
is Paul’s verdict on asceticism. It simply doesn’t work. Yes, there is a grain
of truth in the philosophy—all popular philosophies contain at least some wisdom
in them. If you are tempted to sin sexually then it makes sense to get away
from sexual temptations. This will keep sin at bay—but ultimately the flesh
This false philosophy is
still circulating in the church today. When the best advice we can give
people is better Internet filters, cold showers, more hours in prayer, and
trying harder, we have given into this philosophy that Paul says is of no
This false philosophy
either totally underestimates the power of sin, or it sets the benchmark of
holiness too low. It either doesn’t get just how ingrained sexual sin is
in us, or it thinks that merely getting rid of outward, blatant sexual sin
is the goal. Neither is accurate.
2. Fighting Sexual Sin Starts with a New Identity
Paul offers his readers
another approach to fighting sin, and it starts with these core identity
“With Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world” (2:20)
“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3)
“You have been raised with Christ” (3:1)
“You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (2:12)
“You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (3:9-10)
“The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27)
This is where a lot of
modern readers check out. “Don’t give me these abstract theological ideas. I
need something practical,” they think. But for Paul, there was nothing more
practical, nothing more life-changing, than these ideas.
We are united to the
risen Christ by faith. His resurrection life flows in our veins now. The Spirit
of the living Christ lives inside us, so we no longer belong to this world
and the rules it plays by—we belong to Christ and the age to come. In
order to have the power to fight lust, we first have to understand this: we no longer belong to sin. We
belong to God who has accepted us and forgiven us, not because we purified
ourselves first, but because we are united by faith to the Pure One, Jesus
In order to fight lust,
we must understand that we no longer belong to lust.
3. Fighting Sexual Sin Continues by Kindling New
Knowing we are united to
the living Christ, Paul writes, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ
is, seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things
that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). The terms Paul
uses here mean to center one’s interests,
focus, and passions on something—to savor something. Now
that God has united us to the risen Christ, we savor that
reality, and this kindles new desires in us that displace a desire for sin.
What are these “things”
above that we should savor?
First, we are to savor Christ himself. This is one of the reasons why Paul spills a lot of ink in this letter describing who Christ is. He is the beloved Son of God (1:13), the image of the invisible God (1:15), creator and sustainer of all things (1:16-17), the one whose blood reconciles us to the Father (1:20), the firstborn from the dead (1:18), and the one seated at God’s right hand (3:1). In him all the riches of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3). The fullness of deity dwells in Him (1:19; 2:9).
Second, we are to savor our new position before God. Christ is seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). To be seated at a ruler’s right hand meant to be in the position of greatest authority, honor, and delight. Because Christ is in us, we share in the favor He has with the Father.
Third, we are to savor the hope that someday we will see and experience these realities. Someday, Christ Himself will appear and we will appear with Him in glory (1:4). It is our destiny to be like the holy, pure Son of God. Someday our eyes will see the one who died for us and rose again, the one who is God in the flesh, and God will honor us as his royal children before every creature, every human soul, every angelic being in the universe.
How does this practically
help us to fight sexual sin? The reason why sexual sin can have such a
grip on us is because of its power to define us and what is most
valuable, how sexual pleasure makes us feel about ourselves. Sexual
fantasy, pornography, or pursuing illicit sex makes us feel desired; it makes
us feel valued and validated; it gives us a refuge; it gives us connection; it
can even make us feel powerful. This is why setting our affections on things
above is so important: it gives us a new center to our lives and gives us a
completely new sense of value—not based in our worthiness but based on the love
God has for Christ that overflows to us.
4. Fighting Sexual Sin Is About Fighting For Our
Finally we come to
Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in
you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness,
which is idolatry.”
Paul here is not
endorsing asceticism—something he has already refuted. Asceticism is
about fighting to get rid of something we think is unholy, but
mortifying sin is about fighting for the new affections that
God is giving to us.
We can construct helpful boundaries
in our lives that keeps sexual sin out of reach, but we should do so standing
on our identity as God’s beloved children, standing satisfied in Christ and
God’s love. When sexual temptation comes knocking, we can say to it, “No, sin.
That’s not who I am anymore. You do not define what life is to me anymore. You
do not define me anymore. Christ is in me. I am a child of the king, and one
day the whole world will know it.”
5. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Sustained by Relationships that
Remind Us of Our New Identity
“Let the word of Christ
dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts
to God” (Colossians 3:16).
This is the essence of
real accountability in the body of Christ. Yes, accountability involves
confessing our temptations, sins, and the state of our heart, but it also
involves godly encouragement. Accountability is not just about someone
calling you out on your sin, but someone calling you up to
the person you already are in Christ. Accountability is about
surrounding yourself with the kind of Christian friendships that teach and
admonish you, that inspire thankfulness, and that help us unpack all the
wisdom contained in the great mystery that Paul called “Christ in us, the hope
of glory” (1:27).
Accountability is like
stoking the embers of the fire. It does not add energy to the embers. It only
exposes those embers to the air so new reactions can happen. When we engage
in the disciplines of confession, encouragement, and mutual
prayer we expose our souls again to the life-changing gospel,
and God’s power is released again and again.
HOW TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL (WITHOUT CHANGING ANYTHING ELSE)
Happiness does not start with a relationship, a degree, a job, or money. It starts with your thinking and what you tell yourself today.
“I had a date scheduled for last night with this guy I started talking to on a dating app. I waited outside the diner where we agreed to meet for 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet. He never showed up. All sorts of negative thoughts were running through my head. I thought maybe he saw me from a distance, didn’t like what he saw, and then bailed.
Just as I was about to leave, one of my old college friends, Jared, who I haven’t seen in nearly a decade, walked up to me with a huge smile on his face and said, ‘Carly! It’s great to see you! You look fantastic!’ I almost blew him off because of how I felt inside at the moment. But luckily I pulled myself together to engage in a conversation.
After we talked in that same spot for awhile, he said, ‘What are you doing for dinner?’ We ended up going into the diner I was supposed to eat at with the no-show date and having an amazing conversation filled with laughter. After dinner he walked me to my car, we exchanged numbers, and he asked me out on a formal date for this Friday night.”
Our Stories Make or Break Us
The story above comes from Carly, one of our recent Think Better, Live Better 2019 attendees (and of course, we’re sharing her story with permission).
Think about how her initial reaction was rooted so heavily in negativity. Her date didn’t show up and she immediately crumbled inside. Now think about the amazing opportunity she would have missed if she had let that negativity endure. And think about how often your negativity gets the best of you.
How often do let your insecurities stop you?
Or, how often do you judge others for their imperfections?
What you need to realize right now is that you have a story about yourself and others (or perhaps a series of stories) that you recite to yourself daily. This is your mental movie, and it’s a feature film that plays on repeat in your mind. Your movie is about who you are and how the world is supposed to be: your tummy is too flabby, your skin is too dark or too pale, you aren’t smart, you aren’t lovable… you aren’t good enough. And of course, you catch yourself picking out all sorts of imperfections in others, and the world at large, too.
Start to pay attention when your movie plays—when you feel anxiety about being who you are or facing the realities of life—because it affects everything you do. Realize that this movie isn’t real, it isn’t true, and it isn’t you. It’s just a train of thought that can be stopped—a script that can be rewritten.
Ready to rewrite the script?
Let’s start by being honest… Sometimes negativity absolutely dominates our better judgment!
So, how do we outsmart our own negative tendencies so we can feel better, behave better, and ultimately live better? There are many ways, but Angel and I often recommend two simple (but not easy) practices:
1. Practice questioning your stories.
You know what they say, don’t believe everything you hear nor everything you read. Don’t believe the gossip columns in every magazine, the doom and gloom predictions from your co-workers, or the “shocking news” that you hear on TV… until you have verified it.
Well, the same concept applies to your inside world—your thoughts.
We all have stories about ourselves and others even if we don’t think of them as stories. Case in point: How often do you pause to logically contemplate what you really think about your relationships, your habits, or your challenges? How often, on the other hand, do you just blurt out whatever fleeting emotion comes to mind—i.e., the pre-recorded movie script you’ve been holding on to—without even thinking straight?
Stories can be short, such as “I’m not a good writer,” “I’m not good at yoga,” or “I have intrinsic relationship problems.” And if we were to dig deeper into your own personal version of these stories, I bet you’d be happy to go on and try to explain why the stories you’ve been holding onto are real. Even though the aren’t. They’re just stories.
So the key practice here is to question your stories. For instance, let’s take the writer example. Ask yourself: Why do I think I am not a good writer? What would it look like to be a good writer? Can I describe my current writing in a way that serves me better?
You will be surprised by how often the questioning process helps you emerge with a clearer and more accurate version of your story. Give it a try!
2. Practice running your thoughts through three key filters.
Sometimes you are in a hurry, and not having a great day to boot. On days like this, there’s a mental conditioning exercise I recommend that’s super quick and can help keep your attitude in check…
I’ve been in arguments with my my wife, Angel, in the past and one of the things I certainly regretted was not filtering my words before saying them. At the time of these arguments, I did not have the right tools, except for thinking “Be nice!”, which does nothing for you when you’re feeling the opposite of nice. Some years later I found this simple tool that helped me shift my behavior. Here’s how it works:
Before you utter anything, run your thoughts through three key filters and don’t speak unless you get three resounding “YES” responses:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it helpful?
For example, let’s say a running thought in your head says that your partner doesn’t care about you, and you are about to shout those words out because he or she didn’t do the last chore you requested. Question that thought first: Is it true that my partner doesn’t care about me? Is it kind for me to say or think this? Is it helpful for me to say or think this?
Remember you can’t take your words back. What’s more, you will never regret behaving in a true, kind and helpful way down the road. So make it a ritual in your life in the days and weeks ahead.
Now, it’s your turn…
Leverage the two practices above to gradually rewrite the script of your mental movie. Learn to recognize the worn-out flicker of your old movie starting up, and then stop it. Seriously! Whenever you catch yourself reciting lines from your old script (“My arms are flabby…” or “My spouse deserves the silent treatment…”), flip the script and replace those lines with truer, kinder and more helpful ones. This takes some practice, but it’s worth it. Just keep practicing, and forgiving yourself for making mistakes along the way.
And keep in mind that various kinds of external negativity will attempt to distract you from your new script and your better judgment—comments from family, news anchors, social media posts… lots of things other people say and do. When you sense negativity coming at you, learn to deflect it. Give it a small push back with a thought like, “That remark is not really about me, it’s about you.” Remember that all people have emotional issues they’re dealing with (just like you), and it makes them difficult and thoughtless sometimes. They are doing the best they can, or they’re not even aware of their issues. In any case, you can learn not to interpret their behaviors as personal attacks, and instead see them as non-personal encounters (like an obnoxious little dog barking in the distance) that you can either respond to gracefully, or not respond to at all.
So, what was your biggest takeaway from this short article?
The “Lust Trap” can reel you in anytime, anywhere. Its strong pull brings you in like a sci-fi tractor beam. The graphic imagery of Proverbs 7 describes it like an ox going to slaughter, a deer walking into a noose, or a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.
Most of us can relate to these metaphors. One moment you are minding your own business, the next you are caught up in an insidious trap, too late to be able to do anything about it.
The Lust Trap is a web of lies. Lies that we believe. Lies that make promises that never deliver.
Lie: This man or woman will make me feel whole and valuable.
The biggest lie that men and women fall into with the Lust Trap is thinking they will find wholeness and a lasting feeling of value from their lust. We typically think of full-blown affairs as the end result of chasing this lie. You think this person will make you feel whole and valuable, so you leave everything else and make your dream a reality.
But upon closer inspection, the dream, the pornography, lustful gazes, and mental fantasies all spring from the same breeding ground.
Try to zoom out from yourself for a moment. Picture the last situation you were in when you got sucked in by lust and observe yourself from an out-of-body sort of perspective. What is going on in your soul? What is going on in your deepest desires?
Some will argue that there are no deeper desires. They just desire the body parts and the physical feeling that lust brings. But I can almost guarantee that your lust, whether it was pornography or just a mental thought, was related to seduction. He or she had a seductive look, a suggestive pose or manner about them. Or, that’s what you were wishing for or picturing when you gazed upon this person.
If body parts are the engine of lust, then seduction and suggestion are the gas and oil.
The driving desire behind almost all fantasies is the desire to be desired—the want to be wanted.
We have a gaping hole in our soul that spews out feelings of inadequacy, failure, rejection, and so on. This hole was put there by our dads, our moms, the guys and girls we liked who rejected us, abusers, ex-husbands or wives, and any litany of harsh words and messages throughout life.
Some of this hole is there as the automatic byproduct of living in a culture that constantly exposes us to the top .01% of “beautiful” people in advertisements, movies, music, and television, and then tells us that we are failures if we don’t look exactly like them (and of course, if you buy the product they’re advertising, you will become just like them).
The hole in every person’s soul is unique from the next, but we all have it. And we all seek to fill it up. There are many ways to try to fill up this hole that are not sexual, but they all share a common characteristic: we need to prove our value.
Money, your job, your reputation, your popularity, your accomplishments, your family, your possessions, your physiological feeling of comfort, and your latest three posts on Facebook all make excellent attempts to fill the value-void we carry around.
I am valuable!
I am important!
None of it is ever enough.
Life becomes a constant sprint on the hamster wheel of trying to prove these things.
While drugs give a high feeling that numbs the pain, sex gives a high feeling that includes human embrace and acceptance, something no drug can offer. It’s no wonder we chase sex with such abandon. But we all know the harsh reality: the brief feeling of value and acceptance that sex gives us quickly fades away, just like the high from a drug.
There are two options at this point. You can either do more and stronger drugs, or you can reject the lie and embrace the truth. I beg you to choose the latter.
Truth: I am whole and valuable as God’s beloved son or daughter.
When you feel the Lust Trap pulling you in, identify what it is you are really after. It’s not the temporary hit of endorphins, it’s the deeper state of wholeness, acceptance, approval, value, comfort, etc. (add your own words that fit you best).
Saying “no” to lust isn’t enough; we have to say “yes” to something else. We can’t just stop the tractor beam. We have to turn and run into the arms of someone else.
That someone else is Jesus. And I don’t mean the Sunday school, pixie dust Jesus, or even the Jesus that merely gets you into heaven. Not that’s a small thing, but it really only scratches the surface of all we have in Jesus and the healing he longs to bring to our day-to-day aching, lonely, distracted souls.
If you have put your faith in Jesus, Romans 8:15-17 tells you that you are a child, a son or daughter, of God. It also tells you that you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. What Jesus gets from the Father, you get. Romans 8:4 and Colossians 1:22 tell you that when God sees you, he sees perfection, because of what Jesus accomplished on your behalf.
He doesn’t say, “You don’t measure up.” He says, “I love you so much, and I am so pleased with you.” The Father spoke to Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17 and said, “This is my son, whom I love, whom I am so pleased with.”
Because Jesus paid for your sins on the cross, making you a new creation, you are now a co-heir with Jesus. You get these same words from our same Father. You are my son. You are my daughter. Who I love. Who I am so pleased with.
This is what the Father thinks of you. Any other voices you hear are lies.
This is our healing truth. This is the embrace we run to when the Lust Trap comes knocking. This is real, compared to what the Lust Trap can only cheaply imitate.
Your healing wholeness is found in knowing these truths and reminding yourself of them over and over again. Write them down over and over again. Pray them over and over again. Read them in Scripture over and over again. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak them into your heart over and over again.
This wholeness is also found in being in community with others who affirm this truth about who you are. People who accept you and love you as a beloved son or daughter, the way the Father sees you. Not as someone mired by shame who doesn’t measure up. God designed the Church to be his hands and feet, his very body on earth (1 Corinthians 12).
I’m not going to tell you that church small groups are perfect, but they are a starting point. Look at the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has put into your life and pray and ask God which ones you can go deeper with. Then take the risk and go deeper.
The Lust Trap is a never-ending spigot of lies, and thankfully our God is a never-ending fountain of truth. Reorient your whole life around running toward him and his truth.
I’m writing to explain what marriage really means because I remember all too well your fairytale ideology that marriage is about a beautiful wedding, then fast forward to your happily ever after.
With that said, I’m not writing as a warning. I’m writing more as an opportunity—merely think of me as your sponsor – because you’re definitely a hopeless romantic.
Your dreams of a man riding in on a white horse, or a knight in shining armor, are figments of an animated imagination and I just want to take some time to talk to you about what’s real.
I want to let you in on a secret, if you will. A moment in time, to give you a gift, the gift of a second chance.
You are still so young, at only 22 years old. And here you already have a small beautiful child, own your home, and you have a wonderful man who hasn’t quite discovered how great either of you are just yet. You should feel proud and accomplished. I know when I look back I’m definitely proud of you.
Nevertheless, I specifically want to talk about fear. You see, although you survived a lot of abuse and neglect, you’re traumatized. Your traumas have caused significant damage and created a space for constant anxieties to thrive. Anxieties like your fear of being a victim, a fear of someone thinking they can take you away, and other fears, like your fear of intimacy, of getting in trouble or making mistakes, of not knowing enough information or being looked at as incompetent. And mainly, your fear of simply not being good enough to be loved.
I know you. Probably better than anyone really knows you. I know how hard you try to be perfect. I know how hard you work to be accepted. How much you feel you don’t and can’t possibly fit in anywhere, with anyone. And I know you think that if you achieve genuine happiness it means that you have reached the end of your life. But you don’t have to be afraid. I’ve begun to discover that you can be accepted and you are more than lovable.
As I write this, I realize now that you are just starting out on the first path of many that will lead you on a journey into a life that brims with love and hardship, joy and sadness, peace and war, as well as abundance and strife. Your life will be wrought with moments of destitution and incredible successes. And I wouldn’t have you change any of it (except please buy Amazon stock and change your Sam’s Club membership to Costco, trust me, Sam’s Club will fail us). You will learn so much from the experiences that living this life will teach you.
I would also encourage you, as your sponsor, to ditch your unhealthy addictions earlier. You should see life through the eyes of someone who chooses to actually live. Find life in every breath. Leave behind the acts of fear that cause you to bury yourself and hide away all that is great in you.
Now, about the young man you have chosen. He is going to be amazing. You were right to be attracted to his high levels of intelligence, and his cautious, careful approach to tasks. And that great sense of humor. You will laugh every day of your life. He will hold you close when you feel lost and afraid. He will trust your guidance and seek your counsel. He will treasure you.
But it will take some time. You will both have to learn to grow up and embrace the art of communication. You will find an amazing woman, Julie Gottman, who will introduce you to techniques that will enable you to overcome so many marital obstacles. You’ll learn principles about communicating and methods for dealing with conflict that you’ll even align with your body of work. Trust me, these tools will prove invaluable.
Your marriage will become a beacon of hope for couples around the world. But it will take time. Time that can be shortened if you heed many words and remember this letter, starting today, your wedding day. You can be so much more if you start by shedding the heavy, unsightly cloak of fear.
Your story needs to be heard through the ears of faith and not through fear. Fear prematurely ends stories. It changes the narrative and demands surrender. It turns heroes into cowards and strength into weakness. It both clouds and casts judgment. It slowly takes away the essence of who you really are. It highlights scarcity and inflates the balloon of false pride. You are not what you’ve been through. Your truth and destiny lie in the places you will go and the people whose lives you will touch. So continue to go far and shine bright. Dream often. And fear not.
In this letter, I want you to recognize that you are going to have a beautiful family, a legacy of serving others, and a connection to your husband that’s absolutely unbreakable. But your life will really begin when you can begin to see yourself as a whole. Know that life is not just about what you know or have learned, it’s about how well you learn how to live. Do it fearlessly, for there is life in every breath.
So with that said, here are a few things I’ve learned about love and life over the last 23 years of marriage.
Never stop dreaming together Talk openly about your goals for the future, and always support your husband’s dreams. Be curious, creative, and explore your entrepreneurial spirit.
Take better care of your health Eat better and get into a fitness program or routine. Stop complaining and taking your amazing body for granted. Spend less time worrying about how you wish you looked and spend more time loving yourself.
Spend less time yelling You can be heard the loudest in moments of silence.
Enjoy spending time with yourself I didn’t discover this until I was in my forties. I missed all that time just enjoying who I was and dreaming about who I’d be.
Keep your childlike twinkle in your eye It will serve you well and keep you and others laughing. You are funny—stay that way.
Spend more time in the moment with your children They really do grow up fast. Parenting isn’t a race, it’s a journey. It doesn’t end when they’re 18. It will challenge you in different ways, but you’ll never get their little inquisitive minds back, so enjoy it while you can.
Always spend time talking to your husband It gives you both so much life. Have patience for teachable moments and keep laughing, it really is medicine for the heart.
Keep making space for passion and intimacy Keep being intriguing and spontaneous. These moments keep you both connected.
Challenge yourself often Don’t sit in the same place, be different, choose different. Regular is your enemy.
Trust the process Everything good and bad happens for a reason, even when you don’t understand why. Keep believing and trusting in the process. There’s always another side and a way to go through.
Please take these words with you, always. And, I love you.
I’ve been growing intently for years now in trying to become what I would call a ‘woman of grace.’ It’s probably been the most difficult journey for me personally, even though I’m naturally kind and loving, being a true woman of grace means exhibiting maturity even during the hardest of circumstances.
Maturity. I love this word and it’s meaning. I love that this is what Jesus meant when He said that He desired for us to be “perfect” (Greek meaning = mature, complete in growth), like He was.
Complete in growth. Stable, mature, peaceful… uneasily shaken by others and what they may say about you or do to you.
When people are being human, with their flaws, or even sometimes difficult personalities, I’m able to exhibit grace fairly easily. I’m blessed to be easy going and optimistic in nature, but when I’m confronted with extremely rude or even evil people, I tend to throw grace out the window and can become like a mamma bear in all her anger in setting my boundaries or telling them off.
While I’ve come a long way in spiritual growth in this area, I still want to work to become more mature, more able to understand a difficult situation so that I’m no longer sucked into sinful drama. Its critical to understand the motive behind our own behavior that can end up leading us to being ungraceful in how we deal with others.
A few years ago now, I read one of the most interesting books on anger and dealing with people or situations that bring out bad characteristics in us. The book is called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, written by Chip Ingram, and helps one to identify what kind of person they are (a Stuffer or Exploder… I’m a Stuffer that can endure for years before I finally Explode), what kinds of things hurt or anger them, and how they spiritually need to go about dealing with toxic emotions (or people) in order to have joy and peace in their life.
Being a woman of grace means having composure, finding and being grounded. It carries over into the realm of crisis situations, and into confrontations with catty or gossipy females.
Carrying oneself with grace means having patience when a difficult person needs time to mature, but grace also means having the wisdom to know when to move on away from a person who refuses God’s assistance to grow beyond their immaturity.
Being a graceful woman is finding maturity through allowing God to develop in you the traits of the Fruit of the Spirit (more below), but let’s take a look at why it is so important to cultivate Grace. Let’s take a look at the ungraceful woman.
The Ungraceful Woman
To be an ungraceful woman (not disgraceful as that implies shameful), but merely a woman who lacks real grace in dealing with others, is a very painful existence for that woman, and is why I truly feel sorry for people who live their lives in such a unhealthy manner. She constantly feels the need to control others, to criticize or “punish” them, without trusting that God sees everything and has taken vengeance into His own hands, and commanded her not to herself!
Meddling in others’ lives, watching them in order to jump on their mistakes, gossiping to her audience of relatives or friends about their mistakes or perceived lack of character… all these things are actions that prevent these women from growing in true maturity, and it always makes me very sad when I come across someone with this defect. A woman like this is shirking her calling, ignoring her God-given talents, and being consumed with the faults of others while her own creativity withers away. Once you understand the depravity of her actions, you no longer feel any other emotion toward her except for deep sadness at the life she’s chosen for herself. She knows deep down that she’s wrong, that she’s behaving immaturely, that she’s deliberately confronting someone (or going behind their back to gossip) in something that is not her place and not bringing glory to God, however, she believes she is doing what is right, even beneficial to her target. She is driven by this feeling, even though she has a nagging horrible anxiety about it.
The Ungraceful Woman Is Addicted to Attacking Others (you know… like a hobby)
Why do people attack others? Why would someone focus so much on another’s life, devoting their words or actions to criticizing their every move? Why would someone go into a church, sit there for an hour listening to a Bible study, and then carry out their plans to murder the people in that church because they hated members of a different race so intensely?
Even though these are situations where a person gives in to evil in lesser or greater degrees, I want people to understand that these all have one major motive in common:
The desire to shame or punish others
When Dylann Roof, the recent aggressor in a mass shooting in an African American church in South Carolina, carried out his actions they were based on the desire to punish the blacks in that church for perceived crimes others of their race had done (or even not done) in our country. He felt like he was carrying out a righteous duty in harming them, in exterminating them. His words were that he had to do it because he would be benefiting society. This is the basis of all racial crimes and genocide that has been prevalent all over the world, but it is always motivated by more than mere hatred, but by the desire to punish, shame or exterminate someone (or people)…
because they “deserve it.”
To a lesser degree, this is the same motive that takes place when a woman (or man) decides that harming someone through gossip (ruining their reputation or hurting their feelings), or punishing them by using harsh language, dismissing them or ignoring, or shaming them, is beneficial to that person or even a “righteous act.” The can even justify that harming them is beneficial to others or a certain group.
Be it someone like Dylann Roof or a woman who punishes and shames others, the evil is shown when the aggressor thinks they are justified to treat another human being this way. In Patricia Evans book, Controlling People, she discusses the scenarios of a person spanking a baby to get it to stop crying, and the event of a terrorist act,
While I am not in any way equating hitting a child with the quite different act of terrorism, I am pointing to the fact that they both arise from a terrifying unawareness on the part of the aggressor. And that in most cases, when people act against other people, they feel justified. They feel sensible.
If you have ever encountered a person who acted against you by harassing you, defining you, discriminating against you, or physically assaulting you, you may have noticed that the act was perpetrated against you as if you were deserving of it.
Whether they are experienced as horrifying, hurtful, or simply nonsensical, acts against others have certain commonalities:
1) Perpetrators usually believe that their oppressive actions are necessary, even right. Their behavior is actually the opposite: unnecessary and wrong
2) Generally acts against others, that is, attempts to control others, eventually bring the perpetrators just the opposite of what they want.
3) Acts against others originate with a distortion or lack of awareness. Perpetrators almost universally believe that they see clearly and are aware: the opposite of reality.
Instead of growing in maturity, an ungraceful woman develops a toxic character of constantly feeling like it is her “duty” to “call out” the sins, failures, and shortcomings of others. She feels like her oppressive and ungraceful behavior is necessary to bring about some kind of desired change. She attempts to control another to try to get what she wants from them (compliance), but ends up getting the opposite (a broken relationship, or being ignored, or facing the other’s indifference).
In acting in an ungraceful manner of attacking, shaming, or gossiping about another person, she is pursuing the opposite of growing in maturity. Maturity in our actions with others is found in the Fruits of the Spirit,
Maturity through the Fruits of the Spirit:
An aggressor or ungraceful woman at times, will break every single one of these beautiful tenants of the Fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that should be growing in someone that is becoming more and more mature or Christ like, in order to criticize or punish another.
Being a woman of grace means actively pursuing each of these characteristics whole-heartedly, allowing God to change her more and more into a complete woman – a woman who is mature.
Hope for a Future of Grace, Even in Our Failings
If you’ve failed in this way, if you’ve been the ungraceful woman, let me just tell you that I’ve been there… I’ve hit rock bottom. Don’t let shame that you’ve failed in this area prevent you from embracing the hope and joy that God can change and heal everything, giving you that maturity and peace to help you understand how to better deal with others.
Here are some scriptures that are for those who feel like they’ve failed being a woman of grace:
“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion (maturity) until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace….” Philippians 1:3-7
“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly the message of life.” Philippians 2:13-14
“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.” Philippians 3:12-16
“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:12-17
Is accountability powerful enough to help change a heart? Sixteen years ago, Covenant Eyes was founded by two individuals on the simple premise that it is, and today the company has a team of over 150 people who base their work and livelihood on this very idea. We believe in the importance of accountability and the power of honest conversation.
Some people still haven’t been convinced their “private” porn problem merits the “not-so-private” solution of accountability. Inaccurate ideas of what accountability really is, bad past experiences, or just plain old fear stop those struggling with porn from bringing their battle to the attention of a friend. They may think accountability has some value, but they don’t understand the deep importance of accountability in bringing about lasting life change.
“I have talked to hundreds of addicts, spouses of addicts and parents, and the majority of them would have told you accountability is a good idea, but they saw accountability in their life as a last resort, not a lifestyle,” said author and speaker Luke Gilkerson at the Set Free Summit. “We cannot tell people to do accountability until we have a firm idea of what it is and how to do it.”
The Importance of Accountability
In this short video from the Set Free Summit, Luke conveys a compelling description of what accountability is and why it’s important. Take a look.
As Luke said, “We are created for community. We were redeemed in community. We will be glorified in community. Therefore, we are going to be sanctified in community.” Accountability matters.
Let’s build out the importance of accountability a little further.
God Knows Us Fully, Isn’t This Accountability Enough?
In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (Emphasis mine)
Ready for a wake-up call? Fully known is the only perspective God has. In their book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart say, “God’s knowledge of us is immediate–full and direct, face to face…”
God sees us through and through. Every thought. Every inclination. Every bent of our heart.
Can I venture to say most Christians often forget this truth? Instead, many believe the fallacy of secrecy, even though various Scriptures clearly point to an all seeing, all knowing Father (Proverbs 5:21, Psalm 33:13-14, Hebrews 4:13, among others).
Authentic Christians don’t need an accountability partner because we already have the best dwelling inside us. If you listen to Jesus, through your Holy Spirit, you will never choose the wrong path….If Jesus could do nothing on His own, how can we think we know how to do things better than Him? This is why we turn control of our lives over to Him and that eliminates the ‘need’ for an accountability partner.
Jesus is definitely what we need. But, being “in Christ” does not eliminate the importance of earthly accountability.
The Importance of Accountability with Another Person
For most Christians, understanding that God is fully knowing just isn’t tangible enough to hold them accountable for what they say and do. On the other hand, that “thing” that you might struggle with is tangible. It’s right in front of you. Sometimes, the empty promises offered by addiction seem far more real and frankly, more satisfying, than a promise from Scripture.
Dr. Kenneth Boa writes, “Our ability to embed ourselves within the impenetrable shell of rationalization, projection and denial is nothing short of amazing….An entire field of social psychology–the study of ‘cognitive dissonance’–is based on our limitless ability to rationalize what we do and say. That being the case, we all need people who will help us protect ourselves from ourselves and the desires of our own hearts.”
It’s impossible to be fully known on this side of heaven, but an accountable relationship can point us towards the light. Consistently. Lovingly. Directly (if necessary).
According to pastor and author Timothy Keller:
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Accountability is important because “one another” trumps “one.”
This could also be said as “we” trumps “just me.” In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” There are 59 “one another” statements in the New Testament. Scripture begs us to “do” things towards and with other people.
To be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
To wash one another’s feet (John 13:14)
To love one another (over and over and over)
To live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
To have equal concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
To bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:12)
Pastor and author Andy Stanley also says, “The primary activity of the [early] church was one-anothering one another.”
Jesus Christ modeled “one-anothering” in his earthly ministry. Not because He needed accountability, but because by doing life with 12 brothers, He showed us how to live openly and in community. He showed us the importance of accountability. The Trinity is founded on the “one another” principle. We are inherently stronger when we are locked together.
In our free e-book, Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability, author Luke Gilkerson says, “[Accountability] means really getting to know one another. It means not just confessing surface-level stuff, but helping one another to see underlying motivations. It means hearing one another’s stories and spending time together. It means helping one another tap into godly motives for Christian living.”
Accountability is important because speaking trumps silence.
There is power in spoken words. When our thoughts become words, or we are listening to words from someone else, our brain kicks into high gear. University College London did extensive analysis of how the brain processes spoken words. The scientists discovered that our brains can magically isolate language from other sounds and usher it to the “primary auditory cortex” where it is assigned meaning.
In Romans 10:9, we read, “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
I’ve never been a big fan of the “bow your heads and raise your hand to accept Jesus into your hearts” approach to salvation. I just don’t see it modeled anywhere in Scripture. Words matter! All form and matter came into existence because God spoke.
Having genuine and straightforward conversation with an accountability partner is sweet therapy for a dry, empty soul. This type of conversation doesn’t just land in our brain. It lifts heavy burdens from our hearts.
Accountability is important because light trumps darkness.
Speaking openly with an accountability partner keeps our secrets out in the open. It crushes the fallacy of secrecy. In darkness, sin rules us. But, in the light, sin shrivels. Nothing beats the light.
Ephesians 5:6-9 tells us, “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” (Emphasis mine)
Darkness isn’t a wave or a particle. It isn’t a “thing.” It’s simply the absence of light. Human vision is diminished as light is decreased. We are unable to distinguish color. What a befitting metaphor for what happens to our spiritual discernment while under the cover of sin.
An accountable relationship with another Jesus-loving brother or sister is a warm LED flashlight to the soul. It calls us up to the light and out of the darkness.
Can Accountability Really Change a Heart?
We believe it can, and we’ve seen it happen in so many Covenant Eyes users. This is why we believe so strongly in the importance of accountability. But you’re never going to know for yourself until you give it a try.