“The hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives.” (Ecclesiastes 9:3)
Society deems a person insane who has lost touch with reality and has become irrational in his thinking. Such a person has long indulged in extreme pride and self-centeredness and has lost the ability to differentiate between right and wrong, real and unreal.
Men who habitually give over to sexual sin enter their own form of insanity. Although most sexual addicts can still function in life—hold a responsible job, pay the bills, interact with other people—their thinking about sexual (and spiritual) matters becomes extremely irrational. Their insanity is not primarily of the mind but of the heart.
Consider some of the outlandish things sex addicts think and do: the man who ransacks garbage dumpsters looking for a scrap of pornography; the husband who enjoys watching his wife in bed with other men; the exhibitionist who really thinks others will be turned on by seeing his private parts; the “john” who squanders thousands of dollars on empty encounters with call girls; the “peeping tom” who spends countless hours prowling around neighborhoods hoping to catch a glimpse of flesh. These are but a few examples of the bizarre behavior that comes with sexual sin. I haven’t even mentioned the really whacked-out stuff such as S & M, B&D, self-asphyxiation, weird fetishes, cannibalism and so on.
When you really think about it, isn’t the sex addict’s entire fantasy world based upon delusional thinking? Isn’t a guy outside the realm of reality when he imagines himself with a harem of girls who live to satisfy him? Or concocts a mental storyline where the young married woman at work seduces him? Or daydreams about having sex with some famous starlet? And, of course, all of the strange behaviors mentioned above originate in the thought life.
But beyond all of this, there exist a number of interesting characteristic similarities between a sexual addict and an insane person.
1. Extremely Selfish
The first is that, in the case of both individuals, ‘self’ is enormous. The mentally deranged person is so obsessed with himself that he completely loses sight of other people’s welfare, concerns and rights. He becomes so huge in his own thinking that he sees himself as the center of the universe. The ultimate in this type of crazed thinking is when a man claims to be God or Jesus Christ—something that occurs more frequently than you might realize.
While the typical sexual addict does not become quite this delusional, his thinking is gradually permeated by extreme selfishness as he allows his illicit desires to take precedence over everything else in life. For instance, his obsession with pleasure will drive him to do things that will devastate his wife and children. Like the “double-minded man” of James 1, he vacillates between good and evil. When in his right mind, he hates what his actions do to loved ones. But even the best of intentions evaporate when the madness of sensuality overtakes him. Once the fire of lust is ignited within him, everything else fades from view.
2. Acceptance of Self-Harm
Another commonality of the two is that they are both willing to do things that they know will bring harm to themselves. People deemed insane often destroy their lives—and what is so puzzling to those around them is their willingness to do so over the most ridiculous things. (It’s no wonder that “psychotic” people so often end up living on the streets.)
How is it any different for many who are involved in habitual immorality? Consider the homosexual who has illicit encounters with dozens of men, knowing the inevitability of acquiring AIDS. What about the man who commits adultery even though he knows he will lose his wife and children? Think about the man who commits sexual crimes, knowing that a few minutes of indulgence could very well put him in prison for years. What else but madness of mind could cause a person to do things that will only devastate his life?
It is also true in a spiritual sense. The sexual sinner has become so driven by lascivious desires that he purposefully does what his conscience tells him is against his own eternal interests. Charles Finney once wrote: “Sinners act as if they were afraid they should be saved. Often they seem to be trying to make their salvation as difficult as possible… They rush upon damnation as if it were heaven, and flee salvation as if it were hell. Is this exaggeration? No; this is only the simple truth. Sinners press down the way to hell as if it were the chief good of their existence, and shun the way to heaven as if it were the consummation of evil.”
3. Out of Touch with Reality
A third common denominator between these two people is that they both treat fiction as truth and truth as fiction. This, of course, is what defines a person as insane—losing touch with reality.
But isn’t this also the case with the “Christian” sexual addict? For instance, he can read the warning in a passage of Scripture such as First Corinthians 6:9-10 (Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals… will inherit the kingdom of God.) and walk away convinced that it does not apply to him! Only madness in the heart can account for such self-deception.
4. Overvaluing the Meaningless
Another commonality of these two is that they both make trivialities the focus of their lives. When you see a “bag lady” pushing her cart full of junk down the sidewalk, each piece of which she treats as though it were a priceless jewel, you know instinctively that she has slipped over the line into insanity.
How is it any different for the man who has the treasures of heaven within his grasp, but squanders them for a few fleeting experiences of pleasure? Sex has become such an enormous idol in his heart that everything in life revolves around it. Sex has its place amongst a number of other interests in life for the normal person, but it becomes everything for the sex addict.
5. Tormented by Paranoia
The final common denominator between the insane person and the sexual addict I will mention is that they both lose their sense of trust for others—even those whom they should know only have their best interests in mind. It goes without saying that many delusional people think that others are against them. They imagine the zaniest conspiracies: everybody is out to get them.
The sex addict can also become paranoid. “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing,” Solomon wrote, “but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1) The guilt over one’s behavior can have this effect upon a sinner’s thinking. Since his secret actions are so huge in his mind, he imagines that other people know what he has done. His guilt drives him into the most delusional thinking. Of course, it goes without saying that in both cases, paranoia flourishes when self is huge. The bigger a person’s self-life, the more he imagines that others are thinking about him. What a letdown when he discovers that other people think very little about him!
For the Christian (???) sex addict, this suspicion carries over into his relationship with God as well. He reads and hears about the love of God, but his irrationality causes him to vacillate between extremes of presumptuous pride (“God’s grace covers all my sins!”) and unbelief about God’s benevolent character (“If He really loved me, He would deliver me!”). The insanity of his sin motivates him to buy into the same falsehood that Satan has been proliferating ever since the Garden: that he—and not God—is man’s true benefactor.
How to Find Sanity
There is one remaining factor that must be touched upon: no one has ever been as sane and as in touch with reality as Jesus Christ. In my book, Counseling the Sexual Addict, I wrote the following:
What a comfort to know that Jesus Himself is the teleios for every believer. He is “the hope of glory.” Indeed, He was the most “together” person who has ever lived. Jesus possessed an astounding level of emotional maturity. He did not carry around the emotional baggage that inevitably accompanies sin—He was full of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:1) Although He was called the “Man of Sorrows” (because He grieved over the hardheartedness of those He ministered to), He was also an extremely joyful person. Children would look into His face and find a gracious, inviting expression. It is this marvelous person whom we are called to emulate. His life epitomizes spiritual and emotional well-being.
The truth is that a person will only find relief from the insanity of the fallen human mind to the degree that they surrender to God. Rightly did Paul write, “The mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law…” (Romans 8:7 AMP) The purpose for the process of sanctification is to replace that faulty, selfish mindset with God’s thinking.
Yes, there are many comparisons between the insane person and the sexual sinner, but the good news is that as we immerse ourselves in the Word of God, earnestly living out its principles, we shall “know the truth and the truth shall make us free.”
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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