How to Encourage Honesty from a Sex Addict

“I have been buying pornography and going to massage parlors.” His announcement left me stunned and angry because he had been lying to me for the past 18 months. The only reason he was telling me the truth now was that his wife had caught him. I had poured out my life to this man! Then I found that his self-reports were all bogus. How could he have done this to me – me the great friend, the great counselor, the sacrificial servant?!

Thankfully, the Spirit didn’t leave me there, no matter how much I wanted to persist in my self-righteous anger. Over the next few hours some other questions emerged. Why was I so concerned about me when my friend was in such dangerous bondage? Why didn’t I first think about the effects on his wife? Why wasn’t I grateful that the Spirit brought light into the darkness? Was I actually angry that other people might find out that I had been the gullible fool? Why was my initial reaction all about me? 

After personal repentance and regaining my spiritual equilibrium my mind went to the nature of lies, and I have been musing about them ever since. Lies are the close companion of all sexual sin. If there is sexual sin there will be lies. It is a basic spiritual principle. No exceptions. Therefore, if we want to be helpful to someone who struggles with sexual sin we should get up to speed on what God says about lies.

There are only two languages in the cosmos: truth or falsehood. The Kingdom of Heaven proclaims the Truth – Jesus Christ – with the truth. The Kingdom of Darkness speaks lies in honor and imitation of the Father of Lies. If I had remembered this I wouldn’t have been angry with my friend. I would have been afraid for him. His language revealed that he preferred, at least for a time, a kingdom in which the agenda was his death. My counter should have been to pray, wrap the truth in love and try to woo him back to the Kingdom of Christ. Lifeguards don’t get angry at someone who is drowning. Instead, they invest all their efforts into trying to save that person.

Among all the questions that could be asked of Scripture regarding lies, consider just one. How can we as pastors and counselors create a context where the truth can be spoken? That doesn’t mean that the truth always will be spoken, but how can we have relationships where we are alert to the dangers of lies and prize the truth. Here are a few ideas you might want to consider as you minister to those in sexual sin.

  • Raise the issue early. Ask your counselee if he is going to lie when confronted with some uncomfortable truth.
  • Speak personally about how falsehood will affect your relationship with him and how much honesty will be valued.
  • Reveal the course of lies. Once we cover up it becomes easier to tell lies and harder to tell the truth. Sin feeds sin and blinds us to the beauty of God’s path.
  • Remember that lies are easy and natural, especially when they have been practiced. Inveterate liars will lie even when the lie is worse than the truth.
  • Talk about the purposes of lies. They hide shame. They make us more pleasing in the sight of others. They can even make us think that we are OK as we believe the lies that we tell.
  • Talk about how the liar is aligning himself with the Kingdom of Darkness. Lies partner with darkness, hardness of heart, deceitful desires and lust. 
  • Watch your reactions. Make sure you don’t look shocked and disgusted when someone confides in you. Sometimes people lie because they get the clear message that the other person can’t handle the truth. 
  • Grow in the knowledge of God. Since Satan’s most prominent strategy is to raise questions about God’s goodness, be certain to keep the cross in view. 
  • Ask if there are things you can do to make it easier to speak the truth. We too are sinners so we need the prayer and ministry of others. 
  • Emphasize the victory involved when a person confesses sin without having to be caught. It is a reason to celebrate.

Dr. Ed Welch is a counselor, faculty member and Director of the School of Biblical Counseling at CCEF and Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Blame It On The Brain, When People Are Big and God is Small and numerous articles. Ed and his wife, Sheri, have two daughters.
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