Pornography Is Not Your Problem. Pride Is.
People who are sincerely seeking freedom from sexual sin usually have a vague idea that there is something under the surface that needs to be dealt with--a kind of root sin that lies underneath all of their other sin. And they are right. But they are usually very surprised when they find out what it is. Pastor Steve Gallagher talks about the subject of pride and how this relates to a man’s struggle with sexual sin.
Pastor Steve, in your book At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry, you point out that two of the root issues behind sexual sin are selfishness and pride. How are selfishness and pride related to each other?
Let me start by talking about selfishness for a minute. We all basically know instinctively what a selfish person is like. It's someone who's just all about himself and focused on what he wants, without regard to how it may affect other people. That would be a selfish person. But I want to dig a little bit deeper. I got to thinking about, "OK, how did that word come about—the word 'selfish?'" And I started thinking about some other words with the suffix "-ish" on the end, like "amateurish." We understand that when someone is acting amateurish, it means that they're acting like an amateur—acting foolishly. We understand that it means that they are acting like a fool would act. So then, thinking of it like that, what does selfish mean? It means someone who is wrapped up in his own self-life.
Now, how does pride tie in with the self-life? I've done some real thinking on this, and I'm not sure how perfectly right I am, but I've really tried to think on the subject on a deep level. And the best way I could think of to correlate pride with selfishness (or the self-life) is to think of it like this: pride is the perspective of the self. So you have the self-life, which is just another way of describing the carnal nature—our fallen nature, who we are as a person. It's understood in Scripture that who we are as a person is tied up with our fallen nature. So that fallen man—our lower nature, as some would call it—his perspective on life, the way he looks at other people, and the way he looks at God are all coming from the perspective of "What's in it for me?" And so his first primary concern is to protect himself and to exalt himself. So that's the best way I can think of to correlate pride with the self-life.
Now, can you show us how selfishness and pride connect to the problem of habitual sexual sin?
Well, I can get it down to a bare-bones, simple formula: the more self, the stronger the self-life, the more that sexual sin or sexual addiction can thrive. That's because the stronger the self-life is, the more the person is wrapped up in what he wants and the stronger that drive becomes. But as a contrast, think of a totally selfless person—like maybe some saint of old. They are constantly going through life giving themselves away. There is no way that habitual sin is going to find a home in a person like that, because they aren't totally wrapped up in self. They are thinking about other people.
Does the Residential Program completely destroy this life of pride—the "self-life" that you're talking about?
Well, I don't know, but I can tell you that I've been in this fifty years, and my self-life hasn't been totally destroyed! But the Lord has certainly put a good-sized dent in it. And you know, for a guy coming into the Residential Program, he's been living for himself for years. That is just the way it is. I'm not trying to run him down; it's just the reality that if he's been addicted to sex, then he's been living for self. And everyone around him has had to suffer for it.
So what we try to do is get the sexual addict focused in a completely different way. We get him focused on the Lord; we show him what a joyful life it is—those of us on staff who have been have broken out of that rut and the joy that we have as believers. We want the guy in the Residential Program to get a sight of that and to have something rise up in his heart that says, "I want that kind of life—the joy-filled life where I don't need to go running after every kind of sexual desire!" If he can get to that place, he will fight to have that kind of life. And of course, the Lord wants to dismantle our self-life. But we have to cooperate with Him; it doesn't just happen automatically. It's two of us in that yoke, and the Lord is doing the primary work, but we have to be going along with him.
In your books, you reveal that there are seven different types of pride that can coexist inside a man: unapproachable pride, self-exalting pride, and others. How did you make this discovery?
That happened in 1990, right when I had first begun the Residential Program. I was trying to think on a deeper level—but from a spiritual perspective—and answer the question, "What is pride?" So I started breaking it down, looking at my own life and at how people affect me and at my reactions. I just kind of came up with those seven things, which are in my book At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry. Since that time, I've been able to look at it on a deeper level, and that comes out in my new book, i: the root of sin exposed, where I was really able to repackage it and look at it in a much deeper way.
In one part of i: the root of sin exposed, you dramatically retell the story of how pride started at Satan’s fall. How does that story relate to someone in sexual sin?
There are things expressed in Scripture about what happened to Lucifer—like in Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28 and other places. So you start putting the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle, and you have this somewhat fractured picture, and then you start tying it all together. As best I could, I told the story about what happened to Satan, or Lucifer, in my book—how he fell and how he took others with him.
That was how pride all began. Human beings are moral beings, just like angels are. The difference is that the angels had a set probationary period. Those who went along with Satan fell and became demons and those whose withstood his temptations and stayed faithful to the Lord remained as angels. That came and went. And then, all these thousands of years since, they've played out their roles. But with humans, it's different, because our entire existence on earth is a probationary period.
So for a guy who has gotten involved in sexual sin, basically what he has done is to pattern his choices and his lifestyle after the thinking of demons. He has dug himself into a deep spiritual pit, and now he must walk himself out of that pit by changing the way that he does life—changing his behavior. And over time, little by little, he's coming out of that pit, coming into the bright life that the Lord has planned for him.
What is the way out? What is the opposite of following the enemy of our souls? It's following the Lord. It's doing all that we possibly can to fight for a life in God. And as we do that, it opens the way for the Holy Spirit to work that wonderful process of sanctification in our inner man. Little by little, we change and we become more godly—I almost want to say "God-ish." We are going to become more full of the Spirit of the Lord rather than full of pride.
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