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The Delusion and Destruction of Sexual Addiction

Sexual sin could be compared to insanity because the addict is living in his own fantasies more than real life. And because even though their lifestyle is destroying themselves and their family, they keep on sinning. Biblical counselor Jim Lewis offers some excellent thoughts about this subject. (From Podcast Episode #367 - Sexual Sin is the Epitome of Insanity).

Sexual sin could be compared to insanity because the addict is living in his own fantasies more than real life. And because even though their lifestyle is destroying themselves and their family, they keep on sinning. Biblical counselor Jim Lewis offers some excellent thoughts about this subject. (From podcast episode #367 - Sexual Sin is the Epitome of Insanity).

Here at Pure Life we are Biblical Counselors. That is to say, all of our counsel comes directly from the Word of God. We believe that sexual addiction is an intense emotional attachment to sin. Addiction is a sin problem, and only God has the solution for sin. We are not psychologists, and we don't want to be. The word psychology means the study of the soul. And we believe only the Creator of the soul can heal it.

So, we put men in the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit uses the Word to change a man's heart, renew his mind, and therefore change his behavior. It does little good to amend a man's behavior if his heart hasn't changed, because he'll always go back to what his heart worships, and his mind believes. But when God changes a heart and renews a mind, you end up with a new man.

I've laid this foundation because frankly, for the rest of my time I'm going to talk about psychology. One thing that all social scientists can do, and some do quite well, is to study human behavior and report out what they find about how men consistently behave. A scientist will analyze what he observes and record repetitions and patterns. This is the basis of all science. And not surprisingly, sex addicts all behave the same way. There's a discernible pattern to sin.

James writes in chapter one of his letter that a man is tempted according to his own desires, deceives himself, gives into the act of disobedience, and the result is always death. Every sex addict walks through this pattern every time. It is the self-deception that is critical to the process. He has to lie to himself and believe his own lies in order to give himself permission to disobey God and do what he knows to be wrong. Though he knows the consequences of his sinful behavior will only lead to guilt, separation from God, injury to God and others, he puts all of this out of his mind, and pursues the object of his desire because he wants the very temporary high that comes from his sin.

A rational person looking at this would quite simply conclude that such a thing is insanity. You know this brings death, you know it and yet you do it anyway. Patrick Carnes is a highly regarded clinical psychologist who has spent his career studying the behavior of sex addicts. He is the author of such books as Don't Call it Love and Out of The Shadows. And while we may not agree with psychological methods of treatment, we cannot fault this man's observations and analysis.

In his book Out of the Shadows, Carnes basically says that all addictions are the result of insane thinking. This is nowhere truer than among sex addicts. He writes that, "Addicts progressively go through stages in which they retreat from the reality of friends, family and work. Their secret lives become more real than their public lives." In other words, they lose touch with reality. He says, "Leading a fantasy double life is a distortion of reality. An essential part of sanity is being grounded in reality. So, in the sense that the addict distorts reality, the sexual addiction becomes a form of insanity."

He explains that all human behavior flows out of a man's belief system. That is the filter through which all of his information passes. We agree. He sees reality, makes decisions, and behaves according to what is true for him, what he believes. Again, we agree. The Bible is very clear on that. So, because the addicts very perception of reality is completely skewed, he acts according to his reprobate mind. To borrow the descriptor given by the apostle Paul. He completely ignores all the possible and even probable consequences of his behavior, believing that he is exempt or immune. And that such things as getting caught, bringing pain upon his spouse, losing his job, destroying his marriage, wrecking his life, incurring the judgement of God on his sin, will never happen to him.

But Paul writes, "Be not deceived, God will not be mocked. Whatever a man sows, that he also will reap" (Galatians 6:7). Sin has its wages and one day it will pay out. Most of the men who come to Pure Life end up here because their sin began to cost them dearly. They come, not just to rid themselves of their sin, but to save their marriages, their sanity and their very lives. Speaking still about the insanity of sexual addiction, Carnes offers a list of lies that a man must tell himself and believe in order to do what he does. His list includes these, and every one of them is untrue: If I don't have it every few days the pressure builds up; I'm oversexed and have to meet my needs; what she doesn't know won't hurt her; every guy would do this if he could; if only my wife would be more responsive; cybersex is just electrons, this isn't real; with the stress I'm under, I deserve it; it's my way of relaxing; this isn't hurting anyone. Carnes concludes that whatever rationalization the form the self-deception takes, it further cuts the addict off from the reality of his behavior.

We agree with these conclusions. That there is an insanity to sexual sin, because we see it every day. And not because Carnes says so, but because the delusion that comes with sin is clearly taught in the Bible. The Bible describes perfectly man's behavior when he pursues sin, and he acts the same way every time. He lies to himself, believes his own lies, justifies, blame shifts, separates from God and others, falls into guilt, remorse, despair. Then to make himself feel better, he believes his own lies and repeats the same cycle all over again.  It is no wonder that a social scientist can describe this typically human pattern of sin revealed by the word of God.

When the Psalmist David was repenting of his sexual sin, he cried out to God, "you desire truth in the inmost being" (Psalm 51:6). There is no better anecdote to the insanity of sexual sin then the consistent exposure to the truth, and an unwavering commitment to speak nothing but the truth. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in, and why we advocate strongly a Biblical approach to sexual sin. First, the word of God is the truth, and reading it and studying it fills our mind with the truth. The Holy Spirit comes alongside His Word and applies the truth to our hearts and renews our minds. He shows us the lies we've believed and replaces them with the truth about God and about ourselves.

A commitment to transparency and accountability means no more secrets and no more lies. We must believe the truth, speak the truth and live according to the truth. Insanity loses touch with reality. Sexual sin makes you insane. You live in a world of fantasy and order your life accordingly. You believe lies and tell lies. Sanity, being of sound mind, is living in reality. Believing, speaking and living the truth. Believing a lie binds you to that lie, but believing the truth sets you free.

Jim Lewis is a Biblical Counselor for Pure Life Ministries. He received a B.A. in Religion from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL and both the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Dr. Lewis served as a pastor for 30 years.

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