Step 4 – “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Lamentations 3:19-22: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.“
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed. I developed and lived in my sexual addiction for over 30 years, I fantasized about shameful things, but God has turned me around – because of God’s love I will not be consumed, in this life here on earth, by my lustful fantasies.
I really don’t like examining myself – I don’t want to think about my lack of character or the mistakes I have made, and especially the impact my mistakes have made on others. Fortunately in this step I was encouraged to examine not only my character faults, but also my character pluses! I have done my best to turn this step into a step of hope and healing – to not let my character faults drag me down.
In this 6 minutes I don’t have time to share all my faults or my many pluses, but while making this inventory I found that along with my “Big” character faults I also had –quote- little character faults. Such as:
1) I’m out hunting and I see a turkey – I’m legally hunting, but it’s not turkey season and I struggle with the desire to shoot at the turkey and sometimes I give in.
2) I’m generous with others, but sometimes only when it’s convenient for me, and sometimes I give grudgingly.
3) Something goes wrong on a project and in a fit of frustration the first words out of my mouth are swear words, but only if I’m alone – I want people to think well of me so I don’t swear in front of others. Another secret sin.
Luke 16:10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
The world says “it’s OK, nobody’s perfect – if you fudge a little here or there it’s no big deal”. Of course we know that God will forgive us, but He has higher hopes for us – He holds us to a higher standard. He knows that how we handle the little things actually determines how we handle the big things. So really, these little character faults can be just as important as the biggies.
While making my moral inventory the character fault that stands out the most for me is my sexual addiction and the several ways it manifested – the most disturbing and shameful of which is my sexual fantasies of teenage and preteen girls. We can talk about my parents divorce when I was 7 years old or the coping mechanisms that I set up in my teen years when I began to fantasize about the girls around me and masturbate on a daily basis. We can talk about my “arrested emotional development”. But the fact remains I chose to continue this behavior into adulthood. Consciously and subconsciously I kept these behaviors going for more than 30 years.
That’s my worst character fault; but one thing that I consider a character strength, is that I truly love children. The bond I was building with my step-daughter was so special. When I first met my wife, her daughter [name withheld] was just 6 years old. In the beginning I could tell that she liked me and enjoyed spending time with me, but at the same time she didn’t want to betray her dad that had passed away a couple of years earlier. Over time we started a relationship built on shared experiences. After I married her mom I remember the first time I disciplined her with a ‘time-out’ when my wife was out shopping – [name withheld] went ballistic – it was a combination of her not having enough boundaries in her life since her dad died and the fact that I – the new guy – would try to do this to her. She was screaming bloody murder. But later that evening while watching TV she came and sat on my lap and I knew that we had walked one more step towards building trust in our relationship together. At some level she realized I would discipline her but I would not hurt her.
How can these two things exist inside of me: this love of children which I consider to be a great character trait, and these sexual fantasies of young girls which is a sickening character fault? It’s such a contradiction! It’s like Paul says in Galatians 5:17
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
I don’t always know how to deal with this contradiction – do I isolate myself from young girls to protect them and me, or do I try to build healthy relationships with them? One boundary I’ve set with myself when visiting friends that have young daughters is that I greet the girls and treat them nicely but basically I don’t approach them, I let them approach me. I don’t shun them, but I don’t seek them out.
How can I handle the guilt and shame of my thought life? I can’t, if I dwell on it too much I feel worthless – I feel that no woman will ever be able to love me as a husband, no person will ever trust me to be a father. So I do my best to give it to God and let Him handle it. God accepts me and He’s overjoyed that I have come back to Him and He rejoices each day I walk in integrity. But too many times I try to take back the guilt and shame – I try to keep in mind how worthless I am – but that’s without God. I am only worthless without God. God loves me and accepts me as I am and has forgiven all my past and will guide me day by day as I seek to grow close to Him, as I seek healing, and as I seek to walk in integrity.
A few extras
I isolate myself which makes me feel lonely which then usually makes me feel either depressed or frustrated. I end up spending so much time alone feeling depressed and wasting time that I get frustrated that I’m not accomplishing the tasks that need to be done. But I’m depressed so I just don’t do them because I don’t feel like doing anything, then that gets me angry at myself which is my number one cause of frustration – myself – and my inability to perform tasks that I set for myself.
I seek approval from others because I want to be accepted. I’m afraid that if I try to do things my way I will be seen as pushy and selfish and people may not want to be around me. As a Christian I am supposed to be generous and giving and being selfish is a sin so I feel guilty asserting myself. This makes me feel like I’m not valuable, that my wants and desires are not important enough which lowers my self esteem and makes me want to isolate myself.
I need to be in control, I don’t trust others to do things the right way. It is easier to do the job myself than to teach or coach someone how to do it. This means that I always have too much to do and I feel overwhelmed. I see the entire project not the individual steps to complete it. If I can’t be in control then I just give in – I abdicate my responsibility and let them do it however they want. This makes me feel frustrated – either I procrastinate on the projects that I have not abdicated or I feel out of control on the projects that I have abdicated because I have not given the person enough guidance to do the job properly and it is my responsibility to see that the job is done properly. This lowers my self-esteem and makes me want to isolate myself.