“A problem cannot be resolved until it has been faced.” –Dr. Dan Allender
Is it possible that everyone, male and female, young and old, has been sexually abused? Would this help explain the prevalence of sexual shame for men?
Sexual abuse can be defined as any behavior, attitude, or response that hinders normal sexual development. Our minds tend to go to the inappropriate and overt sexual behaviors from someone in a position of power. However, more subtle forms can also include neglect and a failure to provide the good. This is seen when sexuality is so taboo no one talks about it, whether in the family or the church, allowing sex to become a dirty and guilt-ridden experience.
Less acknowledged is the abuse that comes indirectly from culture. For example, the media bombards us with many unsolicited images and sexual scenarios that greatly shape, and often distort, our sexual development.
The point here is not to suggest that all forms of abuse are equally traumatic, but to show we all have some level of wounding.
As Dr. Allender has put it, in our culture “no one escapes sexual shame.” The shame may be due to our own choices and sins or from the harm caused by others. Either way, there is a wound we must acknowledge and seek to have healed.
Healing is the process of making or becoming whole, which is different than forgiveness. How beautiful it is that Christ came not only to forgive sins but to also heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18).
It seems many men seek forgiveness but continue to live with sexual brokenness. While they may no longer be blatantly sinning, distortions and feelings of worthlessness often remain.
(See part one on how shame can lead to acting out.)
This can be seen, for instance, in the number of men who feel inadequate regarding the size of their penis or sexual performance. Advertisements promising men a surefire way to increase size and improve performance seek to exploit this shame, and their prevalence reveal just how deep and widespread this shame runs. It’s not just one or two men who feel inadequate sexually.
Feelings of worthlessness can cause many problems within the marriage bed as well. Sure, it’s great when porn or affairs are not an issue. But don’t let the absence of these external sins blind you to the deeper heart issues that still need healing.
How has your sexuality been hindered from developing into God’s best? In what ways has this been due to your own sins? How have the behaviors, attitudes, and responses of others harmed you sexually?
Bring these issues into the light with another, maybe first with a trusted friend or counselor. Don’t let these issues fester in the dark and cause even more harm.
Sexual healing is the process of becoming whole and fully embracing the truth, the goodness, and the beauty of our sexuality. Courageously pursue wholeness and live passionately.
Check out Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart for more on hope and healing from sexual abuse.