By Creston Mapes
COLD HARD FACTS: Thousands of men — Christian men — struggle with lust and dark temptations that urge them to view pornography. Daily, they fight other intense battles against foes such as pride and selfishness. Some have hair trigger tempers. Many are workaholics. Others worship money. Take your pick.
ADDITIONAL FACTS: Christian men often look in the mirror of God’s word — the Bible — see their shortcomings, walk away and forget what they look like in God’s eyes. Some become calloused to their sin, living double-lives as they deceive themselves and those around them.
MOST IMPORTANT FACTS OF ALL: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1: 8). “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5: 16).
“For the first time in their lives, people are having breakthroughs,” says Handley, an ordained minister and former chaplain for the Seattle Supersonics. “They are experiencing growth in their spiritual walks, they are beginning to have clear consciences, and they are benefiting from a solid support system.”
That system includes two to five people who have agreed to hold each other accountable for their actions, thoughts, and lifestyles — and to keep it all confidential. “If you’re not going to be honest, don’t waste your time,” says Handley. “Honesty is at the core, and a willingness to be vulnerable and transparent.”
One of many questions posted on Handley’s Web site, which he encourages men to ask each other, reads: “Have you had any flirtatious or lustful attitudes, tempting thoughts, or exposed yourself to any explicit materials which would not glorify God?” Other questions probe areas such as finances, family life, health, character, and spiritual walk.
When Handley was first approached about joining an accountability group, he was fighting his own seasonal bouts with pornography. “I had convinced myself that I had issues nobody else could relate to,” he says. “Our enemy has us snookered into believing we’re the only one struggling, that people will run from us if we share, that we should fight the battle alone. As long as the enemy can keep us disconnected from one another, he’s got us.”
Handley insists Satan wants men isolated, pursuing self-centered dreams, feeding their egos, and keeping up macho fronts. “Men say, ‘I’m just going to tough it out on my own.’ They have a fear of revealing their secrets. I’ve heard men say they enjoy wallowing in a lustful state. They don’t want to give it up. All of these things paralyze a man.
“Many men have a tremendous unspoken fear: ‘Will today be the day people find out who I really am?’ These men are looking for an outlet. They’ve got golf partners and co-workers, but they don’t have a real friend.”
Handley’s frustration with his own character and lack of accountability was the genesis for his ministry. He got tired of talking about news, weather, and sports. “It’s so easy, even in our churches, to walk by and say, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ The lack of depth is alarming.”
When he joined his first accountability group, incredible things happened. “I feared men’s reactions, but I got real with them,” he recalls. “I discovered they didn’t run from me, they actually ran towards me. They said, ‘We’re here for you, and guess what? We’re in the same boat you are.’ It revolutionized my life.”
After 14 years of working with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Handley launched Character That Counts in 2000. His first book, Character That Counts, and four additional books and study guides have sold more than 100,000 copies, while the ministry has touched some half a million lives. He speaks at about 100 banquets and retreats annually.
“Everywhere I go people say, ‘This is what I’ve been looking for!’” he says. “It absolutely humbles me every time I think about God using me and these materials to shape people for eternity.”
Print out free accountability questions, and order books and study guides at Handley’s Web site: www.characterthatcounts.org.
— Creston Mapes is a freelance writer
and may be reached at email@example.com