VICTORY IN WHOLENESS
By Allen Palmeri
Rod Handley, founder and president of Character That Counts, says that pornography is the number one battle for 90 percent of Christian males. With the Internet enticing so many men to sin, Handley does not doubt that figure. In fact, he wonders whether the other ten percent are lying.
Typical of what he hears out on the national speaking circuit is the story of a 52-year-old chairman of the deacons. Men like this community church leader are confessing their sexual sins to Handley one after another.
“Rod,” the man began, “for 35 years I’ve lived a lie. I got involved with pornography when I was a teenager, and three years ago I got involved with the Internet. Then my wife said she didn’t want to have sex with me anymore.”
With tears rolling down his cheeks, the man talked about how he had aggressively solicited prostitutes, then dabbled with homosexuality. Neither of those forms of sex satisfied.
“Rod,” the church leader said. “I’m so damn lonely. My whole life’s a lie! My whole life’s a lie!”
Handley noted that this type of “testimony” is becoming the norm for husbands who are snared by Internet porn.
“I’m with people like this man almost every single week,” he said. “Guys are just absolutely trapped in this stuff, and they don’t know what else to do. They’re shamed, embarrassed, frustrated and angry.”
Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., surveyed 1,351 of its men and learned that 55 percent had been involved with Internet porn, with 30 percent active during the last 30 days. Of men who attend church regularly, 51 percent intentionally view pornography at least one time a month, according to Promise Keepers.
Those statistics are conservative, Handley said. “With it so accessible, it’s very, very difficult to get away from it,” he said. “I’ve heard stories where people are in the midst of key stroking and the stuff will just pop right on their screen. It comes right through the filters and it’s there. And with all of the spam, one ill-advised click and you’re on a rabbit trail that you might not get out of until you unplug the computer.”
A Southern Baptist man in his 60s pulled Handley aside after a meeting, looked him squarely in the eye and said, “Rod, I am a dirty old man.” He had been molested as a child and had been into pornography for 50 years. Aging did not blunt his desire; the Internet only made it worse.
“He had multiple affairs as a believer, and 50 years of images will burn in his brain,” Handley said.
The Web is aptly named. Husbands with raging hormones often find themselves stuck in it. Handley calls them helpless. “It’s just so addictive—so consuming,” he said.
Handley counsels wives to be in tune with their husbands.
“Don’t be naïve,” he said. “Men are wired differently. A visual stimulation is all a guy needs to really crank up the temperature in his body. One of the healthiest things you can do is understand the battle that a man’s mind has and that a wife should stimulate her husband. You can actually use that as a positive in your marriage.”
When a wife decides not to have sex with her husband, he is being set up to fall, Handley said. One man in that situation told Handley, “Well, if I’m not getting it from her, I’ve got to get it somewhere.” In this type of situation, Handley believes the wife needs to take some responsbility as well. Naivity in understanding the sexual needs of her husband can contribute to his moral failure. Yet, husbands bear the bigger burden. Holiness and sexual purity can only occur when the husband is in a right relationship with God, self and others.
“When all three of those are in order, you can really make it, but somehow guys disconnect,” Handley said. “They either lie to themselves, lie to their friends or lie to God.”
Lying leads to helplessness. Honesty leads to victory.
“This is very difficult for a man to share with his wife, and yet the guys that I see having victory are admitting to their wives that it is an issue,” Handley said. “They’re surrounding themselves with men of God who want to be sexually pure, they’re committing their days to the Lord in quiet time, and they’re asking their wives to please support them, pray for them and encourage them. They’re not necessarily verbalizing to their spouses, ‘These are the women that I’m hot after,’ but they’re being open.”
Handley leads by example in this. His three-part plan of God, others and self is easy to articulate but challenging to execute.
“I’ve got to be on guard at all times,” he said. “This would be the area, the moral fall, where I could be trapped, so I’m aggressively and intentionally setting up safeguards and structures all around me.”
Integrity, or wholeness, is the key. Wholeness with God, wholeness with others and wholeness with self is essential, Handley said. The goal for a husband is to be whole, as in wholly in love with his wife.
“If God can actually be in charge of your sex life, then literally I think He can be in charge of everything,” Handley said. “We’re sexual beings. That’s who we are. God designed us for a specific reason. This is God’s idea. This is not bad. This is not ugly.
“If you can begin to understand that God wants you to be sexually pure in the context of a marriage, then you can also let God be in charge of every part of your life. That’s the road to deep joy and real sexual satisfaction—when you are living by God’s standard in this whole process.”
(Allen Palmeri is a staff writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. His articles, written from a biblical perspective, can be viewed online at www.mbcpathway.com.)