Sexual Integrity: Not a Moral Checklist



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Carl Thomas

Pastor | Live Free Founder | Lover of Jesus, Philly sports, fitness, tattoos, sarcasm, and craft beers.

One thing you will learn when it comes to discussions surrounding porn, masturbation, and other unwanted sexual behaviors, is that the term “sexual integrity” comes up often.

But what exactly is sexual integrity?

Is it a simple moral checklist we should follow, or is it something greater?

In my book, “When Shame Gets Real,” I explore the idea that sexual integrity encompasses more than just our actions—it involves our intentions, motives, consistency, and mental well-being. In other words, sexual integrity goes far beyond the notion of morality.

Simply put, sexual integrity is about being whole and undivided. 

It recognizes that our sexual decisions are influenced by more than just moral considerations. Frequently, they emerge as a result of our capacity, or lack thereof, to harmonize our principles with our decisions in critical moments of conviction or crisis.

When we have integrity, our actions follow our beliefs because we can harmonize both.

But when we lack integrity we struggle not because of some moral shortcoming, but because of an emotional shortcoming.

Imagine your brain as a collection of parts that should ideally work together seamlessly. However, due to various life experiences, such as past pain, trauma, or neglect, those parts can become divided. This division can create a conflict within our own minds when faced with emotional challenges.


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Consequently, when we face emotionally “dangerous” circumstances, our primitive brain may resort to taking control to shield us, leading to a conflict with the part of our brain responsible for synthesizing our emotions and values. This battle within often leads to feelings of being out of control and making choices that contradict our stated goals and values.

Understand that when we embrace a wholistic approach to sexual integrity like this, we gain several benefits.

Firstly, we offer ourselves more grace, understanding that mental health requires time, effort, and professional support to address effectively. It’s not a simple switch we can flip. 

Secondly, we can make sense of our confusion and seemingly contradictory choices. It’s not just about moral fiber; it’s about integrating our fragmented selves and healing our divided minds. 

Thirdly, we can seek genuine help and emotional healing, focusing on the root causes rather than solely relying on moral willpower. 

Lastly, we can commit to strengthening our integrity, recognizing that integration is an ongoing journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to grow.

The truth is sexual integrity is not a black-and-white concept. It requires us to explore the complexities of our experiences, emotions, and values. It challenges us to confront our insecurities, past traumas, and societal influences. It calls us to be honest with ourselves and seek healing and growth in every aspect of our lives. 

And while discussing sexual integrity in this manner may be unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, it doesn’t minimize or excuse our behaviors and choices. Instead, it helps us understand the complexity of our struggles and empowers us to pursue resolution, freedom, and improved emotional health.

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Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books. 

Brown, B. (2019). Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Random House.


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