The Shame Hurdle




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Carl Thomas

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

It was about 15 years ago when I first opened up to somebody about my lifelong struggle with porn.

It was my cousin who was a missionary at the time.

I have to be honest, when I asked him to meet for coffee, knowing what I was going to share with him, I was kinda scared. There were moments when I was tempted to just scrap the whole idea and keep my secret, well… a secret.

But for some reason, I couldn’t shake this idea that I knew I had to get this part of my life out into the light. And so I met my cousin. I shared with him my “dirty laundry” and he listened to me. To my surprise, he didn’t get all weird or judgmental but instead showed me a lot of grace and understanding. In fact, he gave me some good advice.

It was at that moment that I realized that I could talk to others about my struggles and didn’t have to feel so alone.

And so that conversation led to me seeking out additional accountability relationships with other men. Each time I reached out to someone it was always a little awkward and uncertain.

But it got easier each and every time, helping me realize more and more the power of sharing and transparency. I started to understand that the less shame I let surround my issues, the greater the opportunity I allowed for true life transformation to occur.

Fast-forward about 10 years, when I finally found myself in a place where I could honestly say I was experiencing real freedom from porn in my life.

I started leading a local porn and sex addiction support group at my house. A local reporter caught wind of what I was doing and reached out to me. He said he wanted to interview me about the group and why this issue was so important to me.

Honestly, the idea of potentially being in the paper, openly talking about my own porn addiction, how this was my issue and the reason that I was so passionate about it was scary.

To complicate matters, my wife wasn’t even to sure about the whole thing because she was still kind of dealing with her own issues of shame, being married to a man that was a lifelong sex addict.

But still, I knew I had to do it. So I agreed to meet and did the interview.


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I still remember the day the article came out in the paper. It was a Sunday morning and that morning while in church the realization hit me…

“Man, now it’s out there. There’s no turning back. Everybody knows. Everybody who reads this paper knows your secret. Your family, your friends, your coworkers, the bagger at the grocery store. There’s no turning back on this one. There’s no running from it. There’s no hiding from it.”

And so I just had no option but to embrace it.

And you what happened?

Once other men knew that I was willing to share my story of pain, my story of brokenness in this area, they sought me out for advice and help because they knew that I had to be a safe place for them.

I quickly became the one guy in our church that everybody knew they could approach about their struggles with porn.

Because I “got it.”
Because I was willing to talk about my struggles without shame.

And that’s the power of testimony. That’s the power of our witness.

It’s funny. The Bible talks a lot about our witness and testimony.

And if you grew up like me in a real religious household, the words “testimony” and “witness” generally got associated with one’s behavior.

And admittedly, that’s one side of it. But thinking back through my life, what always moved me the most, wasn’t the “witness” or “testimony” of the guy who always said and did the right things, who never went to the wrong places or hung out with the wrong people.

No, it was a guy who had some dirt on his shoulder. It was the person with some rust on their armor. The man who had a really rough background but was able to share how God had brought him through those things and redeemed his story.

That was the stuff that inspired me.
That’s what inspires other people.
That’s the power of your testimony.

That’s the power and value in being able to talk about our struggles and the victory we’ve experienced over them through Jesus.

It’s not something to run from.
It’s not something to hide from. 

In fact, it’s something that I believe we got to do. 

Not just because we are called to serve others, but because I believe when we can talk about this stuff openly, and honestly we clear that final hurdle of shame that we need to get past to experience TRUE freedom. 

And when we are able to share our story? 

We uniquely position ourselves to be a source of encouragement for others who can gain wisdom and knowledge from what we’ve learned through our pain and our journey.

By the way, if you are a man, woman, teen, or church leader who struggles with talking about these topics or sharing your story and struggles, this September we invite you to join us for a candid and fresh conversation on matters many avoid out of discomfort. Shameless is an interactive online experience that will challenge and inspire you, leaving you better prepared to handle these sensitive discussions with your friends, churches, spouses, and kids.

For more information about this event or to register yourself and/or your group visit www.shamelessevent.com.

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