Why Language Matters



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About a week ago. I stumbled across an article written by a Christian author from another Christian organization attacking the issue of masturbation and whether it’s wrong or not.

I’m not going to go into all the details about that piece, but let’s just say that in my opinion, it was not helpful at all and extremely shame-inducing.

In fact, if you want to read more about my thoughts on that article and on the topic of masturbation, you can check this blog post on XXXchurch that we published this week: Shame, Shame, Shame on You.

Anyway, my biggest issue with this piece was not necessarily the conclusions (although they were pretty crazy in my opinion) but rather the language and the direction the author chose to go in communicating the severity of what he saw as a very problematic behavior.

He used words like predator, mental rape, porn director, and abuser.

Really shocking and extreme language that if you were reading his piece and struggled with masturbation, your natural reaction would be to find a corner of the room and crawl into the fetal position and completely shut down rather than reach out to someone for help.

The reason I bring this up is not to critique this article (again), but rather to use this opportunity to communicate to you the importance of language when it comes to our recovery journey and some of the unhealthy behaviors we’re trying to escape.


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Understand almost everyone I’ve ever met who struggled with porn, masturbation, infidelity, and the like… and wanted help, also struggled with a tremendous amount of shame.

These individuals had a very hard time getting past how terrible their behaviors were and consequently how “terrible” they also must have been.

And when someone is steeped in shame and self-loathing trying to work their way to freedom through honest conversations and other methods it becomes twice as difficult because the shame chokes them out and suffocates their hope.

When we use words like evil, perverted, twisted, predator, abuser, we also communicate a high level condemnation and shame.

However, when we choose to use words like healthy versus unhealthy, or broken and hurt versus whole and complete, we still communicate the seriousness of our poor choices, but without the high degree of shame attached to those terms.

Understand that what I’m talking about here is not trying to minimize or sugarcoat the issues that we deal with.

However, as I said, we can still choose terms when talking about our own behavior and choices that reinforce the serious nature of them without leading us to a hopeless and helpless state of mind.

Yes, I understand that we are all “sinful” beings who need Jesus, but I also don’t think we need to continually use terms that reinforce how disgusting and evil we are versus using terms that just accurately reflect our broken or hurt state.

See when we talk about porn and masturbation as twisted or perverted we kind of remove the hope of reconciliation.

Oh, that person is perverted, that person is twisted… You just can’t reason with their sick mind.

But when we intentionally use words like broken, hurt, or unhealthy we also communicate that there is an opportunity for “fixing,” for healing, for recovery.

My challenge to you is as you continue your journey of recovery and freedom, try to think in more positive terms.

Yes, acknowledge the severity of the situation.
Don’t sugar coat the problem.

But also make sure you talk about things in a way that elicits hope and grace and not condemnation and shame.

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