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7 Attitudes that Hinder Recovery from Sexual Sin

Last Updated: May 4, 2018

John Doyel
John Doyel

John Doyel dedicated himself to helping men recover from sexual sin and return to God. He led a recovery ministry at Vineyard Columbus called 180 Recover.

Why is recovery from sexual sin so incredible difficult? I believe millions of Christian men and women have realized that they have become hooked by this powerful sin and feel so defeated because it seems like no matter what they do they keep coming back for more. I know because I wrestled with it for 41 years.

One piece of the recovery puzzle is realizing what you are up against. We all have a “flesh” or “sin nature.” We all live in a fallen world that has made access to sexual materials immediate and limitless. We are at battle not with flesh and blood but with the principalities and powers of darkness.

7 Attitudes that Hinder Recovery from Sexual Sin

However, let’s dig a little deeper and reveal some spirits or attitudes that we have developed over time that only cause stumbling and make recovery more difficult.

1. The Spirit of “I Don’t Care”

This spirit springs to life at the most inopportune times. When we are stressed by other things and driven by busyness it whispers, “Hey, you deserve a break from all this. Acting out will make you feel good.” Your Prefrontal Cortex of your brain shuts down as the animal instinct of your Amygdala kicks in. Reason has left the room and you act on instinct.

2. The Spirit of Curiosity

This spirit tends to show up when we are bored. Online for no specific purpose or channel surfing late at night is the breeding ground for curiosity. What can I find? I’ve got news for you…you can find anything and everything you want but should not want to find. There is a master fisherman who will cast a lure near you hoping to catch your attention, but the lure will always have a hook hidden inside.

3. The Spirit of Denial

How long have you been in denial before realizing that you really have a problem and you need help to break free from sexual sin? I lied to myself for eight years believing I could stop and that I was not addicted. Also, while in recovery we may have a slip or a fall—and denial keeps us from taking a serious look at what led to the fall. Denial is always pulling us back into isolation and screams into our ears when we are trying to head into the light.

4. The Spirit of Self-Loathing

There is an image that I found online that sums this one up. It is a cartoon of a man pulling his head apart and there is a parrot inside where his brain should be. The parrot is saying, “You are sh*t.” We heap condemnation upon ourselves and wonder why we are feeling so horribly about ourselves. You probably have a library of condemnation tapes playing in the background.

5. The Spirit of Fear

Fears are the chains that keep us in isolation. We live in fear of someone discovering the truth about what we have done. We panic at the thought of our lives becoming a train wreck. The shame of our failures being revealed keeps us from telling the truth. If I had been a better man I would have admitted long ago that I had a serious problem and gotten help. My silence only took me deeper into my sin and caused even more pain.

6. The Spirit of Pride

Pride is thinking too highly of yourself. It is believing that you are more important than you are and more important than others. Its counterpart is false humility, which is a form of pride by appearing that you are less than you really are. Pride keeps us out of touch with reality. It tells us we are really good at this recovery stuff and we are not as bad as all those others. So, we really do not have to do the hard work of recovery.

7. The Spirit of Laziness

A spirit of laziness will take us to a place where we are fat, dumb, and unhappy. This creates more feelings of self-loathing and more urges to act out. As this takes place over the years, a little bit at a time, we find ourselves in horrible shape mentally, physically and spiritually.


  • Comments on: 7 Attitudes that Hinder Recovery from Sexual Sin
    1. Julie

      You were doing fine up until the fat shaming comment in #7.

      • Lisa Eldred

        I’ll apologize on the author’s behalf; I don’t think he intended it as a fat-shaming comment. Perhaps the better word to convey his meaning would have been “gluttonous,” which is less about the physical shape of your body and more about your mental state.

      • Julie

        I disagree. The author even repeated his sentiment by referring to “horrible shape mentally, PHYSICALLY, and spiritually” in his last line. The spouses of porn addicts beat ourselves up enough for our imperfections without encountering judgment or glossed over justifications for judgment on this site. Here, more than anywhere else, we should receive support and acceptance. To label fat as horrible is to perpetuate the societal concept of beauty to which our spouses have become addicted and which have filled our lives with rejection and destroyed self-worth.

      • Lisa Eldred

        Julie, if you’re speaking as the wife of a porn user, I strongly recommend you read this series of posts by Ella Hutchinson. In particular, lie #4 deals with the issue of physical appearance (spoiler alert: his porn has nothing to do with the spouse’s appearance). Many wives find comfort and assurance in that series.

        Regarding this particular post, it may be helpful to keep in mind that the burden here is on the barriers in a man’s life to his own recovery…which is to say, his own laziness may keep him from recovering. It has nothing to do with the wife’s weight, nor should it. And I also think that’s where gluttony may have been a better word choice than “fat.” This post offers helpful distinctives between the two stances; it emphasizes that there can be plenty of non-sinful reasons for obesity, and at the same time a person can be thin and still be a glutton. A man who has been a glutton for porn may switch to being a glutton for food; if he gets angered at his own physical decline, it may lead him to acting out via porn again. The author is warning against replacing one idol with another in a vicious cycle.

        On a personal note, as someone who is significantly overweight and has a bad tendency to turn to food instead of God in times of depression or stress, I’ve had to wrestle through some of the distinctions between my genetic propensity toward stoutness and my definite sinful attitudes about food. As a culture in general, we do need to be sensitive to the fact that physical weight and health are not by definition correlated, and we absolutely should not fat-shame people. We definitely don’t want to do that here at Covenant Eyes. After all, when it comes to issues of weight, we don’t know what’s going on in a person’s body or heart.

        I hope this clarifies the author’s statement. Thank you for the reminder that this is a sensitive topic; we’ll try to be mindful of this in the future.

      • Shane

        From the dictionary… Fat- plump, stout, overweight, large, chubby, portly, flabby, paunchy, potbellied, beer-bellied, meaty, of ample proportions, heavyset; obese, corpulent, fleshy, gross; informal plus-sized, big-boned, tubby, roly-poly, well-upholstered, beefy, porky, blubbery, chunky, pudgy.

        Since you don’t like the word “fat”… You pick one.

      • Shane

        Great response Lisa… Keep up the good work!

      • Shane

        After pastoring for many years and speaking literally thousands of times in a public venue… It never ceases to amaze me how someone can take a well-intentioned, thought provoking message or article, and completely ignore the meat and substance of it to quibble over ONE word. I have learned however, that most of the time when that word gets such attention… It’s because it hit home a little too hard.

      • Bruce Mathwig

        That is one side of the equation Lisa. You are a valuable person regardless of your shape and yes we can’t all conform to the impossible standard of models, actors or professional athletes all of whom are paid for staying in shape. However scripture tells us to take care of our bodies (temple), not just our spirit. The American diet is full of sugar and processed carbs and we all need exercise. I think we should all care about are level of physical activity and what quality of food we put in our bodies as one of the ways we honor God. It is a struggle, don’t I know, I should loose 15 to 20 pounds myself so, I have a ways to go. All of this is meant as encouragement not condemnation.

    2. So

      So why exactly is sex a sin? What makes sex this terrible thing that Puritanical America has made taboo and thus because of this, it has flourished? I never quite understood why. I work in a courtroom. I see innocent man after innocent man go to prison because the legal system in America is so corrupt. Then, when I go to prisons, I have see men rotting away in cages that people rescue dogs and cats from. I see men suffering for a lifetime because of smoking an herb or some other petty thing. Then, those very same men are plunged into poverty and contemplate suicide because they cannot get jobs after being released. Yet, we never talk about that as a sin.

      However, if I sleep with a woman I like and care about, I have committed a sin. If I look at an attractive woman on the computer, I have committed a sin. Heck, if I see a hooker and pay for sex, I have committed a sin even though no one is harmed. The hooker has not harmed anyone. I have not harmed anyone Yet, somehow we have sinned. Yet, the DA in a court case who forces a guilty plea is considered an upstanding child of God who is a pillar of justice.

      Sorry, but frankly, people do not know what real sins are.

      • Lisa Eldred

        I totally get where you’re coming from! It’s hard to take a several-thousand-year-old document and accept at face value that something is bad just because said document says it’s bad, or that something is correct because the book says it is. We certainly don’t practice the time-honored medical art of putting leeches on a sick person, for example.

        The funny thing about the Bible’s teachings about sexual sin, though, is that modern neuroscience and sociology actually support Biblical teaching. Regarding neuroscience, sex is a bonding act; a large number of chemicals trigger when you have intercourse or masturbate, bonding you to your mate (or mates). In a clinical sense, then, lifelong monogamy means that you will bond to and be increasingly attracted to your sole mate, strengthening the relationship between you. (Of course, in practice, other sins like selfishness may hinder that bonding.) Bonding to multiple partners, especially thousands via pornography, means that you will be turned on by variety. This has caused many men to report erectile dysfunction when trying to have sex with their partner. One person can never compete with variety. You can read more about the neuroscience of porn (and sex) in The Porn Circuit.

        Regarding sociology, increasing access to porn and multiple partners leads to delayed marriage and declining marriage rates…and stable marriages are themselves tied to economic health on a national level. You can learn a bit more about that here, here, and here. There are also distinct ties between porn and attitudes about rape, which you can read about in Your Brain on Porn.

        One last thought: you mention paid prostitution as harmless to both participants. I’d challenge that assumption. On occasion you’ll get enterprising sex workers who make their job a “high-class,” voluntary one, but the reality is that many, if not most, prostitutes are themselves victims of sexual violence. They are slaves to their pimps. And pornography fuels it. (You can read more about it in Stop the Demand.)

        That’s just a brief overview, but I hope it helps you understand why sex outside of marriage is sinful. Sex was designed by God for our good — but as with many created things, it works best when we follow the plans of the one who created it.

    3. Spencer Stevens

      I’m pretty sure, though I may be mistaken, that a Christian pastor would not purposefully intend to make a remark that would be offensive to someone. To be honest, if anyone is taking offense at a remark that wasn’t worded precisely right, then that, unfortunately, is their choice. This article sheds light on many different good points, and shares how we can more fully recover from the addictive power of sex, pornography, and masturbation. Furthermore, it can inspire people to change and come unto Christ.

      Another thing. Someone here asked what is so sinful about someone looking at pornography, hooking up with someone for sex, and so forth. This question has been posed as though the virtue of chastity is an individual virtue, that sexual purity only affects the one who lives it and nobody else. But is sexual purity really an individual virtue, a moral that only affects the one who abides by it? A hooker has no respect for their body, because they are selling it for pointless, empty sex. No expression of love or commitment can be found in such sexual exchanges, rather, an instant gratification of lust and an insatiable appetite for that which cannot satisfy. When someone hires a hooker to have sex, not only does it perpetuate that person’s lack of self-respect, but it can often be a medium for infidelity, which ruins marriages and families, and it also mocks the beauty and complexity of love and passion expressed during sex with true lovers. Furthermore, it degrades the image of women (when it’s a female), and continues the societal stereotype of bodily image for them, as if they didn’t have enough of that already.

      When a hooker is a man, it also continues the societal stereotype there- that the man who “gets some” should be proud of himself, that he can have sex wherever and whenever he pleases, and that physical prowess is more important than integrity, moral uprightness, and character. And what of the one-night stand? Is this not where the addict gets trapped, where deadly diseases (even sometimes in spite of protection) are spread, and where personal self-respect is completely annihilated? Is that not where the foundation of society, the family, is destroyed and mocked? People, we (including myself) will sometimes act as though chastity is just something that only affects the individual, but the truth is, it affects every single person we come into contact with. The way your soul is within will either influence people towards light or darkness. And for the person who is constantly involved in sexual addiction, and has no desire whatsoever to change, how much of a difference for the light can they make in this world? An unwillingness to change sexually deviant and sinful behavior doesn’t help the situation our world is in; it contributes to the “who gives a sh*t” attitude that an ever-increasing amount of people are embracing. We believe in living chastity as Christians because it is a community virtue, not an individual one. That’s my rant, done.

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