by Gene McConnell
What man doesn’t want to know that when he leaves this life he will have done things right and left an honorable legacy? In order to do this, we must realize it is necessary to live our lives in such a way that has positive and meaningful impact, which raises the question, “How do we accomplish this?”
In Matthew 22:36-40 it is communicated that the most important thing in life is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second in priority is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Both of these commandments are relational. Basically this means that the quality of our lives depends upon the quality of our relationships.
God intended to meet all of our needs through connection with Him. We all desire to have what healthy relationships provide, things like love, tenderness, security, companionship, acceptance, and more. God provides a way for us to experience these through connection with Him. We were created for relationship! One of the greatest lies out there is that men’s number one need is sex, yet that idea is not found anywhere in the Scriptures. The real need is for relational intimacy [in-to-me-see], not sexual.
What is intimacy? The way that word has been thrown around its meaning has become diluted. In 1 John 1:5-10, it is communicated that God is light and that there is no darkness in Him. It clearly communicates that if we are to walk with Him we are to walk in the light, to live our lives in the open with no secrets, no hiding, no lies, and no pretending. To be fully alive and healthy as men, we need to be in relationship with God and others; relationships where there is nothing hidden, where the light of truth has penetrated every shadow, secret, lie, and deception. This allows us to be fully known, accepted, and loved. There is no greater intimacy than that.
Our need for intimacy is often sabotaged by shame and driven by our fear of rejection. Shame is not just a feeling, it is a belief! It is a belief that we are too deeply flawed, broken, and damaged to be worthy of being fully known, loved, and accepted. Shame is believing that if people saw the real us, what we are really like deep inside, what our real struggles and fears are, then they would reject us. This belief is so strong that we live most of our lives with a mask; we hide the parts of our story that we think would not be accepted. This mask puts on an image of what we know others will accept, while the real man sits behind the mask longing for connection that will never be received as long as that mask is in place.
The cost to living life without our primary need being met is huge. For me, this unmet longing for intimacy ultimately set me up for my later struggle with pornography. When someone unclothes themselves they give the appearance of intimacy. This is the biggest reason why men struggle with pornography. They struggle because nudity gives the illusion of intimacy and speaks to the thirst we have for intimacy. However, sex is not intimacy! Someone can be totally unclothed in front of us with no barriers physically and we still know nothing about them personally and they know nothing of us. Because I believed that being real would equate relational suicide, I resorted to other means to fulfill this desire for relationship.
The hook that keeps men coming back to pornography, even at the risk of their marriage and relationships, is the message being communicated to them is one that tricks them into believing “we are desired and someone wants us,” and “the perfect woman in the glossy photo is welcoming us into her world.” This message speaks to the thirst, the longing we were created for, but are too afraid to risk. So we keep going back to this empty well, expecting a piece of paper or a photograph to provide the intimacy we long for.
I was a man who loved my wife and family but was enslaved to an addiction to pornography and sex. I was afraid to tell anyone that I was masturbating to images that others thought were disgusting and strange. I was afraid of rejection and believed that no one would love me. This fear kept me from getting help. I was an assistant pastor and youth pastor, married with three children and not one person knew, and inside I was dying. Dying for someone to love me for who I really was, wishing that I could tell someone, but the fear of exposure was too great.
I never thought this addiction would ultimately lead me to an attempted rape, but it did. Each time my addiction to porn and sex increased, it required more graphic images and more shameful behaviors to achieve the same high. Because of this, I found myself at the crossroad where porn and sex no longer satiated my desires—I needed a real person.
It has taken years for me to understand what it means to recover and be free from pornography. Change is a process with many steps involved. The first step to make real change is to “Come into the light.” This requires no hiding and no secrets. When we are in the light we experience true intimacy where we are fully known, loved, and accepted. This is a scary step because of the fear of losing everything and everyone in our lives is so great, but the truth is that we are already risking losing our families and relationships when we choose to live two separate lives. Don’t wait, like I did, for that to happen, instead, start walking in light and truth and allow others to know the man behind your mask.
In the upcoming conference, Unleashed IV, I will go deeper into my personal story and share what life was like hiding behind my mask and how I faced the problem and arrived where I am at today: free of pornography and enjoying deep, meaningful, and authentic relationships with God and others.
This Saturday (November 13) join me, Dr. Melinda Reinicke, and Aaron Reinicke, MFT, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (PST) at The Rock Church in San Diego, California. Registration begins at 7:15 a.m.
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Gene McConnell is a popular speaker and author. His signature message, The Power of Porn™, is about the sexualization of our culture and the impact it has upon individual lives, relationships, and communities. Gene was awarded Los Angeles County’s Citizen of the Year. Gene is in the leadership team at the renowned South Central Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska, fulfilling a vital role designing and delivering life-changing services for disenfranchised and under-served populations of native Alaskans.