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Posts tagged ‘life-controlling issues’

Why I Do What I Do

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” 

1 Peter 1:17 NIV. Suggested reading 1 Peter 1:17-23

When a family is struggling with the life-controlling issues of one or more members, it usually becomes dysfunctional. In other words, there are relationship problems in the family that keep it from being an emotionally healthy environment.

When we grow up in a dysfunctional family environment, we live with pain and chaos. We see destructive behaviors modeled before us, and we often carry these learned behaviors into our adult lives, recreating the type of environment we grew up in by repeating the mistakes of our elders. These behaviors handed down from generation to generation are what we call hand-me-downs.

Hand-me-downs are behavior patterns that have their roots in the family system and can help us understand why we behave as we do. A child growing up accepts the behaviors they observe every day at home as normal because they have no other reference. And then as adults, they tend to create the same type of family relationships they knew as children.

Are you weighed down with hand-me-downs that are having a negative effect on your life? Today’s scripture reading offers you hope.

First, God is fair (v. 17). Children raised by an abusive or neglectful father often have an incorrect view of God, picturing him as their earthly father. The good news is that our Heavenly Father is perfect and fair. No matter what your background, he loves you and wants you to be his child.

It is also important to recognize that God’s impartiality does not take away our personal responsibility. Although we are influenced by genetic inheritance and social surroundings, we still have a personal responsibility to God. To choose him. To make him Lord of our life.

Father, I thank you that I can count on you to be a loving and fair father. Help me not to use my past as an excuse for my behavior. I want to turn my life—and all the hand-me-downs—over to you. To receive your healing. And to serve you. In Jesus’ name…

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Homosexuality: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Change?

SOURCE:  Jeff Johnston/CitizenLink

[The Counseling Moment Editor’s Note:  This article was originally published on 13 June 2008.]

Freedom from Male Homosexuality

Over 30 years ago, Exodus International was formed as a coalition of Christian ministries proclaiming freedom for men and women struggling with homosexuality. Slowly Exodus grew and was joined by other groups that were formed to help people steward their sexuality and behavior according to God’s created intent, including Homosexuals Anonymous, Courage (Roman Catholic), NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), Evergreen (Mormon) and others. As individuals in these groups shared their personal stories of change, churches, denominations and other ministries – such as Focus on the Family – came alongside, and the news of “change” for those with same-sex attractions was broadcast more widely.

Both inside and outside these organizations, there was – and continues to be – much discussion about what “change” means. Does it mean that someone who has experienced same-sex attractions never has these feelings or temptations again? Does change just mean that a person only changes his or her behavior? Does change mean that a person shifts from same-sex attractions to opposite-sex attractions? Or are those who claim to have changed simply suppressing these feelings and living in self-denial? And how does one measure change?

This article attempts to articulate some answers to these important questions – both for those who struggle with same-sex attractions and for those who want to know more about the very real changes that God can bring into a person’s life. It will focus on the issue of male homosexuality – realizing that men and women are very different and that lesbianism differs from male homosexuality in significant ways, including how the change process often transpires. The insights I offer come from the combination of my own personal experience with change in the arena of same-sex attractions and over fifteen years of ministry experience helping others who seek to steward their sexuality in accordance with their ethical and moral values.

Male homosexuality is like any other sexual sin or temptation that a person may struggle with. Given that God works with us as individuals, there is no “formula” for the change process, nor is there typically instant freedom. Not surprisingly, each person’s path to liberty will be different.

Moreover, same-sex attractions do not change by direct action against them. In other words, they don’t go away just because a person “tries really hard” not to have them or “prays really hard” that they’ll go away. This is because same-sex attractions are almost invariably rooted in deeper issues – developing over time as a person grows up and including profound aspects of the person’s body, mind, spirit and heart. Thus, given that humans are complex beings – and human sexuality is especially complex – dealing with same-sex attraction is usually not a simple or easy undertaking.

The good news is that homosexual attractions and temptations do change, dissipate and even disappear for many men – as they cooperate with God in the process of becoming more like Jesus. However, there are a number of aspects to the process of change, and it will look different for everybody, with no guarantee that one’s homosexual attractions will completely transform into exclusive heterosexual attractions. This reality should not be surprising to Christians given that Scripture teaches that all believers will continue to experience struggles and temptations throughout the course of their lives – the ongoing battle between the sin nature described as the “old man” and the “new man” that we are in Christ.

Having said this, here are some areas where change has happened for many:

Change in behavior

For many men, this is of paramount concern. Some homosexual strugglers have struggled with fantasy, looking at pornography, masturbation and/or sexual activity with people of the same sex for years. Each time a person behaves in these ways, thoughts, feelings and actions are rehearsed in the body and in the brain. And these thoughts, feelings, and actions become more ingrained, more habitual. An individual might have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of these experiences. Changing behavior is never easy – and requires time, effort, motivation, support from friends and family, and the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit. It also takes replacing old habits with new ones. Recall that the Apostle Paul repeatedly calls us to “put off” the old and “put on” the new. While some pro-gay activists scoff at behavior change, men seeking to follow Christ know that these efforts – though difficult – can be real and significant. (1)

Change in motivation

It takes strong motivation to change. Many men are initially motivated to seek change from homosexuality by fear, shame or guilt.  Others are motivated by the desire for marriage and family, the desire to follow what the Bible says about God’s design for us, or the desire to follow the Church’s teaching. Some are motivated by dissatisfaction with their gay relationships and experiences. Others are motivated by love for truth or love for God. While conviction about sin is good, self-loathing and immobilizing shame are not. Shifting to positive, productive motivations is a big change for many men. The stronger the motivation and the deeper the commitment, the more likely that change will take place. God is powerful enough to change our sinful and self-centered desires, to give us the motivation to change, and to empower our wills to stay committed to Him.  Over time, and especially as we learn to receive God’s grace, many men notice a significant change in their motivations – from initial fear and shame to a love for God and desire to follow Him.  (2)

Change in identity

Many people believe that they were born gay – that being gay is the essence of who they are. This is what is known as the “essentialist” view of the origins of same-sex attractions. In contrast to this worldly view on sexuality, the Bible says that we humans are made male and female in the image of God – reflecting a heterosexual intent in our design – and that homosexual temptations do not define anyone. Thus informed by Scripture, the man who wants to change will start thinking about himself differently – as part of fallen humanity, as a sinner in need of a Savior, as a redeemed child of God, as a man.  He will ask God to change his self-image, from the world’s view to a biblical view. Homosexual strugglers are not a separate class or essence of humanity, and the man who seeks change will stop thinking of himself as essentially different from other men. He must embrace healthy, God-given and God-ordained sexual identity and masculinity.

Homosexuals Anonymous (HA) is a Christ-centered fourteen-step program that illustrates this shift in identity that must take place. It is different from many other “step” programs in that the struggler does not identify himself by his sin. Here’s how HA articulates change in identity in steps five and six: “We came to perceive that we had accepted a lie about ourselves, an illusion that had trapped us in a false identity. We learned to claim our true reality that as humankind, we are part of God’s heterosexual creation and that God calls us to rediscover that identity in Him through Jesus Christ, as our faith perceives Him.” (3)  Many men who come out of homosexuality do not think of themselves as “gay” or even “ex-gay” any more.  They are sons, fathers, friends, husbands – men.

Change in attitude

Men who struggle with homosexual behavior often feel victimized and rejected. This may have been true. But the gospel calls us to forgive and to release others from our judgment. The struggler often needs to feel the pain and hurt of wounds from the past, and then learn to give that pain and wounding to Jesus, who bore our grief and wounds on the cross. We either let Christ carry our grief and wounding, or we continue to carry them ourselves. Here, God also empowers us to live with a positive attitude:  not complaining, but giving thanks; not bitter, but loving; not angry, but forgiving; not grumbling, but praising. Cultivating these attitudes takes time, confession, prayer, effort, help from God, and help from others – including pastoral or professional counseling.  While this healing process can be very challenging to walk through, the end result can be joy, growth, and new life. (4)

Change in relationships with men and women

Anyone who struggles with same-sex attractions will have to examine his relationships. This kind of thoughtful moral inventory will often involve confession and the willingness to grow, mature and cultivate new actions. Here are a few of the relational sins – often connected with the homosexual struggle – where God will empower change:

Lust – desiring to use another man for one’s own pleasure and fulfillment;
Envy – wanting to own another’s masculinity, wanting to possess another person’s attributes;
Contempt – looking down on “straight” men or women, despising men who are unattractive, old, or effeminate, or fearing and hating women;
Control – wanting to control another’s behavior, affections, time, or thoughts; and,
Lying – not telling the truth about what one thinks or feels in order to maintain a relationship, not being honest about thoughts, feelings, behaviors or attitudes.

A man wrestling with homosexuality must also begin to develop healthy, non-sexual relationships with other men in the Body of Christ – learning to be a man amongst men. Specifically, learning to navigate uncomfortable or challenging situations in relationships is significant. And developing healthy relationships and good relational skills will often help same-sex attractions dissipate or lessen their impact and control over a person. God uses relationships in the Church to bring transformation, growth and healing.

Change in relationship with God

God longs to be in a deep relationship with each of us. But many of us view God as distant, angry, uninvolved or uncaring. We often don’t know how to connect with Him or how to hear the leading of His voice. Part of the Christian journey involves learning how to strip away the barriers to connecting with God. False beliefs about God must be identified and confessed, and we must be open to experiencing His love and grace. Men struggling with same-sex attractions often have deep hurts and wounds. Coming to God as a loving Father allows Him to begin to bring healing to those hurts and wounds – in His time and in His way.

Change in homosexual attractions

For many, same-sex attractions do change dramatically, and attractions for women develop. In his book, Desires in Conflict, Joe Dallas describes the reasonable expectations that many have experienced:

o change in behavior;
o change in frequency of homosexual attractions;
o change in intensity of homosexual attractions; and,
o change in perspective – homosexuality is no longer a life-consuming or dominating issue.

He goes on to write that many men also move into healthy other-sex relating.  (5)  Although not everyone experiences this type of change, it doesn’t mean that it can not happen or hasn’t happened for many. There are myriad testimonies of men who have moved out of homosexual behavior and into healthy God-honoring heterosexual relationships.  (6)

Many men – myself included – have struggled with same-sex attractions and, through relationship with Jesus Christ, have found release and freedom from these attractions.  Paul writes to the Corinthians to remind them that some of them used to be caught in homosexual behavior, but that they have been washed – cleansed and forgiven of past sins; sanctified – cooperating with God in the transformation process; and justified – no longer under condemnation for sin (I Cor. 6:9-11). And just as the men of Corinth found freedom from homosexuality, so, too, are many men today finding freedom and lasting change in their lives.

Living in line with God’s standards is not necessarily easy. But it is immensely fulfilling and brings great rewards. Frederica Matthewes-Green, author and commentator, reminds the church to intercede on behalf of those struggling with same-sex attractions. She writes:

Those who struggle with such passions need our prayers. For some, persistence and prayer will lead to reorientation, while for others, there will be the difficult lifelong discipline of celibacy. As tough as this sounds, it’s not impossible, and it’s not unusual. Christianity has always required celibacy of unmarried heterosexual believers, which all of us were at some point and many of us may be again. This isn’t something we demand of homosexuals without being willing to shoulder the burden ourselves. On the path of celibacy homosexuals will find a crowd of heterosexuals going back two thousand years:  never-married Christians, those widowed or divorced, those caring for seriously ill spouses. We know it’s tough, and we know where to find help:  sixteen hundred years ago St. John Chrysostom wrote, “Even if lust makes imperious demands, if you occupy its territory with the fear of God, you have stayed its frenzy.” (7)

[Jeff Johnston is a research analyst for CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family. ]

Endnotes:

(1) See, for example, Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, NavPress, 2002, and Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Baker Books, 1996.

(2) See Joe Dallas, Desires in Conflict, Harvest House, 2003.

(3) http://www.ha-fs.org/The_14_Steps

(4) See, for example, Leanne Payne, The Broken Image, Baker BookHouse, 1981, andRestoring the Christian Soul, Baker BookHouse, 1991.

(5) Ibid, chapter 2.

(6) See the Exodus web site, Real Stories – Men, http://exodus.to/content/blogcategory/20/149/ andhttp://www.stonewallrevisited.com/menus/pages.html for some encouraging examples.

(7) “Facing the Homosexual Void,” Touchstone, July/August, 1998,http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=11-04-029-f

Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible

The Counseling Moment EDITOR’S NOTE:  Given all that is taking place in society along with all the information available via the media, much confusion exists about whether one desiring to explore and/or seek change from unwanted same-sex/homosexual desires and behaviors can ever hope for change.  One position emphatically says, “No Way!”  Another position says change is possible.  A Christian position lays claim that nothing is impossible for God who wants those who have a faith-relationship with Him through Christ to progressively continue to be transformed by Him into the very likeness of Christ.  This transformation includes movement toward holiness in thought, emotional responses, behaviors, and relationships.  Furthermore, this transformation includes aspiring to a holy, blameless, righteous, and pure life that increasingly exhibits the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  God desperately wants what is best for us as He loves us each so much–so much that He sacrificed His own Son on our behalf.  Our becoming like Christ is the best that God can offer us.  There is nothing better or of greater value.

Even a casual reading of Scripture makes clear that as God enables us to move toward Christlikeness, He empowers us to move away from a host of things that He declares counter to His plan for us and destructive to us.

These things counter to His will for us, as called out in Scripture, include anything that would “gratify the desires of the flesh” such as:  any hint of sexual impurity, homosexuality, sexual immorality, adultery, extra-marital sex, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, bitterness, anger, brawling, slander, malice, greed, filthy language, unforgiveness, idleness, love of money, deceitfulness, pride, lack of self-control, loving pleasure over God, enslavement to passions, conceit.  

God loves us and chooses to be in a personal relationship with us knowing that we are challenged with these types of issues in our lives.  And, He loves us too much to allow us to continue to embrace these things.  Therefore, God wants us to depend on Him to help us move away from any and all of these types of hindrances to becoming more holy like Christ.  And, He promises that freedom from these things is possible in His way and His timing.

So, yes, change is possible whether it is change from homosexual orientation or change from any of the other issues of life that God highlights as detriments to our being made into the likeness of Christ.  God wants change to take place concerning ALL of these!  We are all involved in God’s change process concerning whatever things we find in us that are on His “list.”  He will work uniquely and lovingly within each one of us to accomplish change in His way, in His timing, to the extent He determines until He carries it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).

As a result, it should be no surprise that solid, credible, truthful research as summarized in the below article supports what God, the Author of all truth, says and desires about change.

Finally, as Christians, it is important that we do not respond to those dealing with homosexuality (or any other less than Godly life issue) with ignorance and fear.  Nor should we ignore or uphold any lifestyle or life issue which is counter to God’s desire and will.  Either extreme fails to convey the divine balance of grace and truth which is so pleasing to God.  Blessings……..

ARTICLE SOURCE: NARTH/Reviewed by Christopher H. Rosik, Ph.D.

(October, 2011)

Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible, Harm Unlikely, according to New Evidence of Long-Term Outcomes

The best-designed study of sexual-orientation change efforts (SOCE) to date, has just concluded in a follow-up report that some people can indeed move from homosexuality to heterosexuality, and that harm is unlikely to result from such efforts.

The original study was published in 2007 by Stanton Jones, Ph.D., of Wheaton College, and Mark Yarhouse, Ph.D., of Regent University, in their book, “Ex-Gays?”. The follow-up study has just appeared in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.

In the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapythe authors conclude:

Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process” (Jones & Yarhouse, 2011, p. 404).

Study methods

The authors followed 98 individuals (72 men and 26 women) who undertook SOCE through the assistance of a variety of  Christian ministries over a period of 6-7 years. The authors’ motivation for conducting this study was, in part, that the American Psychological Association had gone on the record indicating that change in sexual orientation was not possible, and that risks to those who engage in such efforts could be significant.

The authors note that the APA has moderated its viewpoint somewhat since then, fluctuating between statements that sexual-orientation change is “uncommon,” to the view that science “cannot yet” make conclusive statements about such change from the available literature.

The rigor of their own research standards, Jones and Yarhouse indicate, in fact meets many of the requirements that the APA itself has asserted are necessary in order to make reasonably definitive conclusions about the actuality of such change.

Participants in the Jones-Yarhouse study were first assessed at the beginning of their involvement in SOCE (from 1-3 years); again at 3 years, and again at the 6-7 year mark. Findings from the first two assessments were published earlier in the book, Ex-Gays? (2007).

Standardized and widely accepted measures of sexual orientation and psychological distress were administered at each assessment period. At the final time of assessment, attrition had reduced the available sample to 64%, which is not unusual for longitudinal studies.

Study findings

The results after 6-7 years of SOCE involvement, presented below, indicate that change does indeed occur, although not for
everyone.

  • Success: Conversion:  23% (n = 14) of the sample reported substantial reductions in homosexual attraction and subsequent conversion to heterosexual attractions and functioning.
  • Success: Chastity: 30% (n = 18) reported that homosexual attraction was still present, but only incidentally or in a way that did not seem to bring distress, allowing them to live contentedly without overt sexual activity.
  • Continuing: 16% (n = 10) reported modest decreases in homosexual attraction, but were not satisfied with their degree of change and remained committed to the change process.
  • Nonresponse: 7% (n = 4) reported no significant sexual orientation change; they had not given up on the change process, but some were confused or conflicted about which direction to turn next.
  • Failure: Confused: 5% (n = 3) reported no significant sexual orientation change, and had given up on the change process, but without yet embracing a gay identity.
  • Failure: Gay identity: 20% (n = 12) had given up on the change process and embraced a gay identity.

Jones and Yarhouse observed that from the point-of-view of the ministries involved in their study, 53% of the sample therefore had self-categorized as achieving “some version of success,” and 25% had self-categorized as failure.

As regards harm, the study participants on average did not report experiencing harm due to SOCE during the course of their pursuit of change.  In fact, two of the indicators of psychological distress actually improved significantly over the time of the study.

Discussion

Jones and Yarhouse conclude that “the findings of this study appear to contradict the commonly expressed view that sexual orientation is not changeable” (p. 425).  and that attempts to change are not likely to be harmful.

While the authors believe their research clearly contradict the pessimism regarding SOCE that has been promulgated by the APA, they do acknowledge that their study has limitations.

First, the average change in sexual orientation was modest, although they noted that this is likely to be an artifact of average change scores including some participants who made dramatic shifts away from homosexual orientation and fewer participants who reported dramatic shifts to a gay identity.  In other words, the dramatic changes toward heterosexual response clearly made by some participants may have been offset by changes toward homosexual response in others, so that the overall average change in sexual orientation for the sample appeared to be modest.

Second, participants who had begun the change process prior to the start of the study appeared to have disproportionately positive outcomes compared to participants inducted into the study early in their pursuit of change.  This may indicate that some weeding-out of individuals who were not successful in changing sexual orientation occurred in the time between the onset of pursuit of change and the initial collection of data.  Although there is no way to know this for sure, Jones and Yarhouse imply that it is probably wise to view their study’s success rate for the change process undertaken in Christian ministries as a somewhat optimistic figure.

A third limitation is the relatively small sample size, which makes any generalization of these findings to the population of individuals pursuing SOCE tentative.  That said, the size of the sample is not uncommon in the longitudinal research that has been widely accepted as representative of samples in other subject domains.  Finally, the authors note that, given the study design, it was not possible to determine which components of the participants’ change process were responsible for the outcomes reported.

Comment

No doubt this study will be dismissed by skeptics who for ideological reasons remain dogmatically unwilling to acknowledge the reality of sexual orientation change in some people. However, Jones and Yarhouse’s study of SOCE should go a long way toward putting to rest two extreme positions:  i.e., that change always occurs and is simply a choice, or that change never occurs and is generally harmful.

It is also worth remembering that this study did not examine SOCE’s  that occur in the context of psychotherapy.  The subjects in this study received their counseling in Christian ministries. It is certainly within the realm of plausibility that the inclusion of professional psychological care, over and above participants’ involvement in Christian ministries, would increase positive outcomes.

The hallmark of a scientific organization that is not beholden to socio-political interests is a heightened curiosity at unexpected findings, and a subsequent dedication to understanding how such findings came to be.  In the case of change in sexual orientation, which had been purported to be impossible, this implies a dedication to study those individuals who report change in order to identify the active ingredients of change and thereby maximize its potential among SOCE consumers.

Unfortunately, however, the major mental-health associations appear to be moving further away from a purely scientific approach and toward one apparently directed by activists, whereby the purpose of their science does not seem to be understanding those who report change, but rather debunking, dismissing, and ignoring them.  Thus while Jones and Yarhouse will win no accolades or awards from the APA, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that their research exemplifies the best in scientific curiosity and courage.

Reference

Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M.A. (2007). Ex-gays? A longitudinal study of religiously mediated change in sexual orientation. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M. A. (2011). A longitudinal study of attempted religiously mediated sexual orientation change.  Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 37, 404-427. DOI: 10.1080/009263X.2011.607052

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