No one ever wakes up and says, “I’m willing to resign my sexual life to perversion and degradation.” Most of us, however, find that the longer we remain in unwanted behavior, the more hijacked our experience with it becomes. When the ability to maintain authority over our sexual stories is compromised, the more despair we will experience.
Most often, our sexual lives are hijacked in three areas: futility is hijacked by resignation, lust is hijacked by perversion, and anger is hijacked by degradation. As we explore these three hijackers, we will journey into the deepest parts of the swamp from which you may believe there is no escape. What I trust that you will find is that you do not need to manufacture hope to get out of this quagmire but rather hope exists in the very dregs of your heartache. The honesty and courage that have carried you this far have prepared you for the hardest part of our journey together.
Three Hijackers of Our Souls is a three-part series excerpted from the book, Unwanted: How Our Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing by Jay Stringer. The content of these articles is very important, but for mature readers only.
Resignation, the Hijacker of Futility
As a woman, I feel as though I resist forms of violence all day. With porn, I just resign to it. – Victoria
My wife doesn’t like sex, so yeah, I am going to mess up occasionally. – Aaron
Each of these statements reveals a soul hijacked by resignation. The word resign is taken from the Latin resignare, meaning to unseal or cancel.[i] When we resign to unwanted sexual behavior, we are canceling or unsealing our commitments to being men and women of integrity. When futility goes unaddressed, it will eventually taunt us with the message that nothing can be done to change our situations. When we attempt to change, we may even hear ourselves say, There is too much sexual brokenness behind me to overcome. I am unwanted and beyond repair. Rather than transform this toxic message, we find it easier to collude with it.
Our lives are hijacked each time we choose indifference with the things that matter.
Your first experiences with resignation may not be overtly sexual. Instead, they come in the form of a third drink, binge watching your favorite shows, and gradually falling behind at work. These experiences are often the gateway drugs that either lower our defenses or increase our frustration. Unaddressed, they propel us into unwanted sexual behavior. Within a study of 932 people struggling with compulsive sexual behavior, 42% reported chemical dependency, and 38% reported an eating disorder.[ii] Resignation is like compounding interest on a loan: it starts small and swells with time.
Explicit pornography is the tip of the iceberg for our collective lust for content that allows us to escape our lives and deadens our desire. Debra Hirsch, author of Redeeming Sex, writes,
No one would blink an eye at a woman bringing a Women’s Day into church, yet there would be an uproar if a man arrived with a Playboy under his arm! Aren’t both types of magazines pornographic? I put women’s magazines into the category of “social porn,” because they can be just as damaging for women as “soft porn” can be for men. Think of all the faulty notions of beauty it breeds, the covetousness it generates, not to mention the gossip that ensues. . . . Porn is porn, no matter what form it comes in.[iii]
Hirsch is helping us acknowledge that in the heart of every man and woman is a desire for a version of pornography. Think about the spectrum of pornography as the difference between smoke and carbon monoxide. We’ve been trained to set up smoke alarms in our hearts for unwanted sexual behavior. This alerts us to the most obvious forms of danger: the smoke of explicit pornography or the first date of an affair. “Social porn” and other forms of thoughtless content are the carbon dioxide. It may seem odorless and colorless, but it leads to the same poisoning of passion and purpose.
The goal of the evil one within resignation is propagation. Evil is never content with futility in one sphere of life; it wants to invade into all of them, particularly the places that hold the greatest potential for beauty. I do not believe that the kingdom of darkness cares terribly much whether futility starts with our sexual behavior or our careers or our families. It knows that when we resign in one area, our defenses in all other areas will follow suit. When the pattern of resignation is established, we find ourselves conceding to sexual stories we never would have wanted. The advancement is brutal and yet so simple.
Abby, a graphic designer, entered therapy because of a lifelong battle with pornography. “What I’ve come to realize about my life is that anytime I try to resist sexual temptation, it only comes back stronger. I eventually just got tired of fighting it and resigned to the fact that it’s less maddening to give in. I used to hook up with men because it felt exciting. Now I seek out men when I’m feeling terrible about who I am.” People like Abby often resign to sexually acting out not because they love sex but because they are bound to the judgment of self-contempt. In describing why they pursue sex or pornography, they use such words as crazy, nymph, and mentally ill.
Strip responsibility and reciprocity from sex and you have pornography.
For this reason, many men like Daryl resign to the belief that pornography is one of the best dimensions of their life. “Porn is the ultimate VIP experience!” Pornography is appealing because all that is required is to show up feeling defeated, angry, lustful, or entitled and be promptly served any erotic content you desire. In pornography, there is no one you must encounter in your ongoing struggle with premature ejaculation, no pain in not being chosen by a partner, no one who will ask for emotional engagement, and no one who will hold you to account for having endured the distorted desires of your heart.
Men and women often wait until crises before they confront their resignation to unwanted sexual behavior. When I meet these clients, they often shed tears as they name the insidious role of resignation. For some, the breaking point was their entrance into hard-core or child pornography. For others, it was their choice to solicit prostitution, and for others, it was the choice to begin an affair. These are heartbreaking yet remarkable sessions to witness. Their grief is the fire that thaws the frozen sea within.
Those who struggle the most to transform their sexual lives, however, are not those who have fallen the hardest; it is those who have learned how to resign to small doses of unwanted sexual behavior over a lifetime. They have resigned not to sexual extremity but to the occasional sexual struggle. Most often, they curate sexual struggles that likely will not cost them relationships or careers. The point is not to explode their lives but to slowly deaden their hearts’ ability to believe that meaningful change could ever come. If you want to know why you’ve resigned to unwanted sexual behavior, find out what life events convinced you that hope is pointless.
Resignation derails you from the necessary work of maturity. I do not believe the kingdom of darkness cares terribly much whether you drift off to pornography yearly, monthly, or nightly. It knows that once you’ve resigned to small doses of toxins in your heart, your potential to enjoy the fullness of life is compromised.
This is the first of three articles that reveal three hijackers of our souls as it relates to unwanted sexual behavior. The content is from the book, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing by Jay Stringer. Get the book or learn more about Jay’s work at jay-stringer.com.
[i] Concise Oxford English Dictionary: Luxury Edition, 12th ed. (2011), s.v. “resign.” (“From L. resignare ‘unseal, cancel’.”)
[ii] Patrick Carnes, Don’t Call It Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction (New York: Bantam, 1992), 35.
[iii] Debra Hirsch, Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations about Sexuality and Spirituality (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015), 77.