I’m supposed to be a good person.
That statement repeated in my head like a broken record – playing over and over and over.
It’s not a false statement. After all, Jesus tells us we “must be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). I think that’s partly why it was so difficult to get out of my head. Not to mention the unthinkable: I am a woman.
These facts created the perfect storm through which that statement sank its roots of shame into my heart.
It was a heart hardened by years of addiction to pornography and masturbation.
I Didn't Even Know What Porn Was
It wasn’t an intentional addiction – it’s hard for me to believe any addiction is intentional. I never wanted to look at porn. In fact, at the time it started, I didn’t even know what porn was. Yet, there I sat. A daughter of God who saw herself only as a porn addict who could never be loved if people actually knew who she was on the inside. A daughter of God enveloped in a shield of shame that could only be penetrated by the grace of forgiveness and mercy. A daughter of God who desired freedom with every fiber of her being, but who could not get out alone.
Shame kept me trapped for quite a while. It isolated me. It made me too afraid to tell my story and share my struggles, especially with other women. Porn was supposed to be a guy’s problem! Sure, girls could struggle with “emotional chastity,” but no one else looked at the things that I saw.
You see, growing up in a Catholic family as the oldest of 7 and attending Catholic school, I heard lots of things about how it’s important to feel sorry for your sins. I also heard the phrase, “Jesus loves you,” but for some reason, that one didn’t stick as well. Somewhere along the line, “sorrow for my sins” began to mean “I’m a terrible person who should just give up on the dream of being loved because I do awful things.”
The Seal of Shame Had Been Broken
The first time I caught a glimpse of freedom from both addiction and shame was my senior year of high school. I was on a retreat where we had a lengthy time of prayer with our small groups. Just before this retreat, I had the worst day of porn binging that I have ever experienced. I went to confession for the thousandth time and then found myself in this time of prayer, faced with a decision. Should I tell them? Telling a priest in confession was one thing, but telling my classmates was another story. To this day, I know that it was only grace that gave me the courage to share my struggle with those women.
After that day, I still fell more times than I would like to admit. But the difference was that the seal of shame had been broken. I allowed women – sisters– into my life to help me heal and to hold me accountable. Most importantly, these women to this day actively remind me of the truth that I so often forget: I am good and I am loved.
If you’ve never listened to Brene Brown, I highly suggest watching her TED talks. She makes an important distinction between guilt and shame. Guilt is the idea that what I have done is bad. Shame is the idea that who I am is bad.
You. are. good.
You Are Good and You Are Loved
Your actions cannot change this reality. You are a child of God and He has been loving you for every moment of your life. If He stopped loving you, you would cease to exist. He calls you by name and claims you as His own. He is the loving Father who runs to embrace the prodigal son.
No matter what you have done, what gender you are, what job you have or what you have seen, you are good and you are loved.
The Novena for Purity
Join Covenant Eyes and the Angelic Warfare Confraternity for nine days of focused prayer with the Novena for Purity, where you’ll ask God to strengthen you in various ways as you seek to live a life of purity.
Audience: Men and women
Resource Type: 9-Day email challenge