Surrender: Giving Up and Giving To

When we are challenged by compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors, sooner or later our unhappiness and dis-ease will grow. 

We will struggle with guilt, shame, and maybe even fear. 

Our guilt comes from having thoughts, looking at images or engaging in behaviors that we don’t feel good about. We have good and appropriate boundaries, yet we keep violating them.

Our shame from those same thoughts, feelings and behaviors makes us feel badly about ourselves. We try to stop but keep going back. Is there something wrong with us? What would others think of us if they knew? 

Our guilt tells us we’ve done something wrong. We feel badly about that. Our shame tells us there’s something wrong with us. We feel badly about who we are. 

And then there is fear. Once we’ve become compulsive, the craving for sexual stimulation and satisfaction takes on an energy of it’s own. And that drive takes us to places (thoughts, fantasies, images and actions) that are increasingly extreme. We need a bigger hit, more excitement, another score. We cross lines we never imagined we would cross. 

We sense we are out of control. Something has us in it’s grip, and we are afraid. We should be.

Why don’t we just stop? Most of us try and cope with our compulsivity by switching back and forth from denial (is it really that bad?) to will power (try harder).

But denial and will power just distract us for awhile and then we resume the same treadmill of sex and self-destruction.

When these challenges are compulsive—self-reinforcing their grip on us—what can we do to free ourselves? One word: surrender

In recovery—and really this is healthy Christian spirituality, too—surrender is giving up and giving to. What do I mean by that?

It’s ‘giving up’ in that we surrender the idea that we can handle this on our own. We can’t. Our problem with compulsive sex is entrenched. It won’t go away and if we’re honest it’s escalating. What we’ve tried to do has not worked for us. We have to give up doing what we’ve been doing and do something else. 

It’s ‘giving to’ in that we surrender control of our sexuality back to its Source. Sexuality is a gift. A very good gift. To truly enjoy it again, we have to give it back.

For me, as a follower of Jesus, that means I turn over the control of my sexuality to the Father of the Heavens. You think of it however works for you: God, a sponsor, a Twelve Step group, a program. Maybe all.

For surrender to work, we have to make this surrender our new pattern of thoughts and actions to replace the old. 

My long journey of recovery has taught me that fleeting experiences of surrender are not enough, no matter how genuine. Neither are dramatic expressions of desire, no matter how sincere. 

For surrender to actually work for me I’ve had to cultivate new thinking patterns and behaviors on a daily basis. Steady, ongoing, sticking with it. There’s always push back and resistance. But we keep at it because this is the only way to live a life we can feel good about.

Is this easy to do? No, it’s not. Have I been consistently successful at it? No, not as much as I’d like. 

But it does work for me. My life is different today—very different—and surrender is key. 

There is no once-and-for-all about sustained surrender. We have to practice it. Fail at it. Ask for help with it. Keep coming back to it. Day by day, hour-by-hour, sometimes moment by moment. 

But here’s the thing: you can do this. It’s really possible to move from life-draining compulsive sexual behaviors to life-giving calm. 

So if this is your struggle, what do you want for your life? What is your next step in giving up and giving to? tcr