We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs
and humbly asked God to remove our defects of character.
Homosexuality has meant shame, hiding, masks, and deception for many of us. Some of us even took pride in our ability to keep things under wraps, to keep our feelings hidden, to go it alone. All this allowed us to continue in denial. It enabled us to convince ourselves that we would never have to deal with the consequences of our actions. It even let us talk ourselves into believing that there was no such thing as consequences.
We could only keep the truth at bay for so long. The time finally came when we could no longer hide the destructiveness of our life-style from ourselves. We were being hurt and we were hurting others--often in the name of love. Hiding merely increased our sense of isolation while destroying our self-esteem. We realized that the secrets we were keeping were keeping us from the freedom we had at last recognized we must find.
What we need, if we are to recover, is unconditional love. But our duplicity made receiving such love impossible. To know that kind of love, we must reveal ourselves--warts and all--to God, to ourselves, and to others. Confession is the key that turns the lock on the door which keeps us isolated and vulnerable to homosexuality.
Our moral inventory told us the things we needed to confess. We begin with God because He is love (see I John 4:16) and has bound Himself to forgive and cleanse all who confess to Him (see I John 1:9). We can be certain of His response!
Our acceptance of God's forgiveness empowers us to face ourselves in a new way. Knowing His forgiveness enables us to forgive ourselves. Knowing His acceptance enables us to accept ourselves.
That prepares us for full and honest confession to another human being. This is vital if we are to break the patterns of dishonesty and isolation which have kept us locked into homosexuality. Unless we take this step, we can never break through the terrible isolation that has kept us from what we have craved all along--that unconditional love and acceptance which can only come from one who knows all that we are and have done.
The one to whom we make such a confession must be carefully chosen. This person should have some understanding of homosexuality, should be able to keep our disclosures completely confidential, should have a good sense of his/her own weakness and need of grace, and should have experienced the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Confession builds intimacy which is an important part of recovery, but we must be aware of our own vul- nerabilities. It is only prudent to make our confession to someone to whom we are not sexually attracted.
Confession is not an "X-rated" recounting of every sordid detail of our sexual misconduct, but is an honest facing of our character defects which have made us defenseless against our lusts. We need to face our internal motivations, the payoffs we received from homosexuality, rather than to recount titillating details of sexual encounters.
Confession is not a "blame game". While our struggles came to us as a result of things which happened in our childhood, we are responsible for our responses to these things as adults. Confession means facing our own faults, not those of others.
The person to whom we make our confession can help us put what we reveal in proper perspec- tive. It we are being too easy with ourselves, he/she can help us see through our rationalizations so that the truth can set us free. If we are being too hard on ourselves, feeling that everything that has ever gone wrong is all our fault, we can be helped to see what we are responsible for and leave to others that for which they are accountable. Thus we can begin to pray about and deal with our own problems.
Many of us have kept our lives rigorously closed for years, and this first experience of sharing ourselves with another in complete honesty can call forth differing responses. Some of us have found it wonderfully liberating; others have found it very painful. No matter what our reaction at first, all of us have found in time that, in making our confession, we turned a major corner in recovery. We took a step which can enable us never again to live closed, divided, loveless lives.
1. What should I do about those wrongs I discovered when I made my moral inventory?
"I feel when I have sinned an immediate reluctance to go to Christ. I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would do not good to go,--as if it were making Christ a minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe,--and a thousand other excuses; but I am persuaded that they are all lies, direct from hell.... I am sure there is neither peace nor safety from deeper sin, but in going directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God's way of peace and holiness. It is folly to the world and the beclouded heart, but it is the way." [Memoir and Remains of R. M. McCheyne, p. 151]
"No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home, but the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is present in us: it is the very sign of His presence." [Letters of C. S. Lewis, 20 January 1942]
"If then any child of the Father finds that he afraid of Him, that the thought of God is a discomfort to him, or even a terror, let him make haste--let him not linger to put on any garment, but rush at once in his nakedness, a true child, for shelter from his own evil and God's terror into the salvation of the Father's arms." [George MacDonald: 365 Readings, p. 63]
I John 1:9
"The proper Christian attitude to sin is not to deny it but to admit it and so to receive the forgiveness which God has made possible and promises to us." [John Stott, "The Epistles of John," Tyndale Bible Commentaries, p. 77]
"I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him." [Letters of C. S. Lewis, 19 April 1951]
2. Will God be shocked?
"Because God knows all things perfectly, He....never discovers anything. He is never surprised, never amazed." [A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 56]
"How unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. ...No forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us...; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us." [A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 57]
"The truth about man is that he needs to be loved the most when he deserves it the least. Only God can fulfill this incredible need. Only God can provide a love so deep it saves from the depths." [Inspiring Quotations Contemporary & Classical, p. 81]
"There is no secret of my heart which I would not pour into his ear. There is no wish that might be deemed foolish or ambitious by others, which I would not communicate to him. For surely if 'the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him' [Ps. 25:14], the secrets of them that fear him ought to be, and must be, with their Lord." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XI, (1865), p. 210]
"God loves us the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way." [Leighton Ford in Inspiring Quotations Contemporary & Classical, p. 80]
3. Do I need to face my wrongs in a new way myself?
"He that never mourned for sin has never rejoiced in the Lord. If I can look back on my past life and say, 'I have no grief over it,' then I should do the same again if I had the opportunity. And this shows that my heart is as perverse as ever..." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Taberna- cle Pulpit XXVIII, (1882), p. 524]
"If you have not a broken heart, only Christ can give it to you. If you cannot come to Him with it, come to Him for it. If you cannot come to Him wounded, come to Him that He may wound you and make you whole." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXII, (1876), p. 379]
"Repentance is among other things a sincere apology to God for distrusting Him so long, and faith is throwing oneself upon Christ in complete confidence." [A. W. Tozer, The Set of the Sail, p. 124]
"I was going along with my life, and, for the most part, thought I was happy. What made that belief possible was that I was out of touch with my feelings. In order to avoid the pain of the truth, my feelings had been shut down since I was a small child.... So the conclusion that I was happy held up as long as I continued to ignore the constant stirrings inside. It was like someone inside me was screaming at me to wake up, someone trapped in a cave-in, yelling out, hoping the rescuers will hear. But I had no idea how to listen, who was screaming, what the screams meant, or what to do. I was afraid.... There are two very definite reasons why for years...I wanted no part of the truth. One, I believed I was 'fundamentally bad, inadequate, defective, unworthy, and not fully valid as a human being.' Two, on an intuitive level, I knew truth meant pain. I...believed that feeling pain was bad and meant something was wrong with me. Getting down to the core of you--who you really are--is achieved by peeling off one painful layer of oppression at a time. Today I know pain is the doorway to freedom. I'm not necessarily thrilled with that reality, but it's the truth." [Bob Earll, I Got Tired of Pretending, p. 8,10]
4. Do I need to confess my wrongs to another human being?
"We really are as sick as our secrets. As long as we are able to 'get by' without opening up about our inner defects we will do it.... To confess to another human being....in my opinion... is what makes confession the most powerful single dynamic any individual can exercise." [Tim Timmons, Anyone Anonymous, p. 79]
II Samuel 12:13
"Even A.A. oldtimers, sober for years, often pay dearly for skimping this Step. They will tell how they tried to carry the load alone; how much they suffered of irritability, anxiety, remorse, and depression; and how, unconsciously seeking relief, they would sometimes accuse even their best friends of the very character defects they themselves were trying to conceal. They always discovered that relief never came by confessing the sins of other people. Everybody has to confess his own." [Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 56]
"This Step, more than any other, challenges the addicts'...beliefs that if someone really knew everything about them, they would be rejected. In the unconditional acceptance of another human being, a great release of pain often occurs." [Patrick Carnes, Out of the Shadows, p. 141]
Herman Melville wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Let us...show all our faults and weaknesses, for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it and out with it." [Nora Stirling, Who Wrote the Classics II, p. 59]
Don Baker tells of Jerry, a man in a church he pastored, who found freedom from homosex- uality. He was helped by a friend named Dan who he met in seminary. "When Jerry finally confessed to Dan that he was a practicing homosexual, Dan's eyes...filled with tears. Jerry's pain had been transmitted to a caring brother. Although he knew nothing about homosexuality, Dan was willing to learn enough to be of help."
He made himself available to Jerry any time day or night, and Jerry put that commitment to the test repeatedly. He would call when he had fallen into sin--often in the middle of the night--and he was always welcomed. "...They would sit in silence and then look at each other. Both would start to cry. ...Dan would...ask, 'Jerry, do you acknowledge that what you have done... is sin?' 'Yes,' Jerry would answer.... Dan would then ask if he had asked God's forgive- ness.... 'Oh yes, again and again--so many times that I'm ashamed to keep going back to him. How can he keep on forgiving me? How can he keep on loving me?...' Patiently, lovingly, Dan would review...basic Scriptures....designed to build up Jerry's faith and remind him that his salvation was dependent upon what Jesus Christ had done...on...Calvary, not upon what Jerry...had done.... This...was repeated dozens of times, with no lessening of...temptation on Jerry's part and no evidence of impatience from Dan."
Dan suggested that Jerry call him before acting out instead of afterwards. Jerry finally decided to give it a try. He told Dan he was tired and lonely and didn't want to fight it. He tried desperately to get Dan to hang up, finally shouting at him to finish saying what he wanted to say because he had to get going. He knew Dan and his wife were entertaining guests and expected Dan to give up on him. But he didn't. Instead he started praying and God began to melt Jerry's heart. Dan asked, "'Now, Jerry, will you go home?' 'I wish it were that easy,' Jerry said softly. 'I wish I could go home. I wish I could assure you that I'd go home--but I can't.' One more time Dan asked gently but firmly, 'Jerry, will you go home and go to bed?' There was a long silence--followed by a heavy sigh and a quiet but firm, 'Yes.' Jerry went home... For the first time...he had...broken the power of that compelling temptation. He had taken...one small step. He had obeyed God, and when he did, God calmed his wild, uncontrollable sex drive, and he went to bed and slept--a deep, peaceful sleep." [Beyond Rejection, p. 32-35]
"A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins, everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother, the sin has to be brought into the light." [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 116]
5. Can I correct my defects of character on my own?
"God helps those who cannot help themselves." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXXIII, (1887), p. 630]
"...The way of sin is down-hill; men not only cannot stop themselves, but the longer they continue in it, the faster they run..." [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible III, p. 795]
"Men hate their sins but cannot leave them." [Seneca in Gathered Gold, p. 293]
"It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man." [Albert Einstein in The Portable Curmudgeon, p. 141]
"You write much about your own sins. Beware...lest humility should pass over into anxiety or sadness. It is bidden us to 'rejoice and always rejoice.' Jesus has cancelled the handwriting which was against us. Lift up our hearts!" [Letters: C. S. Lewis/Don Giovanni Calabria, 26 December 1951]
6. Who can remove my defects of character?
"Though you have struggled in vain against your evil habits, though you have wrestled with them sternly, and resolved, and re-resolved, only to be defeated by your giant sins and your terrible passions, there is One who can conquer all your sins for you.... He can make and keep you pure within. O, look to Him!" [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit LV, (1909), p. 420]
"A holy man is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Taberna- cle Pulpit XXX, (1884), p. 388]
"The first link between my soul and Christ is, not my goodness, but my badness; not my merit, but my misery; not my standing, but my falling; not my riches, but my need. He comes to visit His people, yet not to admire their beauties, but to remove their deformities; not to reward their virtues, but to forgive their sins.... Go to Him as sinners...and cry, 'O Lord Jesus,...I need thy salvation.' ...Only believe in Him, and He will be your salvation." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metro- politan Tabernacle Pulpit XXX, (1884), p. 525]
"He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of the world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day. Blessed and holy are Christ's people! From sorrow, cross, and conflict they are not saved; but they are 'saved from sin' for evermore. They are cleansed from guilt by Christ's blood. They are made fit for heaven by Christ's Spirit. This is salvation!" [J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 6]
"Men do not become Christians by association with church people, nor by religious contact, nor by religious education; they become Christians only by an invasion of their nature by the Spirit of God in the New Birth." [A. W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest, p. 113]
"So I come back to...Jesus; to the Christian notion that man's efforts to make himself personally and collectively happy in earthly terms are doomed to failure. He must indeed, as Christ said, be born again, be a new man, or he's nothing. So at least I have concluded, having failed to find...any alternative proposition. As far as I am concerned, it is Christ or nothing." [Malcolm Muggeridge in Eerdmans' Handbook to Christian Belief, p. 81]
"The new birth makes us partakers of the divine nature. There the work of undoing the dissimi- larity between us and God begins." [A. W. Tozer, Born After Midnight, p. 122] "The New birth does not produce the finished product. The new being that is born of God is as far from completeness as the new baby born an hour ago." [ibid., p. 137]
"Thus, then, are the children of God freed through regeneration from bondage to sin. Yet they do not obtain full possession of freedom so as to feel no more annoyance from their flesh, but there still remains in them a continuing occasion for struggle whereby they may be exercised; and not only exercised, but also better learn their own weakness." [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion III.iii.10, p. 602]
"We seek to recover our loss of dominion over the creatures, but who seeketh to recover that power which he once had over his own soul?... We all affect sovereignty, but not holiness. Men seek to conquer others, but not themselves." [The Complete Works of Thomas Manton IV, p. 291]
II Thessalonians 3:3
"It takes a deep influence in a life to enable it to stand against its only, but distorted, source of pleasure. It must be a displacing influence, a filling influence.... An empty life (needs) to be filled with Christ." [D. W. Vere in You Can Say That Again, p. 15]
7. What quality is necessary if I am to be free of my defects of character?
"If you lay yourself at Christ's feet He will take you into his arms." [William Bridge in The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, p. 149]
"...Humility is not primarily an attitude toward oneself...but towards God and...other persons. Briefly, it means the willingness to let God be God; that is, to acknowledge one's dependence upon His creative power; to rejoice in gratitude for His blessings; to adopt the ways of the Lord as one's own; to accept in contrition the judgment of God when one falls short; to trust His power and willingness to forgive and to redeem.... In relations between persons, humility is.... by no means...a synonym for selflessness (a word which does not occur in the Bible) or for a divinely sanctioned inferiority complex.... Biblical humility entails the recognition of others as invited guests at the Lord's own banquet table. The result is a regard for the will, the purposes, the feelings of others.... When Christ 'humbled Himself' (Ph. 2:8), He used His power not to domineer but to serve. There is no suggestion of an appeasing or grovelling mentality. Because biblical humility is not negative but positive, it can lead a man...'to lay down his life for his friends' (Jn 15:13)." [Edmond La B. Cherbonnier, "Humility," Dictionary of the Bible, p. 406-407]
"He looks upon a bleeding Christ with a bleeding heart." [Thomas Watson, Sermons, p. 23]
"Someone asked one of those Ancient Fathers how he might obtain true humility and he answered: 'By keeping your eyes off other people's faults, and fixing them on your own.'" [St. Alphonse Rodriguez in The World Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 455]
"Nothing is more scandalous than a man who is proud of his humility." [Marcus Aurelius in The World Treasury of Religions Quotations, p. 454]
I Peter 5:5-7
"Better is that temptation that humbles me, than that duty which makes me proud." [Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial, p. 26]
8. What must I do to get free from my defects of character?
"Prayer is the key of heaven, and faith is the hand that turns it." [Thomas Watson, The Lord's Prayer, p. 10]
"We must kneel before we can stand upright." [Gems From Bishop Taylor Smith's Bible, p. 50]
"The tree of promise will not drop its fruit unless shaken by the hand of prayer." [Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, p. 244]
"It seems to be a law of the Holy Spirit's operation that He only gives that which we definitely ...seek." [R. A. Torrey, How To Work For Christ, p. 359]
"I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, and then have family prayer, and breakfast, and forenoon callers, often it is eleven or twelve o'clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ rose before day, and went into a solitary place. David says, 'Early will I seek Thee; Thou shalt early hear my voice.'... Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness; and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then, when secret prayer comes, the soul is often out of tune. I feel it is far better to begin with God--to see His face first--to get my soul near Him before it is near another." [Memoir and Remains of R. M. M'Cheyne, p. 156-157]
"God has treasures of mercy; prayer is the key that opens these treasures; and in prayer, be sure to carry Christ in your arms, for all the mercy comes through Christ." [Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 98]
9. What may hinder my prayers to be free of my defects of character?
"Cold prayers, like cold suitors, are seldom effective in their aims." [Jim Elliot in Gathered Gold, p. 224]
"The Lord does not play at promising. Jesus did not sport at confirming the word by His blood, and we must not make a jest of prayer by going about it in a listless, unexpecting spirit." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XVII, (1871), p. 607]
"If you would have God hear you when you pray, you must hear Him when He speaks." [Thomas Brooks in Gathered Gold, p. 226]
"The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg--not by smashing it." [Arnold Glasow in Laurence Peter, Peter's Quotations, p. 375]
"The trouble with most of us is that we stop trying in trying times." [Dennis Waitley and Remi L. Witt in A Treasury of Business Quotations, #31]
"The road...from aspiration to achievement, from promise to fulfillment, is paved with persistence, trodden with patience--or we never arrive." [R. E. O. White in You Can Say That Again, p. 227]
MY EXPERIENCE WORKING STEP 9
Confess my defects of character, especially my homosexual feelings and activities, to another human being? These were things I'd spent my entire life hiding. They proved beyond doubt that I was defective as a man. To reveal them was to guarantee being held in contempt, despis- ed, sneered at, rejected, spit upon!
Yet that was what my counselor was recommending. I had just moved to Reading to get help. I visited two churches on my first Sunday in town and had bolted from both at the end of the service before anyone could ask questions about why I was in town. I didn't want to answer those questions. I was frightened. I was ashamed.
"I've spoken in the church you visited on Sunday evening," my counselor said, "and I think it would be good for you to share your story with the pastor." I was so desperate to get free that I was willing to try anything. So, with pounding heart and sweaty palms, I made an appoint- ment, went to the pastor's study, and told my story--homosexuality, exposure, divorce, loss of family and friends, despair, attempted suicide, jail--the whole sordid mess. I held back nothing. Then I waited.
His response? Compassion! He gave me his home and office phone numbers and asked me to call him at any time--day or night--if I needed help. He prayed with and for me. I saw nothing but loving concern. Someone knew all my dirty, little secrets and did not turn away in disgust!
Initially I felt only relief. I had done what I needed to do to recover and the result had not been what I had feared. But as the months went by and my pastor continued to reach out, identify with, and be there for me, subtle changes began to take place in me. Since my pastor accepted me, knowing all, I began to be able to accept myself. While some of my actions had been clearly unacceptable, I was not on that account unacceptable! I was still a part of the human race.
Since my pastor could forgive me, I began to be able to forgive myself--to acknowledge that, though I had done some terrible things, I did not have to hold them against myself or seek to punish myself for ever. I could rest in the finished work of Christ for my cleansing. Further, since my pastor did not despise me, I was enabled more and more to believe that God did not despise me and to reach out to Him in faith for help with my struggles.
Working this step was crucial to my recovery. Without it, my working of the steps which went before would have remained ever incomplete. Without it, I would have been unable to go on to the steps that remain. This step was difficult. It was terrifying! But without that confession, I would never have known my pastor's unconditional love which has played a tremendous part in securing the ever-increasing freedom I am enjoying today.
HOW YOU CAN WORK STEP 9
1) Set aside a time to share your inventory with God. Keep several of His promises to forgive and cleanse in front of you and claim them by faith should you feel any doubt of His acceptance. Should uncomfortable feelings remain concerning any item on your moral inventory, be sure to discuss them with your step coach or the one to whom you make your confession.
2) Set aside a time to consider your inventory yourself. What character defects did you discover? Write your feelings about them in your journal. Forgive and accept yourself, as God forgives and accepts you in Christ, and make a list of the character defects you intend to ask Him to remove from your life.
3) Set aside time to share your inventory with another human being. Choose the person carefully considering the qualities suggested in the opening section of this chapter. Confession need not be made all at once but can be done at two or three sittings. Take as much time as you need and stop if things become too painful. Make another appoint- ment and continue until you have shared everything. Remember, you must be completely honest. Hold nothing back. Ask for feedback from the one with whom you share. Journal your feelings during the process and discuss them with your step coach.
4) Listen to the tape Something Good for the Soul! under "STEPS 8-10" on the "HA Book Ministry" list. Read Experience, Strength and Hope up to Step 10 and continue reading the book your step coach recommended to help you with Steps 8-14. Also continue to work in your workbook. Journal what you learn from all this and share what you have written with your step coach.
5) Memorize one of the verses you found helpful in this chapter.