I’ve often heard it said
that the best defense is a great offense. That it’s better to be
proactive than reactive. Whatever cliché you want to use, it’s
almost universally understood that sitting on your hands is never an
option when it comes to defeating an enemy. I’ve been
studying boundaries recently and have been ministering with several
women concerning their husband’s boundaries or lack thereof. Most
women who have been wounded by sexual sin want to know what
boundaries their husband has set in place while at the same time
desperately trying not to control him. It’s a fine line and
sometimes we get so caught up in the what-when-and-hows that we lose
the significance of why boundaries are important. It’s
not about control at all. By definition, a boundary is “something
that indicates or fixes a limit or extent; a limit of a subject or
sphere of activity” (Merriam-Webster). Boundaries for
the man who is recovering from sexual addiction is this: a sign of
the limits set up or the extent of his changed behavior to avoid
continuing in sexual sin, a limit on the sphere of sexual sin.
There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, it is essential in the
recovery process. For a wife, boundaries can help her
rebuild trust and ease her anxiety about her husband’s past sexual
acting out. Knowing that her husband is taking steps to remove
triggers from his daily routine will help her to tangibly see his
repentance. I’ve noticed in my marriage the importance
of boundaries, but I have also learned they’re not fail-proof. So
let’s dig in to why boundaries are vital to recovery, and why
they’re not enough.
Boundaries are a good and healthy way to help us all stay on track. No matter what we’re trying to overcome. If I’m addicted to food and struggling to lose weight, should I stock my cabinets with chocolate covered pretzels (my favorite!) and chips? No. That would be counterproductive. If I’m a recovering drug addict, would it be wise to roam the streets in the same neighborhoods I once scored my stash? No. That’s just asking for trouble. In the same way, a man recovering from sexual addiction needs to set up boundaries that can help him behaviorally as he works on finding healing and strength spiritually. If a man is recovering from an addiction to internet pornography, he will need to set up boundaries and accountability with his computer usage—installing a good internet filter, keeping the computer in a central, open area of the house, not using the computer when home alone, being purposeful in getting online at home and at work, sharing internet history with his wife and accountability partners—these are all great physical defenses in the spiritual battle against sexual temptation. If a man is recovering from an addiction to picking up prostitutes or going to strip clubs, he may need to set up boundaries and accountability with his time and money—sharing financial records with his wife and accountability partners, not making ATM cash withdraws when out alone, calling his wife or accountability partner when traveling alone, coming straight home after work— again, great physical defenses in the spiritual battle against sexual temptation.
If you’re confused, let me clarify. Sexual temptation is just as much (if not more) a spiritual battle as it is a physical one. Yes, setting up physical boundaries will only help him in his quest for sexual purity. When temptations arise, having a safety net of boundaries is the fence on the outer perimeter. Just as with a house, locks and keys are not always enough to keep a family secure from unwanted visitors. Limiting access with greater certainty is a man’s first line of defense in keeping his home secure. In the same way, boundaries for a man in recovering are his first line of defense in keeping his purity secure. They are meant to keep the temptation from ever entering his mind or heart. They should be maintained and well-guarded. But perimeters can be broken. And when they are, it becomes a man’s spiritual responsibility to protect his purity. It’s a spiritual battle. Repentance is the foundation of sexual purity and it’s more than behavior modification; it begins in the mind. Repentance requires you to change the way you think about your sin, about God, and about what you’re doing or failing to do. If all the physical boundaries were removed, a man can still withstand temptation through the transformation that comes from the renewing of his mind(Romans 12:2).
Situations can arise where the safety net of boundaries aren’t available… perhaps your husband is traveling where internet filters are unavailable. Maybe he is forced to stay late for work one night and his colleague is an attractive woman. Perhaps he walks into a public bathroom and there sits a Playboy on the back of the commode. Maybe there are women in his work place that are immodest and flirtatious. Boundaries are vital, but not enough. Conceivably there will be times when boundaries are not present and a man must have the resolve to fight the spiritual battle to withstand temptation. The Apostle Paul tells us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God has not abandoned us to unchecked temptation. He has not left us to fend for ourselves. When our boundaries fail, God is there to arm us and help us fight. Ephesians 6:10-17 says, “…be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles (trickery) of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” Our weapons in the fight against temptation are truth, righteousness, preparation, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God. With the spiritual armor of God, a man recovering from sexual sin has the ability to withstand the enemy and any temptation he may throw his way.
But we still have to have boundaries. We can’t go through life by the seat of our pants, and a man in recovery from sexual addiction certainly needs a strategy. He needs to have a plan of action. The key to successfully establishing boundaries without control becoming an issue is humility. Both on the part of the husband and the wife. The husband must humble himself and realize there are steps that need to be taken to not only help him stay on track, but give his wife a little peace of mind. There is no room for pride and justifications in this journey towards sexual purity. My husband always says men in recovery need to “get used to the taste of humble pie.” There may be boundaries that a wife asks for that the husband feels is silly or redundant. Even so, if he is a humble man, he will be willing to do what it takes. On the same token, the wife must humble herself and realize that her husband needs grace. We are all sinners and no one is perfect. But if her husband is genuinely seeking purity, she can trust the intent of his heart. That his heart is for her and to stay sexually sober. She also needs to understand that no matter what boundaries are established, her husband ultimately makes his own choices. And she can still find healing through Christ even if she doesn’t like or agree with her husband’s choices. Talking about what each other needs and what boundaries would make you both feel more confident in this battle is important. Boundaries aren’t the cure for sexual addiction, but they are a catalyst towards recovery and healing.
Walking in Freedom,
Tags: boundaries recovery ""spiritual battle"" healing ""sexual addiction""
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