I Hate(d) Nicknames (aka Re-Born Identities)

MoBro.

Wrath James White calls me this (only he and one of my uncles call me this). To this day, nicknames make me uneasy or at least uncomfortable. Granted, Wrath’s huge and thus gets away with a lot, but I’ve also begun to come to terms with the idea of nicknames. It doesn’t quite bother me like it used to because he’s like my big brother showing affection – I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t tell a well-intended nickname from a bad one.

Back in fifth grade, I was given the name “Crunch”. Now, I was the only black male in our class and as such, apparently I reminded a few of my mouth-breathing brethren of a Crunch bar. To this day, I doubt many of the folks I went to high school with even remember or knew the origins of the nickname since by then it had become strictly a term of endearment.

The “nicknaming” did not stop with Crunch, and became a source of amusement as the kids sought to outdo one another with their creativity at oral bullying. I was determined to not let their words hurt me, even making a joke of the issue. I carried around a list, filling up a page with three columns worth of “nicknames”: from Crunch(y) to Alabama Porch Monkey to Sambo (with some of the agile minds even putting the phrase “little black sambo” to a lilting melody)*. Granted, guys can be harsh with one another, riding each other, busting one another out of a sign of camaraderie and equality. But this was different and my little fifth/sixth grade brain trying to muddle through this acceptance through belittling, dehumanization, and the constant reminder of my “otherliness”.

It’s the analogous logic that leads some to take back the word “nigger” so that it loses its ability to hurt and we can make it our own … ignoring the reality that defending the use of that word only rationalizes the internalization of hatred. It perpetuates the legacy of hate, in one powerful word encompassing the history of slave ships to Jim Crow. The word is the penultimate form of dehumanizing, the spit-in-your-face kind of assault to one’s sense of dignity and self-worth.

The internalization of the hatred can eat away like a cancer. You learn to start absorbing hate, it becomes a standard way of dealing with accumulated hurts. Possibly even believing such hateful things actually define you. So this cycle of naming and internalizing continued until one day my teacher, Mrs. DuVall—also black—stumbled across the list.

“What’s this?”
“Nothing.”
“Looks like a list.”
“Just some things the kids call me.”
“Do you know what this is? What they’re saying about you?”

She then wadded up the list and threw it away. Just like that. People in power have the ability to name, to define, and I needed to take back any sense of power. The names don’t define me. My identity is not in hate, theirs or my own learned/absorbed (self-)hatred. We need to wad up the lists we’ve accumulated over the years—the ways our families, “friends”, or colleagues have contributed to developing our false selves—and throw them away. So I never tolerated any distortion of my name. I was always Maurice. Not Mo. Not Maury. Just Maurice.

Now since the first Mo*Con, I’ve been learning to re-embrace or rather better tolerate the nickname “Mo”. Because I know it now comes from a place of connection and familiarity.

I have no idea where this came from. It might be after effects from reading Wrath James White’s story, “Scab” (from the Dark Dreams III: Whispers in the Night anthology). I probably need to get back to writing my novel.

*When I called BFF Jon to help jog my memory on some of the other nicknames, his response was this: “Why are you needing to know fifth grade nicknames? The only one I can remember is Crunchy and I’m sure you already knew that one. There were plenty of others, none I would have taken the time to remember, because most of them were pretty stupid and racist by the morons we went to school with.” *Wadding up the list … again.*

Look What My Nipples Have Done*

At the World Horror Convention I did my first reading: my essay “Man-O-Gram,” first published in Morbid Curiosity #8. Morbid Curiosity, a non-fiction market for true life tales of horror, sadly came to an end with it’s tenth issue, but my essay has been included as part of the best of collection, Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Stories of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual is now available from Scribner. This collects 40 stories from the cult nonfiction magazine, Morbid Curiosity. These are the editor’s favorites about growing up Mormon in the bathtub of the dead, assisting a friend’s suicide, attending a Black Mass, and, well, my essay. Though this violates my rule on sustaining the author’s mystique, I thought that I would give a sneak at the beginning of the story here:

The plastic plate of the x-ray machine lowered with a whir as I stood against the cold metal beast, naked from the waist up. All I could do was stare at my breast while it was positioned to be compressed between the plates wondering “how the heck did I get here?”

Early in her pregnancy, my wife’s doctor diagnosed her with a condition called placenta previa. While the doctor explained to both of us the nature of the condition, all I heard was “You can’t have sex with your wife.” Seven long months later, my wife was still recovering from her C-section. As a first time mother settling into a routine of nursing, any broach of her bosom area was met with the rebuke of “Those aren’t for you” and my hands getting slapped. At that point, I didn’t trust myself bumping into furniture. My Saturday nights were reduced to TV watching and cold showers.

Before the Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” gets cued, let me get on with my story. One day in the shower, I spied my wife’s breast self-examination chart. Okay, it had been there the length of our marriage, but every time I stepped into the shower, all my mind registered were pictures of breasts and every time it took a minute for me to realize why they were there. Today was different. I looked around (because that’s what you did when you are about to do something potentially embarrassing) and performed the self-exam.

I felt a lump.

Now would also be the time to mention that I suffer from hypochondria. Unfortunately, it was matched by my great dislike for doctors, so I sat around a lot obsessing about what I might have, while not actually going anywhere to do anything about it.

I noticed a pain in my bosom (I’m trying to say bosom as often as possible, not necessarily to avoid offending anyone, but to try and hide my soon-to-be-copious use of – read: obsession with – the word “breast”). The pain was so great, I decided to … call my sister. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds: my sister was in nursing school. (Well she was taking English and speech and other pre-requisite stuff.) She told me that it might be an ingrown hair or an infected spider bite. So I was like “cool”.

The next day, the pain in my bosom woke me up. I decided to squeeze my breast. White liquid started came out from around my nipple.

The story only gets worse from here. To laugh at my terror, go pick up the book:

The book’s home page

The book’s home page at Scribner

The book’s trailer

The Amazon page

*This is probably why I’m rarely asked to blurb stuff.

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

Elvis: At a certain point, letting your audience into your personal life isn’t necessary good for either side.
me: that’s my dilemma. i’ve always had two audiences. it may not be good for the fiction fans, but my non-fiction/blog fans …
Elvis: Do you really want to be Jim Bakker?
me: so you think i should just “move on” and go back to normal blogging?
Elvis: I think you can make a dignified “Thank you for listening during this difficult time for me and my family. We’re working on this very hard together and appreciate your support, and out of respect for my wife and children, and to allow us the privacy we need to repair the damage that has been done, I’ll be moving on to other topics in this space. Thank you”

My friend, codename: Elvis, is like the Jewish grandmother I always wanted, but he’s right. It’s the life of a public figure. Which isn’t to say I won’t occasionally re-visit this topic, if only tangentially. I write about what I’m thinking about or thinking through. I’ve appreciated hearing from folks, even if I didn’t have a lot to say in response (hello, cleared inbox). I appreciate how many of you shared your own struggles. And my family appreciates the thoughts and prayers. Believe me, we need them.

I was especially touched and surprised by those that called. They had an eerie similarity to them. The caller would express disappointment in me – you could hear the sadness and even anger in their voice – for me not being the man they believed/wanted me to be. Yet they still loved the man that I am. If nothing else, it really drove home the idea that there are no private sins, as if the repercussions would only impact a few. One friend quoted from the book Alcoholics Anonymous:

“The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, `Don’t see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowin’?'”

And that we could replace “alcoholic” with the sin of our choice. Sure, there were those who simply threw Bible verses at me or outright disowned me or who “checked in” simply to gloat, but I expected a certain amount of that. I did want to pass along a note that I received from “a fellow beggar”:

With Love from Seraphim:

“Your identity is no longer that of an adulterer (or pick your flavour of sinner).

You have been washed in the blood of Jesus. The old man is dead, the new one is here. You are a new creature in Christ. Sin shall no more have dominion over you. However, since we are still waiting for the Redemption of our bodies, from time to time, willingly and/or un-willingly we may fall into sin. The Old man is dead, but seeks to live again thru us. Don’t let him.

If you do, do not fear. We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He knew that we would continue to sin after coming to a knowledge of the Truth. So He made provision for us. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and will cleanse us from all un-righteousness.

It is important to fight against sin. It is important to strengthen your inner – spiritual man thru fellowship, prayer and daily bible reading. Sin can hurt us, and it grieves God. But He has given us the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) who is with us 24/7 interceding on our behalf to the Father, not to mention that Jesus is on the Right Hand of the Power on High also interceding for us.

Do not give into despair. You are not alone. There are other members of the body that still struggle with the sins you find yourself struggling with. Find them and help one another to bare one another’s burdens. Stay Accountable to each other. The difference between a sinner and a righteous one is that the righteous one gets back up.

And there is a prayer I want you to memorize. No, it’s not scripture (and you should find the promises in the Word that speak to you and memorize them, they will help in your fight against sin):

“O Lord my God! I have done this because I am what I am and so nothing can be expected of me but such transgressions or even worse, if Thy grace does not help me and I am left to myself alone. I grieve over what I have done, especially because my life has no righteousness responding to Thy care of me, but still I continue to fall and fall. Forgive me, and give me the strength not to offend thee again and in no way to digress from Thy will. For I zealously wish to work for Thee, to please Thee and be obedient in All things”

And the after prayer instruction would be this: Having done this, do not torment yourself with thoughts as to whether God has forgiven you. The Lord is near and listens to the sighings of His servants. So calm yourself in this certainty and, having regained your calm, continue your usual occupations as though Nothing had happened.” (Taken from Unseen Warfare – St Theophan the Recluse.)

Be Encouraged.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog.

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

Prayer of Repentance

It takes a while for repentance to travel from your head to your heart. I don’t know, maybe that’s part of the process: First getting your mind around things then it slowly sinking into your heart. So this morning, right in the middle of work, things finally hit me and left me laid flat out.

Lord, I’d pray that against You and You alone have I sinned, but that’s not quite how I feel. I’ve hurt my wife. I’ve hurt my children. I’ve hurt my sister. I’ve hurt my closest friends. I’ve hurt my church community. I’ve hurt people I barely know. I’ve failed at so much, I still can’t put my mind around it.

And I ache.

I ached at the depth of my sin. I ache for all the pain that I’ve caused. I’m humbled before You, Lord. I’m at the end of my ability to control my own life, at the end of trying to spin the story of my life.

I’m tired of lashing out in pain.
I’m tired of hurting.
I’m tired of not truly connecting to people.
I’m tired of living life so afraid of being hurt. Of being rejected.
I’m tired of putting on such elaborate artifice and calling it “me”.
I’m tired of the walls keeping me from loving and being loved.

Forgive me. I long to experience You, to truly experience You. I want the new life You’ve called me to. And I pray for the faith to believe that it’s there for me.

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

For those wanting to know where my wife stands during all of this, she too has been blogging (seriously, it’s how we roll). Just as fair warning, her blogs are pretty raw (and she does name names), but she writes for herself.
How much is too much and when should I give up?
Sometimes “I’m Sorry” doesn’t always cut it

The most painful episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets (my second favorite show of all time, right under The Wire), is the finale for Season four. Frank Pembleton, the character I most identified with, has a stroke (which, also happens to be my greatest fear). I have only seen the scene once. Every time I come across the show in re-run or in a DVD marathon like I’m in the middle of right now, I fast forward through it.

Season Five opens with him returning to work, the job he loves, the job he had so much of his identity in. Humbled, not quite the man he once was, perceived differently by those around him (or he defensively projects/anticipates being seen differently by his colleagues). Part of him is lost, struggling with pride as he tries to find himself and his footing in life.

I still haven’t gotten back into my usual routine, but life goes on. I have good days and bad days. The good days find me clinging to family and friends, limping through life like the walking wounded. The bad days find me treading water in the grips of despair. Being lost, not knowing who I am, not knowing how to move forward, realizing just how many people I’ve hurt. And how deeply. You may think you know the consequences to the deeds you do in secret, but you don’t know. You’re too busy being caught up in the selfishness of the moment and doing what you want. Thus an older brother becomes the specter of things you hated in your father. A friend becomes every woman who intruded on your parents’ marriage. Or any relationship. And you realize how forgiveness will be slow in coming. If ever. Trying to figure out what relationships to trust in.

There is an alienation that accompanies sin that can lead to the sort of intellectual (and emotional) anguish that can drag us into the pits of despair. To feel alone or abandoned to an uncaring environment. Where we feel unloved and unknown (even if we’re unknown because we refused to let anyone truly see us … for fear of being rejected and abandoned). The kind of spiritual loneliness which has us feeling alienated from God and those around us. Even for those of us who are long used to wrestling with our demons, it’s easy to spiral into depression. You just want the knot to untie in your gut. You just want the darkness to recede a little. You slip into a dark place. It becomes easier to give up. Why bother to go on when it all seems so hopeless. You think, if ever so briefly, about hurting yourself.

[Despite my reassurances that I’m far too self-involved to ever kill myself, there have been some friends who check in regularly to make that I don’t. One going so far as to remind me that I have a two year waiver on my life insurance (Hey, sometimes gallows humor is what gets you through).]

The most difficult part of the shame/despair cycle is not letting your sin define you, to let your mistakes become your identity. It’s easy to hate yourself for your sin, or rather, the consequences for your sin. Part of the process is simply sifting through feelings of shame versus feelings of true repentance. Shame for how long things went on for. How comfortable and easy things became. It’s easy to retreat into the “safe place” of “there’s something wrong with me.” That there’s something worthless and twisted about me which causes me to make the sort of decisions that places my marriage, friendships, and other relationships in jeopardy. A place where I can wallow or find my identity or try to fix myself. Yet, this kind of “redemptive wallowing” is a counterfeit conviction of guilt. This is more a reaction to doing something unacceptable.

Repentance offers the opportunity for a fresh start. But it is a process. Wallowing in your guilt is just as stifling as not facing your sin. Godly sorrow, realizing just how much you’ve sinned, missed the mark of being the person you were meant to be, and how much you deserve to be separated (yet aren’t), is the beginning. Without this hope we wouldn’t be able to escape our mistakes or history of hurts. We could only rightly despair of our past and live in regret. But, with repentance, our failures do not have to be final.

[Part of me feels like I’m trying to talk myself into believing what I already know.]

We were created in God’s image. Yes, we’re sinful, but that can be redeemed. We have to face what we’ve done and repent, then realize that at some point we bear the consequences, whatever they may be, and move on. Repentance is an internal matter, between the “sinner” and God. Those on the outside aren’t in a position to judge the nature of the repentant one’s heart. As much as we may want to see them “act” repentant, it’s a fine line between wanting a demonstration of contrition and the appearance of people wanting to keep making the person who disappointed them pay/remind them about their sin.

Still, probably the most difficult thing to deal with is being loved and forgiven (however tentatively) amidst all of the disappointing, hurting, and breaking of trust.

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

Emotional Affairs (aka, No Longer “Just Friends”)

A lot of folks keep wanting an answer to “why would I risk the life I had built?” or “how did I end up in an affair?” as if somehow that would make things easier to understand. People come back to “was there something missing in your marriage?” In fact, I’ve been asked “how did you get there?” often enough (as well as it being a question I’ve wrestled with for quite some time) that I’ve decided to go ahead and blog about it.

A friend shared with me that there is a song called, “Slow Fade.” It is all about how we don’t set out to have an affair, the decisions are small at first, and like the proverbial snowball rolling down a hill, it gets out of control before you know it. I should probably begin by admitting that I don’t do relationships well. I’ve freely admitted to the train wreck that was my dating life and it’s not like things got magically better when I got married. The thing that’s going to draw me to a person, the thing that makes me notice them, is their intellect. Whenever I can have an intellectual give and take with someone, there is an automatic spark I’m going to have with them. And that’s how things started.

The lie began in benign ways. “The other woman” seemed to just get me without trying. Not just that, she affirmed me. She liked me, looked up to me, and was like a personal cheerleader. And I did the same for her. It’s as addictive an effect as it is intoxicating. You start thinking why couldn’t all relationships be like this, so easy, to have someone unconditionally in your corner, having your back. Or how we really connect and make a great team. We made time and to see each other, just wanting to spend time with each other because we so enjoyed each other’s company. Ministry opportunities became an excuse. Choosing classes to allow for tutoring time or learning more about a shared perspective. Reading and writing were a shared passion and point of connection. Even spending time as a part of my family’s life (which makes it doubly fun navigating those conversations with your children why someone who was such an integral part of your life is no longer in the picture).

In short, we became best friends, sharing the details of our days with each other. Sharing time, space, and heart space. Within a couple years, we’d racked up 2100+ pages of online chat (I don’t delete anything, even the stuff I say I delete, and one time I put it all into a Word document to see how much we talked. And this doesn’t include the last two years or so of conversations). As anyone who has done any online chatting knows, that’s a lot of time spent and intimacy robbed from my wife and children. It’s not like that fact was lost on either of us. Yet we were perfectly comfortable describing ourselves and believing that we were just friends.

A strictly physical affair would be easier to get over. As crass as this sounds, one person nailed the point as “you gave her your heart, not your penis”, telling yourself that if you don’t cross a certain physical line, that things weren’t so bad. Instead you find yourself vowing to be the best friend possible, to never leave or abandon; to be there for her no matter the cost; because you want to be that guy, that special someone, the one who never fails. It all sounds so very romantic, even noble. And it wasn’t real.

Having watched one too many Hollywood love story or romance, you can create all sorts of stories in your head. A person or an unattainable relationship becomes romanticized into a Muse. The tale of star crossed lovers, tragically kept apart by circumstances they can’t control; or the tale of best friends whose love can triumph over any adversity. Easy to do when you have an idealized relationship. You don’t have to do the hard work of making a life together, the fitting together of two lives. The hardest part was the preoccupation of my thoughts and heart as they constantly drifted to her; the prioritization, in time, deed, and thought, of her over everything else. Looking back, that’s probably the hardest part: half the time, you don’t even know if the feelings—as intense as they were—were even real so find yourself sifting through to see if any of it was true.

Part of the healing process has been the willingness to give her (even the idea of her) up. I know that part of me will always be haunted by her, that’s just reality. You give away a piece of yourself, your heart, you don’t get it back. But I’m committing myself wholly to the relationship with my wife, the one I want to know and be known by, rather than cherish old memories of a relationship that may or may not have even been real. Still, I pray for forgiveness for misusing my position of authority and how this might have damaged a young life. These are some of the sins I have to own for myself (though, yes, I’m perfectly aware that she made her own decisions).

For all of the idealization and romanticizing of everything, she was an illusion. It’s easy to fall for the illusion of a relationship when the reality of a real relationship proves too “hard.” It’s the same kind of illusion of a relationship a writer can have with their fans, which this is quite analogous to (in fact, this may have been a case of): we have a different and complicated relationship with our audience, opening ourselves to them, laying our souls bare for their consumption, and thus making a connection point with them. They are inclined to be (unconditionally) supportive and it’s easy to get caught up in the constant validation. The relationship is inherently unequal and that can potentially be exploited, even subconsciously.

Real friendships, real relationships are harder to forge and harder to maintain. It’s harder to face and talk to people who aren’t caught up in being a constant ego boost. That’s not what good friends do. It’s certainly not what good spouses do. Good friends/spouses see you for who you are, the entirety of your sinfulness, and love you anyway. They aren’t there to stroke your ego, they’re there to share and carve out a life with you. It’s the only way to build a real relationship and a real life. A life built from the coming together of equals.

I’d love to be able to point to a rough patch in our marriage—somehow that would make it easier to justify—but there wasn’t one. Ultimately, if there was something missing from my marriage it was me not valuing my wife’s friendship. To put it simply, I have an inability to make my wife my best friend. As much as I go on about communication, there’s often something about marriage that strains people’s ability to talk to one another. Walls simply build up over time if the relationship is not checked, cleaned, and maintained.

A lot of my relationships are one way: I give (outward) to them. I don’t let folks in enough to let them be friends to me. I keep people at a distance, including my wife. It’s easier, no, it’s safer for me. There’s less risk, less chance of being hurt. I’m not good at letting folks in, my wife included, contenting myself to live within the walls I’ve erected around my heart and life. Believing, in the quiet corners of my heart, that maybe I was meant to be alone (and others might be better off if I were). Better to be guarded than risk the pain of living in a fallen world, with its broken relationships and propensity to cause hurt. But ultimately, that’s no way to live. To shut out the pain means to shut out the potential joys, the love of friends, family, and a spouse.

I’m not going to claim that me and my wife are perfect. I don’t think there is a “perfect” counterpart to, well, me. As quirky and temperamental as our personalities are, we mostly work. One of the things I hate most about all of this is not only how bad I’ve hurt my wife, but how she has to walk through the aftermath with me. She gets to be judged as too
trusting, if not foolish, for remaining with me. She gets to hear “how did you not see this?” from herself, much less from others piling on.

Emotional affairs are tricky to navigate. The betrayal of an affair is about the shared connectedness which is meant to be reserved between husband and wife being shared with another. But while you can’t help who you fall in love with, you can choose what to do and how to act upon it. I loved two women, neither particularly well, and both to their detriment. Not only can I not afford to wallow in the “what if” game, I also can’t afford to live in regret. I don’t have to carry the shame, internalize it and let it define me. What I have to do is be a better man, a better husband, and a better child of the living God. That’s the journey I’m focusing on now.

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

On the Idea of Confessing

As I’m still processing the rubble of my life, there have been two comments/questions that have popped up fairly regularly. The first is “doesn’t it feel good to be finally free of all the secrets?” My answer is “no”.

I’ve alluded to it before, but I had no intention of confessing. I was pretty content to go to my grave with my entire closet of skeletons. Here’s the thing, there are some situations where you may know they are wrong, but part of you is simply not strong enough to change on your own or, frankly, doesn’t want to give them up. In my case, my confession hand was forced.

Two days before, me and the person I was involved with had decided to “break up” (although, given our history, the emotional affair would have probably continued). Already that week, however, some pastors had confronted me without knowing, simply suspecting that something was going on with me that needed to come to light. The weekend “all hell broke loose”, she had ended up confessing to friends. Two separate prickings of the conscience, walls crumbling down, and guilt finding voice. Coincidence to some, God’s hand in action to others.

[With such a reading of events, it’d almost be tempting to be mad at God for the rubble of my life at the moment, but it’s kind of hard to be mad at God for a self-created mess. Seriously, what am I going to say? “Darn You for letting me get caught!”?]

So the short answer is heck no it doesn’t feel good. Nor does it feel especially good for the soul. It feels painful, ugly. It feels like ripping off a bandage only to find the putrefecation of flesh. Exposed woundedness isn’t easy and doesn’t feel good. That’s the point: we can’t get to that place to begin healing without first cleaning out the wound. So no, it doesn’t feel good, but I know it is good.

The second comment/question revolves around the issue of why would you confess also on your blog? Prudence dictates that the matter ought to be kept private and dealt with it in house (if for no other reason than readers will forever be reading things into my work). But this was a choice my wife and I made after talking it through. The fact of the matter is that this sin didn’t just affect my family. It impacted all of my relationships: friends, siblings, church members. We wanted a sense of public accountability. I can’t just run and hide, nor did we want things swept under a rug. That’s partly how we got here in the first place.

It’s easy to feel so caught up in your sin, so absolutely lost, that you can barely form the question “where do you begin to expose the lie?” Seriously, you’re caught up in the moment of being selfish and doing what you want; doing what feels good at the time, with no regard for long term consequences. Oh, you may think you understand the consequences, but you don’t know them. Part of you is afraid to tell, afraid of consequences, to be sure, because the repercussions can ripple far and wide (Loss of relationships. Loss of trust. Loss of respect.). But you’re also afraid of the reality of who you are, drowning in lies to the point that you don’t know where or how to turn for help.

Confession isn’t easy. You may get to that point where you’re out of excuses. You can’t blame your age, your naivete, your parents, your personal history/baggage, someone else tempting/manipulating you. You can’t play the victim. You can’t “spin” your mistakes. No, you have to start by being truly honest. You look in the mirror and realize you made a decision, your own decision. And you have to put on your big boy pants and own up to it and bear the consequences. Saying it out loud that first time, admitting to yourself what you’ve done while simultaneously trying to get your head around the enormity of it all. The truth may come out in drips and drabs. Sometimes it may even be easier to confess to a stranger or another friend rather than your spouse or whoever it is you may have directly hurt. But to hear it out loud, from your own self, makes it real. You can’t help but begin to own it.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

Just know that the truth also hurts, but the truth is do-able. We don’t like to be reminded that we’re sinners and we bristle at the thought of being told what to do. That wall of pride shoots up because we want to do what we want to do. Repentance is a call to action, to change, and repentance begins with confession. With many acts of healing, things hurt before they get better. However, only then can we be opened up to freedom from the past and be prepared to look forward to the future with hope.

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

For the Record …

I’m not going to apologize for this blog turning personal. It’s my blog. Sometimes I just have to use it as my own therapy, though it’s rare that I write about what should be personal and private issues. Especially when it seems like I should be tending to other issues. But you do what you have to do in order to move forward:

Yes, I’ve stepped down from leadership at the Dwelling Place.

Yes, I’ve made a wreck of many of my relationships and have a lot of work ahead of me if there’s to be any kind of reconciliation.

Yes, Mo*Con is still going on.

Yes, I blew up my old message board. I do have new a small hang out space on Brian Keene’s board.

And I’m writing. It’s not always going to be so personal, but this space has always been about what I’m thinking through. As it stands, I’ve barely gotten these blogs posted and my inbox is filling up. I don’t think I can face it right now, but I’ll leave you with this message I received from a friend (I’ve been on the phone all week and STILL owe a few people a call):

big tight hug silently claiming all of God’s promises for his children who love him,
who love him imperfectly but love him nonetheless, as he continues to love us.
in spite of ourselves.
praying for Christ’s light to pierce through palpable darkness.rage.grief.destitution,
praying for an increased measure of faith to minister to unbelief, self-pity, self-mutilation, self-loathing & loathing,
praying for hope,
your sister in Christ who needs God’s grace & mercy as much as the next person,
you are loved.
it’s absolutely true, you don’t deserve it…none of us do.
don’t forget to read the end of that sentence, maurice. NONE of us do.
Christ sees us in all of our crapulence
and whispers and shouts and assures us
and waits for us to remember & believe that
yes, we are loved.

And yes, crapulence is now my new favorite theological term.

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

Double Lives

So I’ve really been stuck on the question “how did I get here?”

Who I am versus who I’m trying to be. It’s not like I set out to become “that guy.” In fact, becoming “that guy”–the cheating spouse–had been what I had always thought I had been striving against being. I’ve seen the statistics of people, ministers in particular, who have had affairs. It doesn’t matter how “far” it went: an affair is an affair.

I’ve always sort of prided myself in my forthrightness and living in plain sight, yet a good chunk of my life was still pushed into and lived in shadows. It’s disconcerting how easy it is to fall into a life of deception. To where lies become not just routine, but reflex. To where you can deceive yourself to startling degrees. I’m disgusted by how easy it is to be so deceptive, just like those closest to me are so hurt by not only being deceived, but also by not having seen it.

Seeing, hearing, remembering what we want—believing things we know not to be true—in order to justify what you want to do. Justifying the secrets by being afraid of losing everything, by claiming to being manipulated, by believing things you knew weren’t true in order to keep pursuing the course you wanted. Looking back, my life has always had a bubble of artifice about it. Nothing about me was honest.

I’ve always kind of hated the phrase “stumbled into sin.” It made things seem so benign. You have an implied image of “oops, I did it again.” But I see the truth behind it. Most people don’t leap into sins. Those sins sort of creep up on you, though we’re rarely innocent prey.

It starts in the little things. A comment here, a gesture there that you let slide, but it grows. Next thing you know, you’re setting traps for yourself (part of you hoping that you fail because that’s what you secretly want). The lies become deeper, telling yourself that you can handle it. How it won’t hurt anyone if it stays secret. You may even spin it into a positive (“you can better minister to or understand people’s sin because of your own”). Like a person who drank too much and has a regretful next morning, you may develop convenient amnesia. It’s a terrible thing to not be able to trust your own mind. Your own memories.

It’s like there are two yous: the true self and the shadow self. One is cognizant of the reality of your state of affairs (pardon the expression). The one that is aware of the sin you’re involved in. The one that cries out for help all the while ignoring life preservers thrown at you.

The other one lies. It buries secrets, even from yourself sometimes. It’s the one that squashes the pricking of your conscience by the Holy Spirit. You latch onto those convenient lies for your own mental and spiritual survival—so you can go through the motions of looking your wife, your children, your friends, your family, your co-workers, your fellow church goers in the eye as if you were a person of integrity—because all the while, the guilt, shame, and sense of dirtiness eats away at you like a cancer. Until it rots all areas of your life—mentally, physically, spiritually—until it erodes everything you touch.

It’s the side you don’t want to face because it means facing some truths about yourself.

The hardest part was coming clean. The “I know you did it, just admit it” conversations. I’d become so practiced at deception, even to myself, that a straight forward conversation became like pulling teeth. It’s reflex to want to minimize. It’s human nature to want to cover your behind as much as possible, blame other people for your own decisions. But there’s no moving forward without first laying it all out there. Naked truth time.

It’s hard to reconcile who we are (and want to be) and what we do. I always saw myself rather like Alan Shore from Boston Legal: a complex mess of hurt and pain who kept everyone at arm’s reach in order to protect them from him. Put succinctly another way by my wife, I don’t know how to be real.

Or let people in.

So the question isn’t just “how did I get here?” but also “where do I go from here?”

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

Walking Through My Failings

I have been cautioned, cautioned, cautioned to enter into this gently (because as writers, we give enough of our lives to the public and they don’t need all of it). But I have to come at things a different way. Plus all of these blogs are Sally approved.

I am. For better or for worse, this is part of that tending. It’s about me owning up to things. A pattern had emerged in my writing and in my personal dealings that for all of my ability to communicate … I’m a poor communicator. I don’t share what’s going on with me. I’m about the quick joke or an opinion and moving on. Honestly, I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. But I am trying to be more open on all fronts.

Let’s be straight: I’m also a public persona. If a “secret” is out there, it’s out there. I’ll deal with it. The more public I’ve been in my triumphs, the more accountable I need to be in my failings. Which is what I’m ruminating about right now.

I can’t help but hope that I’ve (tried to have) been cognizant of my own sin when talking to folks about theirs. I know some folks thought that when I’ve talked to them about their sexual sins, they thought I was coming down on them, no matter how many times I may have said “no, believe me, I get where you’re coming from.” I remember one lady in particular who said “you know if you were single you’d be into the same sh*t.” I almost retorted, “no, I’m right with you, that’s how I know.” It’s hard to not feel (or hear) judging 1) when you expect to hear it and 2) when you’re judging yourself for your own poor choices.

It’s not about turning my personal life into blog fodder. Lord knows, I have plenty of other things I’d RATHER be writing about. I’ve seen folks turn their blogs into platforms of blame and finger-pointing. I have no one to blame and point a finger at other than myself. Is this an exercise in salving my conscience? Maybe. I have no answer for that. I’m walking through this. My wife is walking through this with me.

As humans, we’re fallible. None of us are beyond sin. Being a Christian does not make me more/less human. We’re experts on judging sin and walking through sin, but I’m curious to see what the journey of restoration looks like. (My counselor has already informed me that it’s not going to look at all like I might think). It’d be easy to run from my family, my friends, and my church right now. Leaving means I don’t have to face what I’ve done. Leaving means I don’t have to grow or change. Leaving means I get to go through the motions of starting over, a surface repentance, without having to face the person that I am.

We’ll see where this goes.

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog