If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me.
Dwight L. Moody
Often when I first meet with a wife who has to confront her husband’s porn addiction, she communicates a desire to protect what others think about him (his reputation).
“I don’t want others to think bad about him.”
“He’s a good man. But if this information gets out, it could ruin him.”
“He says he’s sorry. Can’t we just move on?”
I get it. I love Dave and want to protect him, too. He is a good man, and I’d rather others not judge him.
But, when he told me about the porn addiction, we quickly discovered that:
- protecting a reputation,
- coming clean, and
- starting a new way to live life
were NOT necessarily compatible.
As Thomas Paine wisely said,
Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.
There comes the point in my coaching client’s Aftershock Recovery journey where she must decide which is more important: healing or reputation.
I didn’t make that choice lightly. Neither did Dave.
Several years ago, one of my favorite Bible teachers, Jill Briscoe, looked me in the eye and asked,
“Are you willing to look foolish, do things poorly, and risk your reputation to be obedient to God’s direction in your life?”
Is it really as simple as obedience or disobedience?
When you face the aftershocks of porn addiction and betrayal, you have a choice. Risk everything to find healing and a better way to live your life or try to keep everything “normal.” Normal got you to where you are today. Normal means you protect your reputation instead of your character.
Your reputation erects roadblocks to healing and freedom.
While I agree reputation is important, without Biblical character backing your reputation, you aren’t authentic. You spend much time protecting a reputation that could crumble at any moment. All it could take is one person viewing something hidden in your life, and your reputation is gone.
What if we choose to build our character instead of our reputation?
Often my coaching clients hear, “Congratulations!? The addiction is out in the open.”
Why? Because once the truth is out there, then the healing starts. If you break your wrist, you can’t begin healing until you admit it’s broken and seek help. If he’s addicted to porn, something’s broken.
Admitting addiction is not an easy confession. It takes courage to own the problem and stop making excuses for choosing a behavior that messes with your mind and deeply wounds your spouse. Without this coming clean, your spouse perpetuates the lie and false belief that his porn viewing doesn’t hurt anyone. But how and where do you begin to untangle this mess? What happens when you choose to build character and not reputation?
5 Giant Benefits of Choosing Honesty Over Reputation
You can start from a new place.
You admit where you’ve been, and you choose to move forward. Porn addiction doesn’t have to be fatal. The addict is no longer in hiding. He takes a deep breath realizing that healing and change are possible. And you get to take your first step toward healing. How can you heal from something you both pretend isn’t wounding you? You no longer accept it and stop the downward spiral on the same destructive path. This acceptance involves acknowledging the truth of your situation and choosing to change.
- Understand the truth.
It’s probably true that your husband shot his reputation whether anyone outside you two knows or not. His character flaws are evident. But that’s not to ignore yours too. If you’re gonna get honest, it involves both of you. If we focus on becoming who God created us to be, we must live authentically. You cannot say one thing and do another. Now, no one does this perfectly ever, except for Jesus Christ, the God-man. Your character is more evident than you believe. Authentic living involves closing the gap between your words and your actions. It requires you to hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else ever would.
- Build your character.
Character is who you are when no one is looking. You are the same person in the dark that you are in the spotlight. You don’t have to maintain a list of lies because you do your best to always speak the truth. And behave in an upright fashion. You maintain a few friends who know you from the inside out. Character withstands the temptation of porn. He must walk away from porn. Completely. No watching “a little bit.” To build your character, you choose your inputs with extreme care. You stay as far away from that source of temptation as possible—no flirting with the line. You’re more concerned with what God and your spouse know about you than what another person thinks about you.
- Choose health over ease.
When you spend your time studying the Bible so you can get to know God as He describes Himself in His Word, you gain a clearer perspective of who you are. We cannot build our character without willingly walking through some hard times.It’s time to accept that every person makes mistakes. It’s part of growing and learning. It’s your actions after the mistake that results in health or further destruction. When you mess up, own it. Learn from it. Then apply that learning to maturing and building your character in healthy ways. My coach often says, “We argue for what we want.” Listen to your words. What do you argue for—saving your reputation or truthful living?When it comes to porn addiction, you can’t have both.
- Engage safe people in your recovery. By now, you’re probably wondering if you need to tell everyone about your porn addiction. No! Find a few safe people to open up to a little bit. See how they react. Do they listen with compassion or laugh at you? Do you sense them becoming uncomfortable during the conversation? What is their posture during your conversation: leaning in or away? Pay attention to the signals. If you discover they aren’t safe, yes, your reputation with them is probably damaged. But that’s okay. They aren’t safe. A trustworthy person listens without judgment, asks insightful questions to help you process, and seeks to help you discover your next best step. This is what a few friends did for Dave and me. They provided the safety net we needed to process the destructive mess of our lives. They are people who understand they aren’t perfect either.
One key to finding hope and freedom from the aftershocks of porn addiction is forgetting about protecting his and your reputation.
Focus instead on identifying the cracks in your character. It doesn’t matter what another person thinks about you. Confront the evil of pornography and the damage it’s done. Then, you can become healthy and whole.
TechCrunch reports a 300% increase in infidelity in marriages who view porn online. If you don’t think you’re headed down a dangerous path, I implore you to think again.
I’ve walked this path of recovery. Dave and I faced the possibility of lost reputations. What we gained in this process was a stronger character, a remade marriage, and the ability to help others walk the same recovery road we walk today.
Authentic living frees you to be all you were created to be. I’m working on my character daily; my reputation can take care of itself. If you need help to take the next step on this new path to a better tomorrow, I’d be honored to help.