It is hard to describe the anguish of being caught in secret sin as a pastor. When our secrets are revealed and we are stripped of the self deception we relied on to support our errant behavior we know self betrayal more intimately than personal goodness. The revelation of our weakness, failure and sin does a kind of deep personal wounding inside the self which often actually hurts physically. Yes, we deserve it. Yes, sometimes there is relief. Yes, it can be a new beginning but the shattering of the self by the coming together of two incongruent worlds is sometimes psychically disorienting and spiritually destabilizing. Psychologically we are in an earthquake of shaking and rattling and destruction. Being caught hurts. Judas hurt. But it never just hurts Judas.
Compounding this is the disappointment, betrayal, anger, rejection and wounding we see in the eyes of those whom we believed have mattered most to us. They don’t understand either, can’t believe it and are stunned powerfully by the discovery or disclosure. Discovery of long held secret behavior instantaneously and shockingly deeply wounds them. They have been unaware. Though they may have suspected, wondered what was wrong and felt something strangely amiss they have not been privy to the ongoing dual world. Often their worlds are completely shattered by the sudden destructiveness of the revelation of our secret worlds. We have deceived our selves and fooled them. Now the truth stands naked and devastating in front of us all. Judases always hurt others. Always.
The reflexive threats, hostility, rage, silence, and disapproving speechlessness of those we wound though anticipated and deserved, also deepen our own pain. This is especially true in relapse. Read What About Relapse? We thought our own psyches could take no more and now we feel the additional weight of what we have done to others. One of the consequences of secret sin is the often irreparable tear we gouge in the fragile fabric of trust in intimate relationships.
Uncertainty takes over. Nothing is for sure. We sink deeper into the despair of overwhelming shame. We feel stupid, undone, low, lost and all alone. We know this time we have done it. This time we piled on the last straw. This time there is no hope. This is the end of life as we knew it.
Even God seems more removed; suddenly farther away. During periods of secret actions we fool ourselves into thinking we are okay with the Lord because we have confessed the sin, over and over we have confessed our sins, but now? Now it is clear confession was just part of the cycle of sin. Note article on Caught in the Confession Cycle. Now there is no way he can be there for us because our failure is now so known to us.
Until discovery we have relied on our secret addictions. When negative moods are altered by ingesting a chemical or getting a high from a process addition like sexual acting out, getting caught removes this crutch we have used. Getting caught removes the props. We hate ourselves for what we have done and hate what we have done to others. Worse we have no place to take our pain. We have nothing or no one familiar or friendly on which to rely. We are alone and we hurt.
The lies which were used to cover up the sin also become damaging sources of repeated wounding to those who have trusted us most. As they sort recent events they view everything through different lenses and are shattered by each successive revelation. Lies lacerate life. They steal stability, zap strength and leave those who trust us wondering if there is anything we have ever said which is true.
Fears take over too. What if the church finds out? Is there any reason to hope? Should I just resign? Am I really going to be divorced? How can I make a living? Is there any way life and ministry can be salvaged? Who else will have to know? Read Who Do I Tell When for some direction on this.
When fear is in charge all too often errant addicts begin damage control and take charge. They manage, manipulate and control to avoid consequences and alleviate fear. They talk spouses and friends into silence for the sake of God’s Work and others who will be hurt. They promise to get help, beg for forgiveness, and swear never to do it again. Sincerity is evident. The same sincerity they faked when they lied to cover the addiction smoothly enters the stage and moves the cover up forward. This is a skill they have unintentionally honed while acting out. Ministry Boards and spouses have all too often fallen for these well intentioned fear reactions. Because people are used to the leader who takes charge it is natural for them to fall prey to these maneuverings.
Because all of us want things to go back to normal and long to unscramble the egg of pain which discovery deposited in our souls we are easily misled by leaders who promise to get help and quit acting out. Once someone is addicted, however, the enslavement is so entwined with life the addict’s self protective behavior always leads to more destruction. Addicts get the help they are forced to get. The tears are normal, the begging is normal, the promises are normal and none of these matter in the long run. Only getting help will help.
In a state of confusion, fear and deep wounding an addict’s judgment is faulty. If an addict is left to his own devices, he is more likely to kill Uriah than tell the truth and get the help he needs. If this is you, there is hope. Please trust your judgment is faulty. Your whole life needs rearranging, all your relationships need restoration and you are best served if you humbly submit to the direction of others. When you take charge again, if you ever do, it should be way down the road of your recovery journey.
If the addict or enslaved person in your life has just been discovered and is arguing for no further disclosure, trying to do damage control and seeking to stay in charge without serious professional help, resist him. Go to Finding Help and make contact for further direction today. Mark you inquiry as urgent. If you are uncertain about the level of addiction, what is really going on or don’t know who to trust there is confidential help available if you make your need known. If you contact Dale W. he is often willing to interact to a point without your even disclosing who you are. You can gain some direction for your dilemma without damaging anyone further. If your spouse is hooked and has just been discovered the most loving thing you can do if force the issue of help. Clergymen involved in secret sin seldom want to continue it. They just don’t want to loose their careers and calling. Help them change instead of covering up.
If you are hooked and have just been caught, please know there is grace and guidance for you and those you love. Addictions have to be treated powerfully because they are so powerful. The strength of confidential honesty and grace await you and yours. Welcome to step next. No, life will never be the same but if you humbly, willingly and powerlessly seek help it will be better. There are lots of reasons to hope.
If you have just been caught go to Finding Help and mark your contact as urgent. You will find what you need. You will experience hope, find solace and will likely know God as never before. You will come to appreciate your loved ones more deeply. Life will have sunshine and color again.