Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Sex Addict's View of Haggard's Fall

If Ted Haggard was in my FMO group and he had given this statement to us to explain why he committed adultery with a male prostitute - what would be my reaction? How do I view his statement as a sexual addict?

First, he would have to be in our group. Some polls have shown that up to 64% of Christian men, pastors included, "struggle with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion including, but not limited to use of pornography, compulsive masturbation, or other secret sexual activity". He would perhaps have taken the test; found out he wasn't doing well; and contacted a group in Colorado Springs; or wherever he was in the US.

Next, we have group guidelines I have to follow (and which are right anyway) which are going to limit how I, and the group, will react [Hopefully :-)].

  • Self-Focus: We are here to work on ourselves, not on others. We share our own experience, insights and feelings.
  • Respect of Others: We do not advise, analyze or try to "fix" others. Each of us is free to find our own answers.
  • Listen: We avoid cross-talk and give each person who shares our undivided attention without offering unsolicited advice.
  • Let God Work: We do not preach at members of this group.
So, brother Ted gets busted and comes to us and says:
I am so sorry. I am sorry for the disappointment, the betrayal, and the hurt. I am sorry for the horrible example I have set for you.

I have an overwhelming, all-consuming sadness in my heart for the pain that you and I and my family have experienced over the past few days. I am so sorry for the circumstances that have caused shame and embarrassment to all of you.

I asked that this note be read to you this morning so I could clarify my heart's condition to you. The last four days have been so difficult for me, my family and all of you, and I have further confused the situation with some of the things I've said during interviews with reporters who would catch me coming or going from my home. But I alone am responsible for the confusion caused by my inconsistent statements. The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem.

Whew, finally. (Sorry brother Ted - what are those guidelines above?) Shame and guilt are a horrible, horrible cycle that leads us to medicate ourselves - usually with same actions we feel shame and guilt over. That is why addictive cycles are cycles and addictive. Feeling sorry is certainly one of the first emotions, but one of the least productive. Now, we get to his taking responsibility; even though he has made excuses for his deceptions and half-truths as the four days progressed. That is understandable though, his entire life has just come apart.
I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark . . .
Sigh. The problem with being repulsed by the darkness inside us is that we stay away from it instead of shining a light on it and examining it. We all have darkness inside of us; all have parts of us that repulse us; and we gain healing, in part, by holding those parts out in God's light and not allowing them to stay in some dark place and fester.
. . . that I've been warring against it all of my adult life For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom . . .
I destroyed my first marriage by adultery with prostitutes - although I "gained victory" over this, and stopped the behavior, about 6 months before the behavior was discovered by my wife because of some leftover evidence.

I continued my seeking after sexual gratification separate from intimacy between leaving my first wife and meeting my second. God did a wonderful miracle in my life on the meeting of my wife; and for 14 years I did not struggle with finding other women attractive, a desire for topless bars or erotic massage, or indeed for other women at all. No pornography. A "victory" given me, in an instant, by God's grace alone.

During that 14 years I became a Christian, and I strived to be a good husband and eventually a good father. Four years ago, we got the internet in our home and I casually decided to see what kind of sexual stuff was available - a month later I, with the help of God, turned away from it. I too thought I had experienced "victory" - again.

Then, my wife left me two years ago for reasons not connected to my sexual sin - although my "outing" myself a year after the fact about the internet pornography was a significant part of her pain; and my seeking help a major part of her demands. During the period she was gone, sexual sin exploded in my life: I wallowed in internet pornography; and ran up huge cable bills watching porno on TV. Again, I gained "victory" and got this "under control" with God's help. I joined FMO to appease my wife and prove I "was working on my problems" so we could restore our marriage. I really thought it was "much ado about nothing" - I had, after all, had "victory" through God's strength. Victory (temporary), but not healing [see James passage below]

I now view this as a monster living in a closet in my attic; and that my victories amount to stuffing him back in that closet and getting the door closed again. I have never killed it or cleaned that closet out - and as long as it lives it will gain strength. Ted had the same problem:

Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.
This is normal. Certainly, as a Pastor in an evangelical, bible-teaching church he understands the depravity of the flesh - so well described by Paul
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
How often did Ted preach on this passage in his life?
Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me.
This I have heard a lot. Some people struggle in this area and never get victory. Paul talked about "his thorn" and God's refusal to remove it from him in order to keep him from spiritual pride:
2 Corinthians 12:5 . . .on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. 6 For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Apparently, the point of this passage was missed by Ted as well - leading to the problem Paul cites:
Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them. The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.
Now, of course, my little scenario falls apart. Ted isn't in my group - he is one of those men who fell away to deal with their "darkness" on their own.

Anyone in any addiction program understands this. He did not have success in the programs, which caused more shame, so he attempted to "fight it on his own"; or perhaps he thought "I'm Ok really" and could handle it himself. I think he misses another point here - this is something in which he needed on-going accountability; and that could not be his wife - because we all desire to not hurt our spouses and cause them pain (that is a good thing BTW - our wives do not need "all the details" but we need to confess them to someone). Sexual sin is extremely humiliating and painful to our wives; and only by working on it for years can we get to the point that our honesty about our sexual sin will not be painful to them. In the meantime, you must have other men who know how you feel and suffer through what you suffer through to talk to and hold you accountable. Why? God is willing to forgive if we ask:

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
but healing comes by a different process:
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
And, of course, the darkness will increase and dominate you if you do not continue to act:
With sexual impurity, many times there are no visible consequences for years. However, we cannot escape the fact that we will reap what we sow. Inappropriate sexual behavior that is stimulating or pleasurable now [even just in your thought life], may cause you a great deal of pain later.

What are the consequences if you continue your behavior?

  • Loss of self-respect - feelings of shame and the need to conceal your behavior
  • Lack of relational intimacy - until you start living with integrity you may not know how differently your relationships and attitudes can look
  • Lack of satisfaction in your current relationships
  • You may lose your wife, fiancĂ©e or girlfriend
  • A destructive legacy for your children
If you progress you could:
  • Lose your job
  • Get arrested
  • Lose your reputation
Most of this probably happened to Ted as he spiraled down to the final train wreck..
The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry. Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family.
Just a bit more denial there, but that will be going away as well. The program Ted needs is weekly, if not daily, accountability with men who have experienced the same issues. I do not know Dobson's, Hayford's (although he wrote the introduction to Pure Desire - the book my FMO group is working through now), or Barnett's history. I also know such a "thorough analysis" is an on-going, lifetime process that is not going to be handed to Ted on a plate by anybody.
I created this entire situation. The things that I did opened the door for additional allegations . But I am responsible; I alone need to be disciplined and corrected. An example must be set.
This bothers me - a lot. This is his shame and guilt desiring to be punished. No, brother Ted: I desire your healing and the restoration of a loving, unlimited relationship with Gayle that can glorify God - assuming she can reach into God's power and give you his grace and mercy and forgive you. If she divorces you, which you deserve, I hope to help you heal and re-build a life based on an honest examination of your self. I do not need to see you "punished" because that may make you think the problem has reached closure.

Also, he didnt "create the whole situation" - it is far more complicated than that; and he is striving here to again pretend he is in control
It is important that you know how much I love and appreciate my wife, Gayle. What I did should never reflect in a negative way on her relationship with me. She has been and continues to be incredible. The problem is not with her, my children or any of you. It was created 100 percent by me.

I have been permanently removed from the office of Senior Pastor of New Life Church. Until a new senior pastor is chosen, our Associate Senior Pastor Ross Parsley will assume all of the the responsibilities of the office. On the day he accepted this new role, he and his wife, Aimee, had a new baby boy. A new life in the midst of this circumstance - I consider the confluence of events to be prophetic. Please commit to join with Pastor Ross and the others in church leadership to make their service to you easy and without burden. They are fine leaders. You are blessed.

I appreciate your loving and forgiving nature, and I humbly ask you to do a few things.

  1. Please stay faithful to God through service and giving.

  2. Please forgive me. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I caused this and I have no excuse. I am a sinner. I have fallen. I desperately need to be forgiven and healed.

  3. Please forgive my accuser. He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So, forgive him and, actually, thank God for him. I am trusting that his action will make me, my wife and family, and ultimately all of you, stronger. He didn't violate you; I did.

  4. Please stay faithful to each other. Perform your functions well. Encourage each other and rejoice in God's faithfulness. Our church body is a beautiful body, and like every family, our strength is tested and proven in the midst of adversity. Because of the negative publicity I've created with my foolishness, we can now demonstrate to the world how our sick and wounded can be healed, and how even disappointed and betrayed church bodies can prosper and rejoice.

Gayle and I need to be gone for a while. We will never return to a leadership role at New Life Church. In our hearts, we will always be members of this body. We love you as our family. I know this situation will put you to the test. I'm sorry I've created the test, but please rise to this challenge and demonstate the incredible grace that is available to all of us.

There is not much I can say here. He needs to get beyond the shame he expresses in #2 - again, guilt and shame are useless and destructive emotions. Other than that, I hope he finds God's healing and peace.


  1. Wow...this is intense stuff, but I appreciate the things you're saying. I'm particular fascinated that you see Ted's statement of personal responsibility and needing discipline and correction as a desire for punishment. He does need to be disciplined (actually, he has already, by losing his leadership positions). Perhaps it's his use of the word "corrected"? (rather than "healed")

    I'm also interested in your statements about shame. Shame is something I need to come to terms with myself, so I would like to hear more of your thoughts on needing to get beyond it. Do you think shame has any use at all?

  2. Hi Bonnie

    The typical "do bad thing" - feel ashamed - swear never to do it again - relapse cycle is awful. The link above on shame/pain cycles talks about that.

    What has to happen is "do bad thing" - feel ashamed - repent and turn to God, confess to others and be healed. We have to "out" ourselves to other followers of Christ and seek prayer and accountability. We tend to hide our shame which keeps us from experiencing our freedom in Christ.

    If we are forgiven (aren't we?) then if God is not ashamed of us anymore - what right do we have to be ashamed of us? Is He wrong?

    We should be convicted by our sin, and turn from it - but not be ashamed of it or carry that shame.

    That, however, is a huge struggle that is far easier said than done.

  3. This is very insightful. He desparately needs healing and deliverance by the hand of God.

    For awhile there I thought he would going to do a Jimmy Swaggert and not step down gracefully.

    He is at least putting himself into the hands of godly men who can help him or direct him to the help he needs.

    This was a very insightful piece.

  4. Hi John!

    I disagree, of course, that Haggard's homosexual desire is a temptation toward particularly sinful behavior akin to a temptation toward exploitative, isolating sexual outlets like p0rno. A commentor on Andrew Sullivan's blog put this excellently:

    Homosexuality is different from alcoholism, anger, [Sex addiction - tcs] etc., because homosexuality doesn't hurt anyone - at least, no more than heterosexuality. Which is part of why it's ridiculous to describe sexuality itself as a "temptation."

    Ice cream is a temptation. Hunger is a condition. If you think hunger itself is a temptation, you just bought yourself a one-way ticket to an eating disorder.

    Just as you or I need to focus ourselves on channeling our sexual desires into stable, committed relationships, so does Pastor Haggerdy. Pastor Haggerdy's problem is analogous bulimia, with it's binge and purge relationship to a natural human hunger. Yours is more like crack addiction -- a compulsive urge toward something you should avoid completely. For you, a stable heterosexual marriage is the corrective needed. For Pastor Ted, heterosexual marriage is an attempt at an all-encompassing purge for the sake of a misunderstood divine will. This attempt will only build the pressure towards eruptions of destructive compulsion.

    Pastor Ted does need a support group, but the group he needs is a group of gay men working on the lifelong process of building nurturing, loyal relationships with the men to whom they are attracted sexually.

  5. Tyler,

    All of my comments are within the framework of Ted having made the free will decision to marry; and within that context there is on difference between his temptation to committ adultery (whether with men or women) and mine to commit adultery with porno.

    The issue is the adultery; and not who the adultery is with.

  6. There is [no] difference between his temptation to committ adultery (whether with men or women) and mine to commit adultery with porno.

    Of course there's a difference. You and your wife have healthy, available outlets for your heterosexual feelings. Haggardy, because he was living a lie, had no such outlet for his homosexuality. This doesn't make what he did OK, but it does make it different.

    When you got married, your wives both knew you were attracted to women. Or, better, you led them to believe, correctly, that you are oriented toward sexual feelings for women. Pastor Ted was lying to himself, and therefore his wife, about his sexual orientation. He was cheating on her from day one. For one thing, Mrs. Haggerdy believed she was marrying a different man that she actually was. She did not make a free will decision to marry Ted Haggerdy; she didn't know who Ted Haggerdy was, and he tried to keep the truth from her. They never really were one flesh, were they? Pastor Ted wouldn't (couldn't) allow that to happen.

    The issue is the adultery; and not who the adultery is with.

    Well, adultery is an issue. It's not the issue. The temptation toward adultery is surely wrong, but Haggerdy's temptations stem from his initial repression of his true identity and his natural hungers. (At least his sexual temptations do. The temptation to do crystal meth stems exclusively from idiocy.)

    Haggardy's adultery began when he hid the fact that he is gay from his wife and himself.

    As far as marriage goes, Jesus doesn't seem any more interested in prohibiting adultery or divorce than he does in commanding his followers to give all their money to the poor. Pastor Haggerdy's nice house and fancy car should probably be just as much the issue as his adultery, if we're looking at this from an exclusively biblical perspective.

    Next to lying to his wife for years about his sexual orientation (I'm sorry, but that's the real issue) adultery is the one thing Pastor Haggerdy did that's really bad. (Getting it on with a funboy and doing meth are merely stupid and dangerous.) Adultery is wrong. I agree. Haggard was never faithful to his wife, however, even before he went and got himself a male prostitute. A sham marriage and lying about yourself to your loved ones is wrong, however, whether or not you cheat on your wife. The adultery was the icing on the cake of sin, which had been in the oven for a long time already.

    Aldultery is obviously not the whole story here, John. If some woman went public with the story of an affair with Pastor Ted, he may well have been fired from some of his positions (although maybe not) but no one who's not up on the celebrity bible-thumper circuit would know who he is today. The whole thing would have been taken care of quietly, without the sh!t storm. There are certainly other important issues (like the closet!) going on with this.

  7. A couple of things:

    I am not sure Haggard's wife didnt know - in fact my sense is that a whole bunch of people knew. His statement implies he was in and out of several programs trying to deal with it - without success. Now, when did his wife know? Was he actively lying when he got married? We may never know.

    I would hope if he had been caught with a female prostitute it would have gone as bad - but a female prostitute would probably not have ratted him out in the first place.


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly