As we begin the process of wrapping up the 10 Things I Hate About Your Addiction series we are going to take a look at two related character traits often found in those with sex addiction or problematic sexuality: pride (this week) and narcissism (next week).
“I hate pride and arrogance…” — Proverbs 8:13
Pride is a condition that is common to humanity. All of us have, and will, struggle with it from time to time... possibly even regularly. Moreover, there’s a continuum of pride extending from occasional episodes of thinking ourselves superior, to the ongoing grandiosity of narcissistic personality disorder. The bible doesn’t speak of the latter issue, but rather (in English translations) groups the whole continuum under the terms “pride,” “arrogance” and “haughtiness.” Sometimes it refers to "qasheh" the Hebrew term the King James bible refers to as "stiff-necked." Whatever the exact term, throughout scripture, God repeatedly expresses his unhappiness with it.
The sex addict who has fallen into the trap of pride may exhibit the following:
- Self-centeredness and preoccupation with his own image
- Insensitivity to the feelings of other people (but not entirely lacking in empathy)
- Occasional enviousness or jealousy of others
- Prone to seeing criticism where none is intended (the root of this is often a shame-based identity)
- Believes that the rules (including God’s) should be more applied to others than to him/herself
Such people may dominate conversations at parties or make themselves the center of attention in large groups. They show limited interest in others and don't usually recognize when they've hurt someone’s feelings. They turn most conversations back to themselves, even when they're supposed to be ministering to others.
How it plays out
Sex addicts struggling with pride often:
- Work hard to create a public “good guy” image; are not willing to let their true, faulty self be known
- Show poor boundaries with women/men – become quickly attracted to those who positively reinforce their public image
- Undermine the ability of those around them to speak their feelings, concerns about them; people feel like they are "walking on egg shells" with the addict
- Blame their spouse for the relational problems
- Directly or indirectly declare their own wounds to be greater than their spouses/ children’s/ those of the people they’ve used, etc.
"It's not fair!"
As regards this last point. I’ve at times heard those with sex addiction say something like, “she spends all this time complaining in the counselor’s office about my porn addiction, but what about her_____ (pick one or more of the following) raging, nagging, complaining, spending, etc."
To such a man, I recommend reading Ezekiel chapters 16 and 23. When God wants a metaphor for the most horrific desecration of our relationship with him… what does he turn to? Complaining? Raging? No he uses the metaphor of adultery and out-of-control lusting and sexual acting out.
Breaking a covenant relationship through such behaviors is on a completely different level from a wife’s negative behaviors post-disclosure (or even “pre”). In the Beyond Betrayal chapter on boundaries I quote Dr. John Townsend as saying there’s a big difference between “imperfect” and “poisonous.” Complaining, nagging and (reactionary) raging: imperfect. Habitual infidelity: poisonous.
Moreover, in terms of psychological pain produced, there's little out there to compete with ongoing betrayal trauma. Over-shopping or even a shopping addiction—not in the same ball park. Giving a contrary opinion or saying you didn't do the job the way she wanted... not even close. To the shame-based person (see more on this in The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson) these can indeed be psychologically painful, but betrayal by the person who you are most emotionally attached to and vulnerable with (and who is supposed to reciprocate those, and even provide you a degree of protection in life) is in a league of its own. Even raging at you post betrayal, as acutely painful as that is, is really only a glimpse at the crushing pain she has come under herself.
Now I'm not saying that there aren't some inequalities between the husband and wife in early recovery. Jake Porter does an excellent job of addressing this issue in his coaster video and explaining that this imblance will change over time as the person with the addiction shows themselves to be "all in."
Opportunity to grow
Humbling ourselves enough to accept the initial inequality of early recovery is a great way to push back on our issues with pride. Other ways to outgrow pride, and its bedfellow self pity, incude:
- Getting sober (from the sexual acting out)
- Addressing the root causes of our shame and low self-worth
- Practicing patience with our wife's healing process. This will include grieving the pain of her anger as needed
- Spending regular face-to-face time with the Almighty... who delights in us
Next week, as we explore the topic of more extreme pride and self-centredness, i.e. narcissism, we’ll look further at what underlies pride.