She looked at me with tears in her eyes, “I don’t know what it is! I don’t know why I feel the need to reach out to him for validation.” She continued on with her confession. About how the texting turned into something it shouldn’t have been. Giving details but not too many. I could see the shame on her face along with confusion, guilt, and sadness. I knew how hard it was for her to tell me these secrets.
We talked long into the night – confessions of faults and failures, woundings and a need for affirmation. Every thing she said resonated in my heart. The worst part? The shame she felt because of it. Her downcast eyes told me all I needed to know – every moment, every text, every slightly off-color comment, every encouragement she gave, went against her better judgment and the things she knew to be true.
But that’s the allure of this enemy. You can be whoever you want behind a ten digit phone number. You can say things you normally would never dream of speaking out loud, tease and flirt, be confident and mysterious. All of the things we sometimes wish we were better at in person. Those numbers provide semi-anonymity and give a perceived wall of protection between actions and consequences.
She shared her inner dialogue:
it’s not like i’m actually doing this stuff. everyone does this. it’s part of dating culture now. besides, it makes me feel wanted. and it’s refining my flirting skills. no one will ever see it. i don’t have to tell anyone. i trust him. he’s got just as much to lose as i do.
Our less rational side can be quite convincing in the middle of the night when we’re lonely. It doesn’t matter the demon, the battle remains the same.
Sure, the still small voice chimes in. It reminds us of who we are and who we belong to. But as is the case with sin, we – myself included – choose to let that the other voice drown out the still small one. It is a deliberate choice. Maybe in the moment we don’t see it quite that clearly but vulnerability left unchecked can take control and lead us down a road we probably don’t want to be on.
When we continued to talk it became apparent the root of this behavior came from a need to have beauty affirmed. It became easy to find fulfillment in words shared that she had never heard before. But acknowledgement of this fact came long before the allowance of letting someone in to her shameful secret. She knew it was wrong. She knew this wasn’t the best for her life. Sin kept from light continues to keep us in darkness.
So when she started to confess the moments of weakness, the conversations that went too far, the things she said that she regretted, she gritted her teeth as she opened up to the women she trusted. One by one she told the story to those she knew loved her heart for what it was, regardless of the beauty or ugly found there.
Telling these women and asking for them to keep her in check, accountability as some may call it, was daunting and intense. I mean who really wants to cut yourself open to let someone see your mess, only to hope that they’ll love you in spite of it? But the beauty of accountability within the context of Grace is the “me too” moment. When you move from alone in your shame to safety in community.
But what she had learned in the middle of all of this, was to not keep her story to herself. If only there had been someone to tell her that she didn’t need these guys to tell her she was wanted and beautiful. She didn’t have the Church to tell her that at unmarried and closer to thirty than twenty, she would find herself in the middle of the night wrestling with things she wasn’t prepared for. That she would have to redefine purity and find out what it meant for her in the center of her loneliness and ache. That the voice who told her there were no consequences to her actions because text messages could be erased, clearly left the small bit about permanent heart wounds out.
There can be healing in telling your story. For the betterment of those who are behind you to know truth from lies and reality from fantasy. Because maybe, if someone had told her those things years ago, her battle would have been over before it began.
As I listen to her story, the feelings of shame and guilt for things done in secret make up a melody that sounds oddly familiar to my own sad song. And my lips whisper, “me too.”