Confessing “Safe Sins”

Have you ever been in a small group with people that confess safe sins? Someone will say, “I need to be honest with everyone tonight. I need to have full disclosure and submit myself in honesty. Like ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan, I need to give it to you raw!” So you brace yourself for this crazy moment of authenticity and the person takes a deep breath and says … “I haven’t been reading my Bible enough.”

Ugh, you, dirty, dirty sinner. I’m not even sure I can be in a small group with you any more. Not reading your Bible enough, that is disgusting. And then once he’s gone someone else will catch the safe sin bug too and will say, “I need to be real too. I haven’t been praying enough.”

Two of you in the same room? Wow, freak shows! I can barely stand it.

But what happens when people start confessing safe sins is that everyone else in the room starts concealing their real junk. I mean if I was surrounded by confessions like that in the eighth grade I would have instantly known I couldn’t follow the “not reading my Bible enough” guy with my own story:

“Soooo, this weekend when it was snowing I told my parents I was going to the dump to sled but instead I was really just digging through a 200 foot mountain of warm trash looking for pornography.” And the same principle would have applied to me in my late 20s. I wouldn’t have been honest sharing my struggles with Internet porn if everyone else confessed their “safe enough for small group” sins.

And that sucks. It sucks that as broken as we all are, as desperate as we all are for a Savior, we feel compelled to clean ourselves up when we get around each other.

But this blog has taught me something unbelievable. If I stop writing tomorrow, this will be the lesson I cling to the most.

When you go first, you give everyone in your church or your community or your small group or your blog, the gift of going second.

It’s so much harder to be first. No one knows what’s off limits yet and you’re setting the boundaries with your words. You’re throwing yourself on the honesty grenade and taking whatever fall out that comes with it. Going second is so much easier. And the ease only grows exponentially as people continue to share. But it has to be started somewhere. Someone has to go first and I think it has to be us.

We’re called to give the gift of second to the people in our lives. To live the truth, to share the truth, to be the truth.

Let’s give the gift of going second.

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  1. Ian@UK says

    Thank you so much for this post.

    You are so right, I feel like in my immediate group, there are areas where I can go first in being honest and open.

    I posted my testimony on my blog the other day, and not only is that helping me be vulnerable before God, it also helps other people feel like they can be honest and open.

    Sometimes it just takes one to start the conversations. Its never fun to be the one who does it.

  2. RebeccaMom says

    Yeah, well said! I think the number one thing that we lack in Christianity in America today is AUTHENTICITY. There are small pockets of it, I have seen it :) Thanks for a post that encourages us to go there first!

  3. Jen says

    John, this is 100% right on. I’ve actually been in small groups before where there was authenticity but it’s rare and precious!! Thanks for this post.

  4. travelin' joe says

    Yeah i’m pretty sure we “set boundaries” completely in appropriately.

    As i understand it, the only boundaries we should set are the ones relating to sin… Either where we sin, where it would cause someone else to sin, or where it would set up a dangerous pattern of behavior that would lead to sin.

    Most of the church goers i know don’t trust the other people in the church very much… not that they’ve given them more than a polite reason to trust. I really like the “give the gift of second” because it emulates jesus as putting one another before yourself.

    WV: fanictin – a chemical put into jon’s blog that makes it’s fan’s addicted.

  5. Elasticon says

    I disagree with rebeccaMom. authenticity is only a symptom of what we’re missing. we’re missing Love. Self sacraficing Love.

  6. Nick the Geek says

    I try to be very real with my Youth about what my struggles were and are. I like them to know that I still struggle with stuff so they don’t think that they are failing when they see to get control of some sin only to realize they are in another sin.

    I figure that if I use my hugenormous failures in the past then they will better understand the way grace works and if they see that I’m still struggling with trust and pride and … then they will get that life is a journey towards God not a one stop fix-it station.

  7. jennyleigh says

    Thanks for this post. The gift of going second can be applied in so many places. My 16yo daughter struggles with meeting new people in new situations. I tell her that someone has to go first, and that likely the other person is feeling the same way she is. Her willingness to break the ice could make things easier for them.

    You have just given this practice a name. I have never thought of it the way you presented it — regarding prayer/share time.

    Thank you for the enlightenment!

    wv: mitionis – mittens worn while eating pasta

  8. Beth Brawley Taylor says

    So, I really think going first is huge. And the reason I loved this blog from the start was you being real. For a former porno watching liar, you are the real deal and the love of God is obviously deeply rooted in the fabric of who you are now. And the space between who we were and who we are is what proves that there is a God. You can explain away most miracles, but not the miracle of a changed life.

  9. katdish says

    So, I wrote a post several months ago entitled “Freaks like Me Part One”. I have yet to write a follow up. Is it because I’m afraid of what people in the blogosphere might think of me? Nah. It’s because shortly after writing that post we were visiting my in-laws and my MIL smiles at me and says, “I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.”

    I’ll probably write an update soon, because if she still thinks it’s okay for her son to be married to me at this point, I think I’m good…

  10. Steph at The Red Clay Diaries says

    This is a concept that really stood out to me when it came up at Off the Blogs. I love the idea of giving the gift of going second.

    As I’ve tried to determine where God is taking my blog, this is the idea that resonates for me.

    Thanks for putting words to my thoughts. (Very convenient!)

  11. Anonymous says

    I LOVE this post. I help out in our youth ministry, & lead a small discipleship group of teenagers. If they were to tell you what I've been speaking about lately, it would be this! Just being REAL. When you are real with me, it causes me to have a TRUE desire to pray for you & share your burden. It also gives me hope – I am not alone! Others struggle just like I struggle. If all we ever do is keep everything surface-y (is that a word?), we will never develop the deep relationships God intended for us to have with each other. Deep enough that the world will wonder at our love for one another.

  12. sherri says

    I’ll go first…I haven’t been reading my bible enough. (Among other things.)

    I believe we would have less Christians addicted to porn, involved in adultry, stealing, etc., if we created a place where they would NOT be looked down upon when they confess, and they would know it wouldn’t become the “hot topic” for a gossip session on the phone or in the next ladies/men’s meetings.

    Half of our battle is the “if they only knew” syndrome, so we will hide behind a mask of “I’m Okay- doing just fine”, and never get the help we crave and ultimately may fall so deeply, that we may never return.

    My desire for the church? Transparency while consistently striving toward perfection.

    We need to quit classifying sins.

    Gossip, gluttony, pride,fits of rage, complaining, cheating =
    misdemeanor sins.

    Adultry, pornography=felonies.

    Homosexuality, abortions, child molestation= UNPARDONABLE.

    Who devised this system anyway?
    They ALL will lead us to Hell if we practice them and don’t seek forgiveness.

    If we are struggling with anyone of them, we need help from a Christian brother/sister.

  13. Anonymous says

    So, question … is this about the lack of genuineness or the lack of “real” sins? Because there are times when my struggle is that I’m yelling at my children … but there are times when I “only” struggle with spending time with God. Yet, that can be a real struggle. I can let life get in the way and when I stop reading my Bible and praying I creep into yelling at my children.

    Or is even yelling at my children not a good enough sin for confession? What does one do if, by the grace of God, they don’t struggle with what people deem “sinful enough”? Do we just stay quiet and not ask for prayer?

    What if I’m being completely genuine when I speak my struggles out loud, but they aren’t “bad” enough for someone else to feel comfortable confessing their “really bad” sin?


  14. Crystal Renaud says

    Jon, it was so awesome getting to meet you and get to know you a little at off the blogs. your candor and authenticity (i hate that word, but it is the only one i can thinking of that is fitting) was inspiring and there’s no doubt in my mind that you helped others to go second through your willingness and obedience in going first. take care, friend.

  15. Kendra Golden says

    Jon, It is so beautiful and glorious the way that God has chosen the Internet as a tool to unleash your gift when it has also been used as a weapon of destruction and bondage in your past. I’m so thankful for way God has redeemed dirty pieces of my past, too.

  16. Marni says

    Sherri…girl you are so right! I get so frustrated at the rating of some sins being worse than others. If I kill someone and you lie, it’s the same in God’s eyes.

    Jon, this was a great post. I try very hard to give the gift of second. I haven’t been able to do it lately because I’m in a season of being miserable in my church and small groups. Maybe if I try going first, I could help facilitate a change…it’s something I’ll put to prayer and see if that’s what God wants me to do…

  17. Brad Ruggles says

    Ok, I think this is probably one of your best posts yet. It is SOOO true. We are ALL broken and need to get rid of all the pretense and quit the pretending. Thanks for being real and sharing this.

  18. Jenni Catron says

    Totally agree. Thanks for being a person who is willing or should I say brave enough to “go first.”

    I really enjoyed what you had to share at Off the Blogs last week too!

  19. Dave says

    Awesome post! I believe that my lack of authenticity and genuineness stems from the fact that I am afraid of what people will think of me after I confess to my “felony” sins. One of my favourite songs is “Stained Glass Masquerade” because it nails this lack of genuineness perfectly. Giving the gift of second is a truly scary idea.

  20. Paul says

    I joined a small group at our church with great hopes and anticipation. After a while, I grew tired of praying for other people’s neighbors pets (no kidding) and listening to the same person complain about not getting any definitive word from God about where to move for over three years. Not what I had in mind. Since that time, I’ve become comfortable tossing my struggles on the table right up front. Are some people shocked and disappointed? Yes they are. Will some folks avoid me like the plague afterwards? Undoubtedly. However, I find most people are appreciative of the honesty and are genuinely supportive.

  21. fb says

    Good Post. The problem is that safe sins – are – well – safe!!! Can I really mention to that group that I tend to gossip way to much, or that our children are talking divorce? Can I say I am struggling with things that make me feel as if I can never measure up, and if they knew, they would never accept me the way I am? Funny how when it gets started we find we are so much more a like than different. We struggle with the same things most of the time. “Community” somehow has became one of those catch words, one that everyone loves to use – but no one really lives out. I am so thankful for a good friend who keeps me honest, because lets face it, I really don’t want to admit some of this junk, particularly in front of people who basically come to eat!!!

  22. Longview Drive MBC says

    I don’t really know the words….This post, and this mindset can change my ministry and church. Pray for me and I’ll pray for you

  23. Steph at The Red Clay Diaries says

    michele, you make a good point. If there are no better or worse sins, then we certainly need support when we confess any sin.

    I think the problem Jon was talking about was when the person does a big “build up” so that you’re expecting them to say they stole a car or something… And then it turns out to be something safer. That communicates to someone who already feels a ton of shame for what they’re doing, that if not praying is that terrible, then porn or one of the more socially undesirable sins is horrific and would cause anyone listening to just fall down and die in disgust.

    I think going first with ANY sin is a gift to those around you, as long as there’s an atmosphere of acceptance and forgiveness.

    I need people to give ME the gift of going second with failing to keep a consistent quiet time.

  24. katdish says

    I have two confessions:

    1) I forgot the name of the book you recommended with the passage about the artist. I really should write stuff down.

    2) I don’t always read Sherri’s comments in their entirety. (snort)

  25. Bennett says

    Jon, this post is spot on. I lead a college guys group every week, and fortunately we are at a point now where people feel completely comfortable talking about anything, but about six weeks in, I was almost running out of major sins to throw out there to break the ice.

    I’m glad the guys finally got honest, otherwise I was on the break of confessing sins like: “Once in high school I lost my parents’ porshe in a lake, and so I had to set up a temporary brothel in my house to raise the money to get another one…” or “Once when I was thirteen I wished I was bigger, and I turned into an adult, later neglecting my friend and sleeping with an older woman prior to finding the great Zoltar who turned me back into a thirteen year old.

  26. Jon says

    In youth ministry I see this so much. So many people talk about how they don’t have time to read their bible while they are being tormented by eating disorders, or porn addictions, or unresolved bitterness and anger. Thanks for this post, it reminded me why God has called me to do what I do. In fact I hope to lead by example and go first

  27. Brian Wilson says

    Thanks for posting this.. I actually tried to record your remarks at Off the Blogs, but it’s something of a strain to listen to since I was in the back. Do you know if the evening’s talks were recorded? Or have I just not looked at the right entry yet?

    Thanks for the Skittles and the stickers. And for going first.

  28. stacie says

    Oh, absolutely! I have lied my way through so many accountability groups because I wasn’t about to share my “real” sins with the group of “perfect” people around me. So we ALL just pledged to read our Bibles more.

    I finally realized that they aren’t perfect, either, and that when I really DID open up, I found a community of understanding people, who were glad someone was honest enough to “go first” – and then they shared, too. I love that!

    They don’t all have to be “big” sins (as we tend to categorize – God doesn’t), either. How encouraged would you be to hear someone else just confess that they got angry at their kid or spouse, or that they were struggling with jealousy or gossip, or some other “little” sin that we STILL aren’t brave enough to bring up, because satan convinces us that those things are NOT too BIG to mention, but too SMALL – things satan tells us we “ought” to be able to handle on our own – because he doesn’t want us to experience the victory that comes with accountability, even in the small things?

    I would LOVE to hear that someone else struggles with these things – because I do, too!!! (And, as someone else said, sometimes “needing to read my Bible more” really is my struggle…like today, when I’m spending WAY too much time reading blogs!) :-)

    I think we should be careful, too, not to go around vomiting our testimonies on everyone with whom we make eye contact…not everyone is ready to hear my whole story, and, honestly, not every random person can be trusted with it – I’ve learned that the hard way.

    Let’s not confuse authenticity with making ourselves the center of attention by dumping on people more than they ever wanted – or needed – to know. I can share enough about me to let others know that this is a safe place to be themselves without having to tell every intimate detail of my life. They gather from what I’m saying that I understand their “junk,” too, without it always having to be spelled out.

    My best friend (who knows all my “real” sins) and I have often talked about this, and we now jokingly use the phrase “I need to read my Bible more” as sort of a shorthand phrase to let each other know when we’re struggling – and then we talk about what’s REALLY going on in our lives. (Accountability seems to be a lot more effective that way.)

  29. Ross and Taya says

    Brilliant and humble. I’m sending it to everyone I can on facebook and twitter. Keep challenging us with stuff like this!

  30. stacie says

    I think we also do this with prayer requests. Our Sunday School class can have a deep discussion of some potentially life-changing statement from Jesus, and at the end, just before we pray, the leader will say something like, “Anyone have anything we need to pray about?”

    And someone goes, “Um, yeah…I’ve been fighting this cold for a couple of days. I’ve still got phlegm in my throat and I’m really tired, and I’ve got kind of a busy week, so…”

    Really??? We’ve just talked for 30 minutes about what Jesus meant when he said we should love our enemies, and you don’t think there’s ANYTHING about that that might be convicting, no difficult people in your life, no way that you might need the Lord’s help to love others this week? No? You’ve got everything covered, except for this cold?

    Not that God doesn’t care about our physical well-being, but maybe you could pray about it later? (And why are you here spreading germs, anyway, if you’re so sick?)

    Because you, Mr. Head Cold, have just set the standard for the rest of the prayer requests. You’ve just effectively said that we should now turn our attention from anything God might be impressing on our hearts, and completely change the subject. So if I were going to mention that I might need help with anything spiritual, I’ve just been told that we don’t really pray about “those” things…that’s just what we talk about in class, but it doesn’t mean anything – and prayer wouldn’t really make a difference.

    So after we’ve prayed for health concerns, busy schedules, “travel mercies” and lost hamsters, we all throw away our coffee cups and leave – any moment of spiritual conviction totally forgotten. And satan (yes, middle finger of grammar) smiles.

  31. Live Intentionally says

    Very insightful post, John. I’m going to blog about it and also see about having it sent out to all the small group leaders at our church.

    Most small group leaders probably don’t realize that they set the bar for the level of authenticity in their groups.

    Oh and I was going to say the same thing about praying safe prayers, another thing Christians like.

    - Paul

  32. William Robbins says

    Being transparent is definitely something missing today. The freedom that comes with honesty is so profound. As Jesus said, “the Truth shall set you free.” Great post, great blog, I’m glad I found you…keep up the good work and God Bless your ministry (blog)

  33. Richard says

    This is pretty darn amazing. I’m seriously gonna quote you on facebook, for all the peeps in small groups that I know.

  34. Ryan Tate says

    I forwarded this to my small group co-leader and to my fellow elder at my church who coordinates our small groups. There is sublte eloquence to your writing that expressively gets a message across so well. From one pastor’s kid to another, keep it up man, keep it up. Don’t let anything bring you down from the work you are doing. (Nehemiah 6:3)

  35. Stephanie says

    I don’t often comment on blogs (despite my complain from last week), and I have been reading yours for some time, pretty much from when I began following anyone’s blog. To me, this is one of the best you have ever written. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

  36. willohroots says

    There is far more honesty in the average bar room than the average church. The reason for that is judgmentalism. You won’t get judged in a bar, especially if you are buying. Unfortunately church is the place where we are least likely to confess a sin.
    i am off small groups for lent.

  37. trixerelixer says

    i love it! the same stands when in a group & you have to share your "testimony". you're surrounded by all these, "i was born & raised in church, i had a great family, blah, blah, blah" which is NOT a bad thing, but for those of us not particularly raised in church, raised by loving christian parents, we want to lie, to say life was grand, just so we can be as christian as they are. thanks for writing this, jon!

    coggag – the action of gagging one with the assistance of others.
    "Tim's small group coggaged him when he shared outside the safe sins realm."

  38. Pam says

    I appreciate Stacie’s comments as a balance to this post — I’m not so sure that it’s good or helpful to know everyone’s dirt or have them know mine.

    A sense of boundaries and appropriateness are important. If you’re sharing with the 5th grade Sunday school class you teach, you might NOT share your pornography problem. And if you DID, I might wonder what other problems we’re dealing with.

    The Bible speaks against hypocrisy, and does tell us to confess our sins to one another. But I think there’s a difference between pretending to be better than we are, and sharing the totality of our badness. Guess I’m going to give this some thought . . .

  39. Matt @ The Church of No People says

    Great thoughts. People instinctivly don’t want to go first. Such a huge risk to not be in the majority. Seems like we start this as kids. No one wants to be different – either below average or above average!

  40. Beckye says

    Jon, you’re so right about this. What a gift you give when you brave the possible rejection and shame and ‘go first.’ It’s one of those paradoxes in God’s Kingdom. You think it’ll be awful and they’ll hate you, when instead it draws people closer and God’s grace and compassion pour out!

    The one exception I’ve seen was in a small group years ago. My husband and I were working to develop vulnerability in a group where the leader would not be open and vulnerable. Week after week we would share openly (not inappropriately), but the leader would NOT GO THERE and did not want to, so no one else would venture out and brave the waters. Our openness fell like a lead balloon. lol The group stayed together for a number of years with a few leadership changes, and some finally dove in and there was more intimacy and real-ness in the group. Definitely need prayer and God working to get there!

  41. Patrick says

    Good stuff.

    I think the reverse of this is when someone goes first in prayer request time, says “My grandmother has lung, liver, and brain cancer, and my uncle just got kidnapped by Somali pirates.” The group goes through grief prayer, and then the next person’s request is “I have a math test on Friday.”

    I know we are supposed to pray without ceasing – but come on! You can talk to God about your math test later – the man’s uncle was KIDNAPPED BY PIRATES!!”

  42. Jeff says

    I have to confess.. I waste too much time before I read this blog everyday. Errr….. that is when I mean on the days that I actually read it…

  43. Paul Maurice Martin says

    What’s good advice for job interviews (“What’s your greatest weakness?” – “I have this terrible tendency to overwork…) is bad for spiritual life.

    From my experience being a counselor, I’d add that it’s also bad for small group counseling sessions.

  44. clay says

    I don’t know, I like making fun of church oddities as much as anyone, but poo-pooing other’s prayer requests? That seems like you’re going too far.

    For example, I’m not drug addicted or porn addicted, I don’t beat animals or spit on children, and don’t have any of the issues people normally think of as vices. Does that mean I’m perfect and don’t need prayers? By no means. If anything I probably need more prayers because the things that are wrong in my life aren’t thought of as shameful, and therefore are not as likely to be pointed out by my brothers and sisters.

  45. Pam D says

    whoa. Transparency… that is SO hard. Because if people can really SEE inside of me? They would laugh. They would hate me. They would never want to be around me. I’m not typing things that I “think” others would say or think. I’m being real. I stink. But with enough perfume, or air freshener, or “safe sins”… I can get by and pretend it’s the next guy that farted. sorry… but real. ouch. That really hurt, Jon. Thanks.

  46. Anonymous says

    You still didn’t confess masturbation! We know that is your real “junk”.

    Most people will confess internet pornography or simply “lust” because they don’t want to utter the word “masturbation.”

    Will this comment be deleted because it is too… dangerous?

  47. Fred Maupin says

    I like this one. I have thought this several times, and unfortunately fallen into it as well. I meet with some guys as an “accountability” prayer group. But, if no one is going to be honest, then there is not going to be much accountability. Drives me nuts. Thanks for calling it out.


  48. Anonymous says


    Thanks for the clarification. It was helpful. If someone does the big buildup for something that isn’t considered as “bad”, then someone else will be hesitant to share their junk.

    I think the key is pure, plain genuineness. Be it “small” or “big” … if it’s something we truly care about having God change in our lives, we just honestly share it.


  49. Abby says

    I heard you talk about this on Thursday night and giving the gift of going second has lodged itself in my mind.

    Well done.

  50. David Richardson says

    Man, this is one of your best posts ever. Not trying to blow up your head or anything, but this just really connected with me. Thanks!

  51. Prodigal Jon says

    Anon @6:53
    Thanks for the feedback. Although I disagree with you in the sense that uttering one word or another does not validate or invalidate a confession (I’ve been judgmental in the past about the quality of someone’s confession and I think trying to hold someone up to my standard of what a “real” confession is can be a really bogus thing of me to do and ultimately the only standard that matters is God’s – I’m not saying that was the intent of your comment, just what it reminded me of in my own life) I want you to know that I’ll never delete comments like the on you left because they’re not dangerous. Dishonesty is dangerous. Hiding is dangerous. If you’re just expressing your honest opinion, I certainly wouldn’t want to edit that. What a rambling, run on response I just wrote. Bottom line, thanks for the comment. It made me pause and think and I really appreciate that.

  52. Nick the Geek says

    Anon @6:53,

    I read that this morning before Jon commented, but my response is different so its cool.

    The problem is not Masturbation. Yep I said it.

    The problem is how you look at others. Don’t believe me? Go read what Jesus said on Adultery, which is condemned unlike Masturbation.

    Jesus tells us that when we look at someone with lust in our heart that we have committed the sin of Adultery. Of course this applies to people you are not married to when you are married or if they are married otherwise it is fornication but you get the point right?

    The real issue is always the motives that drive us. If we rule our body and never cave to the lusts and desires in us in any way but let those lusts and desires have plenty of room then we have already lost the battle.

    Fortunately grace covers all manner of sins even cutting someone off at the knees when they are baring their soul.

  53. Mike and Rachel says

    I’m ridiculously transparent in and out of Christian circles and I think it freaks people out. My youngest is nearly 2 so I get asked a lot when number three will be coming around. When I answer, after a thoughtful pause, that number three is not planned because I am really struggling with my anger towards my very young children and until I can get that very ugly emotion under control I have no business having more children. People are kinda stunned and looking for an emergency exit.

    I find it is safest to be honest with parents with children a little older, who remember being there and aren’t ashamed to admit they didn’t do it perfectly. So yeah, I go first whenever I am asked questions about family planning. And we are trying to make our small group a place where we can be vulnerable with each other too, and it is working.

  54. Solid Gold says

    You nailed it. Your post explains exactly what we are trying to teach ecclesiastical leaders about how to approach someone addicted to pornography and or sexual addiction

    Thank you for posting your feelings and comments. This is what helps people to start the healing process of overcoming addiction. We feel it is important to tie the spiritual healing with knowledge. We teach people how the brain functions with their addiction and encompass that with their belief and bingo, we have a winning ticket to overcome their Addict.

    Great post keep sharing.


  55. Anonymous says

    I am Anon @ 6:53.

    Nick and Jon… Thank you for your responses. Well, I didn’t put as much thought into my original post as you guys obviously did in yours. So, I can understand that you might feel like I was judging. Actually, the first part about saying “I know what your junk is” was really just trying to be funny. Guess I failed.

    In any case, my only, single, one point in my post was that we are ASHAMED of the fact we masturbate. You can debate whether or not it is wrong and you can debate whether or not other kinds of lust are more ‘sinful.’ But we have to admit that admitting masturbation is one of the hardest things to do, for whatever reason.

    I was just putting masturbation out there so that others would have the gift of going second. I didn’t say it the right way the first time, though, so I’ll say it now:

    I masturbate.

    But I know I’m a coward because I’m still posting anonymously.

  56. Anonymous says

    I’m still at a point where I can’t seem to confess my most secret sin (not biggest, because I’m sure I’m sinning plenty in other ways I don’t even know about) with everyone knowing, which is why I’m anonymous, so please excuse me for that.

    But at least I’ll say it out in the open, even if you don’t know who I am: my secret shameful sin would be masturbation. And I’m a woman. So for those who think only guys struggle with this, I am testament to show that that women deal with lust too. I don’t necessarily look at porn, or read books that are graphic in description, but occasionally I will, if I’m really in deep. Most of the time I just remember scenes from movies or tv shows that aren’t even R-rated, but it’s enough for me sometimes, because my mind will conjure up what it can’t see. And so my struggle is against the physical pleasure I want to feel.

    The thing I want to thank God for, as frustrating and shameful as it is, is that lately He’s been really pressing upon my heart to share it with the people in my church, because we have quite a small ministry. But I was hoping you guys could help me out. Is this something I can tell everyone, both guys and girls, during small group, or would it more prudent of me to share it first with only a few people, maybe one older person, who isn’t a guy?

  57. Anonymous says

    To Anon@5:33, I didn’t realize you had posted until I went down the page to make sure mine showed up okay (I’m Anon@9:43). But thanks for being first anyway.

  58. Steve says

    Like so many things in the Western church, the idea of accountability and confession needs to be updated (by actually moving backward)…

    we recently started a men’s “edit-ability” group here…there were 13 guys I felt led to ask, 9 of them responded and started it. we meet every other week, very informally…i got the concept of “edit-ability” from Leonard Sweet’s book 11 Indispensable Relationships You Can’t Be Without.

    In traditional style “accountability” groups it has been my experience for men they go something like this…”You look at porn?” “Nope, did you?” “Nope, let’s go eat!” The idea is that men in the midst of their man-pride don’t want to be “accountable” to one more person in their life! The concept of “edit-ability” however is much different…not only have I and every other guy in the group given each other permission to ask tough questions, but we also give permission for that bunch to help us “edit” our life, whether it be by actually stepping in to help a situation (putting a password on a router, going to the gym with the guy, calling him early in the morning to make sure he’s up…). It goes beyond someone making sure you’re not “messing up”…it leads to biblical relationships in the body of Christ.

    We started meeting in December of 08, and we are getting ready to split the group into 3 separate groups…our church serves 3 distinct cities, and we’ve seen the need to make the group more area centered. Once a group gets to 10 guys, they split into 2 groups of 5 and start adding again…it is really amazing what God is doing…

    Incidentally, the wives of the first group of guys decided they needed something pointed like this as well so they meet in our ‘off’ weeks…they have testified to one another how they have seen “real change” in their husbands during this time, and it has intrigued them…so now they are editing each other’s life as well.

  59. Heart of a Ready Writer says

    Great post – and so true.

    How vulnerable are we willing to make ourselves, for the sake of community?

  60. Encarnacion says

    So, speaking first about something is giving somebody “The Gift of Going Second”? Who knew?

    I’d sometimes give others at university this “gift” without ever knowing it was a gift. But I noticed that if I was real with them, they would be just about as real too. However I tend to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in informing me when would be an appropriate time about dumping the more socially-stigmatizing things. The first time i felt convicted to tell somebody about an issue in my life, I threw up from the stress! But it was about time that I had, and it allowed me to share it better the next time, and allowed more serious discussions with others who had similar junk in their lives. I could be wrong, but this seems like the recipe to remove the inventor’s curse, to me.

    wv: propick: For when you’ve gotta have the right guitar pick

  61. Gabrielle Eden says

    Dear anon 6:53,

    I am a woman who once masturbated, and I wrote about it in my blog, and I’m not anonymous!

    I’m not doing it now, because my hormones have changed. I wish I could say it’s because I’m married.

    I was always hormonally “charged.”

    Dr. James Dobson set me free regarding this area in some things he said on the topic. He said it’s not wrong (for those who accept it) if your fantasies or thoughts are not wrong. It’s really between you and God. In order to find peace, you have to find peace with Him on this, but godly people like Dobson may help.

    People, maybe esp. women, feel guilty about masturbation because they feel guilty about sex in general.

  62. Gabrielle Eden says

    Jon, I hope I don’t weary you and everyone with my frequent comments.

    I am grieved by the lack of transparency we are forced to have in the church.

    Che Ahn(Harvest Rock church, Pasadena, friend of Ted Haggard), in a recent conference I went to, said that he thought Ted Haggard’s problem was largely that he was unable to confess to anyone in his early years the struggles he was having with homosexuality, because he would have been immediately banned from what he was doing. There was no acceptance for anyone with that kind of struggle.

    It’s as if we think there is no hope for someone stained with homosexuality, as if it’s not a sin that the blood of Christ can cleanse. Thus, no one wants to confess it!!!!!

    We are a sorry bunch for people who carry the message of the greatest source of liberation there is!

  63. Shirley says

    I have done a bit of prison ministry, so while I’ve been in groups where “safe sins” have a run, I’ve also been in the opposite, where it is like a contest to see who had the “worst sin” imaginable, and yet Christ redeemed it. Neither is so great.
    We need others who we can be honest with about our struggles. And even when we’re in a group where broadcasting our particular sin is not appropriate, we need to be real enough to acknowledge that we struggle.
    Keith green sang “The world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can’t fight cause its asleep in the light”
    It starts with those who profess the Name of Christian to open our eyes and be real before we have any hope of witnessing His Glorious Grace to a lost world.

    Thanks for your blog.

  64. ericap says

    Thanks for writing the truth and for going first. How are we to truly love each other and to help if we can if no one is willing to expose themselves. Do we live in that perfect of a world. Absolutely not. If we all sit around and pretend that we are fine, how will anything change? It won’t eventually we will all hit a dead-end (literally) road and slam right into it. God wants us to expose ourselves, if we do others will realize that their sins might be able to be forgiven and look to Him instead of running in the opposite direction. We need God first and foremost, but we also need each other. Life can be a very lonely road and sometimes its nice to know that christians have been on that lonely road as well. Peace to you and thanks for your blog. a sister in Christ!

  65. ericap says

    Thanks for writing the truth and for going first. We all need to be willing to expose our weaknesses. God wants us to. If we don’t how are we to be examples to others who may feel as if their sin is just too much for God to forgive. Things have changed in my life because of God. Now instead of beer I need the Word of God. Instead of a party I need a Wed. night prayer session. I need different things now, but that doesn’t mean that a little bit ago I wasn’t as broken and as lost as the next guy. We need to embrace each other, we need to speak honestly and let others know that God is not prejudice. He loves us right where we’re at. Peace to you and thanks for the blog. a sister in Christ!

  66. Anonymous says

    My husband recently admitted to me that he had cheated on me while we were dating (about 2 years ago). I was devastated, and there is still a lot of destruction that has to be rebuilt, but we are definitely in the process of healing thanks to several members of our church and some good conseling (and an immeasurable amount of help from God).

    After he admitted it to me, he had to face his men’s group which meets weekly. He was terrified to go back. So scared because all the men in his group our “such good family men”.

    He worked up the courage to tell his group, and wouldn’t you know it, ever since the other men are slowly creeping away from safe sins, and feel more comfortable admitting what’s really going on/has gone on in their lives.

    My husband now jokes “Telling them was a great idea. Once I dropped that bomb, there wasn’t much left that was off limits to talk about for the rest of them. I set the bar so low, they had nothing to fear at that point!”

  67. almondeyes444 says

    I appreciate your honesty in this a lot! I am in charge of leading small groups at my church and I think this is a great thing to think about when training leaders!

  68. alexis says

    This reminds me of something Aaron Weiss (mewithoutYou)

    "the good things: we keep a secret. anything bad we do, we confess those things to each other…"

    I've been trying, for the past two weeks, to really embrace this truth. Oh intensity.

  69. Violet says

    Wow…what a fabulous post! So many times I've been in a group – head down, avoiding eye contact, waiting for someone else to go first. Because even though I have something to say, I don't want to go first and risk being judged! Going second often means I either don't speak or I say something different or watered-down from what I intended.

    I'm the kind of person who tends to let it all hang out, though, and I often feel like the only sinner in a room full of saints. Next time, I'm going to remember this essay and give my fellow group members the gift of going second.

  70. says

    Hey Jon, I'm gonna go ahead and be a little bravenonymous-esque here.

    This post really spoke to me (in more ways than one, because I first heard it on your audiobook. Lol.) because although I was raised in a Christian home, when I was a kid, think 8-13, I was addicted to online pornography. Go ahead and read that again. An 8-year-old girl, daughter of strong Christians, addicted to internet porn. It wasn't because of my parents or some traumatic experience or anything like that – it was just me. As time passed and I got older/started understanding more about God, it just made me feel more depressed and angry at myself. I was on the verge of suicide before God finally got a hold of my heart.

    These past few years, I've struggled with recovering from all that mess because I've kept it all to myself. Not even my parents know everything. But God has done a miraculous amount of healing in my mind and heart, and I'm close to healthy now.

    Interestingly, a few years ago, shortly after God saved me, someone prophesied over me that I had a story to tell – a big one that people needed to hear. I've accepted that slowly and started to share a bit, but mostly only when I've been backed into a verbal corner.

    But after reading this post, I realize that I've grown and matured enough to make myself vulnerable to others. Who knows what kind of things my small group friends are struggling with – who knows if they feel as trapped by shame as I did? Maybe by sharing I can help ease the load. So I'm going to dive into that.

    Thanks for showing me that it's okay to go first.


  71. says

    This is one of my favorite posts and favorite parts of the book. It seems funny on the surface, but uncovers an ugly truth about each of us. We want to pray for others, we want God to hear our prayers, but we want to look good while doing it.

    Read my lips – God doesn't care how you look when you come to Him.

  72. says

    This is a very good blog post (sorry for commenting too late, just found this blog!).. and really resonated with me. Sometimes when I go to church, I feel everyone around me is putting up some sort of mask, and pretending to be someone else. It's frustrating.

  73. charline payne says

    Great point. I happened to have had a lot of public speaking experience.
    I know from classroom teaching;that if I’m not open first that no teen will share.
    Also,no preacher is worth his/her salt if they are not personal in their sermons! Char

  74. says

    I know it’s like 2011, so I’m so 2000 and late on commenting on this post, but it changed my life a couple of years ago, and it will always be my favorite. Thanks :)


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