Picture yourself walking along a rocky shore wearing high heels — almost impossible right? When someone is involved in betrayal or hidden sin of some sort, this is a good way to describe the feelings of those close to them. If you are facing the known or very real possibility that your spouse, a child, or someone else you love, is struggling in an area of habitual sin, I am writing this in order for you to recognize and take active steps that will help you find remedy for this very difficult situation.
The following thoughts may be familiar to you if you are in relationship with someone who is bound in sin: “Why is it so difficult to have a conversation of substance? Why does (s)he seem so evasive, unwilling to answer any questions? Why does (s)he twist things and blame me? Why is (s)he so impatient and angry? What’s wrong with me, why am I feeling so frustrated and angry? Why won’t (s)he tell me where (s)he’s been? I feel like I’m going crazy! All (s)he wants to do is watch TV or sit on the computer or cell phone! I feel so alone and isolated. I feel like (s)he is overly controlling of me. I don’t know who I am anymore. What’s happened to us? I’m afraid, why do I feel this constant dread, “ and the list goes on. If you have experienced similar thoughts, and even think you might be going crazy, take heart you are not alone. There may be a good reason for your uncertainty, hyper self-examination, and confusion.
What I am writing about is common enough in the world around us; where sinful habituation (addictive behavior) has become normalized. But for those who profess a relationship with Jesus Christ, living this way is simply wrong. If people are attending church and claiming relationship with Christ and they are experiencing this dynamic, intervention is needed. The parties need help through biblical counseling to open their hearts to God and his will for their life. God’s purpose in saving us is for us to glorify Him and this will not happen in this environment. You will simply be going through the motions; showing up at church with the mask, yet dying inside — not to mention the effects this hypocrisy has upon your children.
Let’s go back to the high heels. When someone checks out of life and into their secret fantasy world it creates a rocky road for those around them. Let me give you a few common markers that should help you discern if someone you care for is involved in habitual sin. Please remember, there’s no need to panic; this situation did not happen overnight. God has a redemptive plan in mind for you and your family; but you must act wisely if you wish to see good come out of destruction.
Here are three markers that indicate a major problem or habituation in sinful behavior:
1) Vagueness and ambiguity. When you ask “normal” questions and are met with answers that really don’t answer, but deflect, turn it around on you, or skirt the question — beware. Someone living with a secret has to cover and protect and this takes effort. The easiest way to cover one’s tracks and to keep ahead of those close by is to keep things vague or ambiguous. Antonyms for ambiguity are: certainty, clarity, clearness. When these are lacking in conversation, and you have to pull teeth to get clear and concise answers to your questions, there is a problem somewhere.
2) Blame Shifting. Someone who lives with guilt and shame will, out of necessity, shift the blame somewhere else. This throws the inquiring person into a defensive position — and as in football, you can only advance toward your goal when you have the ball. When someone has a habit of shifting blame to you when asked a legitimate question, you have a power-play going on. The use of diversion is to remove the question from them and shift it toward you. To combat that, stay focused, and speak clearly, directly and honestly to them about what you are feeling. Also, take a break for the moment so you can regroup. There is skill in this pattern and you’ve likely learned to dance in submission to it. Sin and deception, by nature, work together to create an atmosphere of blaming someone else (Gen. 3:12-13). Manipulation and control accompany the blame in order to keep those involved off-balance.
3) Impatience and Anger. This response reveals internal conflict. When someone is living with hidden sin they feel frustrated with themselves, and very much like a failure. When a soul is dealing with shame and guilt, conflict will be demonstrated. A knee-jerk reaction often occurs when someone gets close to the issue and impatience or ridicule is often used by the offender to control those around them. If the invader’s threat continues, the reaction progresses to anger; then possibly rage and hatred because as sin progresses the bondage grows.
A few practical examples: “Honey, would you like me to pack a lunch for you?” or “Can I make you some breakfast before you head off to work?” Those are simple, kind, questions, right? Well, if one day the answer is appropriate like, “Sure, thank you.” — and another day it’s met with, “Why do you always have to bug me?” or “Why are you so controlling?” or “Can’t you leave me alone!” You have a problem. Depending on the dynamics of the situation and how long this has been going on, you will find yourself wondering, “Why this rotten behavior? What has happened to cause such distain and this adversarial spirit?“ One day you get a normal response to a routine question, the next day its impatience, anger and blame. Why? The change from one day to the next can be frightening and confusing. Without understanding the sin, the cycle, the acting out, you may wonder, what’s wrong with me? What did I do? You may become convinced that YOU are the problem — when in reality they are dealing with guilt and you become the scapegoat.
These patterns of unpredictability, vagueness, impatience, and anger, have their root. Use whatever scenario you will, and look for the pattern. While you may be repeatedly blamed for the response you receive, begin to recognize what you are dealing with. Do not take a victim mentality and give up. You may feel like you are fighting a phantom! It really can be that confusing at times. While this is primarily a “spiritual” battle, it also has physical consequences. Habitual behavior is aided by hormones that rivet the pleasure sensors in the brain; that’s why people have difficulty letting go of their sin. Defense mechanisms are habitual too; they are a part of someone’s life when they live with guilt and shame.
Note: some habitual sins (addictions) are easier to spot, and can be dealt with before they become deeply embedded in the soul and brain function of the individual. Because lying and manipulation are central to keeping sin hidden, these patterns accompany habituation making it more difficult to detect. While the “user” is deceived, those around them often fall for these manipulative tactics and end up going deeply into the pit of confusion and despair themselves. Sexual sin in particular is most destructive and is growing within churches. Yet, few pastors will speak openlu about this particular sin with their congregations, paving the way for help. While there are men’s groups formed to help, often the wives are left ignorant or confused. This failure tends to keep spouses feeling uncomfortable in attempting to get help.
What Can I do?
Climbing that rocky slope in high heels is not easy. I believe a primary reason some never reach out for help is because of the recurring confusion this scenario brings. Because you are already experiencing disrespect, betrayal, and guilt you lack the confidence it takes to move forward.
Many have experienced the pain of attempting to get help only to regret it. The resulting pent up anger and frustration someone in this situation experiences, can make it appear initially (to an inexperienced helper) that you are the source of the problem. We all have sin to deal with, but the dynamics of this betrayal and abuse feeds the frustration. Because of prolonged abuse, some stop fighting and go inward, silent and recluse. For others, the pressure cooker lid blows and it all comes spewing out. Either response, while sinful on your part, is a common reaction to the inability to be allowed to express your feelings and to be respected as an individual.
Gaining clarity and trying to express yourself takes effort and seems overwhelming because you’ve lived in such a confusing world of turmoil. You’ve changed, you don’t like who you are, your sense of normal is gone and it becomes difficult to express yourself. To be sure, Satan is delighting in all of this confusion. The hidden sin not only affects the one choosing sin, but everyone around them. This is why it is so important to get help. Also, even though the initial sin may have ceased, the behavior associated with protecting that secret is now a deep sin issue in the heart.
The feeling of constant instability eventually breaks down our identity in Christ as well. The mind becomes clouded and it seems an overwhelming task to confront the real issue. Along with the biblical mandate of submission and respect for authority, there’s enough confusion to keep many quiet. You may even wonder if you have lost out with God and are abandoned. You’re not. You just need a life-saver tossed to you. You will make it if you hold on to the Life-Giver, Jesus, and make the changes needed.
Bringing sin into the light (I John 1:7) is vital. This offers the opportunity for repentance and confession (I John 1:9). Perhaps this has already happened on occasion with your spouse or loved one; you must realize that there is a deep, deep stronghold that comes with habitual sin — especially sexual idolatry. Coming out requires much more than confession and repentance, intensive restructuring with God’s Word and accountability is mandatory.
Freedom, found in Christ, comes from walking in the light and hating sin; we must hate sin as God does. Consistent, honest openness and accountability is required. It takes work. Changing the mind and its patterns concerning what is pleasing to God is vital. Humility is a major factor in overcoming the past and pride will fight against this all along the way.
Action Steps: If you feel continued sin is present, don’t allow fear and suspicion to rule your heart. Instead, take steps toward having a conversation about what you are feeling with the one involved (Mt. 18:15-17). If this fails, find one or two to come along and assist you. In order to prepare yourself:
1) Think biblically: get biblical counsel if you are unable to think this through yourself. Living in High Heels on the Rocks for years will have its affects. The truth presented in love (Eph. 4:15) will be needed to set everyone free, including you.
2) Act, instead of reacting: God’s Word gives action steps that bring hope. Write out what scripture says about your situation. Differentiate truth from thoughts based in the pain you feel.
3) Pray, instead of panicking: In order to trust God through this process you need to pray and gain power over the enemy, who uses fear to derail us. Reacting will not produce righteous fruit.
4) Exercise faith in God: Trust involves believing God. Responding out of your flesh will increase the confusion, which Satan loves to operate in. God offers clarity to those who will trust Him.
5) Ask for help — this is so important! Do not try to handle situation alone. There are plenty of resources available to you; there are caring people who can help. Start with your pastor, church leadership may need to become involved to enact biblical discipline. Glorifying God, and freeing yourself and those you love are worth it.
Remember, Satan wants to destroy you, your spouse, and your children, but God wants to give you abundant life (John 10:10). Bringing sin into the light is the first step to freedom.
 1 Corinthians 6:18 (KJV) Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
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