Freedom from Sexual Sin through Forgiveness
My parents aren’t perfect. (Shocker, I know.) They get it from their parents, who got it from their parents, who got it from our first parents: Adam and Eve. Yeah. Original Sin…I guess you can say it runs in the family. The age-old saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” bears more weight than we realize.
Yet, even though I know my parents aren’t perfect (and that no one’s are), I’ve always had unrealistic expectations for them. When I was little, I got upset pretty easily, and I remember frequently running to my room and slamming the door. (Yeah…I was a tad dramatic.) Ironically, even though that action clearly implied that I wanted to be alone, I wanted the exact opposite: I wanted to be consoled. I wanted to be comforted. I wanted to be made to feel better. Looking back now, it’s obvious to me why my parents never followed me into my room. They waited until I finally stormed back out, demanding attention yet again and asking why they didn’t come after me. I never understood how they didn’t just KNOW what I needed…all the time. In short, I didn’t understand why my parents weren’t perfect.
Hindsight truly is 20/20. Although I can now clearly see that my mom and dad labored in love for me and my siblings every day, I also recognize ways they failed: ways they actually failed, not simply how they failed to meet my unrealistic expectations.
It’s important to note, however, that they are not failures in and of themselves. None of us are. We all have countless successes and failures in our lives, and something to always remember about failures in particular is that they are a result of attempts. In other words, each failure is a product of having tried to succeed.
I know that my parents did their best raising me, and they were and still are amazing, but there were failures on their part that have taken me a long time to forgive. One in particular was something I know they never intended.
Growing up, I don’t recall my parents really regulating what we watched on TV. For example, in grade/middle school, my younger brother and I would regularly watch TV programs that we shouldn’t have been watching. My brain (not to mention my emotions) didn’t know how to process many of the terms and graphic images I saw on those programs – particularly, those regarding sexuality. I began having sexual thoughts more and more often, and since the only exposure I had to them was extremely distorted, my thoughts and feelings about sex and sexuality in general became primarily disturbing, as well.
Around the same time, I remember my parents buying a movie that was pretty popular at the time – and that many of you reading this have probably seen – and my parents allowed my siblings and me to watch it with them. I was scandalized. It includes a graphic scene of a couple having sex. And when I say literally, I mean literally: you can’t fake something like that. It was horrible.
Now, sex as a God-given gift for a husband and wife is created to be pure and beautiful, to bond the spouses and bring forth children. What the people in the film were doing, though – what all people who produce any sort of erotic, pornographic material do – was pure evil. Why? Because it was lust. It was not meant to bond the people involved, and it certainly was not meant to bear children. It was a selfish use of others, which is exactly what lust is. It is a result of Original Sin, and it is why Adam and Eve became ashamed of their nakedness in the Garden of Eden and why they sought to clothe themselves after having eaten of the fruit. As I said earlier, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree…something I became starkly aware of that day.
My senses were entirely overwhelmed by what I saw in that film, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. My family didn’t seem to have any reaction while watching it, I thought, so why did I? I felt incredibly guilty, and I didn’t tell anyone for the longest time. I started to watch that particular scene when I was home alone. Then I started looking up that kind of material on the computer, and eventually it led to an addiction to pornography, as well as masturbation.
It was a long time before I even understood what those two things were, not to mention how serious of sins they were, and how desperately I needed help overcoming them. It was after attending a number of retreats in 8th grade that I learned about chastity and the true happiness it promises. I also learned about how common my addictions were, and I found hope through the people leading the retreats, some of whom were courageous enough to share their own struggles with overcoming various sexual sins. It made me want to amend my life.
God gave me the grace through these powerful experiences to run to Him for healing in the Sacrament of Confession, which I would seek each time I messed up. I can now say – at 23 years old – I have not messed up in either of these ways in over two years. It was a difficult journey, and I often felt like it would never end, but IT FINALLY DID, and the fight was totally worth it. What has also helped me overcome these addictions once and for all was being honest with my parents about them, as well as close friends. One of my friends (who has also struggled with these sins) even offered to be my accountability partner, and the two of us to this day text each other every night, “Didn’t mess up today!” I promise you, THERE IS HOPE, and freedom is possible!
Part of this process involves forgiveness, though: forgiveness of anyone involved in your first exposure to porn, forgiveness of anyone who in some way encouraged the addiction, and forgiveness of yourself. For me, this in large part meant forgiving my parents. It is something I still have to pray for when the hurt creeps in, knowing my parents should have protected me from this, but I also have to understand that it wasn’t entirely their fault, either. As we mentioned earlier, no parents are perfect, and they can’t protect their kids from everything. However, I hope to encourage all parents to have a greater awareness of the content they expose their children to, and at what age certain things are appropriate. I would also recommend that parents always watch programs with their children. Unfortunately, there is hardly anything kids can watch alone, unchecked, nowadays. Even current, so-called “children’s programs” often have underlying sexual content, as well as negative connotations regarding parents/authority figures. If a show or a movie doesn’t promote good values and morals, then the bottom line is it is not worth it. A child’s soul is not worth any amount of enjoyment that may come from such programs, which they could gain from countless other activities. The same is true for teenagers, young adults, and full-fledged adults, as well. Why settle for the trash the media tries to sell us when we, as consumers, determine their fate? May we have the courage to hold each other to higher standards, which are the only way to true and lasting happiness…and may God grant us the grace to seek His forgiveness and the forgiveness of others for all the times we have failed to do so.