AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
This post is speaking to a very specific audience. If you are not struggling with an intense desire to hurt or degrade others, this is not recommended reading.
Maybe you molest kids. Maybe you beat your family members. Maybe you feel intensely addicted to seeing people writhing in pain. Maybe you can’t get a sexual high unless someone is being degraded. Whatever form your dark impulses take, once you find yourself hopelessly tangled up in them, it is so easy to give up on hope and surrender yourself to some condemning label. Creep. Pervert. Monster. Sick and twisted. Animal. We can come up with all kinds of labels, but what does this really accomplish? The reality is that you weren’t born this way. This is a destination that you have arrived at for very logical reasons. You aren’t just “screwed up”. There are reasons for what you do, and if you really understood them, you’d find them surprisingly rational.
Humans are very responsive creatures. We have experiences thrust upon us, and our reactions to those experiences change us. But while other people hold us responsible for the way we react to our lives, how much choice do we really have?
If we were to air drop a group of men into a deep section of the ocean, some of them would begin to swim back to shore, some would flail about in panic, and still others would start swimming off in the wrong direction. If we were to watch the scene, we would see this variety of reactions, and many of them would seem nonsensical. We might ask, “Why are some of them just sitting there? Why are some heading off in the wrong direction? Why are some acting so dramatic? Why don’t they all just swim to safety? The shore isn’t all that far away—what’s wrong with these fools?” And yet if we were able to get inside of each man’s mind, we would discover that each one is reacting quite rationally to his circumstances. The man who is swimming away from the shore is following his gut instinct. He really thinks he is heading in the right direction and doesn’t realize his gut is wrong. One man who is flailing about in panic has never been taught how to swim and he is trying desperately to keep his head above water. Another man is paralyzed with fear because the last time he was in the open ocean, he was attacked by a shark and his mind is now telling him that another beast is lurking just below him. Another man begins to swim to safety, but simply doesn’t have the strength to get very far because he is in poor health and cannot handle the cold temperature. The point is that while the men are reacting very differently to the same situation, each reaction makes perfect sense from a certain point of view. We could say the same of any behavior that we see humans engaging in. No matter how perverse or sadistic, there is a logic at work, and that logic makes sense from a certain point of view.
Why does part of you feel strangely satisfied and perhaps even relieved when you degrade or abuse others? Why do you want to abuse yourself? Why do you explode in physical violence at the slightest emotional provocation? Humans are logical creatures and our behaviors are purposeful. There is a stream of logic that is driving you to do what you do and to want what you want. The presence of that logic is very significant because logic is not a static, frozen thing. It can be drastically altered by changing one or more of the many beliefs that it is built on. You see, when you start fantasizing about your next victim, there are deeper mechanics at work in your mind.
Why does an alcoholic order another drink? His actions aren’t random, they are purposeful. His mind is logically reacting to a series of factors. Physiological cravings, emotional stress—if we could get into his head, we could uncover a very rational argument for why he feels that ordering another drink is the best course of action in that moment. Even if it’s as simple as, “I’m feeling terribly upset and I know that drinking will bring me temporary emotional relief”—that makes sense, doesn’t it? We could do the same for the molester, the rapist, the torturer and any other abuser. Humans have reasons for what they do, and those reasons are shaped by their wounds, their needs, and their beliefs.
When we start slapping people with derogatory labels, we act as if their logic is non-existent and then we speak as if they are just some freakish mistake—some ugly blotch on the canvas of humanity that needs to be scrubbed out. Yet no human is a mistake, and no human is beyond transformation. No matter how screwed up you might feel, there is always hope. Whether a string has been knotted once or a hundred times, it is possible to undo those knots and smooth it out again. It is never justifiable to write yourself off as hopeless. There is always hope, and that hope is far more accessible than you think. It begins with realizing that you have reasons for what you do, and those reasons are married to beliefs and wounds. Beliefs can be changed. Wounds can be healed. Every positive alteration, no matter how slight, will have a ripple effect on your entire stream of logic, and as your logic changes, so will your behaviors. Take the man who we dropped into the ocean who instantly began to thrash about and panic. Why did he panic? Because he has never been taught to swim. Is this an uncorrectable problem? Certainly not. We can rescue him out of the water, coach him through a course on swimming skills, and then return him to the same situation and he would respond quite differently. Certainly the process would take time, but there’s no question that it would be worth it.
So what about you? You’re in a similar situation as our drowning man. You’re all tangled up in dark impulses which you feel at a loss to control. You’re hurting yourself and others and you can’t see a way of stopping. Who is willing to plunge into those murky waters with you and start teaching you a better way? Is it possible to find someone who is braver than you are—someone who is not going to balk at facing certain truths about yourself that you can’t bear to look at? Is there anyone who can look at you and honestly see something other than a monster? Of course there is.
The One who made you is already in the sludge with you, and He has been all this time. He does not accept this absurd notion that you are beyond hope or redemption. He does not care if others consider you to be unworthy of forgiveness. What He wants is for you to recognize that you’re in way over your head and to let Him help you. There is nothing twisted in you that God cannot smooth out. There is nothing ugly about you that He can’t transform into something beautiful. But what good does a life raft do a drowning man if the man refuses to grab hold of it even when it’s floating so close that it’s bonking him in the head?
One of the greatest mistakes that souls in your position make is letting human beings define the limits of their hope, worth, and potential. Did other humans create you? No, and given that they don’t even understand themselves, how can you accept that they have such a clear understanding of where your limitations lie? The God who made you says that you are not beyond redemption because He is not some incompetent who ends up baffled by His own creations. Would you try and tell a human that he cannot possibly remodel any part of the house that he designed and built with his own hands? Of course not, so don’t try to tell God what He can’t do with you. No one is beyond hope. Other people might view you as a monster, but God has no use for human labels. In you He sees vast potential for beauty and joy. There is no law that says you must spend your entire existence tearing down and destroying. God can teach you how to become someone who builds up instead. Yes, it will take time, but so what? What matters is that you stop flailing about on your own and reach out to your Creator.
God dearly loves monsters and He does not view them as some stain on the human race. We are each on a different journey, and for some of us, the first part of that journey is filled with brutality and horrors. But dark beginnings only set us up for a greater appreciation of the healing and joy that God has in store for us. We cannot reach these things on our own—we need Him to carry us to them, and that means surrendering ourselves into His loving arms and admitting that we are drowning in our own darkness. But if we are willing to fully embrace Him as our only hope of salvation, salvation is what we will have. No one is beyond hope. You are not beyond hope, nor are you without love. Your Creator is offering you an abundance of both, so what are you going to say to Him?
What To Do When People Won’t Forgive You
Angry at God
Broken to Thrive: Help & Hope for Pedophiles
Understanding Your Perverse Fantasies: A Sign of Stress, Not Defectiveness
Emerging From Darkness: Guidance & Hope for Malicious Torturers
Help For Murderers: Finding Peace With A God Who Loves You
Understanding Unpardonable Sins: Lies vs. Truth
Repentant Sinners: Is it wrong to stop feeling bad about the past?