Do I Even Have an Addiction? -Part Four

Putting Evil in the World)

I’ve spent the last few posts speaking to those who recognize that part of their life is amiss, but who are reluctant to call their behavior an addiction. I’ve made the case that all of us need to strive for shameless authenticity, own our failings and admit where we need help.

I have also made the case that everyone is fundamentally flawed in one way or another. That is a claim that we immediately agree to when we hear it, but rarely do we consider the real weight of what those words mean. They mean we are going to hurt ourselves and also those around us. They mean that we are going to deny our better nature and live beneath our potential. They mean that we are going to actively put some evil out into the world.

Most of us are naturally flippant towards any serious accusation levied against us. Even if we agree that the complaint is valid, we’ll shrug our shoulders, say “no one’s perfect,” and quickly move past the issue. We don’t face the very real damage that is being done. We’re all genuinely screwing the world up around us, hurting each other in real and terrible ways, and virtually none of us own this fact. We just smile, shrug, say “no one’s perfect,” and keep our hearts sealed off.

Are you willing to start taking ownership for the evil you put into the world? Are you willing to face it with eyes wide open? Are you willing to hear the complaint of those that have been hurt without trying to justify or minimize your actions?

If your answer to the above is either “yes,” or even just “I want to be able to do that,” then you are ready to belong to the community of the awakened and striving.

A Community of Striving)

That community of the awakened and striving exists all throughout the world, intermingled with every culture and society. Its members live in broader organization, but often identify one another and coalesce together. Inside the churches is the subgroup of those who are truly faithful. Inside the non-profit charities is the coalition of those who are sincerely serving. Inside the government institution is the cabal of those who are genuinely trying to improve the world.

One place I have found where these awakened souls congregate is in the twelve-step programs scattered across the world. These communities are full of men and women who are willing to face the reality of the evil they are putting into the world and are seeking the help of a Higher Power to stop doing so. They come into this way of thinking because of their addictions, but then expand it to address all other forms of evil in their lives as well.

I have seen people drag their feet at the door to a twelve-step program because they weren’t sure whether their problems qualified as a full-on addiction or not. But we in the group aren’t going to be checking your “addiction credentials” at the door. There is no “group police” who are going to kick you out because you aren’t messed enough to be here. All that we ask is that you are sincere about facing your flaws and obtaining a life that is sober from your negative impulses. If you’re willing to do that work, then you are ready to join the crew.

Perpetrator and Victim: Part Three

Despair of Self)

But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.- Alma 36:12-13

Yesterday I spoke about perpetrators of abuse who try to avoid any questions about the state of their soul. Deep down they know that they have done wrong, but they go to incredible length to avoid giving an answer for their behavior because they know all the answers condemn them. Obviously, a person in this state is living apart from reality, and will never be able to achieve real change until they stop running from the truth.

But it is not as if these people are only living at one extreme. They only work so hard to avoid introspection because at their core they are already convinced that they are irredeemably evil. If they weren’t already convinced of that, they wouldn’t need to dodge conversations about it. Thus, they are divided against themselves, utterly loathing themselves even while maintaining that they are totally blameless.

This is an exhausting way to live, and now and again a perpetrator will give up on this divided self-perception. Typically they have first tried to give up on guilt, to say they just don’t care what they do, but the heart refuses to comply. Their conscience betrays them, and refuses to be beat into submission. So eventually they go the other way and wholeheartedly confess that they are bad and guilty.

The reason we put off this confession for as long as we can is that we instinctively know it will bring with it all manner of anguish and torment. Truly owning one’s serious mistakes can invoke the most pronounced and painful suffering we will ever know. We can become lost in a labyrinth of despair, with many paths leading to a variety of unfortunate ends, especially when we discover that not even making our confession is necessarily enough for us to stop doing evil.

Convinced of the Evil, But Continuing in It)

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.- Romans 7:15

There is a portion of addicts who discover that making confession unlocks their previously-uncontrollable behavior. Just by brining their secret shame into the light it loses its power over them. They are able to live with a freedom that they never knew before.

But this only a portion of the addicts. Many others find that making their confession does help, but the problem still isn’t entirely removed. They continue to slip, continue to do the very thing that they confess is wrong. Thus they are still divided against themselves, truthfully admitting to what is right, but deceiving themselves with their actions.

Having taken this step and still not finding relief often brings a second crushing realization. The addict realizes that he is incapable of redeeming himself. Even if he could atone for all his past wrongs, which frankly he probably can’t do, it wouldn’t matter, because he’s going to keep doing new wrong things. All along there has been a secret desire that he would be able to pull himself up by his bootstraps and come into a way of life where conviction and behavior were one and the same. But now he realizes that he is irredeemable, at least by his own power.

If the addict didn’t give up before, he certainly might now. He has realized that he is not just guilty, he is fundamentally broken. He knew that he was bad, but now he realizes that he can never be good. Trial has been held and he has been convicted and condemned. This is what it means to be damned. This is what it means to be in hell.

True, but Incomplete)

Unlike when the perpetrator was in denial of even doing wrong, this appraisal of his life is completely valid. The abuser has finally centered himself on a foundation of truth, but it has come too late.

While he has come to a truth, though, it is not the only truth. It is true that man cannot redeem himself, but it is also true that man does not only have to rely upon himself to be redeemed. There is a God, there is a Savior, and there is a redemption.

Before the perpetrator can have access to the redemptive power of Christ, though, he typically has to first reach this place of appreciating his own damnation. This low point is a necessary prerequisite before true healing can commence.

So this despair is a good place to come to, but it needs to not be the end of the journey. It must only be a checkpoint along the way. The perpetrator must pivot his self-perception twice. First to shift from self-justification to accepting the reality of his crimes, then again to shift from self-condemnation to seeing himself as a son of God. Core paradigm shifts like these do not come easily. There is a reason this is a process, not an event.

But difficult as the perpetrator’s journey is, so too is that of the victim. Tomorrow we will begin examining those that have been on the receiving end of abuse, and the various disconnects from reality that they can experience as well. I’ll see you there.

Perpetrator and Victim: Part Two

Fundamentally Detached from Life)

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Matthew 7:24-27

At the end of yesterday’s post I made the case that when addicts deny or avoid the harm that we have done we are living a life that is divorced from the truth. Sweeping bad news under the rug does not change the underlying reality one bit, but it does detach ourselves from reality. And then trying to live a meaningful, purposeful life while keeping a blind eye to our sins is a vain endeavor. If you want your life to flourish, you have to align yourself with the truth of that life, both the good and the bad. This is just one of those fundamental truths, so basic and atomic that it defies explanation.

Confession, at its core, is therefore all about aligning ourselves to that truth. It brings our secret deeds into the light, acknowledging our problems as they really are, creating an image of ourselves that is harmonious with reality. Even though that reality is one that we are ashamed of, accepting it makes our world more right and whole even so. Everyone, perpetrator and victim alike, need to reconnect themselves to this truth if they ever want to really live again.

Because yes, this step of fully embracing the truth is a requirement for victim and perpetrator alike. Today and tomorrow we will be considering the ways that the perpetrator hides from the truth, and afterwards we will look at how the victim does as well.

Why the Perpetrator Hides)

The fact that the perpetrator tends to run from his crimes should be something we can all agree on. Each of us has seen many others, publicly and privately, who staunchly deny the reality of their moral perversions. We think it is cowardly of them to not face their well-deserved judgment, particularly when we are among those that they have harmed. Yet even as we recognize this behavior in others, we struggle to see how it is true for ourselves as well. We all have our blind spots, whether willful or ignorant. We know it isn’t right for anyone else to makes excuses for their behavior, but when it comes to us, of course, all of our excuses are totally valid!

Why do we live in this denial? Why do we overlook our obvious hypocrisy?

Well, for one we probably want to avoid punishment from others. We also don’t want to lose the things we have. Depending on the nature of our addiction, we might even be afraid of legal repercussions! But aside from any of those reasons, there is another and more immediate cause for our self-deception. We simply don’t want to face our dark reality, because doing so brings up some hard questions that we don’t want to answer. Questions like:

  • What does your hurtful behavior say about you?
  • What sort of person does bad things?
  • What do you deserve for what you have done?

In our minds, we have two clearly-divided groupings of people: those that are good and those that are bad, and the first person that all of us sort into the good camp is our own self. It is the natural instinct of all of us to see ourselves as being the prototype for all that is right and good in the world. We might admit to some flaws, but we immediately follow that up with affirmations that our heart is really in the right place, that we are genuinely trying to do our best, that our good clearly outweighs our bad, that our situation is complicated, and that we’re nothing like all those other truly bad people!

But why then did you hurt someone that you loved?

Any time you bring the introspection back to this sort of targeted, direct question, you’ll catch yourself writhing and wriggling to escape! It’s like seeing a cave-dwelling creature scurrying to get out of the light! We writhe and we wriggle because deep down, one of the most fundamental fears that we all have is that we’re actually not one of the good people. We all dread the possibility that we’ve been the villain, not the hero, all along. Stating that we have so much as a doubt about the state of our soul feels like it is going to kill us. We would rather tell a thousand lies and curse everything that we touch than to say, “I have done serious wrong for which there is no excuse. I have hurt the people I love. I am deserving of death and hell.”

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; -Romans 3:23
For the wages of sin is death -Romans 6:23

These are difficult verses to apply to ourselves, but they really are the truth. Accepting this truth feels like it will break us, but, paradoxically, this truth is the key to our rebirth. As we are told elsewhere in the bible:

The truth shall make you free. -John 8:32

This promise really is true, impossible as it may seem. Later in this series we will see why.

Spiritual Analysis- Genesis 19:9-11

9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.

10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.

11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah took offense that an outsider like Lot would come into their lands and judge them for their behavior. In their wrath they pledged to do even worse to him than they had intended to the visitors that were in his house. The depravity of them in this moment is enormous and mob law reigns supreme.

And there is a notion here that is commonly repeated throughout the scriptures: soothsayers and false prophets will use all manner of clever reasoning to make evil appear palatable, but once evil has the support of the masses, argument and reason can be sidelined. All that matters is that Lot is standing in their way and so any perceived offense is held as justification for whatever hurt they intend on him.

Consider the similarity of this behavior to that in Zechariah 7:11, Acts 7:57, and Acts 19:34. These are three separate accounts of a wicked audience forcing their ears shut so as not to hear the arguments of the righteous, and in one of these cases they even rush to silence God’s messenger with violence.

If one cannot be reasoned with, then how can they be helped? It is understandable why the angels have come to this city to destroy it. Thankfully they were also able to employ some divine intervention to rescue Lot and keep the wicked masses kept at bay.

Spiritual Analysis- Genesis 19:4-8

4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter:

5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him,

7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.

8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

What a horrifying passage. In verse 4 it makes clear that those who came to Lot’s door were “both old and young, all the people from every quarter.” Sodom was not beset by a few bad actors or a single troubled generation, they were corrupt from one end to the other. Their immediate thought upon seeing new visitors in their town was to rape them.

And Lot’s proposed solution, to let them have his virgin daughters instead, was also horrifying. Lot lived in a place that was frightening, and in his fear he tried to make compromises with evil. I don’t understand why Lot chose to live in this place instead of another city or even the wilderness. Compare his choice of residence to Abraham’s. Abraham pitched his tent out in the plains where he would be free to live as morally and righteously as his heart dictated, unconstrained by the pressures of an evil society.

And ultimately Lot’s attempts to make deals with the devil didn’t even work. You don’t quell evil with evil. As we will see in the next verses it only incurred the wrath of the horde, who then sought to do even greater harm to him.

Influence and Persuasion- Moses 1:12-13, 19-20

And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.


Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me
Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded
Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell
Satan wants Moses to do something for him. His first approach is to “tempt,” trying to coerce Moses into behaving the way he wants him to. Moses is resistant to that, and Satan responds by getting loud and angry, now trying to frighten Moses into doing what he wants!
Coercion and fear. This one scriptural example gives us a very clear picture of Satan and his methods, and it is a picture that we are all too familiar with. For Satan has taught these tactics to all mankind, and we have been quick students of the form. I am sure we can all recall times that another person has tried to manipulate and frighten us into giving them what they wanted. I am sure we can all recall times we have used these tactics to get what we want, too.
Of course, this method requires a great deal of energy from the forcer, as they must submit the other against their will. And obviously the person being forced will not be converted to the cause, they will only remain subjugated so long as they are under the power of the controlling force. It is only their behaviors that are being influenced, not their inner desire. Thus, even from a pragmatic standpoint it is an unsustainable method, and sure to falter sooner or later. But more importantly, it is unquestionably immoral and abusive.

Influence and Persuasion- Question

The mission of the gospel is to persuade all to come to Christ, convince us of the need for the atonement, and encourage us to embrace our divine role. As disciples we are expected to testify of and promote that gospel. It is assumed that we will be an active part of that persuading, convincing, and encouraging.

But persuading, convincing, and encouraging can be misconstrued into intimidating, manipulating, and coercing. Clearly a cause can be championed in a way that is good, but also it can be championed in a way that is evil. And there are many that begin with sincerely good intentions, but then fall into methods that are not so worthy.

Using the example in the scriptures as my guide, I want to identify what a divinely approved method of persuasion would look like, and what it would not look like. How does God, Himself, try to influence us? How does Satan? And what are the short- and long-term effects of those different methods?

In the meantime I would love to hear about your own experiences on the matter. Can you recall a moment where you felt persuaded by good? One where you felt intimidated by evil? What are wholesome ways that you have found to communicate with those that disagree with you? What have been the short- and long-term effects of that approach?

Our Own Reality- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Mark 7:21-23

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.


Charity suffereth long, and is kind, rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, wickedness, deceit, all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
That which is within us comes out. If we are filled with defilement then we frame the world with evil thoughts and act in selfishness for our own gain. But if we are filled with charity then we frame the world with hope and act with kindness. If we are filled with corruption we will see all around us as corrupted. But if we are filled with love we will see all around us as beautiful.
In either case, the reality we perceive is merely the outward manifestation of who we are within. Thus the way we view the world says much more about ourselves than it does about the world.

Free Will vs God’s Control- 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Nephi 2:11

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.


God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things
In each of our lives, God preserves our freedom by allowing us to be drawn towards good, but also to be drawn towards evil. There are bounds set so that no temptation will be able to overwhelm us without our consent, but also no force for good will overwhelm us without our consent either. Exactly how far those bounds are placed will vary for each one of us, according to our own personal strengths and weaknesses, but they will always present us with the same opportunity to freely choose.
Thus you may assume that you will always have a reason to remain faithful, and you will always have a reason to turn faithless. You will always live as a person divided, so that then you may choose which half of yourself to follow. There is no mistake in this, it is by design. Thus that the world is a place divided is evidence of a God who is in control, not evidence against it.

Knit Our Hearts- Luke 17:3, Matthew 5:39

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.


If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him
Resist not evil
There is a variety of opinions among the faithful whether we are justified in correcting those that are wrong or not. When we gently call out a brother or sister that mistreats us are we doing them a kindness, as I suggested yesterday? Or are we guilty of unrighteous judgment, of trying to take out the mote while a beam is in our own eye?
To add to the confusion is that both sides of this debate have verses to back them up. Consider the two I have laid out here. Are we supposed to rebuke another, or turn the other cheek?
However a closer reading of these verses will dispel any perceived inconsistency between them. If one looks at what is said, we will realize that these two different behaviors were prescribed for dealing with two different sorts of people.

  1. If thy brother trespass against thee…
  2. Resist not evil

The first verse is describing how disciples are meant to behave towards one another. We are supposed to love each other, and help each other become the best that we can be. That means encouraging, guiding, and when necessary, correcting. So long as our intentions are brotherly, all is well.
The second verse is describing how disciples are meant to behave towards evil. There are those in the world that have no positive intent when they interact with you. When they cast stones at the church they are purely trying to do harm. To these our counsel is simply to mitigate as much damage as possible. Do not provoke, do not return cruelty for cruelty, just meekly let their storm pass and move on.
With this clarification we can see that these two different behaviors are actually supporting the same basic principle: to be a peacemaker. We improve the world where it is possible, and we do no harm where it isn’t.