Living with pedophilia usually comes with significant losses, no surprise there. But unlike most other situations of loss, it can be very difficult to communicate to anyone what we’ve lost, or why we need to grieve. I mean, just imagine getting together with your friends at church or the bar and saying “I’m very sad because of being a pedophile. This is not how I wanted my life to turn out.” Yeah… that’s not going to happen (unless you are very very lucky with the friends you have). Our communities encourage us to grieve things like relationship loss, death, or the loss of a home… But no one even speaks compassionately about those of us who experience pedophilia, let alone encourages us to mourn the losses that come with it. Oftentimes, we feel so much shame and loss because of these attractions, that it’s hard to admit even to ourselves what exactly we have lost.
So, I want to find a way forward. Most of us have lost quite a bit that was important to us, because of experiencing pedophilia. Let’s talk about it.
For far too many of us, this is a big and bold one, and it goes straight to the soul. We have indulged in fantasies that we know are perverse and lustful, leading us away from a perspective of kids that is right and true; leading us into wishing for something that cannot possibly be good. Maybe we’ve looked at pornographic images online and utilized a child’s abuse and pain and trauma for our own pleasure. Maybe we’ve taken that final step of abusing a child ourselves, multiplying that loss, and passing it on to others. We’ve abused and harmed our bodies and minds in ways that grossly violated their God-ordained purpose, and possibly done the same to the bodies and minds of others. As singer Steve Taylor said, “Once you know the truth, you can hide it on a shelf – but unless you bring it down, you can’t live with yourself.” Whatever the extent of our actions, we know that we lost something – and it’s our own fault.
Relationships With Family and Friends
Sometimes this happens because we draw away from other people, and sometimes it happens because they draw away from us. Either way, it hurts. Our families are supposed to guide and nurture us, and give us a strong source of identity. If our family is relatively healthy, it can seem impossible to avoid the intense shame pedophilia can bring, and the only response is to bury that part deep inside, and hide, hide, hide. But in the process, we lose ourselves. They may think they know us, but they only see the facade. And the real tragedy and loss in this, is that it’s our very act of hiding that one small part of what we experience that turns it into the thing that defines us – and thereby our relationships.
Or maybe those who were supposed to love us found out about our attractions, and rejected us in anger, disgust, and contempt. This inevitably leaves a giant hole in our hearts, and we know it can’t ever be filled in the same way. It’s natural for us to derive much of our identity from our family and closest friends. But when they reject us and abandon us – even when we desire and take steps to behave morally and legally in regard to our attractions – it can be absolutely crushing.
A Partner In Marriage
This one is pretty obvious. I mean, to start out with, many of us are just not attracted to adults at all. And for those of us that are, there are very few people out there who would be willing to even consider marrying a pedophile. It’s certainly possible to get to know someone, build a friendship, and overcome the stereotypes and stigma attached to pedophilia, but that’s very hard, and in many cases the right opportunity with the right person just never happens. It can be so discouraging to honestly desire to be and do everything the Bible says a marriage partner ought to, but at the same time be unable to experience that desire towards the right category of person; that is, adults. This aspect is quite similar to people who experience homosexual temptations, but choose to live within the boundaries of God’s design for marriage and families. It’s an especially acute way of experiencing the damage that sin has done to God’s perfect creation.
Letting Go of False Hope
By its very nature, pedophilia means being attracted to kids, and the reality is that some of us have experienced falling head-over-heels for a specific child. It might feel exhilarating in the moment, but it can only lead to heartbreak, danger, and harm. Perhaps the worst thing about it is that this part of our sexuality works like normal – we experience sexual desires, romantic feelings, and heartbreak just like everyone else. We experience that personal desire to provide for and protect another, and to be united in every way possible – but it’s all towards the wrong people. And just like for everyone else, it’s basically automatic.
As responsible, moral adults, sometimes our response must be to avoid temptation. On the practical side of things, sometimes this only amounts to a minor inconvenience, but it can also mean major life changes. For example, it might simply mean sitting on the other side of the church auditorium from a child you find attractive, or it might mean no more camping trips with your brother and his family, because in sadness and disgust, you find yourself more and more drawn to his son. These types of situations need to be handled with grace and tact, and reliance on the Holy Spirit. Sober respect for areas of weakness needs to be balanced with faith in God’s power and holiness, made manifest in our hearts.
And no, it’s not always fair. But it is the right response in a broken, sinful world. We can accept that and take action on that choice to avoid risky situations, and even move on with life – but it still leaves a lonely emptiness.
Career and Service Opportunities
There are quite a variety of jobs and services that involve children in one way or another, and experiencing pedophilia can make that whole aspect of life much more complicated. Add to that the fact that for some people, the awareness of underlying pedophilia doesn’t come to the surface until adulthood, when a career path is already established. As Trent described in his story, he had to leave a job as a teacher, even though he had done nothing wrong. For my part, I’ve chosen to avoid helping out with any church activities that would directly involve me working or interacting with kids. For the sake of individual conscience and accountability, and for the public witness of the Church, it’s important for us to avoid questionable or tempting situations like that (Ephesians 5:3). (Although this certainly does not mean avoiding church attendance altogether, as some misguided people teach.) Sometimes the right thing to do is to leave a job, or let go of a career dream we’ve had for years. Living in sober awareness of pedophilia is hard, and usually doesn’t come with recognition or appreciation from the people around us.
Personal Liberty and Freedom
This is oftentimes a direct consequence of a loss of innocence, due to one’s own violent or abusive actions. Now, justice for those victimized and punishment for an offender’s crimes is necessary and right. And at the same time, years of a life spent in prison is a tragedy, and a loss. But just for this moment, I want to set aside the points about justice, punishment, civic peace, and the like.
For many, these are years of profound regret and remorse. So many opportunities in life exchanged for a few moments of guilty pleasure. Family, friends, career, home, safety, all gone with the slam of a cold metal door. Most prisons are far from ideal, and many people suffer and are personally abused and violated in ways far beyond what their sentence prescribed. These are real people, and as the old saying goes, there, but for the grace of God, go any of us. Even though incarceration and social exclusion may be part of justly prescribed consequences, the pain of loss is still just as real.
“Hero; it’s a nice-boy notion that the real world’s gonna destroy.”
I don’t think anyone has ever said “I want to be a pedophile when I grow up!” And yet, sometimes these pedophilic desires can become how we define and identify ourselves. It’s certainly how most other people categorically define us. But… what can you do with that, really? It would almost be more accurate to call it an anti-identity.
Now, we know that as Christians, our identity is given new life and meaning in Jesus, but sometimes that’s hard to understand, and therefore hard to incorporate into everyday life. This is especially true for those of us who have crossed the line and abused a child in the past. It might be years – even decades – in the past, but it still feels like a scarlet letter branded into our souls. In a world that demands that we accept its false anthropological system of Sexual Identity, we are double-pariahs. Sometimes it seems like an insurmountable change-of-perspective to actually, really believe that we are made new in Jesus. We want to believe, and we try to believe as we walk in faith, but doubts can still sometimes grind us down. Sometimes we need help with our unbelief. For myself, if it were true that I’m a Pedophile at my core, that would mean I’ve both lost myself and found a monster. But that is not true!
Even so, sometimes life still haunts me with those questions. Who am I? What am I?
Children of Our Own
Children are a complicated topic in today’s culture, but one thing is sure: if you look at those people who have experienced the most fulfillment and joy in life, one of the biggest factors is watching their own children grow up, and have successful lives. Starting a family and raising kids is the single biggest investment any person can make; more powerful and full of potential than any combination of stocks, business, political power, or estates. There’s nothing else in life like it. For us who live with pedophilia, this is oftentimes something we see others getting to have and commit themselves to, but it seems impossible for us. Families are the foundation of all societies, and although pedophilia doesn’t necessarily disqualify or disable someone from being a healthy and loving parent, it does make things more complicated. Many of us will simply never have – or will choose not to pursue – the opportunity to participate in society in this most basic and natural way, which can leave us feeling useless, pathetic, and lost
Like I wrote about in my post about how people see me, it can be very difficult to be open with anyone about pedophilia. When we’re asked by friends or coworkers “How are you doing?,” sometimes we have to scramble for an answer, or put on a verbal mask. Now, I know it’s the same for many embarrassing or uncomfortable topics, but pedophilia is in a whole unique class of taboo and social shame. Even in the places and relationships where we’re expected and encouraged to be open and intimate, oftentimes it’s not a safe option.
Now, it would be underhanded and manipulative if our openness was just an attention-grab or a pity-party, but it’s rarely like that at all. All of these different areas of loss I’m listing out, and the practical and ethical challenges that pedophilia presents – these are not small things. It’s very hard to figure out how to live with these attractions, especially when they are first noticed as early as adolescence – and the consequences of acting on them can be dire and life-long. Personal honesty and integrity are never completely lost to us; we always have the ability to do the next right thing. But in some situations, when we know that any admission of pedophilia will be taken in bad faith and used to attack us, the only way to act with honesty and integrity is to do and say nothing. To accept that a situation can’t be made better, and either live with the difference between what ought to be and what is, or walk away.
“Nobody likes me; everybody hates me; guess I’ll just eat worms.”
This was part of a random song I heard when I was a kid. But maybe whoever wrote it was onto something. We look in the mirror and ask, “Am I a decent person? How do I even measure that?”
There’s nothing glorious or fun about struggling with pedophilia; it is purely a result of brokenness. And as I was saying earlier, it can be difficult to separate our identity and self-perception from these sexual desires. That’s especially true when we look back on life, and it’s abundantly clear that at least some of the loss and hurt we’ve experienced is our own fault. As the saying goes, we’ve made our bed, and now we’re lying in it. The real danger here is that it’s only a small step from having no self-respect, to having no respect for others. This combination will almost inevitably lead to fatalistic nihilism.
This has been a very dreary and negative post thus far, and for good reason; pedophilia really, really sucks. Nothing would please Satan more than to utilize this one thing to completely destroy us, and inflict terrible harm on those around us. For my part, there have been many mornings where the first thing I thought when I woke up was “I wish I was dead.” I felt so ashamed of myself, and I didn’t see any way forward. Yes, I knew there were still plenty of good things in life, but it all seemed nullified by one pervading problem: Me. And I can’t fix myself. I was very close to giving up on everything. I think singer Blaine Larson describes it well:
“How do you get that lonely; how do you hurt that bad? To make you make the call, that having no life at all, is better than the life that you had. How do you feel so empty, you want to let it all go? How do you get that lonely, and nobody knows?”
Living with pedophilia is certainly one way it can happen.
Here’s the crux of it all: We were never meant to experience loss in the first place. God didn’t design us to be compatible with it. Loss was not part of God’s Good creation. See, things like death, decay, dysfunction, abuse, and rejection – the things that result in us experiencing loss – only exist as a direct result of Sin. That’s why loss hurts and destroys. One of the worst experiences possible is that of being lost and unwanted, and we, because of pedophilia, are usually all-too-familiar with it. (Heck, I’m going through a season of deep personal loss at the time of this writing.) But what if we could find what we once lost? What if we ourselves could be found? Thus far, I’ve intentionally written this post with a focus on only one side of the equation – but there’s so much more to life than loss. This is where Jesus enters the picture, and that changes everything! I’ll be writing about that in a coming post. And trust me, it’s gonna be a lot more nuanced than just saying “Jesus makes everything better; now you should be happy.” So, stay tuned!
“Where is God when the child cries, and no one bends to pick her up?
Can someone tell me what He does?
Where is God when a father turns his back on his son?
Can someone tell me what He does?
He weeps; He weeps with you; He weeps with me-
When you’re on your knees, and you taste defeat.
He weeps; He weeps.”
-Fireflight, He Weeps