Thank you for the amazing article with Blaine! I am in a recovery group with Blaine (Bartel) and found this article most helpful. I am in the middle of letting God heal my broken areas, that have caused me to have pain and addiction.
Any other tools you can give me, much appreciated. But thank you for the email and insight.
Welcome to Coffee Convo.
If you and I ever have the opportunity to meet, my invitation will be to join me for a cup of coffee.
It’s my favorite drink. Coffee shops all over Tulsa (and America) provide me free office space. My laptop. A super-hot cup of brew. And I’m the happiest you’ll ever see me. (well, maybe not quite)
So from time to time, I thought it would be fun to have cyber-coffee with someone who would bring some “wake you up in the morning” wisdom and cheer.
My guest to today is Patrick Norris.
Patrick is a Pastor and Certified Sexual Addiction Professional and and is devoted to leading people into extensive life change. He founded LifePointe Church in Kansas City and he and his wife Tina have successfully raised two adult children, Evan and Mitchell. Patrick likes the Chiefs, so he isn’t perfect… but I count him a great friend and one of the good guys in the church world.
Here we go….
BLAINE: Hey Patrick, so good to talk to you today. Love all that you guys are doing at LifePointe in Kansas City!
PATRICK_NORRIS: Thanks Blaine. It’s my pleasure hanging out with you, my friend.
BLAINE: So what’s up with a Pastor becoming a Certified Sexual Addiction Professional? Kinda unusual.
PATRICK_NORRIS: Yes. For sure. Over the years I have become fascinated with human behavior. I have always been captivated by studying the Apostle Paul’s own statements of him doing what he wished he hadn’t done, to not doing the things he wished he had of actually done, and finally how he learned to live a transformed life. There is no more ardent template for human behavior than our sexuality. If a person understands human behavior at a sexual arousal level, they will understand better how all behavior takes place. This is a spiritual, psychological and neurobiological issue (spirit, mind and body).
As a pastor, I have crossed paths with so many men who struggled, and now young boys and teenagers that are accessing pornography as young as 6 years of age. Due to the unlimited saturation of private-access pornography (and other immersions in high dopamine electronic activities) we will be the first generation in human history to witness the full reformation of the human brain.
So I felt the Lord’s prompting me to get ahead of the curve in helping people. I do believe there is coming a great tsunami of sexual dysfunctions and flameouts. It will be happening at unprecedented levels. And the folks who are flaming out are great people, having a very sincere and real love for God. These two contrasting ideas of inordinate behaviors and love for God often confuse and harden their own hearts. I have a lot of compassion for the demonic shame and destruction that is leveled against these type people and scenarios.
BLAINE: You’ve been around as a local church leader and Pastor for a three plus decades right? So how would you define the porn and sexual addiction problem in the church?
PATRICK_NORRIS: Like any addiction, sexual addiction is a spiritual, psychological and neurobiological condition for which a person is preoccupied to the point of obsession, has loss of control, even though they know there will be negative/destructive consequences. Some of these consequences can be as simple as living out of alignment with that person’s true values; incongruence of inner values to behaviors will always create damaging turmoil.
In the church, many high values have already been set in our hearts by God. As we surrender in faith to Christ, we find ourselves “desiring” what God desires. In our conscience, we know that porn and sex outside of marriage is sin, and incongruent with God’s peace. Sin is any behavior we choose that violates our own hearts. God hates sin because He loves us. When we sin, we move towards destruction of identity, health, strength and prosperity. God hates what sin does to the people He loves.
In the church today, there are growing numbers who struggle with a sexually incongruent behavior, some estimating between 70-80% of Christian men. Women’s confusion, both as partners of someone who secretly struggles and/or as participants in pornography consumption themselves, disintegrates a sense of Self, worth, and identity.
So the enemy is attacking men and women, our present and future generational leaders, by eroding them at an identity level. Many will not step into their God-given assignments, or will be lethargic, simply because they despise the incongruence and turmoil that abides within.
BLAINE: So here’s a tough one. If a male staff member came to you with a porn problem, how would you guide him, being a brother in Christ, as well as a leader in your community?
PATRICK_NORRIS: As a certified sexual addiction professional, I have been privileged to understand the issue from a Google Earth perspective. I’m more interested in exploring the bigger picture of what has “broken” a person, than I am worried about managing the fallout of their choices.
My first response would be respond with high levels of both empathy and compassion. It is a terrible thing how so many in ministry have suffered in secret, living in fear that they would not be loved if anyone found out. As it’s been said, “The devil lives in our secrets.”
For many, the power behind their addiction is found in trauma processes. We were wounded in relationships throughout our lives, and we are healed in relationship intimacies. The fear of being found out has kept so many people in bondage.
Among other things, I would put them in a treatment process with a competent recovery ministry; one like Chopping Wood, and you, Blaine.
BLAINE: Help us. What is the one thing you learned about sexual addiction in your education that you didn’t quite get before?
PATRICK_NORRIS:The biggest “ah ha” is how addiction is not just a spiritual matter. At the core of human behavior is where spiritual, emotional, psychological and neurobiological influences intersect. A person cannot regulate towards sexual health without these being equally nurtured, processed and re-processed.
Many people in church have heard they just need to pray more, read the Bible more or fast evil behavior away. However, if the spiritual exercises don’t deeply touch the emotional, psychological and neurobiological functions within a person, the exercises become futile. Then the failure to transform steals the last shreds of hope that person has.
What I have learned about the brain (the limbic system specifically) and how it compels behavior has opened my understanding to so many concepts of Scripture and the freedom truth brings.
BLAINE: You’re a red blooded American man. What practices have you come up with to protect yourself from our sexualized culture?
PATRICK_NORRIS: I think the first and most important for me is to nurture a protected soul. This begins with removing all unnecessary drains to emotional health. Things like social media, videos, movies and many TV shows, take chunks of our emotional battery, causing emotional fatigue. Many people live in a constant state of emotional fatigue. They go from recreational “drama” to “drama,” never assessing the impact it has on their emotional state.
We all have a limited emotional capacity, and once the battery is at an alert level, we have no option but to shut down. Necessary emotional drains happen in everyday life; like relational conflicts, cars breaking down, deadlines being met, bills being paid, etc. These take a large portion of our emotional capacity for a day. When we let recreational “drama” hit power drains too, we are left in emotional survival mode. Then, people often don’t have the emotional energy to resist or move away from temptations. At the point of temptation’s surging arousal, they just don’t emotionally care about the consequences. So, first I am focused on limiting the “drama” and drains on my soul.
I also pursue a robust self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to attune to one’s underlying emotions in any given moment of life. All behavior is driven by emotional expressions. All emotion is driven by the brain’s functions related to past trauma, or inner thoughts. In cognitive behavioral studies, our deepest inner beliefs and narratives are known to spike emotions.
What you emotionally feel is cord-attached, sending electrical currents from your deeper inner beliefs and narratives. Many of these deeper beliefs are irrational. The “wall outlet” from these beliefs is the limbic brain, and fears from epigenetics and personal experiences of the past. If a person can know the state of their soul - their mind and emotions - and the underlying emotional narratives that have driven them to fear - they have an advantage. To mature in self-awareness empowers for emotional regulation and move us towards healthy boundaries.
Finally, I engage in daily “charging” up of my soul, through things like spiritual connection, spiritual media that stirs my faith on an emotionally level - where truth is processed over my fears. Things like devotional-worship and living in transparent community with other safe people also make a big difference.
BLAINE: Lastly, what would you tell a guy that is struggling with porn privately — is it possible to eventually overcome it alone?
PATRICK_NORRIS:Experts say it is highly unlikely, to it being impossible, for a person bound in an addiction to get free in isolation. Many studies show the recovery power of being in a long-term relationship with a competent mentor and group of others fighting for the same things, applying the same principles and dreaming of a similar tomorrow.
One of the things that a person battling with addiction struggles with is a limitless capacity for self-deception. A person who struggles with addiction often wants to “control” the process of recovery. Interestingly enough, this powering up to “control” prevents them from being able to recover. So they enter a cycle, of overestimating their control of recovery and then back to relapse, all while holding out that maybe they can “control” the outcome next time. It is futile.
BLAINE: Thanks for the cyber coffee my friend. Cheers!
PATRICK_NORRIS: Thank you Blaine!