Women Leaders Are Tempted by Adultery
How hard is it for a woman in ministry to fall into sexual sin such as adultery? Easier than you think. How many are tempted? More than we know, because no one talks about it due to the shame that surrounds the subject. The problem with the lack of a safe place to be honest about these struggles means there is an opening for the underground schemes of immorality to take the lives of great leaders in our midst.
For that reason, I am about to tell you about my own struggles with temptation to sexual sin in leadership, in an attempt to bring out into the open what many feel they need to hide. I have told my story openly at women’s conferences and retreats, but I told myself I would never write about it due to the fear that my story would get into the hands of those who could destroy my life. I realize now the deception shame has. It tells you that if you keep your secrets, you are safe. Oh but friend, you are far from safe in secrecy. You are bait. I pray my choice to be brave and put my story out there will give you courage to tell your story if you are struggling, and the brave courage to listen to a soul in torment without judgment if she approaches you.
I have always told my husband that it wouldn’t take a tall, dark, handsome man to lead me astray—only one who would pay attention to me if times were rough at home. Because my husband and I are such opposites (who truly complete one another), our “becoming one” has produced much friction over the last 14 years of our marriage. There have been seasons of enjoying the fruit of our endurance and seasons where we could hardly face one another. Add two young boys, one who has behavioral challenges, and home sometimes becomes a hard place to be. Interestingly, both times I have been tempted toward adultery have been when times have been hard at home and just before I’ve been on the brink of a breakthrough spiritually, with my family, or in ministry. I can say I’ve never committed the act of adultery, but both times, overcoming the temptation was extremely hard.
The first time was when I was writing my book, Culture Rebel. I clicked well with a man in my sphere of work. I was struggling with my thought life. All I could think of were Jesus’ words “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Those words haunted me. I knew I had to get a grip, but the force of lust was strong after my heart and I was becoming weak from fighting it.
My breakthrough finally came when I was at a conference listening to one of my favorite leaders, Matthew Barnett. I was in such torment, I could hardly hear him speak. Shame was after my mind: “How could you think such thoughts?” “You’re a dirty woman. A poser. You think God can use you? No one would ever want you if they knew what goes on in the dark chambers of your mind.”
Then Barnett said something that hit my heart like a sword: “You are called to be dangerous.” That’s all I heard. It was like all the shame and lustful thoughts were slapped right off of me. I was awakened to the awareness that I was called to something far greater, and it liberated my spirit. It became the subtitle on the back of my book: “You are not called to be desperate, you are called to be dangerous.” Through this I have come to realize how many souls find themselves drowning in the torment of lust and shame because they have lost sight of God’s vision for who they really are. I have had the opportunity to talk to various women who have opened up about their struggles after hearing my story at conferences.
The second time I found myself in the midst of temptation was when my family was experiencing a very dark hour. My husband and I weren’t connecting, our toddler had us in constant panic mode with his shenanigans, and the pressure from our oldest son’s behavior was taking its toll on us physically and mentally. I was tired, unhappy, and feeling ripped off, excluded from happiness. I found myself looking for excitement, freedom, and something to numb my pain. Interesting how temptation can smell weakness. Along came the opportunity that no one would have ever known about.
I wish I could say I was strong in that moment, but I wasn’t. It’s a miracle I made it through, really. Every day I remember, I am reminded of God’s grace and how much I need it. Going through these experiences has made me much more aware of how easy it is to fall past temptation. I have compassion for those who have been tempted or have committed adultery. I’m not shocked when I hear of another great leader who has stumbled. I have found out personally how easy it is.
I would like to highlight some learnings I have picked up on the floor while I was groveling at Jesus’ feet, feeling like a filthy rag. I would like to share them with you so we can create communities of resilient leaders who can withstand temptation, rather than become yet another one we hear about through Christian gossip.
• Don’t be shocked if and when this happens to you. If it shocks you, you will fear it. When you fear it, it will control you and you will be less likely to escape. All you will be able to think about is how rotten and filthy you are. Your eyes will quickly shift from an upward gaze on our Lord, who is our redemption, to yourself. As a result, you will cower in shame and will be more likely to hide from others rather than run to them for accountability and support. Don’t be shocked. Like I said, being tempted with sexual sin is common.
• Remember it’s not wrong to be tempted. You are not sinning when you’re tempted, so don’t give in, thinking you’ve already lost the battle. When tempted, fight, and don’t fight in your own strength. Fight with friends beside you and Christ’s truth wrapped around your heart.
• Adultery or sexual sin is never really about sex; it’s our attempt at self-redemption, to gain control over our lives, to take on ourselves only what Christ can do. You can say it’s running from Christ rather than to Christ. You need to ask yourself, “What am I numbing?” “What am I running from?” “What am I trying to redeem?” There’s always a root that’s not about sex or even attraction. Get to the root with good friends and the Holy Spirit as your guide.
• When tempted, there is a call from your spirit to run back to your first love. No man, no romance, no marriage, no family, no ministry, nothing will ever be able to heal us, nurture us, love us, and embrace us the way we need—only the arms of our Father God. Nothing. We need to run to our sacred romance and keep it at the core of our lives. He is our everything.
• We need to create open spaces for honest communication without judgment. Our silence in the matter only causes more casualties of men and women who felt they were alone in their struggle. We need accountable, safe relationships with people who will listen without judgment, but also hold us accountable. My friend Richie Seltzer says, “Accountability is more about keeping one another accountable to one's destiny.” I wouldn’t have made it without some amazing girls in my life who listened to me, loved me, but also made me come up with an action plan that would protect my steps and keep me on my journey toward the destiny God has marked for me.
No more proverbial rug. It’s time for us to bring the issue out into the open, where temptation and shame are revealed for what they are. When we bring our struggles to the light, they flee. Be strong, beloveds. How hard is it for a ministry leader (or any human for that matter) to fall into sexual temptation or sin? Very easy. But with safe places for accountability and support, we can see more overcome and thrive past it.
Connie Jakab is a blogger and author of Culture Rebel: Because the World Has Enough Desperate Housewives. Connie is an active speaker and worship leader, and lives with her husband and two boys in Calgary, Alberta Canada. She can be found on twitter @ConnieJakab.