It’s pretty easy for women in ministry to fall into adultery—much easier than you probably think.
It shocks us to hear that women leaders struggle with sexual sin, but it’s more common than we know. The problem is that no one talks about it because there’s so much shame surrounding the topic. That silence means those who struggle will continue to fall because they don’t have the support or tools needed to overcome.
So let me break the silence and tell you about my own struggles with sexual sin. I want to bring out into the open what many feel they need to hide. Shame is incredibly deceptive. It tells us that if we keep our secrets, we’re safe. But friend, we are far from safe in secrecy—we are bait. I pray sharing my story will give you courage to tell your story if you’re struggling, and the wisdom to listen without judgment to women who may confess their struggles to you.
I’ve 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 16 years of 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 with behavioral challenges—and home can be a hard place to be. Interestingly, both times I’ve been tempted toward adultery have been times when things at home were frustrating.
The first time I was tempted was when I was writing my book, Culture Rebel. I clicked well with a man in my sphere of work, and I started struggling with my thought life. Jesus' words haunted me: "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). I knew I had to get a grip, but the force of lust was strong on 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 filled my thoughts: How could you think such things? 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." 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 for my book: "You are not called to be desperate, you are called to be dangerous." I knew I was struggling because I had lost sight of God’s vision for my life. I’d forgotten who God created me to be. Unfortunately, I lost sight again.
The second time I found myself in the midst of temptation was during a very dark hour for our family. 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 felt I deserved. I found myself looking for excitement, freedom, and something to numb my pain. It’s interesting how temptation can smell weakness. Along came the opportunity that no one would ever have known about.
I wish I could say I was stronger in that moment, but I wasn't. It's a miracle I made it through, without fully succumbing to temptation. That experience reminds me every day just how much I need God’s grace. It’s given me 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 just how easy it is.
In the wake of this experience, I spent a lot of time groveling at Jesus’ feet, and he graciously taught me several things that might help you, too. I share them with you so we can create communities of resilient leaders who can withstand temptation, rather than end up on a list or found out on a video.
Don't be shocked if and when this happens to you. If it shocks you, you’ll fear it. When you fear it, it will control you and you’ll be less likely to escape. All you’ll 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’ll cower in shame and be more likely to hide from others rather than run to them for help and support. Don’t be afraid to tell others—being tempted with sexual sin is common, even among leaders.
It's not wrong to be tempted. You’re not sinning when you're tempted, so don't give in. When tempted, we often give in because we think we've already lost the battle. Stand firm and fight—but not on your own. Fight with friends beside you and Christ's truth wrapped around your heart.
Adultery and sexual sin are never really about sex. These sins are our attempt at self-redemption, to gain control over our lives, to take on what only Christ can do for us. Another way to look at it: we’re running from Christ rather than to him. When you’re tempted, 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.
Run 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 can do this. We need to run to our sacred romance and keep it at the core of our lives. He is our everything, and our lives should reflect that.
Create space for honest communication without judgment. Our silence in the matter only causes more casualties of women and men who felt they were alone in their struggle. We need 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 women in my life who listened to me and 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.
Let’s put away the 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 easy is it for ministry leaders to fall into sexual temptation or sin? Very easy. But with safe places for accountability and support, we can see many overcome—even us.
Connie Jakab is a blogger and author of Culture Rebel: Because the World Has Enough Desperate Housewives. She is passionate about rebelling against status quo living and encouraging others to branch out and can be found on twitter @ConnieJakab. This article is adapted from one that was published in 2013 on Gifted for Leadership.