Active Surrender

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” 


“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I believe that Jesus is describing an active way of surrendering. Instead of only focusing on stopping a particular behavior, we should pay close attention to the thoughts and motivations behind our actions. Step 3 of the 12 Steps tells us the same thing:

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

When we work this step daily, we turn two things over to our higher power. I believe that the phrase “our lives” is referring to our actions – the things that we do each day. And I believe that the phrase “our will” is referring to our thoughts and our motivations – the reason we do the things we do. It’s great to stop acting out, but until we address the reasons that we act out and the thought processes that lead up to it, long-term sexual sobriety will be very hard to come by.

So, how do we do this? How do we gain a better understanding of why we continue to do the things that keep getting us into trouble?

I believe that two of the Twelve Steps answer this question specifically. The first of these is Step 4. When we take a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of ourselves, we list several things. The first is pretty obvious – we list the bad stuff we’ve done in our lives and the people we’ve harmed. But then the Big Book suggests that we list our resentments and fears. “What on Earth,” you may ask, “do resentments and fears have to do with me acting out?” The answer is simple: Anger over the past and fears of the future are very often the driving forces behind our addictive behavior.

So, after working step 4, we have a list of resentments and fears. But we haven’t done anything to let them go yet. That’s where Step 7 comes in. We can show that we are ”completely willing for God to remove these defects of character”, by asking Him to remove specific fears and resentments that we have listed. And the process of listing these feelings and asking God to remove them helps us to become more aware when new resentments and fears creep into our life.

In addition to working the steps, many of us have found professional counselling to be very helpful to our recovery, especially when it comes to digging into our thoughts and motivations. Awaken has a list of therapists that are familiar with our fellowship and there are many others out there too. The main thing I would recommend is to find someone who specializes in recovery from addictive sexual behavior. Another option is the Roots Retreat that Awaken provides several times each year. These four days of intense work have been very helpful to many in our fellowship. 

Early in my recovery  journey my sponsor shared a beautiful analogy with me. We were discussing surrender and he said…

“Imagine your addiction as something you have held very tightly in your hand for a long time. You have wanted it gone and asked for help in getting rid of it. But to truly surrender it, you have to open up your hand and let it go.”

May you open up your hand today.

– A grateful member of the Awaken community

Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. If you want to know more about Awaken or our resources, email us at!