Benny Bong – has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
Some years ago, when stickers, patches and buttons carrying various slogans were all the rage, there was one that gave a Christian take to an advertisement for a popular drink. It said “Jesus is the real thing”. It left readers to conclude for themselves what Jesus was to be compared to – real thirst-quenching, real symbol of being hip?
Since time immemorial, we have been struggling with falsehood and authenticity; from the peddlers of medicinal potions that promised to cure all, to the fraudulent goldsmiths who adulterated gold with other metals. Today’s fraudsters steal our credit card details and our very own identities.
The subject of falsehood came up recently with a couple I was assisting, starting with a call from the distraught wife. A couple of weeks earlier, Joanne* had been feeling unwell. Her doctor diagnosed her with being infected with a venereal disease. When asked if she had sexual relations with men other than her husband, her answer was an emphatic no.
The doctor then asked if she knew whether her husband Jake* had sex with other women. As Jake was away on a business trip, she called him with this question. Jake denied that he did. Only after a similar diagnosis from the doctor a week later did he confess his infidelity.
Jake later disclosed that he had been visiting prostitutes on several occasions for some months. When queried, he shared that he had been dissatisfied with their sexual relationship and had sought to “spice it up” with a little tutoring from these professionals. Even before he made these disclosures, he had been encouraging his wife with suggestions that she dress more seductively for him and try new things together as a couple to improve their love life.
The experience of married couples finding their sex life becoming a routine and losing interest in it is not uncommon. The stresses of work and family, plus a decline in one’s libido, can all take its toll.
However, with Jake there was another element undermining his satisfaction with his marriage. The seed was planted many years ago in his teens – he was exposed to pornography and over the years he had been feeding this desire on and off. Jake and Joanne have been and are very dedicated Christians. Over the years, Jake had battled with his lustful desires and his strong convictions.
Unfortunately, he was slowly losing the battle. He sought help from his pastor and Christian elders, but because he could not bring himself to fully disclose his struggles, their meetings did little. Seeds of doubt started to take root in his mind. They started to alter his sense of what was real and what were fantasies – as deadly as a child believing they can climb walls like Spiderman.
Jake was beginning to believe that the experiences of characters in the pornographic movies were real. Jake’s expectation of every sexual encounter was now pegged to how these characters performed. When he could not achieve this with his wife, he started to feel even more disappointed in his wife and in himself. This was when he started to seek the encounters with prostitutes.
I do not believe that Jake is a naïve or gullible person. Many of us unfortunately believe the lies that serve our interests – we accept the falsehoods that are convenient to us. Lies also have a way of starting small, like a little “white lie”, but have a tendency of growing.
There are many things and ideas that are being presented to us as “truths”. One that appeared recently is the idea that a couple can be “consciously uncoupled” and perhaps avoid the many pains that come from a divorce. Another is that if we ensure that our children are materially supported but without the necessary emotional involvement of parenting, all will be well for them. Yet another: That if we come to church regularly and are good in our hearts, that God will understand when we do not respond to the cry of the needy.
May we always seek the truth and hold fast to it. I am reminded of a Sunday School chorus that says that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It has a simple but poignant idea that following the Truth of His Way of living brings Life. Indeed, in this regard He is the Real Thing!
*Pseudonyms have been used
[Updated 12 May 2014]