Caught in a Web of Deception
About the Guest
A do-over. A new beginning. That's what Chris and Cindy thought when they moved to Oklahoma to begin a music ministry in a popular church. But what was supposed to be a new start wound up being the end of life as they knew it. Chris Beall, along with his wife, Cindy, talks about his lifelong fascination with porn which eventually culminated into a series of infidelities and a child out of wedlock.
Chris Beall, along with his wife, Cindy, talks about his addiction to pornography.
Caught in a Web of Deception
Bob: Chris and Cindy Beall had been married a couple of years. There were facing some of the typical adjustments couples face in the early years of marriage. There was some low-level tension there. What Cindy didn’t know is that Chris had brought a sin pattern into their marriage—a pattern that had begun when, at the age of eight, he had first been exposed to pornography.
Chris: The internet was just coming out. So, if things weren’t good at home, in the sense that we weren’t really relating well—and now, the internet is here. Now, you don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to spend any money. When I’m by myself—when she’s not here—instant and anonymous access, right from your own home.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Chris and Cindy Beall join us today to talk about how Chris’s pattern of sin eventually took their marriage right up to the edge.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think there are a lot of us who look at couples sitting around us in church or in our neighborhood and we think, “Looks like everything is fine there.” I think there are a lot of couples in their own marriage looking at each other and going, “I think we’re doing fine;” and we don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface. Oftentimes there are some issues there.
Dennis: There are. It’s dangerous to make assumptions about what is going on in somebody else’s marriage. You just don’t know. We’re going to hear a story today that is really a compelling one. We are going to hear from Cindy Beall, who is the author of a book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken. Her husband also joins us on FamilyLife Today. Chris, welcome to the broadcast.
Cindy: Thanks. It’s great to be here.
Chris: Thanks for having us.
Dennis: Cindy and Chris live in Oklahoma City where Chris is the Campus Pastor at LifeChurch.tv. Cindy is a wife, and a mom, and a published author. They have three children together. They’ve been married now almost 20 years; right? I just want to know how you met, Cindy. Where did you guys first connect?
Cindy: We met at Southwest Texas State University down in San Marcos, Texas. I saw him from across a crowded room, literally, and thought he was cute. Then he smiled and I realized, “Oh, my goodness. He has crooked teeth!” Not kidding. Seriously, that’s exactly—I’m very sorry, Honey.
Chris: Man, she’s hatin’ on my teeth. (Laughter)
Cindy: But I did think that. I was so shallow back then; but then, eventually, when we talked and I said, “What are you going to do after college?” He said, “I’m thinking”—
Bob: Get braces.
Cindy: Yes, get braces. (Laughter)
Dennis: Get braces so I can date you; right?
Cindy: I’m sorry, Babe.
Cindy: But then he said, “I’d like to go to seminary.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I just want to get closer to God.” So, that was the springboard. That’s what took off and—
Bob: Now, you knew that was a line; didn’t you? You were just throwing out the seminary line because you were in a Bible study; and you said if you say, “seminary—” to cute girls, they’ll fall for you.
Chris: In retrospect, it seems that way. Boy, it was some years ago. I was a brand-new Christian. I had just met the Lord through Campus Crusade and saw Cindy singing at a Baptist Student Union. They were kind of like the “other” people on campus. It was great. I saw her singing. I was just taken with her, and it was kind of fast. We met, had our first date, and the morning after our first date, I put a down-payment on a ring.
Dennis: Did you tell her that?
Chris: She had a class to get to, and I just went and—
Bob: (Laughing) She was busy; so I didn’t mention it to her.
Chris: She had something else to do.
Dennis: Were you smitten?
Dennis: Had you made the promise of straightened teeth?
Chris: Not yet—I had not realized it was that big of an issue until, actually, today. (Laughter)
Dennis: Well, it happens here on “FamilyLife Counseling”.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: So where did you go on your date? I mean, if it was that spectacular of a date, Cindy—
Bob: There are some guys going, “I want to take my girlfriend to that place.”
Cindy: Right. The big place was Chili’s in south Austin. Big Chili’s. Yes, that’s it.
Chris: That’s it, followed by—
Bob: That’s where the magic happens.
Chris: —ice cream and—we had a conversation and realized that—well, at least I realized—that of all the things that was on my list—you know, college students tend to make a list of what they want in a spouse. She not only met all of those things; but she created new categories, just in the conversation of talking with her, that I didn’t know I wanted until I met her. So, I’m like, “What on earth would I be waiting for?”
Cindy: You’re sweet.
Chris: So, to the ring store I went.
Dennis: Here we are later. You have three sons. I just have to tell you—they’re nowhere near this age—but let’s say one of them comes to you and said, “Dad, I’ve put a down-payment on a ring. I’ve been out with this girl one time.” What would you say to him?
Chris: You’re grounded. (Laughter)
Bob: Cindy, you grew up in a Christian home; and Chris, you grew up in a church-going home, but not a home where you heard the Gospel.
Bob: In fact, it was while you were growing up in your home that you had a first exposure that would set you on a course that would rock your world later on.
Chris: Correct. Eight years old—I saw a magazine under my dad’s bed. I had never seen pornography, nudity, up to that point. Just all the emotions that go along with that—you know, there’s a little bit of guilt going on, there’s an incredible amount of curiosity.
I lost my dad a couple of years ago; but he’s been so incredible, just in the years prior to his death, of just kind of talking through things in life that he deeply regret—things in life that I deeply regret—but in the midst of really, really bad things—what God has done through that pain. But that really did open a window to a struggle with pornography that would last all of my childhood and most of my adult life.
Dennis: Today, the average age a boy is being exposed to pornography; and this is almost unimaginable, is eight. That’s the average age. So, that means a bunch of them are finding out a whole lot younger, and a bunch a whole lot later—not all that later. Explain to our listeners what that encounter did to you as a boy—because you don’t have a category emotionally—from a maturity standpoint, a morality standpoint—to even process what it is you just looked at. What did it do to you?
Chris: Well, a couple things I think are really interesting. I think men are very unique in that we are so incredibly visual. I am 40 years old; 32 years later, I can tell you detail for detail the images that I saw on that very first day. They are stuck in my mind in high definition. It’s amazing how those things can be burned into your brain.
But, also, I think our brains are kind of like Wikipedia®, you know. The definition continues to change with the latest entry. So, without having a conversation about sex or sexuality, all of a sudden, I’m beginning to define, in my very young mind, about what sex is—in a very, very distorted way. You take your mind and you twist it in a way with those images a couple notches off where it should be—where God has purposed it to be—and it leads down just a crazy, destructive path.
Dennis: How did it impact your view and your respect of women?
Chris: Growing up, I didn’t really have the opportunity to have the interest from women. I was kind of the dorky kid, you know, so—
Bob: Are we back to the teeth again? Is that the—
Chris: Well, maybe. The social life in high school wasn’t great, and so—but, in a way, I would just become reclusive, if you will. I would spend time, not just with that magazine, but there was a kid whose brother worked at a gas station. He would bring old versions, old issues of magazines from the gas station to the neighborhood. So, growing up, there was a constant supply to just keep filling this thing in my brain.
Bob: Was this a weekly kind of, “Hey, let’s go out to the fort and look at the magazine,” kind of thing?
Chris: Yes, pretty much. Me and a couple of my friends in the neighborhood would go and look at it. I would say it was kind of a form of distorted entertainment, you know. We’d go there, and we’d look at it, we’d talk about it. I think where I really experienced the effect of it toward women was in college.
By the time I had gone to school, with that new sense of freedom, women are very objectified. It’s just kind of a non-stop—not knowing the Lord—non-stop drink-fest, party, womanizing thing. I think it affected my view of women dramatically in those days.
Bob: So, rather than thinking, “How could I get to know a young lady, and form a relationship with her, and cultivate a friendship?”, you’re thinking, “How could I pick up a girl?”
Chris: Right; and, “I wonder what she looks like.” Yes. It’s very, very shallow and very, very physical.
Dennis: You think about this culture of young people that are growing up in junior high, high school, and college—it’s a hook-up culture, where they’re not connecting relationally. It’s just a pure physical deal, and they’re not even thinking it is sex.
Chris: Right. Well, one of the things, that when you talk about this generation, that scares me a bit is that—you know, my generation, the internet only came out toward the latter part of mid-college to young adulthood. There was still a significant period of our life that access was really limited. You’d have to go somewhere and buy something.
Well now, if you think about it, you have a generation of people, not just men anymore—men and women who have a stronghold of sexual sin related to pornography—who now have kids with smart phones. They have broadband access 24/7 wherever they go. I fear a sexual tsunami is coming because you have parents who never fully experienced freedom in this area, now with kids who have access to it. It could be a scary thing that the church is going to have to deal with and face.
Bob: Cindy, when you met this cute guy at the Bible study who said, “I want to go to seminary because I just want to get to know God better,” you had no idea that tucked away in a suitcase, back in the back, was this addiction—this compulsion to look at pornography. Chris, I presume this was still going on in college—now, maybe, at an accelerated rate that you were feeding your mind on this.
Chris: No doubt. No doubt.
Bob: You didn’t know any of that; right?
Cindy: No, of course not. Nobody certainly talked about it. We knew about the magazines, but you had to go to the store and buy them. Most of the stores had the little sheet on the cover, and you couldn’t see everything. I had no idea.
Bob: As you dated, there was nothing to indicate—he was a gentleman; he was a nice guy; and all of this was being done in secret and in private.
Cindy: Mm hmm. Absolutely. No idea.
Dennis: And your own father, your own father was rock-solid as a believer; right?
Cindy: My parents were believers. Yet, I don’t know, honestly—I have no idea if my father looked at things like that. I really don’t know anything about that because this is not something that we talked about, ever. I mean, it’s hard enough for people to talk about pornography addictions in 2011; they’re surely not going to talk in 1975.
Bob: Your presumption when you met Chris was, “He’s a guy who is pure. He wouldn’t do those kinds of things.”
Cindy: Mm hmm. Absolutely. He knew Jesus.
Bob: I say that because if that was the case when you met Chris, how many young women, meeting a young guy who says, “I love the Lord and I want to follow Christ,” and he’s on the college campus—they go, “Well, I’m sure he’s not looking at porn.” Odds are, Chris, he is.
Chris: The percentages say he probably is or has struggled with that on some level.
Dennis: So he’s bringing that into the relationship. What would be your advice for young ladies who are single?
Bob: Do you ask the question?
Cindy: “Have you looked at porn today?” “No, I haven’t.” “Have you looked at it yesterday?” I mean, get in their face because here’s the deal—if you don’t ask beforehand, you’re going to be asking eventually. I don’t believe that every single man on earth has looked at porn because there are some men who have said, “That’s just not what I have looked at.” That’s great, but the statistics don’t lie. It’s out there; people are looking.
Bob: You wouldn’t do that on the first date at Chili’s would you?
Cindy: Probably not.
Bob: Say, “Hey, looked at porn today?” But at some point in your relationship, as it’s starting to grow—
Bob: If Cindy had said to you in college—I don’t know how you would have answered if she had said, “Have you looked at porn in the last week?” Would you have manned up and said, “Well, you know, wow that’s a hard question.”
Chris: Back then, I don’t think that I would.
Bob: You’d have lied to her?
Chris: I probably would have, yes; because the thing is, the deception was really, in my opinion, the bigger issue. The Bible says that Satan is not the father of lust, not the father of greed—he’s the father of lies. I think, that in the context of deception—the context of lying to ourselves—and for guys, that looks like managing these secret things and then giving off a different perception to other people. Perception management is just a polite way of lying—of saying, “You’re—you’re lying.” To get to the point to be truly honest was the very thing I needed to do to get free, I believe, according to James.
Bob: Part of the reason I ask these questions is because I agree with you. The young woman ought to say, “Have you looked at porn?”—and then she ought to expect that the guy, if he says, “No,” may have just lied to her.
Bob: I think you may have to circle back around and even say, “You know, I know that’s a hard conversation to have. You may have felt uncomfortable, but I think we need to be honest about this. So, if you want to change your answer, let’s talk about it later.” I think you have to press it a little bit.
Dennis: Well, especially if the relationship is headed toward marriage. Here’s what I want young ladies to know, and I think parents need to train their daughters to think this way and to understand this. For you, as a young man, the thought—now, I don’t want to put words in your mouth that are not true; but I want you to say, “True,” or, “False.” Is this an accurate statement? “You probably, as you moved toward the altar, never thought about having a conversation with her about how you had gotten off into pornography and what a part of your life that was.” Right? Or wrong?
Chris: Right. In fact, I would say every time I looked at pornography was the last time I was going to look at pornography. You know what I mean? I would always make those promises to myself that, “I don’t need to bring that up because I stumbled last week or yesterday, but I’m never going to look at that stuff again.” You know what I mean? You’re constantly trying to convince yourself, “That’s it. No more.”
Dennis: Right. A young lady, who is listening to us right now, goes, “Really?! You really think that way?!” I want her to understand that is the way guys think. They segment their lives. They push this over in a corner. They sweep it under the rug; and they say, “You know, I’m not going to do that again. It’s not going to bite me again, and I’m not bringing it into the marriage.”
Chris: That’s correct.
Bob: But you did.
Chris: But I did.
Bob: You probably thought, “Once I’m married, then who needs pornography?”
Chris: Issue solved.
Bob: Yes, that’s right. I’m sure it surprised you, at some point, and I don’t know how long it was into your marriage—three months, six months, a year before you started looking online again?
Chris: Well, the thing for us is, the first year of marriage was very, very difficult—just because you’re living together, you know—(Laughter)
Bob: And you’re young and stupid. Let’s just—
Chris: And we’re stupid. We have no idea how to relate to each other, and it was—
Dennis: It was your rookie season.
Chris: It was terrible!
Cindy: Awful. It was awful.
Chris: But then, at the same time, the internet was just coming out. So, it was just—if things weren’t good at home, in the sense that we weren’t really relating well—all these wild—the whole “Chili’s burning bush moment”, and now you’re in reality of paying bills, and, “How does she squeeze the toothpaste tube?”—and now, the internet is here. Now, you don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to spend any money. When I’m by myself—when she’s not here—instant and anonymous access, right from your own home.
Dennis: If you guys had been through some marriage preparation counseling and had a relationship with a mentoring couple, in that first year of marriage, what difference would it have made?
Cindy: The world. Oh my goodness.
Chris: Monumental; monumental.
Cindy: It would have been amazing. That’s why we have a couple of young couples that we’re pouring into because we’re like, “You’re about to get married, and we’re going to give you everything that we can.” They’re like, “Are you sure we’re doing okay?” I’m like, “Yes, you’re about where we were at year five, so you’re going to be good.” It would have changed everything.
Dennis: I was recently asked by a dad whose daughter was about to be popped the question. He knew that he was about to have a young man knock at the door and say, “Mr. So and So, could I have a conversation with you?” He said, “Dennis, I know you’d have a few thoughts about what I ought to talk with him about.” So I ticked off several things he ought to do.
Number one, he needs to have a series of conversations with the young man. By the way, one of the conversations that he ought to have is asking him about his involvement in pornography.
Bob: Not if.
Dennis: Not if, but how much—to what extent? The second thing, before they got married—they would need to go to the Weekend to Remember®.
A third thing is to go through Preparing for Marriage®, which is a workbook we sell to engaged couples to go through. Go through it with a mentoring couple who will then walk you through the first 12 to 18 months of your marriage, meeting with you monthly. It’s just the opportunity to take the pressure off and to allow a third party to have the conversations with.
If you guys had had that third party, walking into your marriage, you could have said at that point, as you just said here instantly, “It was awful!” “This is awful! Help us!” What would have been the area you would have cried out for help?
Cindy: I think just learning to be with someone. You know, when you get married, that first year is—you become one. When the preacher says the vows, you become one in the sight of God. The problem is you still have two bodies. You have four arms and you only need two. You have four legs; you only need two. You have to start a serious spiritual amputation here, and that hurts! That’s what you’ve got to go through; but you don’t want to because, “This arm is really good, and you’re asking me to get rid of it?”
It was just this whole struggle, and I just think that learning to compromise—I mean, you’ve got to compromise. Learning to think about your spouse more than you think about yourself—thinking about how to meet his needs and not always just be thinking about your own. Marriage is a very selfless thing—that it takes time to get good at.
Chris: We went to a Weekend to Remember probably a couple of years—
Cindy: I think it was two years in.
Chris: Two years into the marriage, and I believe you were speaking at this one.
Cindy: It changed. It was a good change.
Chris: It was as though we were hearing these principles for the very first time, and that really helped us. There were clearly still issues that I had to deal with; but that helped us so monumentally in just learning how to communicate—how to fight well, things like that. It was life-changing.
Dennis: Well, as we’re going to hear the rest of the story, there came a moment of crisis that was like detonating an atomic bomb, a nuclear device in your marriage. As Bob said, it goes back to this incident when you were eight years old that ended up being stuffed in a suitcase and brought into the marriage as excess baggage; but it ended up putting your marriage near the brink of disaster.
Bob: Well, it ended up where trust had to be reestablished. That’s one of the reasons you’re sharing your story with others because you have talked to enough couples who have been, maybe not at the same place you were, but a place where trust was broken in a marriage relationship. They’ve wondered, “Is it possible for that trust to ever be rebuilt or restored?” You’ve walked the path and can tell them, “Yes, it is possible.”
You’ve written a book called Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken. We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can find out more about the book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for information on Cindy Beall’s book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken. Or call toll-free for more information, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
We have seen how the power of stories like the one we’re hearing today can have an impact on folks’ lives. In fact, we’ve been so encouraged over the years to hear from listeners who have gotten in touch with us and said, “This particular series...”, “What this guest shared...”, “What Dennis talked about...God used it in a profound way in our marriage relationship.”
I was with some friends, not long ago, and the man was telling me about a series we had done on a similar subject. We’d been talking about pornography and sexual sin. He said, “God used it to bring conviction in my own heart and life and to bring a turning point in our marriage relationship,” before it got to the point where your relationship got to. So, we’re grateful to hear about how God uses this program in folks’ lives.
We appreciate it when you get in touch with us and let us know that God is using FamilyLife Today in your marriage. We want to say, “Thanks,” to those of you who make all of this possible with your support of FamilyLife Today. Your financial gifts are what sustain this program. You help pay for the syndication and production costs for FamilyLife Today, and we appreciate that support.
In fact, we’d love to send you a couple of cards that we’ve put together to help you pray for one another as a couple. When you make a donation to support FamilyLife Today, just ask for these prayer cards. Actually, if you make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com—you click the button that says, “I Care”, we’ll send the prayer cards out to you as our way of saying, “Thanks for your support.”
If you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation, just ask if you can receive those prayer cards. We’ll send you one for you and one for your spouse. Praying for one another is one of the ways that we can help protect and strengthen our marriage relationship. We want to help you in that regard. We appreciate your help and your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Thanks for partnering with us in this effort.
And we hope you can be back with us tomorrow. Chris and Cindy Beall are going to be here again. Things got worse before they got better for the two of them. We’ll hear more about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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