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Mini Man-sode 48: Struggling With Secret Sin? This is For You


Dave Willis

Today JJ is joined by Dave Willis to go deep in the conversation around vulnerability, confessing secret sin, and temptation.


Hey fam, welcome back to another mini man-sode on the Heart of Dating podcast!!! We’re continuing in season 12 and today we’re going DEEP. So if you’re not ready, get ready. We’re so honored to be joined by Dave Willis today to talk about some things that have a tendency to make us really uncomfortable. We encourage you to push past the uncomfortable and really go deep as we talk about confessing secret sin, vulnerability, and temptation. Let’s dive in! 

Vulnerability - Have you always been this vulnerable?

Dave would say that a lot of his vulnerability is actually a response to when he waasn’t vulnerable in the past and it went badly. Most of the pain and destruction he’s experienced in his life came from trying to keep things in the dark instead of exposing them to the light. Now, where Dave is at in his life he doesn’t want to leve any room for those tumors of hidden sin to grow in his life. When he’s struggling with something he wants to talk abou it and get it out in the open. When you’re honest about your struggles, people lean in and it gives you credibility with other people. This is how God designed us to live, vulnerably with others. Dave wants to model that because it keeps him and Ashley accountable. 

Where would you say you hit that point where you thought, “man, I can't go on living, hiding, not confessing.” What did that look like for you?

A lot of big transitions for Dave happened in his college years and early years of marriage. When he went to school he was confident and insecure in different ways. He was really trying to figure out what he was made to do. He started leaning into his strengths in college which were related to his faith. Over time pride kinda hijacked that and he started making some compromising decisions in relationships. He went from a person that he always thought he’d help people, to someone who was hurting people. He then started questioning how he got there. Selfishness hurts the selfish person more than anyone else. He realized he was miserable, and decided he didn’t want to live that way anymore. He tried to recommit to God and His ways. So in his junior year of college he was going to go study abroad but God was calling him not to go that He had something better for him. On the first day of his first class of junior year, a year he wasn’t supposed to be there, in walks Ashley. He wanted to be a better man because of who Ashley was/is. Then in the early years of their marriage he fell back into pronography and so he knew that he didn’t want to fall back in that pit and hide things again so he brought it out in the light and really worked through it. 

He didn’t have the courage to confess at first. Ashley stumbled upon it on their desktop and it was devastating to her. He saw the unnecessary pain he inflicted on her and he realized he never ever wanted something to hurt her like that. It’s when things are kept in the dark that they fester, but in the light the enemy loses his power. 


The latin root word of courage actually means “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” 

2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

That courage is fuled by grace. Grace begins where you admit you’re powerless. God’s grace can fuel that courage. 

Is there a gender sterotype specifically for men, that it’s harder for us to share? Does shame have a different effect on men?

Dave thinks most men were raised in a culture where emotions equaled weakness. Where women are usually more comfortable expressing through emotion. Men often get uncomfortable when their wives or girlfriends are expressing their emotions because they don’t know what to do with it. Vulnerability man to man is missing. Most men have this idea that if they want to earn other men’s respect then the only way they can do that is to show that they’re totally in control at all times and they don’t struggle. Because men that struggle must be weak and they they’re not in control and they’re not to be respected. This is just not true. Everyone struggles. Real respect comes from real vulnerability and having the courage to say, “I’m growing, but this is an area right now that I’m really struggling and I need some men I can trust to come alongside me and pray with me through this, to hold me accountable to this, encourage me in this area, teach me what you’ve learned in this area.” Until we can have real conversations like that, we’re all just going to stay stuck. 

Did you experience vulnerability from other men and then grown in that?

Yes, it’s something that Dave things he’s definitely growing in. A lot of times he actually finds himself being vulnerable very quickly with other guys, not to pressure them into being vulnerable, but to really go first in it and let them know it’s okay. Life is too short to never talk about the real stuff that matters. Men are desprate for safe space. Be a man that ushers in safe space. 

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Dave Willis

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Our relationship began when we met in the fall of 1999 at Georgetown College, a small Christian school in Kentucky. We met in an acting class, quickly became friends and started dating the next semester. We were engaged within a year and got married the week after Dave's graduation. Soon afterwards, we got ourselves a "Fixer Upper," long before HGTV was popular! With some help from our parents, we renovated an old house (we called it the "Love Shack") right next to campus. We were young, broke, but so in love.The first years of our marriage were just as wonderful as they were challenging. We quickly realized that both of us had some differing expectations that impacted the way we viewed our relationship. As we continued to grow and raise a family, we became passionate about sharing our marriage journey with the world. We're not perfect and know that marriage can have tough seasons, but we want everyone to know that the marriage you always dreamed of is possible!We still can't believe we get to work together and have a front row seat to seeing God work miracles in marriages that seemed broken. It's so rewarding to see marriages and families restored through the resources of XO Marriage.

When we're not recording new episodes of The Naked Marriage Podcast, speaking at an XO event, writing, or planning our next project, we love hanging out with our four awesome boys, watching old episodes of The Office and playing fetch with "Chi Chi" our Chiweenie (Dachshund/Chihuahua mix). We love Jesus, family, traveling, meeting people, long walks, Mexican food (and most other food too), and laughing.

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