“Ask a Priest: What If Nasty Photos of Me Circulated Online?”

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Q: I found out last year that sensitive photos of me have circulated online. It has only been two years since I took those photos. It hurts so much, even until now. I know I’m not only hurting myself and my future, but also my family (they know nothing about it). I’m not strong enough to tell them. Please help me pray for myself, since that’s all I can do now instead of telling someone about it. I no longer consider killing myself because of it because that would put more shame on my family. All I can do is hope and pray to God that those photos of me will never reach my family and friends. Please help me. – E.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Thanks for your courageous note. It is good that you are no longer thinking of harming yourself – you are valuable in God’s eyes.

What is done is done. We can’t change the past, but we can choose the direction we want to follow from now on.

It is good to remember that the most important relationship in your life is with God. If your relationship with him is OK, that is fundamental for your peace of mind. So, it would be good to take advantage of the sacrament of confession if you haven’t done so yet.

Part of the process of repentance is the resolution to change your life accordingly. If you have cut ties with anything from the past that led to the photos, that is good.

From this day forward it would be good to focus on your identity as a daughter of God. You can’t lose his love. Knowing this is crucial to helping you understand your dignity.

You might find inspiration in the lives of the saints. A number of saints had less than stellar résumés before their conversion.

Augustine (died 430) had had a son out of wedlock. Olga (died 969) had been known for her cruelty. Ignatius of Loyola (died 1556) had certainly not been a Boy Scout in his days as a soldier.

The key thing is that you have lots of reason for hope, no matter what happened in the past.

Take things one day at a time. With a solid life of prayer and the sacraments, devotion to Mary through the rosary, acts of charity, and a bit of spiritual direction, possibly in the confessional, you can progress toward holiness.

The Holy Spirit will give you strength to not worry about what the world thinks of you. Nevertheless, if ever those thoughts about harming yourself return, you might to reach out and speak with someone.

You might also want to take a look at our free Retreat Guide, “Troubled Hearts.”

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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