In the latest episode of the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast, actor and former NFL player Terry Crews opens up about facing obstacles and finding true strength in Jesus. Crews, who describes using pro sports to escape an abusive upbringing in Flint, Michigan, almost lost everything at the height of his fame. Yet the entertainment industry couldn’t have cared less, the 53-year-old devout Christian tells Nieuwhof.
Thanks to counseling and honesty with himself and his family, Crews overcame a decades-long addiction to porn and has now been married to his wife, Rebecca, for almost 33 years. “We are an example of a miracle,” he says. “I’m beyond grateful that I did get my family back.”
Terry Crews Grew Up ‘Always on Edge’
As ChurchLeaders has reported, Terry Crews grew up in an “extremely abusive” household. He describes wanting to stay strong physically because he “knew one day that I may have to kill my father,” who regularly beat up his mother. “We never felt secure,” he says. “It was always on edge”—both in his home and neighborhood. Being afraid “became part of my psyche,” he adds, admitting that he wet his bed until age 14.
In addition, Crews’ mother was “addicted to religion.” His family attended a “very strict” and “extremely prohibitive” congregation, where everything was about shame and “you’re going to hell.” Crews says, “Our wiring was that we were bad people.”
He also grew up fearful about concepts such as the rapture. As a boy, he fell asleep during one lengthy church service and woke up alone—assuming he’d been left behind. No one answered the questions he raised about church and “Why are we doing it like this?”
The church had a strong pharisaical component, Crews adds. For example, to work around the rule against having TVs in their homes, some church members kept the sets in their windowsills. About his religious upbringing, he says, “The problem was not God, it was people.” He eventually realized that people were adding extra stipulations and rules to the concept of faith.
“If you didn’t pray enough, if you didn’t seek God enough, there was always more you could do, but you’re never going to get there,” says Crews. “You’ll never really be enough. Hustle, hustle, hustle, and hopefully, maybe, just like Indiana Jones, you’ll scoot underneath that rock and pat right when that door closes, you’ll make it into heaven if God sees you fit enough. … This grace that you had to earn every day…was exhausting.”
Porn Addiction Was a ‘Dirty Little Secret’
Crews’ dysfunctional upbringing including an early exposure to pornography, which “changed my wiring in a lot of ways.” Despite considering himself a “card-carrying Christian young man,” he “could not get this thing out of my life.”