– Understanding addiction and help for the addict, parent and spouses/partners
– “When a man’s eye wanders. Breaking the power of pornography.” By Jeff Olsen., “When we just can’t stop”, “Designed for Desire” and “When Help is Needed”
“An Affair Of The Mind” by Laurie Hall (Tyndale, 1996)
HELP FOR CHRISTIAN ADDICTS
Some thoughts to share with Christians struggling with pornography
A leaflet about pornography and Christians might seem like a strange combination! The New Testament, however, has many places where believers in Jesus Christ are urged to turn away from sexual sins taking place in their generation. Examples of these can be seen in Matthew 5:27-32, John 8:11, 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, Ephesians 5:5-12 and 1 Peter 4:1-5. The sad reality is that surveys taken in Bible believing Churches suggest that many professing Christians, and even Christian leaders, have been seduced and trapped by pornography.
The word ‘pornography’ is used in this article to describe sexually explicit material found in books, magazines, movies and the Internet, as well as for services offered by Strip Clubs, Adult Shops, SMS/Chat lines, and prostitutes. People who get caught up in these activities soon find that sex becomes the dominating focus of their thinking.
Now sexual desire itself is not evil or wrong. It is natural and normal to be attracted to the opposite sex and to enjoy physical contact. Erotic emotions are a part of our creation design. The problem with pornography is that it exploits God given sexual desires and uses them as mere entertainment for satisfying selfish interests. It takes feelings, intended for the enjoyment of both partners in the loving and caring relationship of marriage, and uses them to excite a person into wanting sex just for the thrill it brings. The people who produce pornography do it solely from the motive of greed. The sin of pornography, therefore, is the sin of idolatry. Those involved in this lifestyle are making “gods” of pleasure and/or profit, and seeking fulfilment in these things instead of in a relationship with God Himself.
This article suggests four things to share with anyone who has realised that Christians need to reject pornography, but who might be struggling to break free from it’s clutches. The hope is that, through sharing these, you will help them take those difficult steps that will influence the rest of their life for the better.
The problem is the way one thinks about sex.
Pornography is a problem of the mind, rather than the body! When it is allowed space in someone’s thinking, the desire for pornography quickly grows and begins to take control. Once it has established a pattern it becomes very difficult to get rid of. No matter how often the person tells them self they won’t think or do certain things any more, these just seem to happen again and again. Whether it’s visiting shops where explicit magazines and DVD’s are available, or giving in “just one last time” to the desire to watch some “adult entertainment” on TV or the Internet, they just seem unable to resist. For some this desire becomes so strong that they turn, sadly, to an involvement with prostitutes.
Part of the difficulty in breaking free from pornography is the very despair that such people feel when they’ve tried so often to stop, but end up doing the same thing over and over. The feelings of helplessness that follow can make them think their situation is hopeless, so why even bother trying to fight it?
Remember that the desire for pornography is sure to grow stronger as time goes by! It’s a progressive addiction!
Though they are probably well aware of it, those caught up in pornography need to be reminded that if they do not take decisive action, their involvement with pornography will grow and grow!
This is simply because pornography is exciting to the person and they will want more! Those who develop an addiction will hide DVD’s etc. away so that they can look at them over and over again when no one is around. Repeated actions soon become habits, and, like most habits, it’s not long before they need more to satisfy them. The result is that “just looking” at sexy pictures of naked bodies in magazines and movies will no longer be enough, and the person will feel a growing need to take part in sexual activity. As time goes by, even that may not be enough, and they will start looking for new sexual experiences and sometimes these may end up in ways that they know are beyond normality.
This process will not happen overnight. Months, and even years, may go by of only going “so far”. But the danger is real that, slowly but surely, they will want a little more excitement. One indecent act leads to another, and, bit-by-bit, their resistance crumbles. The time may come when they find themselves doing things they never believed they would ever do. It is because of the gradual way their involvement grows that some have ended up in the terrible condition of using even children to quench their craving for sexual satisfaction!
This cancer-like growth of infatuation with pornography is an important reason for a man or woman to make every effort to deal with the problem while there’s still time. If they don’t, a vicious cycle develops in which they will keep flirting with pornography and, in turn, it will become ever more difficult for them to keep sexual thoughts from entering their minds throughout the day and with almost everyone they meet.
Pornography is not “just innocent fun” which does not harm anyone else.
People involved in pornography often say that looking at nudity and sex on DVD’s or the Internet is a private matter and not doing any harm to anyone. They also argue that many prostitutes and models actually enjoy their work, and would otherwise be unemployed. While it is true that “just looking” is not quite the same as becoming physically involved, there are still many ways in which pornography causes much sorrow and destruction.
Firstly, pornography reduces people to sexual objects that exist for the use of others! The person caught up in pornography begins to see and value people only for their physical appearance and sexual performance, and not for any other quality. That is a selfish attitude which ignores the qualities that really matter for relationships, such as gentleness, kindness and trust. These are overlooked, and only the body and sexual abilities of the other person matter. Pornography, therefore, promotes lust for sexual excitement rather than any genuine love and concern for a person. This is probably the reason why it is not unusual for many of the women involved in making porn movies to end up feeling used and abused, and becoming alcoholics or drug addicts with a very high suicide rate.
In the case of a married man, pornography is bound to affect his relationship with his wife. It won’t be long before he finds sex with his wife far less exciting than the sexual fantasies of DVD’s, or time spent on the Internet. In most cases he will also try to keep his pornographic pursuits a secret from his wife, which is a betrayal of her trust. It can also result in his wanting to do things in their physical union that she’s not comfortable with. Such a marriage is certain to suffer great emotional stress.
Some suggest that if a husband and wife watch porn together it could make their sex more exciting. The problem here is that they will soon feel that they are simply using each other and acting out a role! There’s also the danger that the exposure to pornography will weaken their morals and lead to seeking sexual activities outside of the marriage. Some couples have ended up participating in group sexual encounters as a result of this. The marriage will have little chance of surviving because its focus is wrong.
Involvement in pornography is harmful for single people as well. It will either harden their conscience so much that they move on to acts that get progressively more immoral, or it will generate feelings of guilt and a sense of shame. They will take these symptoms into future relationships, or marriage, and it will have a very negative impact. A fascination with pornography might also lead a person into marrying someone more from a craving for sex than from the motive of love. There is also the obvious possibility of unwanted pregnancies, or of catching and spreading sexual diseases despite having “taken precautions”.
To sum up then, pornography encourages people to use others for selfish reasons, destroys good morals, and stimulates the craving for casual sex rather than the desire to love and care. It threatens, and sometimes destroys, marriages, and is often a major factor in acts of rape and violence. It is not a harmless and innocent activity – it is dangerous and destructive.
Though it is not easily won, victory over the “addiction” to pornography is possible.
This is an important truth to share with anyone who is in the depths of despair that an addiction to pornography has brought. For those who have been trapped in its iron like grip, the hope of a lasting victory seems an impossible dream. The ideas put forward in this leaflet may seem too simple at first, but they are based on Biblical principles which, if put into practise, can help the person wanting to break free from the habit of giving in to the temptation of pornography.
The most basic of these principles for someone struggling with pornography is that they need to decide in their heart that they really want to get out of the pit it has brought them into. The Lord Jesus once asked a man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years, “Do you want to be made well?” The choice has to be made between wanting to enjoy a clear conscience that lasts for life, or the passing moments of excitement that pornography brings now and then.
Then, there must also be a willingness to take whatever steps are needed to make a lasting difference in one’s life. Some of the steps will be hard ones, but they are important if the chains are to be broken. It is also important to remember that the battle is with the mind and it’s lusts rather than some “need” of the body. It is the way a person thinks about sex and the priority they put upon it that needs to change.
The most practical step to take is to start avoiding the little things that trigger the thoughts that then grow into strong cravings for sexual excitement. The principle here is that it is very difficult to try and put out a forest fire once it is raging. It is much better to try and prevent the blaze from starting.
This means, for example, that a person must not even go into a store where they know there are the types of books, DVD’s and magazines that will get their minds going. For others it may mean they stop buying the daily newspaper, if it is the erotic adverts for prostitution services that stir up their desires for sex. Where someone finds it “almost impossible” to turn off the TV when “adult” movies are due to be shown they may need to ask their partner to help them, if they are married, or consider getting rid of TV if they live alone. Video shops should also be avoided as the advertisements for sexual movies are inevitably openly displayed. The Bible says that believers must “flee from sin” and Jesus taught that we are to take drastic action with anything that leads us into sin even when the thing may be innocent in itself.
The problem of the Internet is a much bigger one. The excuse can be made of “working late” and then hours can be spent surfing the net for pornography of the strongest kind. This is where both a big decision and brutal honesty are needed. The person needs to ask them self “Do I really want to be free from the degrading porn available on the Internet, or am I going to carry on living a lie and hiding from my family and others how I spend so much of my time”? If the choice is made to try and break the habit, then a few sensible steps can be taken. They should have any available program designed to prevent porn sites being accessed installed on their computer. Where possible, they should place their computer in a position where other people can easily walk in on them while they are online. It can also help to place a little item (such as a picture of a loved one or a Bible verse) on the computer to remind them of their decision to not allow pornography onto their screen. The Bible speaks of the use of symbols by which God’s people reminded themselves of their relationship to Him and their need to be separate from sin.
But it is not only the visual attractions that have to be dealt with. It may be necessary to break with certain friends if they are people who often bring pornography into the conversation and relationship. There might also be places, such as health clubs and cinemas, where one is likely to meet such people that may need to be avoided so that the mind is not drawn into thinking about what could develop. The habit must be dealt with at its source. An effort must be made to keep away from the people and places that stimulate the erotic thoughts. It’s very difficult for someone to say “no” to pornography once they have started to look, and the mind has become excited at the prospect. A believer in the Old Testament named Job actually made a solemn contract with his eyes that he would not allow them to gaze with lust at a woman.(See Job Chapter 31 verses 1 to 4). He would not allow his looking at a woman to linger on her because he knew that his thoughts would begin to fantasize on her body. So he would look away from her, and turn his mind to other things.
On the positive side, it would be wise to begin replacing old bad habits with good new ones. There are many innocent hobbies and pastimes that do not cause temptation and which can lead to healthy and wholesome friendships. While the main cause of involvement with pornography is a preoccupation with sex, it is often made worse by loneliness, frustration and boredom. Satan loves to offer sin to those with time on their hands.
The hardest steps have been kept for last. If it is a married person who has been living a double life, I strongly suggest that they first confess to a trusted fellow believer who they can be accountable to and who will be willing to help in a non judgemental and loving way. James 5 v 16 says “Confession to fellow man leads to healing”. Some may and can tell their partner about the problem they have been struggling with! I know this will seem an impossible request – but the partner is entitled to know just what the person caught up in pornography has been doing, especially if it has led to physical adultery. We suggest this only if the partner and your relationship is very strong and able to deal with the ramifications of such a confession. She will also need counseling and a close friend to help her through this difficult time. Lies are not acceptable in any way but sometimes one has to be very circumspect in this area. Sometimes more damage can be caused by blurting out a confession than by your partner noticing how you have changed and are being changed by being more loving and attentive. This often becomes easier as one feels less angry, guilty and ashamed when you no longer use pornography. Maybe at a later stage of the recovery when your partner can see and appreciate the changes in you would it more appropriate to begin the journey of confession. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 28 vs 13 that “those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces their sins, finds mercy.” While it is true that the innocent party or victim could be placed in a position to divorce the guilty one where adultery has taken place, it is also possible that they will choose to forgive and try to help the one who is struggling with the problem. It may even be that both partners will be in need of, and will benefit from, some Biblical counselling for the marriage.
Even more difficult is the truth that, if the habit has led to any cruel, harmful and illegal activities, the person will need to go to those involved so as to seek their forgiveness and to face any consequences. Hard as this may seem, it will be far easier than having to stand before God on the day of His judgement and to give an account there. Take time to consider the challenge and the promise of 1 Corinthians 6 and verses 9 – 20.
You might be wondering why I have said nothing so far about prayer, Bible reading and regular attendance of a Church? These all, very obviously, play an important role. The issue here, however, is that genuine faith also requires effort. These things lose their meaning and effectiveness while the person is living a double life. They need to be done in conjunction with taking practical steps to deal with sinful behaviour. A person might be an active and leading member of the church, and yet be secretly indulging in pornography.
The good news is that true believers in Jesus Christ do have a tremendous advantage in the struggle against a problem like the temptation caused by pornography.
Firstly, they can draw courage from the fact that their salvation does not depend on their victory over the sins that humble them, but upon the fact that Jesus Christ died for all their sins – past, present and future! God has not offered to love them only if they can improve themselves and never fall again, He has loved them freely and He gave His beloved Son to die for them while they were His enemies. If He has loved them then, He will continue to love them through their struggles with temptation and sin.
Secondly, they can seek the help of someone of the same sex whose relationship with the Lord they respect. They could share with them how they have been struggling, and confess the double life they have been living. They can pray with them for God’s forgiveness, and for grace and strength to have victory. They can go on to build a friendship where the stronger believer takes an ongoing interest in their life and asks them regularly how the battle is going. Look up what Galatians Chapter 6 has to say about this relationship in verses 1 and 2.
Pornography is very much a secret sin that thrives in darkness. The remedy is to expose it by bringing the light of Christ Jesus into the situation. He has promised in John Chap 8 vs 36 that ‘If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Make time to read and think over the words written by the apostle Paul found in Ephesians Chapter 5 verses 1-17. Notice especially the high standard that God calls us to in verse 3. Notice some of the “little things” in verse 4 that often lead to sexual sins. Notice also the clear warning given in verses 5 to 7 to those who think that it is ok to go on living in ways that God has forbidden. Finally, notice what Paul urges believers to go on doing in verse 10.
An article like this can never say all that needs to be said on the subject or cover specific areas that some believers might need help with, such as an unhappy marriage or bad experiences in their childhood. Often pornography is the “bad fruit” of a deeper root cause which needs to be found and eradicated. If you know someone who would like confidential help you are welcome to invite that person to contact: