Target Audience: Men, Women, Christians, Addicts
Please Note: I am not a health care professional and am not offering advice to anyone who reads this blog post. I am offering thoughts from my own life and insights I have gleaned from listening to other Christians who also battle an addiction to porn.
This is an issue that has destroyed the lives of countless Christians. It is worse when a Christian leader is caught in this addiction because ministries, and sometimes churches, can be destroyed and innocent people hurt. It can destroy families, marriages, careers, and lead desperate Christians caught in Satan’s treacherous web to do desperate things. This post is not intended to be uplifting. It is intended to be enlightening, and perhaps encouraging if you have battled with an addiction to porn. It is not specifically aimed at men, although men seem to be more prone to addictions to porn than women.
Great question. The most obvious answer is that it is all about sex. In some cases, that could very well be true, but not always. Last year, I took a course called Healing Care at my church. It was loosely based on two books, Wounded, and Draw Close to the Fire, both written by Terry Wardle. The premise of the course is that most Christians have wounds that have never been healed and often dysfunctional behavior is used to soothe the pain caused by these unhealed wounds. If you think about it in a nonsexual context, it actually makes sense. Let’s say you were really looking forward to an event. You were seriously emotionally invested in this event, but at the last minute, the other people cancelled the event or something went wrong and you missed it. You were hurt that the event didn’t happen or that you couldn’t go. There is no good lashing out at those responsible, and nothing you can do will correct the situation. So, what do you do? Get a carton of your favorite ice cream and eat it while watching a favorite movie. Watching the movie is perhaps a good idea, but the ice cream — not so much. Many people would call the ice cream “comfort food”, which is a way to rationalize a dysfunctional behavior. If you had a dish of ice cream while watching the movie, that is different, but to consume the entire container could be seen as attempting to soothe the pain by making the body feel better or giving yourself some other sensory rush. The point is: the root cause of an addiction to porn (and by extension — anything else) might be a wound that is entirely unrelated to sex. On a sensory level, porn can appear to medicate or soothe the pain.
Think of Satan’s fangs sinking into your mind. Okay, that can be scary, but there is a point here. One of Satan’s fangs has a sedative that is used to break down things like moral filters, boundaries of right and wrong, inhibitions, conscience, and other filters that people normally use to resist evil. The sedative also diminishes the feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. While I tend to believe those emotions can be harmful if they are out of control, they can also serve as flashing red lights to warn us of impending danger. Satan’s sedative lulls us into a state where we are fully awake, but drugged.
The second fang implants ideas, urges, and desires that the Christian would otherwise immediately recognize as being wrong, or at the very least inappropriate. These ideas, sometimes called “fetishes”, become sexually appealing, desirable, and are often triggers sexually. Alone, they appear to be harmless, merely matters of choice or preference, and part of our overall sexuality.
Porn is Progressive
At this point, I am going to default to the male gender. It isn’t that women do not also experience this problem, but I will use the male gender merely for simplicity.
The first time someone looks at porn, the image of a naked woman might be all he needs. That might continue for weeks, or even months, but eventually, he will begin to want to see more, crave more, and perhaps search for more. The image of a naked woman is no longer enough to satisfy his lust, so he starts clicking on images or links that will provide him with a visual feast unlike he has ever imagined. Perhaps at first he might still experience a twinge of guilt as he suspects that what he is watching might not be entirely “normal”, however normal may be defined. By this point, though, it is very difficult to merely shut it off and not go back. The rush of unbridled sexual pleasure is a rush that is both intoxicating and addictive. He wants more.
Fetishes as Seeds
For the purpose of this article, a fetish is an image or object used to stimulate or trigger sexual desire and/or orgasm. Fetishes are not always harmful. I am not going to expand upon benign fetishes. Harmful fetishes are sexual desires that serve as a wedge in an otherwise healthy and Godly marriage. In that sense, they are “seeds” that Satan plants in the minds of porn addicts long before they ever encounter the women they marry. They become harmful when the addict, fearing judgment or worse from his new wife, keeps his addiction to porn a secret, hoping that they will never discuss it. The newly-wedded addict is entirely focused on developing his intimate life with his wife. Porn is the furthest thing from his mind for months, or perhaps even years, but just like the most delicious slice of chocolate cake, routine sex can get boring, particularly if you had been used to a smorgasbord of fetishes in your youth. It is at this point that the seeds that Satan so patiently planted years ago now bear fruit. Most Christian porn addicts know they cannot go outside their marriage to satisfy their fetish hunger. Even if they may have been brave enough to broach the subject with their wives, who may have recoiled if they were unaware of the world of porn, the hunger for the fetish is still there and Satan is now ready to harvest the fruit of the seeds he planted so long ago.
The Need for High Stimulation
The progressive nature of porn demands that a greater and greater thrill is needed to achieve an orgasm. Alone and single, what does it matter, right? No one else is harmed. It has no effect on anyone else, so who cares? It is no one else’s business, right? Wrong. The progressive nature of porn is very much like a drug where the user has to keep increasing the dose in order to be satisfied. As long as sex with his wife provides this high rush, sex is awesome and the temptation to return to the dark world of porn is all but nonexistent. Like everything else in life, it doesn’t last.
Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction (P.I.E.D.)
This is very much a male issue and it does not necessarily impact every male who is addicted to porn. I should also state that some people do not believe it actually exists. The YouTube link above is for those who wish to explore it in greater detail. I only mention it because, while I have no idea how many men may be affected by this condition, I cannot say that it does not exist. If it does, then it is something that every man who is addicted to porn ought to consider.
The Delusion of Freedom
What you have been reading so far may or may not be true for you. Porn creates a world where freedom is replaced by slavery and those who are enslaved believe they are free. When Satan is successful at getting Jesus followers to tear down boundaries, definitions of right and wrong, good and bad, he succeeds at enslaving us in addiction. When an addict defines being able to talk about or discuss all personal issues without boundaries, or when there are no taboos, not only are addicts enslaved, they are susceptible to abuse and being abusers. It would be wonderful to believe that Christians, people who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ, could never be enslaved, but this happens all the time. True freedom only exists within boundaries. It is a myth, a lie, to believe that when all boundaries are removed, and any behavior is accepted, that only then are we truly free. In isolation, or in the darkness of this cyberworld, where people can be anonymous, people are able to define freedom anyway they please, even if it is within the boundaries of their enslavement.
The Delusion of Secrecy
When I was much younger if I wanted porn, I had to go somewhere to get it. I can remember traveling from the Toronto area to Niagara Falls, NY to go to a porn theatre because, in those days, there was no hardcore porn in Canada. Now, I don’t have to leave my bedroom to get it. For far too long I believed that because I binged on porn in the privacy of my bedroom, far from the eyes of the general public, what I did was done in secret and no one would ever know. Perhaps no one will ever know the precise kind of porn that I watched, but my addiction to porn impacted other people. Maybe it didn’t have a negative impact on my family, or my friends, or the people with whom I worked, or the people with whom I worshipped week after week, not directly, but other people were affected. There were people in chat rooms, or the people I would watch in videos, people I will never know. People who were abused or coerced into making porn. The belief that my addiction to porn only affected me and can remain a secret is naive, a delusion itself. As long as I kept it a secret, healing and wholeness would always be impossible. While keeping it a secret was an obstacle to my healing, I do not tell everyone about my addiction. Not everyone needs to know, is interested, or even emotionally equipped to deal with my “truth”. Among the many casualties of addiction, boundaries and balance are perhaps the first to die.
The Path to Healing
Jeremiah 17:14 says: O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; If you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone! (NLT)
If your addiction to porn is a result of a wound that God, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, has never healed, then the first step is to ask God to reveal to you, if you do not know, the wound that needs to be healed. Having started on this lifelong journey of healing myself I can confirm that it is not quick, nor is it easy, nor is always painless. Once God has healed you of the wound(s) that may be at the root of your addiction to porn, it is time to pull up all the seeds that Satan planted in your brain, perhaps a long time ago. The Apostle Paul writes: Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. (NLT) One of my pastors told me that the Greek word for “nailed” can be translated “nailing”, the participle form of the verb, signifying perpetual action, as in never ceasing. While I hate doing housework, spiritual housework keeps us safe. The fetishes that were planted by Satan through addiction to porn are still in your mind and your heart. Even if you no longer use porn or have any desire to look at it, those seeds are still there. Until you pull them up, confessing them to God, and if it helps, to another person, they are a danger to your spiritual life, and to your [future] marriage.
Healing in Community
God designed His followers to live in community. We are designed to worship in community, to bear one another’s burdens in community, and to be healed in a community. It’s really tough to do it alone, particularly when you don’t have to. While many churches are not equipped to handle addiction directly, there are some excellent 12 Step programs available to offer support among people who have battled addictions and emotional issues. The one that I attend every week is Celebrate Recovery. This is a Jesus-centered program that offers support for a wide variety of issues. If there isn’t a Celebrate Recovery program in your area, there may be other 12 Step programs that can offer support and encouragement. If you have battled porn or any other addiction and are now free of that addiction, a great way to give back to your community is to begin attending a 12 Step program such as Celebrate Recovery and supporting other Jesus followers and allowing them to help you keep focused on your relationship with God.
What God Really Wants
Virtually every Christian addict believes that God wants him or her to be free of the addiction in order to serve Him. Indeed, God does want us to be free of addictions that are obstacles to serving Him, but He wants so much more. In the many years that I have been a Christian, I have believed God wanted different things from me. At one time, I believed He wanted me to be holy, as in separate from the carnal world in which I live. My response was to shun everything in my life that I believed drew me away from God, including my family, friends who were not Christians, entertainment that I viewed as carnal or evil, but that didn’t work for very long. I love my family and my friends, both Jesus followers and those who do not follow Him. I wanted to work in a Christian environment until I managed to get a job and discovered it was not the utopia I imagined it would be. Instead of trying to articulate all the things I believed God wanted me to be, I will skip to the present. For the past two years I have attended a church that doesn’t preach much about holiness or being separate from the world. The main thrust of the teaching focuses on the fact that God desires more than anything else to have a relationship with me. I am not sure how I missed it all these years, but more than what I did or did not do, what kind of stuff I got myself into, or the things I eliminated from my life, God wants a relationship with me. He wants to be friends, buddies. After more than 40 years of teaching that characterized God as “The Father”, and a “Judge”, and hearing about the wrath of God, the judgment of God, and seeing God as someone to be feared, as in being afraid, the idea of Him being my buddy is rather new.
I have talked with more than one addict who, when he or she experiences freedom from the addiction, believes they are new people, that God has freed them forever, that when they think about the pit of addiction, it is now disgusting, revolting, and horrible. Indeed, it is all of those things divorced from emotion, lust, passion, and emotional weakness. Every day, I highlight the previous day in green as a visual reminder that my sobriety from addiction is a day-by-day thing. I can never feel like I am immune to the treachery of Satan, not for even a moment, nor can I afford to ignore the wisdom of other Christians who have tread this same path as me. More than freedom from any particular sin in my life, God wants to have a relationship with me and to remind me every day that He is there and I need Him every day. I have never been sure of the definition of humility. I am not sure anyone has really figured it out, but I have a feeling that knowing that I need God every single day might be part of what God considers to be humility.
Your comments and feedback are always welcome and helpful. Thank you.