We are experiencing an epidemic today of people who get “trapped” in pornography.
One recent survey revealed that as many as two-thirds of Christian men have struggled with it. Another recent survey claims that one-third of all pastors are involved with pornography. In our current culture we deal with pornographic images of all kinds in magazines, on TV, in movies, on videos and CD’s, and (the most rapidly growing form) on the Internet. Some believe we are living in the most sexually saturated time in history. It is hard to go anyplace today and not be confronted with pornography. Even a trip to the grocery store checkout lane will bombard us with sexual images and messages. Our youngest children who are computer literate can accidentally click into the worst of images on pornographic web sites. What is a Christian to do?
Let’s first come to a better understanding of what is pornographic. I believe that pornography is any visual or auditory (e.g. musical) stimulus that leads us to think (fantasize) about immoral sexuality. Pornography creates lustful thoughts. It teaches us incorrect messages about sex. It deludes us into thinking that God’s commandments about abstinence before marriage and fidelity during marriage are old fashioned and obsolete. Pornography teaches us to be dissatisfied with our marriage partner. It challenges us to worship sex as our most important need.
Jesus, in Matthew 5, teaches us that even when we lust after another person in our heart, we have committed adultery. He is telling us that adultery can be a matter of how we think. Looking at pornography can cause lustful thoughts in our heart and therefore be adulterous. In the Bible the word lust is usually used to refer to thoughts that are selfish and rebellious. Lust can refer to all selfish desire. Sexually, lust occurs when our mind longs for sexual experiences that we think will meet selfish desires. Lust is fueled by anger. Sexually lustful people are angry that their needs for love and nurture aren’t being met. People who are in trouble with lust have equated sex with love and nurture. They believe that the only way these needs will be met is by thinking about (or engaging in) sex.
Pornography can become an addictive problem for all those people who are lonely and angry about being so lonely. They may not know that they are lonely and angry, but they are. Pornography is “convenient.” We can buy it when we want, look at it when we feel like it, access it on our computers if it suits us. We seem to be in control. Whenever we need the high of the sexual excitement it provides us, we can get it. On the Internet it seems so accessible, so affordable, so anonymous. It would seem like we are in control of getting our needs met.
When pornography is addictive it has become “out of control.” We don’t want to keep doing it, but we do. It seems to pull us back in. What we don’t realize is that even just thinking about sex creates powerful chemicals in the brain to facilitate human sexual response. Sex is a pleasurable and exciting feeling. It is just like an alcoholic who needs more alcohol over time to produce the same effects. Pornography addicts are no different that alcoholics or drug addicts.
Can healing come after such an addiction? Thanks be to God there can be healing! Let me describe three things to think about. First, any of us who have struggled with pornography must be willing to give it up. That may sound strange because there is a part of all who struggle with it that wants to be rid of it. This willingness, however small, is a matter of trust and faith. There is, however, another part that is rebelliously resisting. This part thinks that pornography is the only way they find excitement or comfort. When anyone gets stuck in this kind of thinking, he or she is angry. This anger may go as far back as childhood and the rebellion is like a child having a temper tantrum. This part says,” My spouse doesn’t want sex enough. He or she doesn’t listen, doesn’t care. I’ll get my needs met somewhere else.” Somewhere in life this child learned that sex was the high they needed to “medicate” his or her feelings.
This part of being stuck may also be angry with God. It says, “If God loved me, He would take away my lust. Since He doesn’t, I’m going to go ahead and do it.” Becoming willing may simply be a matter of accepting our feelings, talking about them to others and deciding to surrender them. We may not feel like doing it, be we can decide to do it. Surrendering to God is often like that. Surrendering to God is letting go of the control we tried to have.
Second, when we decide to be willing, then we can decide to be accountable. There will need to be many people in our life to whom we can talk about our temptations. Talking about them, breaking the silence, can have powerfully positive effects. These may be “safe” people who struggle like we do in a support group. They will encourage us to stay with our decision. They will also help us with a plan to stop any thoughts and behaviors that lead us to pornography. They will confront us in loving ways when we are tempted to be angry and rebellious.
In the early days of getting un-stuck, we may need to make a decision to not be sexual with ourselves or with our spouse. This period of abstinence will help reserve the chemistry in our brain that has become tolerant to high levels of sexual stimulation. We should explain this to our spouse that we want to honor our commitment to them to love them for their spirit and mind. Sex is not our most important need.
Finally, we must deal with our loneliness. Friendship and intimacy with our spouse and with others will be extremely important. If loneliness is the main source of the pornography traps, fellowship is the main answer. We must surrender our fears of being honest and take risks to talk about our feelings, especially the “negative” ones. We should remember that Jesus felt lonely. In the Garden of Gethsemane, his disciples went to sleep at the hour of his deepest need. On the cross he cried out to God about his feeling of abandonment. Fellowship with Christ is a fellowship with a brother who knows how we feel.
Finding fellowship with Christ will mean finding fellowship with others who seek to follow Him. I have never known anyone who got unstuck from the pornography trap by themselves. There are places to get help. I work with Bethesda Workshops, a ministry dedicated to redeeming relationships broken by sexual addictions, and pointing couples toward healthy sexuality. We are willing to help you begin your journey if you will call 1- 866-464-HEAL, or visit www.bethesdaworkshops.org. You are not alone; whatever sexual sins you have done, nothing separates you from the love of God.
Copyright © 2006 Dr. Mark Laaser, used with permission. Read more at faithfulandtrueministries.com