Cracking the code to pornography
Too often, Christian leaders have a one-dimensional approach to dealing with pornography.
By Rev. Dr. Robert (Bob) Hunter
In walks a man to your office; he’s in his 30s and of the blue-collar type you don’t see very often. He seems to trust you as his pastor but exhibits a standoffish demeanor at times. The look on his face carries a serious tone, and his body language communicates nervousness. You invite him into your office, and the following conversation transpires:
Pastor: "Hey brother, is there something I can help you with?"
Man: "Yeah, I need to talk to you privately."
Pastor: "Okay, have a seat; tell me what’s going on."
Man: "Lately, I’ve been struggling with lust, and I’m losing the fight."
Pastor: "What do you mean when you say you’re struggling with lust? What does that look like? How is it happening?"
Man: "Well… I’ve been battling porn, and I just can’t seem to beat it; I feel powerless...and it's like quitting porn for good isn’t possible; does that make sense?"
Pastor: "Yes, a lot of Christian men have this problem; tell me what your attempts to quit look like."
Man: "Well, I pray and ask God for help, and then I just try to overpower the urge by telling myself not to, and then I do exactly the opposite."
Pastor: "So, your strategy isn’t working; how long have you tried this method?"
Man: "For about eight years, I can quit for a while, but then I find myself falling back into it."
Pastor: "Okay, I’m here to help; let’s talk about some strategies to help you quit porn for good."
Man: "I’m ready to be done; it’s eating me up; I hate this part of my life; I feel like I'm a fake Christian, and it’s ruining my relationship with God."
Pastor: "You are not alone; let’s work together on a recovery plan so you can be the man God is calling you to be."
Where does the conversation go from here? Do you know how to help a man struggling with porn? Where would you begin? Trying harder to quit doesn’t work. Motivational speeches and prayers for deliverance are good starters, but what if there are other possible strategies?
Too often, Christian leaders have not been able to guide men to experience freedom from problematic porn consumption. These men struggle mightily, and it weighs on them; their standoffish behaviors and spiritual elusiveness give them away. Contrary to what some believe, a lot of men actually don’t like pornography. Despite their dislike, they feel totally stuck with the problem due to porn’s highly addictive nature. It’s a scenario I’ve seen play out dozens of times. What can be done?
Over the years, I’ve observed and identified five critical components of recovery. I’m sure there are other things that contribute, but these five components can be traced to almost every man’s recovery journey. What are they?
1) Education: A man must study the problem he is trying to solve. Fixing the problem is almost impossible until you understand how it became a problem in the first place. Addictive behaviors must be understood from a physiological standpoint. Learning the neurochemical processes behind porn addiction and how a man’s body responds to graphic sexual content supports the recovery journey. The information and insights gained bolster his confidence to fight. In that sense, knowledge is power! Far too often, men are naïve about the problem and clueless as to the harm being done. To a man struggling with porn, I say, "It’s time to go back to school!"
2) Emotional healing: A porn addict is a hurting soul in need of healing. Unresolved childhood traumas, father-wounds, narcissistic abuse, physical neglect, etc. These underlying issues need to be addressed if we are to have a fighting chance. Man-trauma is a tough issue to wrap your arms around. Typically, men resist therapy sessions aimed at healing the past. With a stiff upper lip, they compartmentalize their pain and file it away. Not dealing with it, however, is one of the reasons they have the addiction in the first place! But once a man gets underneath his past traumas and pain, he suddenly becomes empowered in the present, and he’s able to recognize reasons for acting, thinking, and behaving in certain ways. To this man, I say, “It’s time to get healed!” Setting the captives free from porn happens best in a healing environment.
3) Accountability: There are no short cuts here. To whom are you accountable? What is your method of accountability? I would ask. Accountability is a big factor in recovery, and it must be explored on many levels. Device accountability is by far the biggest need. Thank God for Covenant Eyes and other accountability software applications. Without locking down your devices and being accountable to another human being, success is unlikely. Most men who have been set free from pornography did it with help. There’s no such thing as a solo journey on the road to recovery. This is not difficult to set up, and it must be done privately with trustworthy partners that observe confidentiality.
4) Spiritual Devotion: The recovery process is essentially a spiritual transformation journey. It’s a man’s sanctification from sin. Unfortunately, some Christian leaders place all their eggs in this one basket. Their recovery strategy amounts to ramped-up Bible study and prayer. I do not want to discourage those disciplines, but one must recognize God also uses accountability, emotional healing, education, and a variety of other means. Recovery methods should not be limited to a man’s spiritual devotion. I’ve seen many guys fail here. They say, "I pray and read the Bible; I’ve gone to the altar; I’ve been anointed." Yes, you are very devoted to the Bible and prayer, but you still have a problem. Let’s talk about some other methods of healing that God has ordained.
5) Willpower: Even with the best accountability measures, if a man is not highly motivated to quit porn for good, then achieving recovery isn’t likely. Conversely, if a man is motivated, even out of a sense of pain and desperation, watch out! Personal motivation and willpower count for a great deal on the recovery journey. A man must have off-the-scale "want to." He should consider the question Jesus asked in John 5, "Do you want to be healed?".
Let’s face it, recovery from porn is a hard-fought journey, and a man must deploy all available weapons to win the battle. All too often, our approach is one-dimensional. We show up with a knife to a gun fight (metaphorically speaking). We think if we pray hard enough, read the bible, and casually engage in accountability, men will see victory. Hint: They won’t! But if they get enough help in enough areas, they can beat this thing. It’s different for every individual man; some need more spiritual devotion and deliverance; others need education and accountability; and yet others need a greater sense of emotional healing and therapy. It’s a unique combination of all of the above because we all have a unique code to crack. The solution is multifaceted and synthesized. A man who confesses his sin and prays for deliverance is a man whose journey has just begun. The dialogue presented above represents the first step in the process. A wise pastor can facilitate recovery by directing sufferers of porn addiction to employ a multi-faceted attack plan.
Setting captives free from pornography is a long-term commitment, and it has a lot to do with getting the stars and their courses to align. Christian leaders need to move beyond one-dimensional solutions and encourage men to develop a more fully orbed strategy for deliverance. Never before have there been more resources available to deal with this issue. We would be remiss not to use them.
I discuss this article in a recent podcast available here: Cracking the Code to Porn Addiction (missionalleadershipcoaching.com)