Pornography Addiction: Is There Hope?

I have a pornography addiction: Is there hope?

Yes, but not if:

  • You don’t believe you have some control (even if you’ve continually failed)
  • You’re not willing to fight or compete (or if you think that good things just come easily)
  • You choose to settle for “less-wild lovers” (more on this concept later)

Don’t think that you’re going to read an article and then never want to look at anything naked again. Not only is that not the kind of result or recovery you should expect, it’s not even the sort of thing you should hope for your life. You’re not made that way, and this article isn’t about avoiding sex. So, let’s avoid faulty assumptions such as the need to abolish all desire, and let’s avoid promises tied to fool-proof plans without understanding the reasons why pornography has become a seemingly inescapable draw in your life.

You are in the same place many have been before. Some of you are trapped further down the dark spiral. Some of you fear how much farther you’ll go. Some of you want to escape it. Some of you want to stay. That’s okay. There is hope for new habits, help for those who want it, and freedom from addiction.

Take hope from those who understand your plight because they’ve been in the same place. Take hope because that same group of people have then escaped the habit—and that same group successfully continues to say no on a regular basis.

Recovery and renewal can be yours.

Assumptions about Pornography and Addiction

I’m assuming that if you’re arriving at this article, you’ve already begun to consider that pornography is potentially a problem in your life, in the life of someone you care about, or in the life of someone that you are in a relationship with (or want to be in a relationship with). The use of porn has reached the point that you’ve considered it a possible addiction, and, for some reason, it is robbing you of hope.

I won’t assume your reason for wanting to put an end to the addiction, but if you’ve found yourself on the edge of hopelessness or are fearful that you’ll be in that territory soon, that’s reason enough to consider how your interaction with porn affects your life. Here are some common reasons why someone wants to reduce or quit porn altogether:

  • Interference with daily routines, including work and sleep
  • Relational dissatisfaction
  • Endless cycle of sexual intrigue and frustration
  • Impotency or the inability to become aroused apart from stimulation from porn
  • Moral and/or religious reasons
  • Guilt and shame
  • Unwanted sexual encounters and habits
  • Financial woes
  • Fear over loss of control
  • General malaise, depression, unhappiness

Though most of the posts and material presented on this site explores truth, goodness, and beauty from a Christian worldview, I don’t assume that you’re looking for a religious reason or spiritual power to end a pornography addiction. While what’s presented here is based on a Christian worldview, it’s worth noting and interacting with some resources that don’t share that same worldview. Porn is so ubiquitous (and such an equal-opportunity destroyer), that we’re beginning to see men (and women, too) who desire to escape from a porn habit who may not have considered (or cared about) any spiritual implications.

If that describes you, then welcome to this site, but please understand that the Christian doesn’t declare pornography to be bad or harmful because of a prudish attitude toward sex and sexuality. In fact, we believe that God, from the very beginning, created sex and intended it to be one of humanity’s highest pleasures. And we believe that He still intends it to be one of humanity’s highest pleasures. And it’s because we want it to remain a high pleasure within your life that we write to encourage you to remain hopeful in this struggle.

If you’re a Christian who is struggling with pornography addiction, it’s possible to glean truths or gain help from some “non-Christian” resources. We know that, that which is true, good, and beautiful is ultimately sourced in God … even if those who provide it aren’t aware of its source. You should also know that if you’ve found yourself trapped in a pornography addiction, it doesn’t mean that you’re now no longer a Christian or that you never were a Christian in the first place. That’s not a biblical assumption. In fact, the Bible reminds that sin “so easily entangles” us—that is to say, it entangles believers (Hebrews 12:1). That’s a message given in the Scriptures because you need hope, “so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3).

Hope in a Common Struggle

Knowing that pornography addiction is a struggle affecting a large number of people, especially in this digital age, makes us aware of the strong pull of pornography. It compels us to understand something about the nature of porn and how and why it appeals to our human nature. Those who understand these natures are more likely to be successful in their attempts to free themselves from addiction. Those who stop to consider human nature and the attraction to pornography have a better chance of becoming part of the group of porn addicts who no longer succumb to their severe addictions.

Why You Are Struggling with a Pornography Addiction

Russell Brand (yes, the comedian) posted a YouTube video addressing (some of) the reasons behind the strong draw to porn. Though Brand stops short of issuing a moral judgment on pornography, he nevertheless lauds the individual who chooses not to watch it. Brand intimates that the escapist aspect of engaging in porn creates an abstract reality that is less than real, questioning whether that level of engagement and existence is the sort of life we should settle for.

What he says next might be initially off-putting to Christian readers; but Brand is right, and we can learn from this mode of thinking.

Brand wisely brings into question whether there are aspects of porn that point to something positive, citing Gabor Maté’s suggestion to “look at what [porn] does right for a person.” I’m not saying porn in any form is positive or in any way “does right for a person.” What I am saying is that porn draws us toward some perceived positive—otherwise it would have no allure. That’s a biblical perspective and one of the first insights into the human condition spoken of in the Bible:

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom, she took the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)[1]

That which resulted in the ruin of the first humans did not present itself as death and misery but rather as something “good and pleasing … desirable.” Sin preys upon some existent or potentially existent good. It promises to add to your existence, to augment your current condition. The fruit offered by porn appeals to your innate human desire to participate in the pleasures that can exist in a sexual relationship.

At its most basic level it appeals to another basic instinct revealed in the Bible: God designed us to be naked. You want to know why you can’t stop watching porn? You were made to like naked things. At the high and low points of humanity, our Creator chooses to comment on … nudity. After inventing marriage, He declares, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). And after the disobedience of the first couple, the first consequence described is, again, in terms of their nudity: “And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7).

One could argue that the first thing broken was the human sexual relationship and that the first act of fallen man is to somehow compensate for a broken sexual relationship. God’s design for us was unashamed human sexuality—sexuality that was free from insecurities, free from exploitation, and free from guilt.

Free from the feeling of hopelessness that you now feel as result of choosing pornography.

Pornography is a misappropriation of the gift of sexuality, and it leaves you with the hopeless false reality that Brand alludes to. It points you toward what “does right for a person” and then directs you toward a path that appears to lead in that direction. It appeals to your innate sexual longings for physical ecstasy, desire and satisfaction, reciprocity, approval, security, freedom, fulfillment, completion … but it can sustain none of these things. It is a dead end.

In Search of Transcendence?

Brand describes his own draw to porn as an activity that “awakens a force of energy,” and when he does so, he acknowledges spiritual undertones. What Brand finds fascinating in assessing his obsessive behavior is the conscious awareness of how the moment in which you’re drawn to porn reveals a desire to channel energy or effect a certain emotional state. He describes it even as an attempt to “access a kind of transcendence.” He comments, “That’s what I suppose that the spiritual life is, the ability to be present with these forces.”

Christian writers have noted similar forces: “Our heart will carry us either to God or addiction,” wrote Brent Curtis and John Eldredge in their work The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. They, too, appeal to ancient religious activity: “In the religions of the Fertile Crescent, access to God (transcendence) was attempted through sexual intercourse with temple prostitutes. Perhaps, as we indulge our addictions, we are doing no less than prostituting ourselves and others in this very same way. ‘Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God,’ said G.K. Chesterton.”[2]

While Brand’s reference to spiritual things is more primal or pantheistic than Christian spirituality, this idea of the desire and ability to be present with the transcendent is an apt description (perhaps even more insightful than common sermons) of what happens in Genesis between the naked, but now afraid, first couple:

And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed together fig leaves and made coverings for themselves.  Then the man and his wife heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day,[3] and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called out to the man, “Where are you?”  “I heard Your voice in the garden,” he replied, “and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:7–10)

the fall gave rise to pornography addiction is there hope

Brand’s suggestion to examine what it is that our own desire is pointing toward—this “right” thing that draws us toward sustaining relationship with the transcendent—is an idea worth examining. Moreover, it’s worth examining whether this truth is exactly that which is expressed in the early chapters of Genesis. The drama played out there speaks to the human drive for sexual fulfillment, our longings toward sexual interaction with another, and the subsequent misappropriation, misaligning, and disordering of those desires. The framing of the human narrative in Genesis—its focus on the couple’s nakedness, freedom, and subsequent loss and shame—reveals great truths about the nature of our relationship with God, ourselves, and others; and it reveals that our sexual nature speaks to those truths in ways we might have yet allowed ourselves to explore.

But we should.

Because if we remove this concept of God—the ultimate transcendent—from our discussion of sexuality, then we have removed both the creator of sexual desire along with the ultimate hope of how we can be delivered from habits and actions that rob us of the joy and freedom that should be present in sex.

Of those joys, Brand concludes with a discussion on intimacy and authenticity and how the porn industry relies on these natural desires to draw in customers. But, he concludes that we’re being “directed toward unnatural behaviors.” Such is the inevitable direction, he says, given current social conditions that are perhaps more Matrix-like than we care to admit. He observes that we’re “stimulated continually into a state of inadequacy to facilitate purchase.”

His parting message is, yet again, in alignment with a Christian worldview and some of the elements we’ll explore further in this article:

It isn’t your fault. There are things inside your head that are not you. There are things inside your head that have been put there, and I have no moral judgment on people’s use of porn or no use of porn, but if what you’re looking for is intimacy and authenticity, there are, in my opinion, other pathways to walk down to find those kind of connections.

While Brand is uncomfortable issuing a moral judgment, I suggest that anything that offers you the promise of intimacy and authenticity by preying upon your feelings of inadequacy while angling for your money—that is a thing worth issuing moral judgment over. It isn’t good for you.

You can escape that trap.

Am I Addicted?

Am I really addicted? You might be. It’s worth asking the question. Here’s the definition of addiction as provided by psychiatrist Dr. Gerald May in his book Addiction and Grace: “Addiction is any compulsive, habitual behavior that limits the freedom of human desire. It is caused by the attachment, or nailing, of desire to specific objects. The word behavior is especially important in this definition, for it indicates that action is essential to addiction.”[4]

Porn isn’t something to avoid only if you’ve reached an addiction level. Given its insatiable nature, it’s something to stop before you reach the level of addiction.

The Insatiable Nature of Pornography

In an article addressing the threat of pornography in the life of young boys, psychologist Dr. James Dobson warns, “A single exposure to it by some thirteen to fifteen-year-olds is all that is required to create an addiction that will hold them in bondage for a lifetime.”[5] Dobson goes on to tell of the interview he was granted with serial killer Ted Bundy just hours before Bundy’s execution—an interview Bundy requested in order to talk about how the accessibility of pornography and its consuming nature factored in to his downward spiral. This “increase in the intensity of pornography used” is also cited by non-Christian and non-religious group NoFap,[6] a website for “community-based porn recovery”:

When pornographers combine intense stimuli with novel stimuli, they create ever-kinkier products with a potential of snagging more and more porn users into porn addiction. Porn producers aren’t doing this out of malice or cunning. They are simply using creativity and free-market principles to find out what sells. This leads to ever-devolving trends in pornography production. Mainstream porn is not becoming tamer and more vanilla. It is becoming kinkier and more seductive. While some may find this disturbing from the viewpoint of sexual moralism, the leadership of NoFap finds it disturbing because it means, quite simply, that pornographers are getting better at creating pornography addicts.[7]

Joe Dallas (director of counseling services for those struggling with sexual and relational problems), in chronicling his own journey into the depths of sexual addiction, writes this about the repeated allure of pornography:

When you add ecstasy to the mix—the anticipation of seeing the porn, the adrenaline rush that comes with viewing erotic images, the heightened sensations building up to orgasm, then the orgasm itself—then you’ve got yourself a powerful product. … When a customer tries a product that delivers both meaning and ecstasy, there’s a good chance he’ll go back for seconds.[8]

Those who are addicted or heading toward addiction understand the pattern. What was once arousing begins to draw you toward media of higher intensity. The exhilaration of the lingerie model will eventually demand the undressing of the model. But soon the still image won’t be enough. And then the moving image of the model won’t be enough—if one naked body is good, more will be better. And the curiosity for actions and interactions of those bodies will escalate to levels that few would ever have guessed would be the object of their desire.

Would you have guessed that the #1 search term on the most visited porn site in the United States is “hentai,” an animated form of erotica? Hentai is the Japanese term whose etymology traces back to roots that can be rendered “strange condition” and came to be associated primarily with sexual “perversion” or “abnormality.”

Cartoon sex? That can’t be serious?! … and that can’t be that big of a deal. Maybe … but it illustrates the progressive trend toward needing to push sexual boundaries to the limits. Those once satisfied by the swimsuit photo of the opposite sex are surprised to find themselves searching for sexual imagery in the categories of homosexuality, violent sexual encounters, bestiality, and underage children. Indulging the new and increasing desires fails to satisfy. Instead, it pushes to further limits in which we reach new but never satisfying plateaus.

4 Addiction Tests

You might be interested in the following “tests” offered by various groups to determine whether you are addicted to pornography or are in danger of becoming addicted. These lists are adapted from the resources footnoted below.

The following lists are adapted from the book Every Man’s Battle.[9] Those who answer “yes” to questions in the first list are “lurking at the door of sexual addiction.” Those who answer “yes” to the second list are “inside that door.”

Lurking at the door of pornography addiction:

  • Do you lock on when an attractive woman comes near you?
  • Do you masturbate to images of other women?
  • Have you found your spouse to be less sexually satisfying?
  • Are you holding a grudge against your wife—a grudge that gives you a sense of entitlement?
  • Do you seek out sexually arousing articles or photo spreads in newspapers or magazines?
  • Do you have a private place or secret compartment that you keep hidden from your wife?
  • Do you look forward to going away on business trips?
  • Do you have behaviors that you can’t share with your wife?
  • Do you frequent porn-related sites on the Internet?
  • Do you watch R-rated movies or sexy videos for gratification?

Inside the door of pornography addiction:

  • Do you watch pay-per-view sexually explicit TV channels at home or on the road?
  • Do you purchase pornography on the Internet?
  • Do you rent adult movies?
  • Do you watch nude dancing?
  • Do you call 900-numbers to have phone sex?
  • Do you practice voyeurism?

The authors of Every Man’s Battle suggest these counseling services: 1-800-NEW-LIFE. This organization offers this article on the marks of sex addiction.

The following “markers” and “symptoms” of pornography addiction are from the NoFap organization. [10]

“Markers of Pornography Addiction”

  • Increase in pornography use over time
  • Increased in the intensity of pornography used
  • Inability to easily stop pornography despite the negative consequences

“Symptoms of Pornography Addiction”

  • Physical
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • Decreased sensitivity
    • Fatigue
  • Psychological
    • Low self-confidence and/or shame
    • Decreased motivation, libido, and/or interest in sex
    • “Brain fog”

Resources for overcoming pornography addiction from this group can be found at nofap.com.


The following are “five essential characteristics that mark true addiction” according to Dr. Gerald May in his book Addiction and Grace.[11]

  • Tolerance: the phenomenon of continued desire/need for more of a behavior or object to be satisfied
  • Withdrawal symptoms: stress reactions when the addictive behavior is curtailed
  • Self-deception: May writes that “the creative power of the brain is used unconsciously to subvert each and every attempt to control the addictive behavior. These tricks of the mind include denial, rationalization, displacement, and every other defense mechanism that psychoanalysis has identified, plus a seemingly endless variety of others that even the best psychiatric authorities could not predict.”
  • Loss of willpower
  • Distortion of attention: Addiction and its associated mind tricks inevitably kidnap and distort our attention, profoundly hindering our capacity for love. Attention and love are intimate partners; for love to be actualized, attention must be free.

For whatever reason, there has been a reluctance in the medical community to certify pornography addiction as real addiction in the medical sense (I assume there is significant pressure to remain “sex positive” for all consensual or volitional sexual behaviors, despite not having the same restrictions on other activities that are viewed as addictive). While stopping short of labeling the activity as addictive, this WebMd article has a list that might indicate you are “watching too much.”

  • You stop doing things you really enjoy in favor of seeing more porn.
  • Neglect of personal care
  • Loss of interest in social activities
  • Negative effects on job, schoolwork, relationships, and other responsibilities.
  • Viewing porn in public places
  • Unfulfilling sex life

 

The Struggle of Self-Control

Why Can’t I Just Stop It?

There’s a famous Mad TV sketch in which comedian Bob Newhart plays a psychotherapist whose sole advice is two words he forcefully states to his patients: “STOP IT!” His approach illustrates the simplicity and complexity of habits we wish weren’t ours. All we have to do is stop it, right? But the fact that we don’t just stop it speaks to the complicated nature of our desires.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about this very struggle:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do. … I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do. … So this is the principle I have discovered: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. What a wretched man I am! (Romans 7:15–24)

If you were to stop reading right there, you might think that Paul, too, resigned himself to hopelessness. In this moment he asks the same question you’re asking—Is there hope? He words it this way:

Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)

His answer isn’t “no one.” With gratitude and thanksgiving, he declares, “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Self-control is difficult, involving both the body and the mind. And there are times in which it can feel hopeless. But you don’t have to be condemned to suffer always with this identity. And you don’t have to be condemned to live out of the weakness of your flesh. Jesus offers a rescue from the “body of death.” This rescue, or deliverance—this salvation—is Christ’s gift to those who believe in Him.

Jesus not only saves us from the penalty of sin in the future, but He also saves us from the power of sin in the present. He sets you free to no longer serve your body like a slave of desire. Thus Paul declares, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2). God’s gift of the Holy Spirit enables control otherwise impossible.

The following statement is true of you if you have received the gift of Christ’s salvation: “You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:9). That’s a true statement even when you don’t feel it or feel like it.

Habits of Death

Arterburn and Stoeker observe: “The simple truth? Impurity is a habit. It lives like a habit. When some hot-looking babe walks in, your eyes have the bad habit of bouncing toward her, sliding up and down. When some glistening jogger runs past you, your eyes habitually run away with her.” But it’s a habit of death that can be killed. They continue, “If impurity were genetic or some victimizing spell, you’d be helpless. But since impurity is a habit, it can be changed. You have hope, because if it lives like a habit, it can die like a habit.”[12]

Your question, Is there hope? is a cry for life. Is there hope to rid myself of this addiction so that it stops killing my life? There is. Through the power of the Spirit you can instead put to death the things you’ve let become master over you:

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation, but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12–13)

Your life will continue to lack hope if you choose habits of death over the life-giving Spirit. But you can find inspiration in Paul’s grand conclusion to this section of his letter: there’s nothing in this fallen world that has to separate you from God’s love:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37–39)

You might not feel that you can gain control over your habits. God wants something even better for you than your ability to control. He promises you can conquer through Him.

The Environment of Struggle

In his book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, James Clear devotes a chapter to the topic of self-control, titled “The Secret of Self-Control.” He challenges the idea that self-control can be summed up as “moral weakness” or being a bad person:

Recent research … shows something different. When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend time in less tempting situations.[13]

Rather than thinking of this as an absence of self-control, I think it might be more advantageous (and correct) to think of this as preventative self-control. Intentional structuring of your life is a form of self-control that gives you hope over addiction because you’ve been disciplined enough to control your environment.

You’ve probably realized that environmental control helps but only goes so far. You might have already tried an internet filter, gotten rid of devices, joined an accountability group, sought counseling services, curbed your alone time, exercised more—the list of self-helps could go on—only to eventually return to the same habits. Why? Because you also most always have an easy path for returning to tempting environments.

You must realize that the need to control the environment admits of the bigger problem that you discover in these environments, the bigger problem that you carry with you to any environment you’re in: you.

That problem of conflicting internal desire is the problem Paul recognizes when asking who will free him from his body of death. It’s the cry of the poet, too. Consider this excerpt from Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium,” in which he, for different reasons, laments the war between spirit and flesh and the longing it creates:

Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.[14]

The longing for eternal rescue evinced in so many writings points to that future environment in which unsatisfied desire or temptation ceases. Yeats yearns not only to be found in a new environment, but to also gain a new existence. For Yeats, that means some artifice of immortality if he can attain something through his work that is not related to his mortal body.[15] For the Apostle Paul, the anticipated change in an eternal environment also coincides with a change in identity: conformity with the image of the Son of God (Romans 8:29).

For Paul, believers aren’t resigned to hopeless living in a cursed environment until that day of eternal redemption.[16] Conforming to the present, tempting surroundings isn’t inevitable. Though Paul looks with anticipation to that future day of ultimate conformity with God’s Son, he encourages a transformation that can begin now: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We are not in a hopeless, passive state, victim to our fallen natures and fallen surroundings. Because of the gospel (“good news”) of salvation, we can be transformed through active renewal.

Renewal Amidst Old (and Resurfacing) Struggles

Renewal of the mind is a necessary and ongoing process in this life. It would be a false hope to promise that you’re going to wake up one day and find your unwanted desires curiously absent. If you’re hoping to measure progress, success, or growth by an absence of feelings or desires, you’re hoping in the wrong thing. James Clear is right, “Here’s the punch line: You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it.”[17]

Consider the story of Rosaria Butterfield, a believer with a refreshingly honest assessment of herself (even post-conversion): “Left to my own devices, I am much more the whore next door than the girl next door. I’m a woman with a past, and Christ’s call on my life did not lobotomize me.”[18]

Butterfield describes her former life in terms of “serially monogamous lesbian relationships” and “working to advance LGBT rights.” After becoming a Christian, she was once questioned by a fellow believer over whether being in the presence of other women alone would be an environment too tempting or triggering for her. In recalling that interaction, Butterfield speaks to the nature of the unlikely forgotten former habits, “I want you to know from what country I emigrated, and in which country my citizenship permanently and eternally resides. I’m not a native speaker of this country. No real convert is. I will always speak in broken godliness, as new paradigms reread old feelings.”[19]

This realist perspective regarding our past, our present, and our future helps us to maintain hope. This perspective keeps us prepared. For as soon as we experience some success, whether it’s 24 hours porn-free or 24 months porn-free, it can come as a great discouragement to be blindsided by strong desire. Curtis and Eldredge admit, “Our passions begin to show up in inappropriate fantasies and longings interspersed with depression, anxieties, and anger we thought we had left behind.”[20]

The ongoing nature of the struggle need not leave you with despair. Again, this highlights an important distinction between worldviews like Butterfield’s and a strictly “secular” outlook like that which is presented in Atomic Habits. Without the benefit of knowing Christ, we’re reduced to practical tips, environment management. The Christian knows that we don’t just inhabit a dangerous environment that we need to manage—we contribute to the bad environment because our hearts are a bad environment on their own:

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)[21]

But knowing our current situation—knowing that it is temporary and capable of being conquered—brings with it not only a hope for the future, but also a hope for the present.

This realist mindset about our natures—that we can set our minds on future hope while refusing to be unwilling victims of our present condition—is reflected again in the Scriptures. The Apostle Peter wrote this regarding the mindset of the believer: “Prepare your minds for action. Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). The prepared mind in the present is set against the actions of our former lives. Peter clarifies: “As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance” (1:14).

But if you want lasting hope, it is not in simply waiting for the future with a correct mindset. Hope is found in fighting for it. This future-fixed hope must declare war against present passions.

Fight for Your Future

Jesus used violent language in the fight for the future:

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two hands and go into hell, into the unquenchable fire. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.” (Mark 9:43–48)

Of course, you realize that it’s not the hand or foot that “causes you to sin,” but it is rather the person making choices with hands, feet, eyes (or other body parts). I’d argue that if you had the willpower to actually cut off your hand, then you would also have the willpower to cut off your bad habit. So why is Jesus speaking this way? I think He’s being somewhat absurd to illustrate these points:

  • The sin that we engage in ruins our lives.
  • We have the ability to know our own particular weakness (hand, foot, eye).
  • We have the ability to make choices to fight against even worse consequences.

Fight Against the Flesh

We might think of our particular weaknesses as “flesh signatures.” In his book Conformed to His Image, Ken Boa writes: “No two people have an identical combination of fleshly dispositions. Some have more of a problem with temper or envy, while others may have greater difficulties with unforgiveness or lust. Before we can effectively deal with the flesh, we must be honest enough with ourselves to determine our particular form of carnality.”

Cover of book Conformed to His Image, revised edition, who chapter on warfare spirituality is a useful text for answering the question pornography addiction is there hopeIn dealing with specific sins, one of Ken’s tactics involves personal affirmations for handling temptations. He likens them to martial arts: “Just as judo leverages the force of an opponent to one’s advantage, so these affirmations can convert the force of temptation into a positive spiritual reminder.” Here is Ken’s affirmation for sexual temptation:

  1. There is no future in this. It would damage my relationship with God and could destroy my relationship with my spouse and children, as well as damage my reputation and discredit my ministry (1 Corinthians 6:18).
  2. I will not degrade this person but will treat her or him with dignity and honor. I will treat her or him as a subject, not an object; she or he has been created in the image of God.
  3. I will let the attractiveness direct me to praise for the greatness of her or his Creator. (This is a kind of “spiritual judo” in which you use quick movement and leverage to throw your opponent; in this case, you redirect the incoming force from temptation to praise.)
  4. I am no longer under the power of sin, but I am alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). I am not a skin-wrapped package of glands but a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  5. I will walk by the Spirit and not carry out the desire of the flesh (Galatians 5:16; 2 Timothy 2:22).
  6. I will fix my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2). [22]

Shots from the Enemy

The picture of human temptation we mentioned earlier, from the first book of the Bible, Genesis, is not just an account of how our internal passions lure us toward destructive ends. There was, even in Paradise, an enemy present. Depicted there as a serpent set on destroying mankind through his deception, his tactics are revealed in the last book of the Bible as well: “… that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). He (and his angels) are still warring against humanity:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

When Russell Brand speaks of the “things inside your head that are not you,” that “there are things inside your head that have been put there,” he’s not off the mark. You’re being shot at, according to Scripture, and those arrows are spiritual in nature, aimed at your mind. They require specialized armor to deflect:

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:16–17)

That war for the mind, the soul, or the heart can feel lost before it’s begun if we try to fight the enemy from our own power. The poet John Donne, in illustrating the intensity of such war, invited God to overpower his heart lest he be overpowered by the enemy who’d already gained a stronghold:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.[23]

Writer C.S. Lewis might take issue with that last line, insisting (as he did in The Screwtape Letters, his imaginative account of how the enemy takes aim at believers) that God “cannot ravish. He can only woo.”[24] However, in Lewis’s work Mere Christianity, he echoes the idea of the fierce fight for chastity and the war that takes place in the heart: “A famous Christian long ago told us that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity; but years later he realised that while his lips had been saying, ‘Oh Lord, make me chaste,’ his heart had been secretly adding, ‘But please don’t do it just yet.’”[25]

In the war for the heart in the area of chastity, Lewis gives three reasons why it is not only difficult to achieve chastity, but difficult to even desire it.

  1. The presence of “warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust,” that try to convince us that it is abnormal to fight.
  2. We attempt to fight alone or insist on perfection at every attempt. Lewis notes that “in war” and other difficult tasks, “people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it,” but does so with the caveat that “perfect chastity … will not be attained by merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help.”
  3. A skewed view of spirituality: “For there are two things inside me, competing with the Human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”[26]

Promise of Victory

For the recently released Conformed to His Image Study Guide, I had the privilege of writing the chapters on warfare spirituality. The last session on warfare spirituality (Session 30) begins with the idea that this is a winnable war. Under the section titled “Our Hope,” I wrote, “Dark forces can manipulate the physical world along with the minds and wills. … When we consider the unrelenting and cruel attacks from these forces—targeting even children—the battle against the enemy may seem hopeless. However, Scripture assures us this is not the case.”[27]

Study guide users are asked to explore six Scripture passages that contain promises of victory. Here are those passages and their associated promises:

  1. Romans 12:21: You don’t have to be overcome by evil. You can overcome evil with good.
  2. James 4:7: If you submit to God, you can resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
  3. Galatians 1:3–4: You can experience grace and peace from God because He gives Himself to us because He desires to rescue us from this present evil age.
  4. Ephesians 6:10–11: You can be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. His armor will make you stand against the devil’s schemes … if you put it on.
  5. 1 John 2:13–14: You can have knowledge. You can have victory. You can have strength.
  6. 1 John 5:4–5: Those born of God overcome the world. Faith brings victory.

Present Warfare

The gospel promises eternal life and a final deliverance from the presence of sin. But our current deliverance from the power of sin requires spiritual warfare on our part. It’s the “working out” of our salvation that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Philippians:

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world as you hold forth the word of life. (Philippians 2:12–15)

Consider each possibility for hope found in this passage:

  • You can be known by your pattern of obedience and not your pattern of failure: “just as you have always obeyed.”
  • Your success over addiction can be had even in your private life, without someone looking over your shoulder: “obeyed … even in my absence.”
  • There are friends and mentors who can help with your addiction: “obeyed … in my presence.”
  • Improvement is something always available to you: “continue to work out your salvation.”
  • The hard work is done in you by God Himself: “For it is God who works in you.”
  • God wants to work to deliver you in the areas of both your mind and actions: “who works in you to will and to act.”
  • God not only eliminates bad behaviors but replaces them with worthy and good purposes: “to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose.”
  • You can be blameless: “you may be blameless.”
  • You can be pure: “you may be blameless and pure.”
  • God views you as His child: “children of God.”
  • You can be counted among those without fault and not among those characterized as crooked or perverse. “without fault in a crooked and perverse generation.”
  • Your true identity is light, not darkness: “you shine as lights in the world.”

Settling for Less-Wild Lovers

In their book The Sacred Romance, Curtis and Eldredge have a chapter titled “Less-Wild Lovers.” While not a chapter (or book) about pornography or addiction, the description accurately depicts the thoughts and actions of those who search for love in pornography. “Searching for love” might not be how the pornography addict would describe the pursuit, but it is a quest, at least, for self-love and the pleasure it brings; consuming pornography has as its object both self-pleasure and vicarious access to an imagined lover. Pornography is pursued, in addition to the obvious pleasures, for its seemingly perpetual novelty and its perceived unlimited wildness.

And it is pursued on the false belief that it will turn its consumer into the wild lover portrayed on the screen. Yet, young men of would-be virile age have been sounding the alarm against pornography consumption and the physically damaging effects of pornography addiction. Far from ushering them into the reality of the wild love lives portrayed on-screen, their real lives have been tamed by the inability to perform with a live woman.

They’re quitting porn (and urging others to do the same) not because of a spiritual awakening or moral compunction. They’re quitting porn because they’d rather be having real sex than settling for the less-thrilling option of digital fantasy. A feature article in Time, titled “Porn and the Threat to Virility,” chronicles the rise of “porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED)”:

These men, and the thousands of others … with stories of sexual dysfunction, are all at pains to make it clear that they are not antisex. “The reason I quit watching porn is to have more sex,” says [28-year-old] Deem. “Quitting porn is one of the most sex-positive things people can do,” says [26-year-old] Rhodes. One online commenter, sirrifo, put it more simply: “I just want to enjoy sex again and feel the desire for another person.”[28]

The Rhodes mentioned above is Alexander Rhodes, the founder of NoFap, the organization I mentioned earlier that is dedicated to helping those whose lives (sex lives, to be exact) have been ruined by porn. Time interviewed a NoFap group member who was beginning Rhodes’s recommend 30-day recovery challenge: “‘When I think about it,’ he writes, ‘I’ve wasted years of my life looking for a computer or mobile phone to provide something it is not capable of providing.’” But the power of addiction is this ability to believe the lie that our pursuits will land us in the place of ultimate desire and that just one more look will finally deliver.

The seemingly unending fountain of sexual pleasure that is the now inexhaustible collection of internet pornography (it would be impossible for you to consume in one lifetime the amount of internet porn now available) presents to us a false version of eternal bliss. And you fear that abandoning pornography consumption might mean that you’re abandoning your life of pleasure. Hear again from Curtis and Eldredge:

And this is the power of addiction. Whatever the object our addiction is, it attaches itself to our intense desire for eternal and intimate communion with God and each other in the midst of Paradise. … Nothing less than this kind of unfallen communion will ever satisfy our desire or allow it to drink freely without imprisoning it and us. Once we allow our heart to drink water from these less-than-eternal wells with the goal of finding the life we were made for, it overpowers our will, and becomes, as Jonathan Edwards said, “like a viper, hissing and spitting at God” and us if we try to restrain it.[29]

“Intimate communion with God” is not the sort of intimacy you’re after … or so you think. That’s because we believe our imagined, wilder lovers to inhabit a life that God’s not fond of. We forget that He is the creator of sex, and like our progenitors in the garden, we question whether what God has for us is good. We imagine a prudish god whose restrictions are arbitrary and whose delights are banal. Yet, it is God who understands the allure of “lips” that “drip honey” and warns against them—not because they don’t bring pleasure, but because their pleasure is temporary, unsustainable, and ruinous. What He desires for us is that which is enduring, viable, and freeing. He is the heavenly Father who inspires the earthly father to exhort the son not only to avoid the adulterous affair, but to “rejoice” and “be captivated” by the body of the committed lover, to let her “breasts satisfy … at all times”:

My child, be attentive to my wisdom,
pay close attention to my understanding,
in order to safeguard discretion,
and that your lips may guard knowledge.
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her seductive words are smoother than olive oil,
but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
Lest she should make level the path leading to life,
her paths are unstable but she does not know it.
So now, children, listen to me;
do not turn aside from the words I speak.
Keep yourself far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your vigor to others
and your years to a cruel person,
lest strangers devour your strength,
and your labor benefit another man’s house.
And at the end of your life you will groan
when your flesh and your body are wasted away.
And you will say, “How I hated discipline!
My heart spurned reproof!
For I did not obey my teachers
and I did not heed my instructors.
I almost came to complete ruin
in the midst of the whole congregation!”
Drink water from your own cistern
and running water from your own well.
Should your springs be dispersed outside,
your streams of water in the wide plazas?
Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in your young wife—
a loving doe, a graceful deer;
may her breasts satisfy you at all times,
may you be captivated by her love always.
But why should you be captivated, my son, by an adulteress,
and embrace the bosom of a different woman?
For the ways of a person are in front of the Lord’s eyes,
and the Lord weighs all that person’s paths.
The wicked will be captured by his own iniquities,
and he will be held by the cords of his own sin.
He will die because there was no discipline;
because of the greatness of his folly he will reel. (Proverbs 5:1–23, NET)

A Crisis of Faith

Whether you believe in God or not, your pornography addiction does reveal something about your beliefs—namely, that somewhere along the way you lost faith in the possibility of a positive sexual existence outside of porn. Hoping for whatever it was that porn was going to deliver, you find yourself now with a disdain for porn but also a dread over life without it—What if there really is nothing out there better for me? What if God doesn’t reward me with what’s good? What if He chooses to punish me over porn and so I might as well just stick with what I’ve got?

Dismantling the Case for Porn

Here are some of the reasons that brought you to or kept you addicted to porn. But for each reason listed below, consider this question: Is porn a worthy solution?

  • Loneliness. Is porn a worthy solution for loneliness?
  • Boredom. Is porn a worthy solution for boredom?
  • Pleasure. Is porn a worthy solution for pleasure?
  • Comfort. Is porn a worthy solution for comfort?
  • Stress relief. Is porn a worthy solution for stress relief?
  • Curiosity. Is porn a worthy solution for satisfying curiosity?
  • Information/education. Is porn a worthy solution for information?
  • False intimacy. Is porn a worthy solution for intimacy?
  • Anger. Is porn a worthy solution for dealing with anger?
  • Justifiable reward for living morally in other areas. Is porn a worthy reward for living well?
  • Thrill. Is porn a worthy solution for a thrill?
  • Power. Is porn a worthy solution to have a sense of power?
  • Escape. Is porn a worthy solution for escape?

If not, then pornography isn’t the lover you should settle for. And it’s time to get the help you need to engage worthy pursuits. But you have to be willing to abandon the less-wild lover. This will require faith that something better is out there, and that it is a risk worth fighting for.

Faith Is Risky

In a section titled “Risks of Faith,” Dr. May writes:

Our real hope lies in that no matter how oppressed we may be, we always retain some spark of capacity to choose. We can use the ember of freedom to choose: to risk ourselves in the goodness of God or to continue to strive for our own autonomy or to give in to the powers that oppress us. I am convinced that nothing whatsoever determines the choices we make at this primal level. Here, finally, the choices are totally up to us; we really are free.

What May writes here in his important chapter on grace is worth repeating at length:

Ironically, freedom becomes most pure when our addictions have so confused and defeated us that we sense no choice left at all. Here, where we feel absolutely powerless, we have the most real power. Nothing is left in us to force us to choose one way or another. Our choice, then, is a true act of faith. We may put our faith in ourselves or in our attachments or in God. It is that simple. At this level, faith has surprisingly little to do with what we believe in terms of dogma, doctrine, conditioning, or training. Beliefs have prepared a foundation for the choices we make, but at this abject level we are as free from our prior conditioning as we are from our immediate attachments. In such moments, faith is determined by nothing, forced by nothing, and conditioned by nothing. Faith choices are enacted through the cellular activity of our brains, but they are not predetermined by that activity. There is no evidence that they are predestined in any way by other cellular patterns. Here our freedom is always pure, and in this purity faith is always an act of will. But God is not absent; God’s grace is more radiant than ever at such times. Its preservation of our freedom becomes most clear when all our other props are taken away.

This sort of faith is basic, free, and wild:

For this reason, the purest acts of faith always feel like risks. Instead of leading to absolute quietude and serenity, true spiritual growth is characterized by increasingly deep risk taking. Growth in faith means willingness to trust God more and more, not only in those areas of our lives where we are most successful, but also, and most significantly, at those levels where we are most vulnerable, wounded, and weak. It is where our personal power seems most defeated that we are given the most profound opportunities to act in true faith. [30]

Remaining Where You Are Is Risky, Too

There are some truths that you know regarding porn: it’s causing you to lose hope. It’s a threat to you physically and psychologically. It is poised to ruin your marriage (current or future) and other important relationships, job, finances, social life, mindset, goals, focus, contentment, etc.

Scripture warns against a pattern of suppressing truth. Eventually, the grace of God gives way to the freedom of our own choices. This sad pattern is revealed at the beginning of Romans (Paul’s letter introduced earlier, which promises that we have the possibility of being “more than conquerors”). The pattern of God’s activity in Romans 1 for those who suppress the truth is this:

  • He gave them over in the desires of their heart to impurity for the dishonoring of their bodies with one another. (1:24)
  • He gave them over to dishonorable passions. (1:26)
  • He gave them up to a depraved mind. (1:28)

A choice to not seek help in this winnable fight against porn is a choice toward risking the depravity of your own mind. (Consider the recent admission of singer Billie Eilish on how she thinks porn and her failure to understand its nature “destroyed” her brain.) That’s a choice that eventually closes the path to recovery. But, if you’re still worried whether there’s hope for your addiction, then there’s still grace for your life to freely choose another path.

If it feels like the only way for you to escape your pornography addiction is to become a different person—you’re not far from the truth:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in various trials. (1 Peter 1:3–4)

Though the man who wrote these words is known now as the Apostle Peter, he was once just the disregarded Jewish fisherman, cursing and swearing outside the priest’s courtyard, insisting that he did not know Jesus (Matthew 26:69–75). He once pleaded with Jesus to go away from him, claiming, “I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).

But this is exactly the sort of person to whom Christ gives hope.

This living hope comes only through “new birth”—the promise of life given to those who simply believe in Jesus for it. This is the gospel. It is the promise of an undefiled future that fuels hope to live well even in this present life. It is cause for rejoicing even if it means suffering in this one. Jesus is the giver of abundant life, and in His mercy we find great joy in the midst of temptation.

Far from insisting he did not know Jesus, by his second letter in the Bible, Peter claimed to be a “partaker of the divine nature,” having escaped evil desires and having added to his faith, self-control and perseverance. Peter’s words and life offer hope:

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:  Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (2 Peter 2:1–9)

God desires for you a life of pleasure apart from pornography. He offers grace to the humble. He offers freedom to those who resist. He promises nearness—the transcendence that others have recognized to be the true search in their addictive habit:

But He gives us more grace. This is why it says: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. (James 4:7–8)

There is hope for the addicted. Jesus said:

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. … Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Matthew 9:12)

Affirmations of Hope

I can’t give you a formula for escaping pornography (Stop it! was sound advice, but we know how that goes!). There are no guarantees of a life devoid of temptation, but there are examples of those who have been to the depths of the downward spiral of pornography addiction and have risen above. Let their examples encourage you to persevere. As you come to understand the nature of your desires and your choices to control, as you choose to fight, and as you choose not to settle, I pray these concluding affirmations fuel your journey:

  • The likelihood of failure or relapse is high. Pornography addiction is, as this honest assessment from Scripture reminds us, “the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1). But we are also reminded that we can “throw off every encumbrance.”
  • Don’t let the fear of failing again stop you. You’ve sworn it off and made empty promises. You’ve gotten internet filters, thrown away computers, and ended bad relationships. Then you ran back to it all over again. Fine. Run again in the right direction. “Let us run with endurance the race set out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
  • There is a good and better life of pleasure apart from porn. But the more porn you consume and the longer you allow that to become your lifestyle, the more pleasure you rob from your future self, and the more difficult you make it to stop believing the lies of the false reality you choose to immerse yourself in. Unplug. Take the red pill.
  • Your feelings are not your identity. Regardless of the temptation, your identity is not seated in every thought you have. But the more you consume porn, the more it shapes your thoughts and feelings. That path can lead to a depraved mind in which you can no longer distinguish between feelings, thoughts, and identity. Don’t suppress the truth.
  • Unwanted feelings that return to haunt you are the arrows of an enemy. Make sure you dress yourself with the full armor. A helmet to protect the mind. A breastplate to protect the heart. A shield to block the arrows. Bind it all in truth. Learn to use the right sword (see Ephesians 6:13–18).
  • Agree with God that what you’re doing isn’t good. He can handle your confession. He already knows. If you have a trustworthy friend, talk to that person about it. If you have a trustworthy group of friends, talk to them. But beware also of people who would use this information against you. Those aren’t friends. For help in knowing how to confess to God, consider this article on how to pray for forgiveness (and here’s an article on how to pray for strength in the face of temptation).
  • Stopping isn’t that hard. Staying stopped is. It can help to identify those things that trigger your desire to consume porn and to understand both the environment and your own flesh pattern that lead you more easily to consume porn. Staying stopped could be helped by counseling from trusted counseling resources. Find someone who understands the nature of habit. I recommend someone who shares the sort of Christian worldview discussed here. If you can’t find or afford good counseling, consider some of the resources presented in this post for advice on putting an end to your pornography addiction. While listing resources here isn’t necessarily an endorsement, you might find useful and inspiring material (or references there to even more resources).
  • You are indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God if you’ve trusted in His Son for eternal life. The Spirit empowers your life. Every choice for sin is the choice to deny the Spirit, to willingly lay down your sword.
  • Fight for your freedom. You choose whether to “let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires” (Romans 6:12) or whether you “let the peace of Christ rule in your heart” (Colossians 3:15).
  • Do not live in shame. When shame comes, be aware of the cycle—”a cycle known to addicts of all sorts—temptation, indulgence, then shame and anxiety, followed by the temptation to indulge again to kill the shame and anxiety.”[31] Consider some of the resources mentioned here regarding habits and addictions. Hold on to what’s good. Ignore the rest (I’d give that advice about my own article, too).
  • Lastly, there is a cycle that begins with faith, and it’s a cycle that all are invited to. It begins in faith, leads to peace, stands on grace, and exults in hope that doesn’t disappoint:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. (Romans 5:1–5)

 


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations come from The Holy Bible, Berean Study Bible, BSB. Copyright © 2016, 2020 by Bible Hub. Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[2] Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 134, 136.

[3] “Breeze of the day,” might be too tame of a description of what’s taking place. Consider this NET Bible, study note: “J. J. Niehaus (God at Sinai [SOTBT], 155–57) offers a different interpretation of the phrase, relating יוֹם (yom, usually understood as “day”) to an Akkadian cognate umu (“storm”) and translates the phrase ‘in the wind of the storm.’ If Niehaus is correct, then God is not pictured as taking an afternoon stroll through the orchard, but as coming in a powerful windstorm to confront the man and woman with their rebellion. In this case קוֹל יְהוָה (qol yéhvah, ‘sound of the Lord’) may refer to God’s thunderous roar, which typically accompanies his appearance in the storm to do battle or render judgment (e.g., see Ps 29).” (The NET Bible First Edition; Biblical Studies Press, 2005)

[4] Gerald G. May, M.D., Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions (HarperCollins, Kindle Edition), 24–25.

[5] James Dobson, “Pornography is a Huge Threat to Boys,” Dr. James Dobson Family Institute (April 13, 2018). Available at https://www.drjamesdobson.org/blogs/pornography-is-a-huge-threat-to-boys.

[6] “Fap” is a slang term for male masturbation.

[7] https://nofap.com/porn-addiction/

[8] Joe Dallas, The Game Plan: The Men’s 30-Day Strategy for Attaining Sexual Integrity (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), x.

[9] Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey, Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2000), 26–27.

[10] https://nofap.com/porn-addiction/

[11] May, Addiction and Grace, 25–29.

[12] Arterburn and Stoeker, Every Man’s Battle, 106. The authors of this book believe the habit can die in six weeks.

[13] James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (New York: Avery, 2018), 92–93. You can read more at https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits/cheatsheet.

[14] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43291/sailing-to-byzantium.

[15] This analysis is taken from a book coauthored with Ken Boa and Louisa Baker, The Angel and the Voyager: What Thomas Cole’s Voyage of Life and Course of Empire paintings Tell Us About the Meaning of Life.

[16] This conformity isn’t fully complete until the Resurrection, an event that is yet to occur. Those who have already died, even those currently in heaven, still await the Resurrection.

[17] Clear, Atomic Habits, 94.

[18] Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Pittsburgh, PA: Crown & Covenant, 2015), 12.

[19] Butterfield, Openness Unhindered, 35­­–37.

[20] Curtis and Eldredge, The Sacred Romance, 129.

[21] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Je 17:9). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[22] Kenneth Boa. Conformed to His Image: Biblical, Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 347–349.

[23] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44106/holy-sonnets-batter-my-heart-three-persond-god.

[24] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (HarperCollins, Kindle Edition), 39.

[25] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (HarperCollins, Kindle Edition), 99.

[26] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 100–103.

[27] Kenneth Boa, Michael Stewart, and Jenny Abel. Conformed to His Image Study Guide: Biblical, Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 203.

[28] Belinda Luscombe, “Porn and the Threat to Virility,” Time, vol. 187, no. 13 (April 11, 2016). Available at https://time.com/magazine/us/4277492/april-11th-2016-vol-187-no-13-u-s/.

[29] Curtis and Eldredge, The Sacred Romance, 133.

[30] May, Addiction and Grace, 127–128.

[31] Dallas, The Game Plan, xvi.