Men and women of the church, it’s time we had this conversation.
It’s going to be uncomfortable, but it will be healthy.
We need to talk about porn.
And by “talk,” I don’t mean just tell one another not to look at it. That seems to be the extent of the church’s advice on the subject — at least, it has been in my experience.
I mean really sit down and talk with one another about this issue. Let’s understand without tolerating, and challenge without condemning. Let’s push one another into freedom by speaking truth, as uncomfortable as it may be.
Before I got married, I looked at porn every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. I knew it was a sin, because my Southern Baptist church told me in no uncertain terms that it was. But I was a high school/college student who had a ton of sexual tension that had to be released somehow. I guess I just figured porn was better than sleeping around.
But more than that, I justified it by telling myself everybody did it. Everybody “struggles” with this — if by “struggle” you mean commit to stop watching it whenever the preacher talks about it on Sunday, and then get frustrated and feel like a guilty failure when you inevitably do it again.
You know that passage in Romans where Paul says he does things he doesn’t want to do? I think guys in church today probably apply that verse 99% of the time to pornography. At least I did.
When I got married, though, that all changed. Porn wasn’t a “struggle” for me any longer — at least not as difficult of one. Marriage – especially newlywed marriage – provides men and women a beautiful outlet for their sexual energy. I stopped looking at porn as much. I probably peeked at it once a month or so, and that turned into once every couple months.
I felt pretty good about myself.
Comparing my post-marriage porn habits and my pre-marriage porn habits made me feel better about my sin. Comparing my habits to those of other guys I knew made me feel better about my sin.
And I became completely comfortable living that way. Settling for six below.
I heard sermons about people who were addicted to porn. Was I addicted to porn? Does once every couple months count as an addiction? Surely if someone who used to drink every day had a beer every couple months, that wouldn’t be an addiction would it? And so the games I played in my mind continued.
I told myself that every guy did it, and I didn’t do it that often, so really, it wasn’t so bad. What harm could five or ten minutes every couple months really do?
Then I found out the harm it could do. It could break my wife’s heart.
One day my wife accidentally stumbled onto some porn on our laptop. (In my deception about my habit, I thought I was covering my tracks by just watching things online and never downloading anything. However, porn sites are teeming with spyware, adware, and, apparently, some pornographic stuff that will download to your computer even if you don’t tell it to.) She confronted me about it. We had a long, difficult, tear-filled conversation. At times we raised our voices. At times we got frustrated. But we forced ourselves to talk about it. (I forced myself to talk about it, I should say – my wife was willing to be the leader I should have been but couldn’t be.)
When it came to the issue of pornography, seeing the pain on her face forced the first moment of true change in my spirit. Those conversations sucked so bad, but ultimately they are what began truly setting me free. Knowing it hurt her so badly made me want to stop with everything in my being.
The second moment of true change came when I was talking to some other guys about this issue. I asked them if they would be bold enough to admit how often they looked at porn. One of the guys said that he had not looked at porn in over three years.
I was in disbelief. “No way,” I thought to myself. I asked him follow-up questions to clarify what he meant by that. Turns out he spoke truth: he had not looked at porn in years.
This was literally the first guy I had ever met who did not look at porn on a regular basis.
Knowing that fact changed me.
As silly as it may sound, just knowing there was someone out there who beat this thing made me feel like, for the first time in my life, maybe I didn’t have to look at porn, either. Maybe not everybody does it. Maybe it isn’t something to live with and manage and hide.
Maybe I could actually be victorious over this garbage.
It’s been nine months since that conversation with my wife and with the guys. I have looked at porn one time in those nine months.
I was feeling pretty good about that. Until the other day when my wife, who never lets me settle for six below, asked me if I had been looking at porn. When she heard my honest answer, I saw the pain in her eyes again.
One time in nine months is still one time that I looked sexually at another naked woman other than my wife.
And while once in nine months is a move in the right direction, it isn’t a place to land. It’s a landmark along the journey.
My goal for the next nine months is zero times. And for the nine months after that? Zero times.
And for the very first time in my life, I feel that is a completely achievable goal, not just something to pay lip service to.
Guys, there are men out there who do not look at porn. I think it’s vitally important to communicate that, because for years nobody ever told me that. They told me that was the goal, but they never told me it was achievable.
The other day, I came across a study on what percentage of men look at porn. Nine months ago if you had asked me to ballpark a figure like that, I would have told you 99%. Or something clever like, “95% – and the other 5% are lying.”
Turns out that about 70% of men ages 18-24 look at porn (and 66% of men 25-39). While that is certainly a large majority, it’s not close to everyone. In fact, if you take men as a whole, including all age groups, roughly 50% of men in America look at porn.
Fifty percent, guys. That’s not even a majority now.
Don’t buy the lie, like I did for so long, that everyone does it.
(It’s not just guys, though. Another study showed that 34% of churchgoing women have intentionally looked at porn on the internet. We, as the church, need to start caring for, encouraging, and challenging women on this issue as well. I’ll leave that for some godly women to do that, since that is obviously outside my area of personal experience. If you are a eoman reading this and that is you, please don’t hold it inside — please start an honest conversation with other women in your circle of friends and on your blogs.)
Also, for all the married or engaged couples out there, I want to encourage you: please have some raw conversations about this. I used to hate talking about this subject, especially with my wife. I honestly convinced myself I was protecting her by covering up and lying about my actions. That’s all changed now. Guys, the only thing lying will lead to in your relationships is being hamstrung from being the leader you could and should be. You’re not doing anyone any favors by keeping this stuff hidden in the dark. As difficult as it is, you’ve got to come to grips with the truth – and let it set you free. The first time you tell your spouse or fiancee that you watch porn, it will probably be really uncomfortable. You won’t like the words as they come out of your mouth, but that’s part of the point. Listen to yourself say them and watch what happens when this stuff is brought to light. It’ll be crappy at first, but eventually it will be beautiful. Hold fast for that part and don’t give in.
Girls, I want to challenge you to do something even harder than that: ask your men if they look at porn. Chances are, you are not going to like the answer. But please, for his sake, for your sake, and for the sake of your relationship, if he doesn’t initiate a conversation with you about it, ask him. The ensuing conversation will probably suck. It will be painful. But it will be healing and freeing as well. Don’t let your guys settle for six below. Let them know you care enough to see them experience life to the fullest.
I’m hoping this will spark some conversation, not only here on the blog, but more importantly in your personal lives – with your friends, with your spouses, with the people you care deeply about. It’s time we moved past the accountability groups where we all sat around and admitted to looking at porn and didn’t change at all. It’s time to talk openly and honestly about this, to work through the pain it causes, and to join the half of American men who don’t harm the relationships that mean the most to them by looking at porn.
It’s time to experience freedom and life.
*All statistics in this article are taken from xxxchurch.com, a ministry to men addicted to porn.