Pornography has become one of the most destructive forces in our culture today. Never has it been so widespread … and never has it been so easy to find.
What we would call "hard-core pornography"—the more explicit images, videos, or descriptions of erotic behavior—has grown rapidly during the last two decades. In the past, pornography was available only at stores or through the mail. But the pornography industry is often the first to take advantage of new media technology—and now with cable television, DVDs, cell phones, iPods, and especially the Internet, it is easier than ever to find, and harder than ever to resist.
Internet pornography has earned itself a reputation for being the crack cocaine of sexual addiction. "It works so quickly and it's so instantly intense," says Dr. Robert Weiss of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles. "We're seeing a whole population of clients who have never had a history with the problem, but for the first time, they're beginning one particular activity and getting hooked."1
Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23, "The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." This is a perfect description of what happens when you choose to view pornographic material—it brings darkness into your body.
Pornography takes something that is beautiful when it occurs between a married man and woman and makes it dirty. God created the act of sexual union as a special gift for a husband and wife. It is a celebration of love that strengthens a marriage and builds oneness.
But pornography twists and perverts the beauty and biblical design of God's creation. The focus on sensual pleasure becomes such a powerful drug that it destroys all that is important in the rest of their lives. It leads men and women to look at each other as nothing more than sex objects. It causes them to fantasize about sexual relationships with other people, and that's a terrible blow to their marital commitment.
Whenever FamilyLife Today® airs a program on this subject, the letters and emails we receive confirm that pornography can tear apart a home, and it can tear apart a person's soul. Here are a few examples:
"Before we were married, my husband had confessed that he was into pornography "somewhat", but it stopped once our relationship grew. I found out that wasn't the end of it. A few months back I was heartsick to find almost 100 photos of graphic nature on my computer. A lot happened since then, a confrontation, many fights, but the hardest for me has been the lost of trust and feeling I truly was my husband's best friend and fantasy. It hurts a lot and I don't see how our relationship will ever be the same or I can have that total trust in his character and integrity again."
"Please pray for deliverance. I am a Christian that is addicted to pornography, especially on the web. Pray that God would give me the power to withstand under the temptation and be victorious. I know that this is hurting my marriage."
"Your broadcast on pornography over the last two days has had a profound affect on me. I was amazed at the accurate description of how pornography affects your whole being. The last 18 months have been the worst because of the easy access I had to pornography on the Internet. I progressed to the point where I would spend hours at a time to find pictures that would stimulate me. Just as with a drug addict, it took more and more pornography to satisfy my addiction. I began to push my wife away in many direct and indirect ways. I would delay going outside to play with my six-year-old son because I was on the Internet …
"My wife gradually spent more and more time with her best girlfriend across the street because I was emotionally dead inside. The life had literally been sucked out of me. I felt as though my ability to think clearly was greatly affected. I had trouble repeating phone numbers because I was consumed with guilt and shame. I gradually lost respect for my wife as a person. It was almost impossible for us to carry on a conversation. These changes occurred so gradually that I did not realize it was the pornography that was affecting me."
These are just a few examples of the frustration, shame, and guilt that habitual use of pornography brings to a life. Sin can be alluring, and can bring temporary pleasure, but in the end sin will destroy you. James 1:14-5 says, "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." Sometimes pornography is described as a "victimless crime," but in reality you are a victim, your wife is a victim, and your marriage is a victim.
Breaking Free From the Trap
If you want to break free from the sexual sin and lust fueled by pornography, the first thing you need to realize is that you can't do it in your own power. You need the presence of God in your life. In fact, if you have never understood what it means to be a Christian, and how you can know God personally, please read this clear presentation of the gospel. It will be the most important decision of your life.
If you know Christ lives within you, here are some suggested steps for dealing with the trap of pornography:
Step One: Confess Your Sin
When you try to keep such sin secret, your spirit will become increasingly troubled. Remember the comment from one of the e-mails above, where one man said he became "emotionally dead" and that life was "sucked out of me"? Compare those words to those of King David in Psalm 32:3-4:
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
David realized he could not go on until he confessed his sin to God:
I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD'; And You forgave the guilt of my sin" (Psalm 32:5).
On one hand, confession is simply agreeing with God about sin in your life. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, "Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." When you look at those pictures or images to stimulate you sexually, you are committing adultery in your heart. When you confess this to the Lord, you simply say, "Yes, I was lusting after that woman. I sinned against You, Father."
You may be thinking, "I've done that. But nothing changed." That's because, when faced with a deep-rooted sin such as this—one that has involved numerous poor choices over a period of time—your confession must come with a broken heart that shows that you are repentant—ready to turn away from your sin. Repentance means "to turn around." When you have a habit of sin in your life, it is like getting in a car and driving away from God. When you repent, you stop moving away from God and turn around to face Him, and through His power start moving toward Him again.
Repentance is a sorrow that comes from realizing that you have offended the very holiness of God. You must be willing to turn away from your sin and toward the life God wants for you. If you are going to deal with your sin successfully, repentance is essential.
What does God do when you come to Him with an attitude of brokenness and repentance? He offers forgiveness and cleansing. 1 John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." You may not be freed from the desire to commit this sin again, but you can be freed from the crushing weight of guilt and shame.
At some point, you also need to confess to your wife. You shouldn't tell her all the sordid details of your sin and entrapment by pornography. But if you don't confess your sin to her and ask for her forgiveness, the air will never be clear between you and your relationship will not grow and prosper as it could.
You may be thinking, "I could never share these things with my wife." It will be the hardest thing you ever do and one of the most courageous. Steven Fetrow writes, "Confession may lead to a period of profound pain and disappointment, but without full disclosure, the marriage cannot be authentic and will never become the type of relationship that God desires for us."2
Step Two: Make no provision for the flesh
In Romans 13:14 Paul tells us, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." Having acknowledged your sin of lust, and admitting your weakness, you need to devise a strategy for reducing the temptation of pornography.
Not only do you need to remove every trace of pornography from your home or office, but you also should take practical steps to put barriers between you and any sources. If magazines or books are a temptation, stay away from the stores where you purchase pornography. If you've been watching erotic movies on cable or satellite television, downgrade your service to eliminate the offending channels … or get rid of the service altogether if necessary. When you travel start staying in hotels that can block or turn off the pay-per-view movies in a given room. Ask the desk clerk to do that before you enter your room.
If you are involved in computer porn, you may need to change your Internet service provider, your e-mail address, and even your credit card so that porn sites cannot contact you. Find a blocking or screening program or even an ISP that screens Web sites. If you have used a computer at the office to view pornography, then ask about getting a screening system for the office.
Move your computer into an open area of the house. Tell your wife or children to come and ask you what you are doing on the computer anytime they want to. You can also teach someone in your house to check the history in your Web browser.
No matter what you do, you won't be able to avoid seeing sensual images altogether. When you find yourself looking at something involuntarily, follow the advice of 2 Timothy 2:22, to "flee youthful lusts." You must run from pornography as if you are running from a rabid dog.
Step Three: Find an accountability partner
You need a godly man who will walk with you through this battle for your purity. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion, but woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." Fighting a battle is easier when you don't have to do it alone.
Accountability is a scriptural principle that tells us to " ... be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). This means you choose to submit your life to the scrutiny of another person in order to gain spiritual strength, growth and balance.
If you do not go to your pastor first, I recommend that you do so immediately after making open confession to the Lord. He is spiritually responsible to pray for you and teach you God's truth. If he is the man of God he should be, he will gladly pray for and with you, and exhort you in your spiritual growth.
Ask your accountability partner check with you anytime, day or night, about what you have been doing on the computer. Tell him to ask what you watched while you were traveling. Call your wife each night from the hotel room.
Step Four: Build biblical truth into your life
If you've been filling your mind with pornographic images, chances are that you have not been spending much time reading God's Word. Begin spending time every day reading the Bible, chapter by chapter. Start with a book you like to read—the Gospel of John or the gospel of Matthew, or maybe even Genesis. Expose yourself to large portions of God's Word.
I also encourage you to read one chapter from Psalms and one chapter from Proverbs each morning before you begin your workday. After reading Psalms and Proverbs, spend ten minutes or more in prayer. If you find a particular verse that ministers to you, then use it in your prayer as you ask the Lord to strengthen and protect you throughout the day. Set a time and place to read those two chapters and spend time in prayer every day. If you are not sure how to get started, ask your pastor or a godly friend to talk to you about it. You may not feel comfortable the first few times, but God is not judging your performance anyway. He is only interested in meeting with you, one-on-one. Try this for a month, and I'll bet you want to continue it at the end of the month.
If there is any way, get involved in a Bible study with other men. If you get the chance, attend a Bible conference with your wife or with the men in the Bible study. As you look for these opportunities to build truth into your life, you may have to look outside your own church. You are fighting for your life and that of your family, so don't be afraid to search beyond your normal sphere of activities.
Step Five: Begin to rebuild your marriage
Your wife may not be able to respond openly to you at first. She needs time to heal. But one thing you can start doing right now is to begin praying with her. It may be embarrassing, it may feel awkward, or it may even be frightening, but do it anyway. Your wife needs to hear you pray and she needs to hear you pray for her. There are few things in a marriage that can draw your wife to you and to your heart like prayer.
FamilyLife offers a number of conferences and resources to help you reduce the isolation you are experiencing in your marriage. Our Weekend to Remember® conferences may be the best place to start the rebuilding process. At some point, you also should become involved in a small group using a study from HomeBuilders Couples Series®. We can help you find out if there is a group in your area of the country.
God will honor each small step of obedience you take. He has the power to change your heart … to help you experience the joy of a cleansed heart … to wash away your sin and guilt and shame … and to help you experience oneness again with your wife.
Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
1. "Dangers and Disappointments," Ryan Hosley and Steve Watters, Pureintimacy.org
2. "Bold Next Steps, Steven Fetrow, Pureintimacy.org