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My Battle with Porn

with Clarence Shuler | October 24, 2014

Some habits are hard to break. Clarence Shuler talks about his past struggles with pornography. Exposed to illicit images when he was young, Shuler tells how he tried to shake off the habit, especially during his seminary studies and the ministry that followed. He explains that it wasn't until he exposed his sin to the light and confessed his addiction to others that he found deliverance from this enslaving habit.

Some habits are hard to break. Clarence Shuler talks about his past struggles with pornography. Exposed to illicit images when he was young, Shuler tells how he tried to shake off the habit, especially during his seminary studies and the ministry that followed. He explains that it wasn't until he exposed his sin to the light and confessed his addiction to others that he found deliverance from this enslaving habit.

My Battle with Porn

With Clarence Shuler
|
October 24, 2014
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Clarence Shuler is not the only man who has had to make that kind of confession to his wife. We’ll hear his story today. Stay tuned.

1:00

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve got a friend who is with us today to be fairly open and transparent about an issue that he faced square-on in his life.


Dennis: Yes, I bet every listener who is tuning in today probably knows someone or personally has struggled with this issue. It’s the issue of pornography. And Dr. Clarence Shuler, who is a good friend, goes way back. How long have you been on the Weekend to Remember® marriage conference speaker team, Clarence? 

Clarence: I think it’s—I think this is our 14th year.

Dennis: You and Brenda—

Clarence: Yes.

Dennis: —have been speaking at conferences. You have any idea of the number of events you’ve spoken at over the years? 

Clarence: I don’t; I don’t.

Dennis: Has to be approaching close to a hundred.


Clarence: I would think so because there are some seasons we do eight to nine; you know.

Dennis: Well, Clarence is a father to three. He is a relationship counselor, motivational speaker—I can attest to that—life coach, and author.

2:00

 

He has written a book called Single and Free to Be Me, which is a great book for singlehood. We may talk about that in the future sometime.

Clarence, I was in New England—at a conference where you were speaking—and I had never heard your story. I sat there, on the front row—and first of all, I appreciated your authenticity and willingness to get real with a group of men who were in attendance there at an Iron Sharpens Iron event—but I thought, “Our listening audience needs to hear this story.” 

So, I want to go all the way back to kind of how you grew up and how you found yourself ensnared by pornography.


Clarence: Well, how I grew up—I grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with my mom and dad and my older sister. My parents were very religious.

3:00

 

They did not really become Christians until after I became a Christian and, eventually, led them to Christ my freshman year at Moody, during Thanksgiving. My older sister had been a Christian.

Basketball was kind of my life, growing up in North Carolina. You know, there is basketball, tobacco, and Baptists—pretty much in that order—in North Carolina. [Laughter]  So, that was my religion. I went to Moody—you know, single and struggling, wanting to get married—these pretty girls—but you know, just the whole deal—finished Moody, and I was just still single. So, you just begin to struggle.

But it was when I was in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—one of my buddies gave me a TV. He said, “This is a TV you can look at, but don’t go to these channels.”  When he said, “…don’t go to those channels”—

Bob: Yes.

Clarence: —that didn’t really help me because—

Dennis: You automatically went for those channels.

Clarence: —I went to those channels. I started seeing things. I said, “Wow!” and—

Dennis: So, you were at a seminary—

4:00

Clarence: I was at a seminary, preparing for full-time ministry.

Dennis: Yes. And just so our listeners know, this is not an unusual story for men, studying in seminary.

Bob: Well, the issue is access. And today—

Clarence: It’s everywhere.

Bob: —access is anywhere and everywhere. So, the bait is right in front of you. As long as you’ve got a screen, you’ve got some kind of access to pornography. You had to have been exposed to pornography when you were growing up; weren’t you? 

Clarence: You know, in the African American community, everybody raises you. So, back then—because I’m almost as old as Bob—they would—Playboy and everything was just kind of out at the grocery store. I remember my friend and me—I think we were 12 or 14—and we picked up one and looked at it. Some lady came and smacked us both upside the head. So, we put it down. So, we—[Laughter]—so, it was a big deal.

But in seminary, is when I really—

5:00

 

—it didn’t really—I saw it / I liked it, but it didn’t really hold me. It wasn’t until I was actually working as a home missionary for the Southern Baptist / working with the National Baptist Convention. I was at my pastor’s house. He had all the channels. He and his wife went to bed. I’m staying up late. I’m flicking channels because I didn’t have a TV. I hit the Playboy station, and I kind of stuck there. Unfortunately, I just watched that; and I was hooked. I began to struggle with this thing of being a Christian / being a minister—an ordained minister—and struggling with the whole issue of pornography. So, that was kind of where I was.

Dennis: I can say that you have hit on something that I think any man, who is honest—who has checked into a hotel—or maybe if he does have the channels in his home—which we don’t, on purpose—but by the way, you can even have a real basic cable package; and you have access to stuff that it’s really dangerous to be channel surfing. I mean, whether you are in a hotel—

Clarence: Oh, yes.

6:00

Dennis: —room or in your home, channel surfing is a dangerous hobby.

Clarence: Well, I learned that the hard way. Then, I just travelled and struggled in this whole cycle of committing a sin, feeling guilty, asking God for forgiveness, not feeling forgiveness, and then, wanting to do something to feel worthy—or clean again. But there is nothing you can do to self-help yourself. So, it was really kind of a sad situation.

Dennis: There isn’t a cultural standard—not that that needs to be there to replace the biblical standard—but there is not a lot, in culture today, to encourage us to step away from this stuff.

Clarence: There’s not. And unfortunately—and it’s not to beat people up—but even when you go to church—you don’t hear a lot of messages on marriage, you don’t hear things being single, and you don’t hear a lot about this whole idea of being pure—what’s involved in that whole process. You don’t hear a lot of that.

Bob: Let me go back to you being involved in ministry. You’d been exposed. The hook had been set—

Clarence: Yes.

7:00

Bob: —as you’d seen stuff on TV, but you didn’t have regular access to pornography.

Clarence: No, I did not. I did not. It was right before computers.


Bob: Yes.

Clarence: Then, even when computers came out, you couldn’t afford this. So, I was kind of a—that was a struggle. But there would be times—it could be a hotel room or something like that because I was travelling around the state doing stuff. You could—you would see something, and you get convicted. It was—you’d get in trouble, and that was a terrible thing.

Bob: So, you’d get convicted. What would you do with your conviction?  I mean, I can imagine that you were praying, and repenting, and asking God to take this from you.

Clarence: Well, for a long time, Bob, I was in denial. I thought I could control it. I thought it was no big deal. I did not realize, at the time, that I was in slavery to it; and so I would sin. I would get convicted or—and there were some times I could go for weeks or months without doing it—but then, there were other times I would lapse into it—or if things didn’t go well / you’re disappointed, you would go back because it would make you feel good.

8:00

 

That was pretty destructive.

One clear time I knew I was out of control was—I was going to preach at this church. The Saturday night before—I had a hotel room—committed sin with pornography—supposed to preach the next day. I was so convicted—they guy was telling what a moral guy I am because I was not sleeping around and stuff like that. I was sitting there, and it was time for me to get up to speak. So, I get up and, Dennis, I was so blown away that I couldn’t really say anything—I was just kind of standing there.

I was at a black church, and they just thought I was in the Spirit. But then, I asked God for forgiveness that night. I asked Him for forgiveness before I spoke, and I spoke probably one of the most powerful experiences I ever had—preaching the Word of God—but I still didn’t really get it. I was just still struggling with this whole addiction thing—I was off and on.

Dennis: How did it impact your relationship with the opposite sex? 

9:00

 

I mean, as a single guy, you’ve got this outlet, over here, in the fantasy world. Did it cause you to escape to the fantasy world and pursue that rather than a real relationship with a real person? 

Clarence: Well, here is the deal. For me, when you are around Christian girls, who are like your friends, I found it lowered my sex drive. When you didn’t have those relationships with the opposite sex, who were your friends, then, I tended to see girls as sex objects. That was kind of the struggle that I kind of had with that.

I really wasn’t dating a lot because most of the girls that I was running into—even in church—were not necessarily believers. They were religious but not believers. So, I kind of had this really hypocrisy type thing going on as far as my doctrine, salvation, and then, wrestling. I would tell myself, “Well, I was by myself.” I said: “Well, at least, I’m not affecting anybody else. I’m not having any sex. So, I’m still, technically, a virgin.” 

10:00

 

That was kind of the lie that I would justify / I would do when I fell into sin.

Bob: Was this an issue in your life when you met your wife Brenda? 

Clarence: I was wrestling back and forth with that. Actually, I didn’t go back and struggle with it as much when I was with her; and I thought, “Well, hey, when I get married, it won’t be an issue.” 

Bob: But it was in the background. She didn’t know—

Clarence: No.

Bob: —that any of this was going on.

Clarence: Noooo—no. [Laughter] 

Bob: But there were still episodes. There were still times—

Clarence: I was consistently inconsistent.

Bob: Yes. So, your thinking was, “When I get married, then, that will be the cure for my pornography issue.”  

Clarence: Yes. “I’ll be having sex on a regular basis. So, there won’t be a need for pornography.” 

Bob: So, after you got married, was that what happened? 

Clarence: No, I would still struggle. If we were having conflicts, then, she’d go to bed; I’d stay up, watch pornography, and you know.

Bob: Did you have a stash?  Or did you have access on cable or what? 

Clarence: Well, periodically, we’d have—well, what we used to do—

11:00

 

—during the summer—we’d have cable so I could watch tennis—Wimbledon or whatever was on it. Well, with that cable package came—

Bob: A month of free premium channels or something.

Clarence: Yes. So, that was kind of how we were doing it.

Bob: And you were justifying, now, in marriage, what was going on because you’d have a fight with Brenda—and I mean if she’s going to freeze you out, you’ve got to take care of yourself somehow; huh? 

Clarence: I hate to say it that way, but that was kind of the way I was acting out, yes.

Dennis: So, how long did this charade take place? 

Clarence: Let’s see, I was addicted for 11 years. I was married in ’85. It was in ’94 that God graciously delivered me from my pornography addiction.

Bob: When you talk about those nine years in your marriage, when this was an issue—and years before that—but the nine years in your marriage—were you looking at pornography monthly?—more regularly than that? 

12:00

Clarence: I would say probably monthly. It wasn’t every week / it wasn’t every two weeks. It would just be sporadic, but I would say probably once a month or so I would—yes.

Bob: Anybody know?  Did you tell—

Clarence: No. See, the thing—I was so devious with it because this was before the internet. So, I would actually have to go to a—

Bob: A video store.

Clarence: —book store / a video store. I would get the video and come home, sneak it, watch it, and then, get it back to the store; you know?  So, it was not good.

Dennis: So, what caused you to come clean and talk to Brenda about it?  Or was that the way it happened? 


Clarence: Well, what happened was—in the mid-90s / right around ’94—Henry Blackaby, you know—Experiencing God—who was going around the country with a guy named John Avann [uncertain of spelling]—they would tell their story together. People would come confess their sins.

13:00

 

I was at two of these events because I was working on staff for the Southern Baptist Convention for the state of Illinois. I said, “God, I can’t do this.”  Well, I finally go up in front of men and women—confessed my sin of pornography—had not planned on it—just confessed. The older men in that room—they had a chair—had me sit down, and they came and laid hands on me and prayed over me. They loved me, and that was it. But because I hadn’t planned on doing that, I said, “I’ve got to go tell Brenda because I want to get to her before somebody else does.” 

Bob: Yes, that’s right.

Clarence: The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life—was going to sit down and tell this woman—this beautiful woman who loves me—I said, “I’ve been addicted to pornography.”  I said: “I’ve been addicted for 11 years before we got married. I brought it into our marriage, and I have no excuse. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”  That was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.

14:00

And she did—she said, “I’ll forgive you.” 

Ever since that day, she has never ever / even in the heat of battle, ever brought up my pornography addiction. I tell this story because the more I share it the harder it is for me to go back; but also, I know it helps people in the audience who are struggling with it. But my misery has now become my ministry—where I am helping a lot of guys—whether they’re in the NFL, next door, whatever—this whole pornography issue—and even women. That’s kind of what we do.

Bob: Clarence, I want you to go back to—

Clarence: Okay.

Bob: —when you broke the news to Brenda.

Clarence: Yes.

Bob: How did she respond? 

Clarence: Well, she was stunned because she didn’t know, and—

Bob: She had no hint—

Clarence: —she had no hint.

Bob: —that any of this had been going on with you.

Clarence: No. So, she just—she didn’t cry. She just kind of looked at me. She was stunned, but she just—you have to know Brenda.

15:00

She—sometimes, she internalizes stuff—so we just—we didn’t talk much about it. She wanted to know how long it was going on—with that—a bunch of questions. We began to process some of that, but this weight came off my shoulders. I knew God had forgiven me. I knew there were consequences to it, but I just—getting clean—I can’t tell you how important that was for me just to get to that. I would have taken whatever they had done at that time because I was pretty broken.

Dennis: There are a couple of things I want to say right here—one is to the man who may be feeling the need to go to his wife right now. He needs to understand that what may represent freedom to him—

Clarence: Right.


Dennis: —and a release from the shame ends up being a can of garbage dumped upon somebody and into someone else’s life—and that being your wife.

16:00

 

You can’t expect your wife, necessarily, to respond like Brenda did. You’ve got to give your wife some time to process and ultimately move toward forgiveness.

Clarence: Well, I talk about that in my marriage book—that the way I did it was not the best way to do it. I think for men—we can confess our sin, and we’re kind of done with it because we do that—but for women—because they think differently / they’re wired differently—she’s got to process that. Who she is, as a woman, is all brought into that. She’s wondering, “Can I compete with these airbrushed women?”—all stuff like that.


Dennis: Sure.


Clarence: All that stuff, she’s got to go through: “Can I trust you again, now?”  “How could you do that?…for so many years?!”  All those things—“What we have—is that a lie?”  I mean, there are just tons and tons of questions that you have to sit there and be able to try and answer honestly. It’s hard.

17:00

 

Now, I think the other thing is you have to understand that you are the betrayer / she’s the betrayed. So, how her emotional healing works out—like you said—everyone is not going to be like Brenda—it takes time. So, you have to be willing to pay the consequences for the crime.

Bob: Clarence, that was 20 years ago that you shared with Brenda.

Clarence: Wow, yes.

Bob: You slipped up since then? 

Clarence: No.

Bob: You been tempted? 

Clarence: Yes.

Bob: And how do you fight the temptation? 

Clarence: I kind of look at the bigger circle / bigger picture that—and it’s not an emotional deal—it’s just I don’t want to go back. And then, I think God is so great—He’s been so good to me, and I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. I don’t want to mess that up. I don’t want Him to have to spank me again.


What I do now—I really focus on guarding my eyes.

18:00

 

So, when a woman is dressed—and she has a lot—showing cleavage—I just turn my head. I don’t initiate hugging women. I mean, sometimes you can’t escape it because they grab you—but I—so, just a lot of things. I’ve self—I kind of self-police myself.

Another thing is—when I told Brenda, I immediately called my best friends, whom she knew and trusted. I thought it was really important that she trusted this guy, and he asked me all kinds of questions: “What do you see?  What do you look at?”  So, when I go to a hotel room, it’s ESPN or nothing; you know?  So—because I know, after ten o’clock, there is nothing good on these premium channels—so I’ve had to really just police myself and pull back.

Dennis: I mentioned, earlier, that there were two things that I had to say to men. One was—as you tell your wife, give her time to process. She’s not going to flip a switch—

Clarence: Right; right.

Dennis: —and move through this.

The second thing, really, is the first step. It’s 1 John 1:9.

19:00

The Apostle John writes: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us.” I just want to remind the guy, who feels ensnared—that God doesn’t relate to us on the basis of what we deserve. He relates to us out of His character of grace and forgiveness. He is ready to forgive that man—or, for that matter, that woman—who turns to Him to confess a matter and to deal with it. Frankly, that’s the first step—before you go to your spouse.

Bob: Well, let me encourage our listeners—go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. If you click, in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “GO DEEPER,” there’s a link there that says, “Stepping Up.” There are a couple of video clips that are a part of the Stepping Up video series that I think would be good for guys to watch if they’ve wrestled with this issue.

20:00

 

One of them is a testimony from a guest we’ve had on FamilyLife Today, Chris Beall, and his wife, Cindy—talking about how this struggle with pornography almost destroyed his marriage and his ministry. And then, there is another clip that shows a guy wrestling with the temptation, not to look at pornography, but to contact an old friend, online. I mean, these are the kinds of real-life things that guys are wrestling with; and it’s a part of what we try to address in the Stepping Up video series for men.

So, let me encourage guys—go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click in the upper left-hand corner, where it says, “GO DEEPER.” Look at these two video clips from the Stepping Up video series. In fact, we are hoping that, as you watch these clips, you would consider taking a group of guys through the material with you, starting in the new year.

21:00

 

Our team has set a goal to try to get 50,000 men mobilized to go through the Stepping Up material, starting in the first month of the year. In fact, they want to rename the first month of the year—call it “Manuary.” Their desire is that guys, all across the country, would say: “I’ll lead a group. I can get five or six guys / I can get fathers and sons / I can get the guys at our church; and we’ll go through this ten-week Stepping Up video series and all of us get trained on what godly, biblical manhood ought to look like in our lives.” 

Right now, if you’re ready to go ahead and order, at least, ten workbooks to take, at least, ten guys through the material with you, we’ll give you the DVDs for free. So, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for all the details on the offer that we are making available this week and next week. It’s going to expire at the end of the month.

22:00

 

So, if you want to take some guys through the Stepping Up material—you’re ready to go ahead and sign up for that and you’d like to save some money—go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “GO DEEPER.” Then, click the Stepping Up link and find out more about the series or order the series from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions or if you’d like to order over the phone—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”  Or again, find what you need, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.

Finally, a quick word of, “Thanks,” to the folks who make FamilyLife Today possible—and that’s you, if you’ve ever made a donation to help support this ministry. The donations you make all go to help pay for the costs of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. We are grateful for the listeners who pitch in and help make it all possible—couldn’t do it without you.

23:00

 

Right now, if you can make a donation, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a resource that Barbara Rainey has developed as a part of her Ever Thine Home® collection of resources. This is a chalkboard in the shape of a house. At the top of it, it says, “In this home we give thanks for.”  Then, you can write the things you are thankful for on the chalkboard. Great way to cultivate gratitude in your family, and it’s a beautiful-looking chalkboard as well.

It’s our thank-you gift when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click in the upper right-hand corner of the screen—the button that says, “I Care.”  Make an online donation, and we’ll send the chalkboard to you; or you can request the chalkboard when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone. You can also request the chalkboard when mail a donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And the zip code is 72223.

24:00

 

And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday. Our friend, Ed Welch, is going to be here. We’re going to talk about how people can get paralyzed by worrying about what other people think about them. We’ll talk about how you deal with that kind of paralysis and why we care so much what other people think. Hope you can join us for that conversation.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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