8 Tips for Fighting Pornography
Plenty of lists for fighting for purity and overcoming porn addiction have been written—by Christians and secularists alike. Even the latter, perhaps to the surprise of some Christians, have come to realize that unbound freedom to follow our desires leads to enslavement and malformation.
Because of the plethora of such lists, it’s hard to say anything new. But perhaps that’s not the point. Perhaps it might be helpful to share a bit about how I and others have worked out these basic principles in concrete ways.
After all, on a very regular basis I’m reminded of how consequential porn addiction has become. When we think of Esau exchanging his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup, we laugh and think, “What a fool!” But how many—especially men but also women—have done the same? How many have sacrificed their marriages, careers, and overall health for momentary pleasures that have left them empty and wanting more?
To that end, fight against porn. But as you read them, remember the Son of God in power.
First, adopt a war mentality.
We must take an extreme approach to fighting this sin. Like Joseph, we must simply flee from the allure of Potiphar’s wife. One dear friend shared with me such extreme resolve. He had a smartphone but noticed his visits to unwholesome sites became more frequent. So he did something outrageous. He canceled his data plan, gave away his smartphone, and bought a flip phone. Imagine that! I’ve seen the phone. It looks like something you would have bought years ago when cell phones were first making their way into the mass market. He admits that he looks silly in the eyes of many, and that he’s unable to enjoy the benefits of having a GPS on demand or looking for the best Vietnamese sandwiches on Yelp. But, in his own words, “You gotta do what you gotta if you’re serious about fighting for purity.”
Many claim to want freedom and purity, but I wonder: how many of us are willing to take these necessary “extreme” and even “legalistic” steps?
Second, be very purposeful about your setting and schedule.
Many people enjoy the luxury of telecommuting. While this is a wonderful perk, it also leads to increased isolation. Consider for a moment the last time you watched porn. Were you sipping a Frappuccino at Starbucks? Were you dressed in a suit as your colleagues walked back and forth discussing the latest office gossip?
More than likely, you were alone in your home office or wherever else you can remain hidden from people but not from God. It might be worth cataloging where and when you fall into sexual temptation.
In my “industry,” many pastors confess that Mondays are especially challenging after a long weekend of leading worship, preaching, and meeting with members and newcomers. For others, it might be a Friday morning, perhaps the one day in the week you get to work from home. Most of your work is done, and your mindset has shifted to winding down.
Wherever and whenever you watch porn, you need to break the pattern by becoming more intentional about your setting and schedule. If you know the chances of watching porn will exponentially increase by working in isolation, try to work in a public setting—a local coffee shop, or library. If you know there’s a time of day or day of the week when you’re more vulnerable, then insert a specific activity. Instead of being tempted to watch porn, go for a run.
Everyone’s circumstances will differ. Some travel regularly, and some have sensitive work that requires isolation. The point here is simple: we can’t afford to be passive. We need to be proactive about our setting and schedule. This seemingly small act really can do wonders.
Third, guard your eyes.
Recall Wile E. Coyote in his unending quest to capture Road Runner. One of Wile’s favorite tools was a dynamic blaster. He would push down on a lever that was connected to explosives by a set of wires. Road Runner would often find a way to escape the danger, but we are not so fortunate. Eyes that wander and rest on different parts of the human anatomy trigger a sexual impulse; and once the impulse is triggered, it’s hard to stop the final outcome. This is why we have to take control of our eyes.
In one instance, I was walking with a pastor in New York City. We passed a popular lingerie store, a billboard with a scantily dressed women, and a group of women dressed for clubbing. Throughout this walk, his eyes were fixed on the ground. I know this because he kept bumping into me. He later commented, “Summers are especially difficult, but this is what it takes.” This might sound extreme, but enough older and very godly men have said to me, “It doesn’t get any easier as you get older. You just have to get better at watching what you watch.”
Fourth, read and listen to stories by addicts and about addicts—addicts of all kinds, not just porn addicts.
By doing this, you come to a deeper appreciation of how devastating addiction is for everyone involved. Scare tactics aren’t very effective in the long run, but that’s not the point. We need to realize that individual addiction has wide effects, rippling and ripping into the lives of others, especially into the lives of loved ones.
Perhaps we’ll become more receptive to adopting a war mentality when we listen to the tragic stories of others. Another benefit is that you can learn how others have overcome their addictions and then retool their approach for your own struggle. I remember hearing about how one coffee addict surrounded himself with gallons of water. Whenever the urge came for another latte, he would down enough water until his body couldn’t handle any more liquids. Someone might be able to look at this more benign addiction and consider alternate activities that can replace watching pornography.
Fifth, accept that watching pornography is akin to committing adultery.
If you’re married and you watch pornography, you’re cheating on your spouse. To be sure, it’s not the same as actually having sexual relations outside of your marriage bed. But just because it’s not as bad doesn’t mean that it’s not bad.
It might be helpful is to say aloud before, while, and after you watch porn: “I’m about to cheat on my wife, I’m cheating on my wife, and I just cheated on my wife.” Say it out loud! At the very least, it’ll awaken you to the realization that you’ve been okay with adultery.
Similarly, when you watch porn and engage in sexual fantasy, that fantasized person is or may someday be married to another person. In this sense, you’re doing injustice not just to the person you’re objectifying but also robbing that person’s spouse of what’s rightfully and uniquely his. How would you react if thousands of men were objectifying your wife? That’s the very sin we’re guilty of when we watch porn, fantasize, and masturbate.
Sixth, be resilient.
For many, the struggle against porn will require a long-term perspective. Going cold turkey, as most addicts can attest, is nearly impossible—all the more if the addiction began at a young age and has been alive for many years. It’s ordinarily not realistic.
Moreover, those who naively suppose that they can abruptly stop often fail and ultimately give up the fight. What I’m saying is that even with your most sincere efforts, you’ll likely falter.
But don’t give up. Make sure you’re taking two steps forward each time you relapse. I’m not suggesting occasional porn is okay. I’m just acknowledging the reality that like all wars, the struggle here will be long and difficult, marked by wins and losses. But the hope is progress.
Seventh, remember the principle, “You become the air you breathe.”
There are communities you want to avoid. Some are obvious. Don’t hang out a lot with people who think monogamy is unnatural, go to strip clubs for bachelor parties, and believe porn watching is just what people do. If you hear this nonsense enough, you’ll begin to believe it.
Some communities to avoid are less obvious. It’s those who feign holiness but struggle in secret. They can also be the group that likes to throw out vague terms like accountability, purity, and lust, while avoiding specificity and action. It’s important to surround yourself with men and women who take this struggle very seriously and therefore do silly things like purchasing a flip phone, making strategic plans, walking with their eyes down, or joining Sex Addicts Anonymous.
We’re vulnerable beings. For all our talk of autonomy, we’re more malleable than we realize or care to admit. Surrounding yourself with people who are sober about their struggle and are taking concrete steps toward freedom will likely prod you to do the same.
Finally, remember “the Son-of-God-in-power” (Romans 1:4), the one who died for our sins, was raised for our vindication and has poured out his Spirit on us so that we can now be and do what we could not left to our devices.
The fight for purity is not to merit God’s favor or win acceptance among the elect. The fight for purity is an outworking of our new identity in Christ; and the power for victory is the Spirit, the same Spirit that filled Jesus prior to his battle with Satan in the wilderness. Without question, we are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). For many today, this includes laboring with all our might to disembody pornography from our lives. Still, even this appropriate battle must be done knowing that “it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
The struggle for freedom from pornography is real and difficult. No one principle or practice will suffice. Victory will come through the cumulative and consistent application of these suggestions and more over an extended period of time. We must continue to struggle, for this is why God’s grace has been revealed, that we might be delivered from all lawlessness and pursue upright and holy lives as we await Christ’s return. Our Lord demands nothing less.