By Gene McConnell
On a cold, dark night, there's nothing better than a blazing fire in the fireplace. You can pile on the wood and let it burn nice and warm. It's safe, warm, relaxing and romantic. Now take that same fire out of the fireplace (which was built for it) and drop it in the middle of the living room. Suddenly it becomes destructive. It can burn down the whole house and kill everyone inside. Sex is like that fire. As long as it's expressed in the protective commitment of a marriage relationship, it's wonderful, warm and romantic. But porn takes sex outside that context.
It's a big business that makes a lot of money and doesn't care how. They'll show you whatever they think will make you come back and buy more. "There were 11,000 porn video titles last year versus 400 movie releases from Hollywood last year...[and] 70,000 pornographic web sites."1
One of the most vital parts of mental environment is a healthy idea of who we are sexually. If these ideas are polluted, a critical part of who we are becomes twisted. The porn culture tells you that sex, love and intimacy are all the same thing. In porn, people have sex with total strangers -- people they just met. All that matters is my satisfaction. It doesn't matter whose body I'm using, as long as I get it. Porn gets you to think that sex is something you can have anytime, anywhere, with anyone, with no consequences.
The problem with porn's shallow perspective is that relationships are not built on sex, but on commitment, caring and mutual trust. In that context, like fire in the fireplace, sex is wonderful. Being with someone who loves and accepts you, someone who is committed to you for your whole lives together, someone you can give yourself completely to, that is what makes sex really great.
You can't learn the truth about sex from pornography. It doesn't deal in truth. Pornography is not made to educate, but to sell. So, pornography will tell whatever lies attract and hold the audience. Porn thrives on lies -- lies about sex, women, marriage and a lot of other things. Let's look at some of those lies and see just how badly they can mess up your life and attitudes.
Pornography makes a profit from the ruined lives of young women and entraps men who will spend lots of time AND money succumbing to their product.
We might think that the things we see and hear don't affect us. Yet we all admit that good music, good movies and good books add a lot to our lives. They can relax us, educate us, move us or inspire us. Just as uplifting media can benefit us, pornographic images can negatively affect us.
Images are not always neutral. They can persuade us. Businesses know that if they can get a persuasive image of their product in front of you during a highly emotional moment, it will sink into your subconscious mind. The advertising scientists are so good at what they do, they can predict just how much more of their product you will buy if you see their ad. Sometimes, viewers don't even see the name of the product. Reese's Pieces paid a huge price just to have their candy shown for a few seconds in the movie "ET," and sales of Reese's Pieces skyrocketed. Why? Because the emotions connected with watching that small boy reaching out to the alien were transferred to the visual image of the candy. If a split second view of a product -- even when it's not the center of attention -- can affect people's behavior, imagine the effect of a movie that keeps your attention glued to the screen for an hour and a half with sexually explicit images.
What kinds of ideas is porn putting into our heads? If the wrong things keep getting dumped in, your mental environment can get so polluted that your life is going to have problems. One of the most vital parts of mental environment is a healthy idea of who we are sexually. If these ideas are polluted, a critical part of who we are becomes twisted.
Not everyone who sees porn will become addicted. Some will just come away with toxic ideas about women, sex, marriage, and children. However, some will have some kind of emotional opening that allows the addiction to really grab hold. The porn companies don't mind at all if you become completely addicted to their product. It's great for business. Dr. Victor Cline has divided the progress of addiction into several stages; addiction, escalation, desensitization, and acting out. For porn addicts, I've found that there is another stage that comes first -- early exposure. Let's look at these stages:
Most guys who get addicted to porn start early. They see porn when they are very young and it gets its foot in the door.
You keep coming back to porn. It becomes a regular part of your life. You're hooked and can't quit.
You start to look for more graphic pornography. You start using porn that disgusted you earlier. Now, it excites you.
You start to become numb to the images you see. Even the most graphic porn doesn't excite you any more. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again, but you can't find it.
ACTING OUT SEXUALLY
This is the point where men make a crucial jump and start acting out the images they have seen. Some move from the paper and plastic images of porn into the real world, with real people, in destructive ways.
If you see any of these patterns in your life, you need to put the brakes on right now. Is porn becoming more and more in control of your life? Do you have trouble putting it down? Do you keep going back for more?
The first thing you've got to do is admit that you struggle with pornography. Believe me, you are not strange or unusual if you do. Millions of men are at various stages in the struggle with porn. It's really not surprising. The porn industry has spent billions of dollars trying to snare you. Is it really shocking that they have succeeded? For some of you there may also be issues in your past, such as abuse or sexual exposure, that makes porn addiction even harder to shake. There is only so much you can do in fighting addiction without help.
You need someone to help you break this addiction. Overcoming the secrecy is absolutely vital. You probably can't escape addiction without it. That doesn't mean everyone has to know you're struggling. Pick someone you can trust who counsels men who are having problems with addiction -- a pastor, youth group leader or counselor. Someone you can completely trust, feel safe with and has experience in the area of addiction isn't going to be surprised.
Pornography entraps you with lies. In contrast, God can lead us into truth. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."2 Those who heard Jesus say this were offended and countered, "We have never been slaves of anyone, how can you say that we shall be set free?"3 And Jesus explained that people are enslaved to sin, but that He can set you free.4
Sin not only enslaves us, but it distances us from God. And no one is perfect. No one is righteous in God's eyes. Instead we're told that "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way."5 We all deserve God's judgment and punishment. Yet God, who is holy and loving, provided a solution for our sin, so that we would not have to be justly condemned. He personally took the punishment for our sin on Himself. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was tortured and died on the cross for our sin so that we could be forgiven. Three days later Jesus rose from the dead, just as He said He would. And He now offers you a relationship with Him. One of the most amazing statements in the Bible is this one, "If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."6
In your search for intimacy and love, pornography is an empty substitute for real love. We have been created by God to have our intimacy needs met most deeply by God Himself. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."7 In contrast to the darkness and destruction that pornography can bring to people's lives, Jesus said, "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly."8 God offers you his forgiveness through a relationship with Him. Do you want to ask Him to forgive you and come into your life? You can tell Him right now. If you need help putting this into words, here is prayer that might help:
"Lord Jesus, I am aware of my sin, and I know that you are also. I ask you to forgive me and cleanse me. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I ask you to come into my life right now and begin to work in my life. Direct my life as you see fit. Thank you for your forgiveness and for coming into my life right now."
To read about a woman's struggle with a pornography addiction, go here.
(1) New York Times, May 20, 2001, "Naked Capitalists"
(2) John 8:31-32
(3) John 8:33
(4) John 8:34
(5) Isaiah 53:6
(6) 1John 1:9
(7) John 3:16
(8) John 10:10