John began viewing pornography when he was 12 years old. It was a total accident. He was introduced to it by a close friend. Unfortunately, he has struggled with it ever since. John is 35 now, with two kids, and well into his second marriage. He has a hard time trusting anyone or opening up to anyone—least of all his wife and kids, and he tends to look at pornography on his tablet and phone when everyone is asleep—but only on days when he’s really stressed at work.
John’s wife, Sophia, suspects that he might be viewing pornography, but she’s too hurt and angry to even begin to have a conversation about it with him. So they only talk about “safe” topics—like the kids or appointments and world events.
He often wonders why he looks at porn and why he can’t seem to stop. Whenever he looks at it, he feels guilt and shame—just plain dirty, like he’s a disappointment to God. After every occasion, John swears that he’ll stop—but he never does. Sometimes he justifies his involvement by thinking, I mean, it’s not drugs—and this stuff is everywhere. I mean, every guy I know does it. It’s not as though I’m sleeping around or cheating on my wife. I’m not really hurting anyone. But, in the end, John still feels like he’s in a prison of his own making.
So is pornography wrong? And if it is, why? How do people get hooked, and most important, is there any hope for a return to lasting freedom, joy, and peace?
why pornography is wrong
Let’s begin by asking why pornography is wrong. I’ll begin by pointing out that sexual pleasure is a gift given to us humans by God. However, He placed it under strict constraints: it is to be experienced only between men and women who are married to each other. Neither man nor woman is to engage in sexual relationships with a person to whom they are not married, whether of the opposite gender or the same gender.
And Jesus clarified that lusting or fantasizing about the body of a person to whom one is not married is also committing adultery with that person (Matthew 5:27, 28). And viewing pornography, whether in print or on the web, is experiencing sexual pleasure from either looking at another person’s nude body or looking at people engaged in any sort of sexual activity.
how a person becomes addicted
So why do people become addicted? In part, addiction happens because of chemical changes in the brains and bodies of those who are engaged in these behaviors. Many kids and teens are consuming porn, and with the invention of the internet, the time from first exposure to full-blown addiction is an astounding two months—that’s all! And addicted teens make addicted adults. And addicted adults are not connected to their spouses, their kids, their church, their jobs, their friends, or their God!
Pornography is addictive because it stimulates sexual feelings, which are very pleasurable. When we have sex, see people having sex, or see naked people, our brains produce natural drugs called endorphins. They make us feel good, and we want more.
But porn is not sex. Porn is a cheap substitute for the beautiful act of sex between a husband and wife, and we have the devil to thank for it! All this feels really good, and our brains get programmed to look at this stuff again and again to get that same high.
how we get into the trap
The process of addiction is no surprise. In fact, it makes a lot of sense. This is the way we get used to anything. Several things typically happen when we continue to look at pornography:
We become interested. This is where our problems begin. Remember, I said that porn is a cheap substitute? We are naturally drawn to sex because God gave us a sex drive, but when we let our curiosity get the better of us outside the confines of marriage, we’re in for some serious trouble!
We become addicted. With consistent and purposeful exposure to this stuff, we can get addicted in two short months—and then we will struggle with it for a lifetime!
We are desensitized. The more we look, the more we look. The more we look, the more we want. As with any addiction, the first time is always the greatest! But that isn’t enough. If addicts persist, they usually end up going to the next stage, which is acting out! If it isn’t with a real person, it may be over the phone; in a video chat; through email, texting, or some other form of virtual connection—or worse still, we may decide that we want to start having sex with people.
We act out. This is the ultimate end to the problem of addiction. When we reach this stage, the sky is the limit. I’ve met people who have reached this point and have ruined their lives, the lives of their parents and families, and the lives of other people as well. If you are presently having sex that started with a pornography addiction, please get help. Your life may depend on it!
dealing with addiction to pornography
Here are seven things that you can do to get free and remain free and clean from an addiction to pornography:
- Be honest with yourself and acknowledge that you have a problem. If you can’t take this first crucial step, you won’t be able to move forward with the rest of the healing process. People won’t take medicine if they don’t think they’re sick.
- Confess your sin to God and ask for His forgiveness. Once He has forgiven you, believe Him! First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
- Be accountable to another person. Tell someone you can trust about your addiction. There’s biblical support for this practice:
- Proverbs 27:17 says, “Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other” (CEV*).
- In Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10, we read that “you are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble” (CEV).
- And in James 5:16, the apostle wrote, “If you have sinned, you should tell each other what you have done. Then you can pray for one another and be healed” (CEV).
One of the best things you can do is to make a commitment to yourself and perhaps even to your accountability partner that any time you feel the temptation to look at pornography, you will call him or her before you look up a porn website or look at nude images in a magazine.
I also encourage you to join a 12-step group that deals with sexual addiction, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sexaholics Anonymous. There is no fee for attending these meetings, though they typically “pass the hat” for voluntary contributions. Also, consider contacting an appropriate counselor or therapist who specializes in this issue.
- Dispose of all pornographic material in your house, along with anything that can lead to pornography. Among these are music, romantic novels (even “Christian” ones), and magazines. This is essential, because it will be impossible for you to look at pornography you don’t have around the house. Of course, there will still be the computer and smartphone, and here is where you can make the commitment to call your mentor before you look at a porn website.
- Change your thought patterns; then your behavior will change as well. But remember that you can’t do this alone. Pray that God will give you the spiritual power to give up pornographic thoughts. The apostle Peter said that we can “participate in the divine nature,” which will give us the power to escape “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4). Whenever you feel tempted to think a lustful thought, turn instantly to God for His help.
- Connect with God every day. This especially includes Bible study and prayer. I recommend that you spend at least one hour a day as your devotional time. It’s best to do this first thing in the morning before you get so busy with life’s duties that you fail to set aside the time. During your prayer time, spend several minutes asking God to help you through to victory and confess any failures you may have experienced in the previous 24 hours.
- Educate yourself about the issue. It’s important to learn as much as you can about the problem you’re dealing with. This is no different from educating yourself about something like being diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes. To deal with any disease process—and addiction is a disease process—you must first arm yourself with knowledge.
never give up!
If you fall down, get up and keep on trying. And remember that you can conquer a sexual addiction only with God’s help. Claim the biblical promise that “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of him who called us.” And remember that you can “participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3, 4). God’s power is available to help you conquer your addiction to pornography!
* Bible verses quoted from CEV are from the Contemporary English Version®. Copyright © 1995 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.
Omar Miranda was the last editor of Insight magazine, a former Seventh-day Adventist publication for teens. He also contributes frequently to Signs of the Times®. He lives in Plainville, Georgia.