Anyone who has ever hit rock bottom has wondered “how did I get here?” Like a modern day prodigal son we look at our surroundings and wonder how we ever got so far from our Father in the first place. Pornography addiction doesn’t start out as an addiction, it progresses to that point. You don’t go to bed one evening pure-minded and wholesome only to wake up another lust-filled and addicted. The desire for porn builds over time eventually turning into an almost untamable monster we must constantly feed. Where does this addiction begin?
It begins when we let our eyes linger on the girl whose jeans are just a little too tight
It begins when we see glimpses of bikini-clad women on television
It begins with that magazine cover at the grocery store and that billboard on the way home from work
It begins with that scene at the movies
It begins with just one look
Just. One. Look. That’s all it takes to head down towards a path of addiction. That’s not to say that everyone who lets their eyes linger a little too long will become a porn addict the next day. That’s not the point. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus addressed the teaching of the Pharisees who taught that you could lust all you want, just don’t sleep with someone else’s wife (Matthew 5:27). Jesus came in and told everyone, forget about the full blown act of adultery, don’t even start down that path (5:28-30). When it comes to sin, Jesus preached that we ought to go to the root of the problem and start there. That’s the point we’re making here. If we want to avoid porn addiction we’ve got to talk about where it starts, and it starts with the initial look. When you make that decision (sometimes it’s thrust upon you) to look a seed of lust is planted and from that point on you have to make the decision to cultivate the desire or kill it.
You might be wondering “what guy would actually choose to cultivate this addiction?” Good question. Out of all the guys I’ve talked to with a pornography problem, not one of them has ever said “I’m so happy I’m addicted to porn.” Very few men, especially Christian men, want to have this issue. So why do so many men continue to struggle? They struggle because it’s so much easier to keep looking, watching and clicking on links. Cultivating the desire is becoming increasingly easier every day and as the cultivating becomes easier the self control becomes harder. It’s hard to force yourself to look away, to change the channel and to shut the computer down. It even becomes hard to admit you have a problem in the first place!
So what do we do? How to we keep that one look from becoming full blown addiction? Here are a few thoughts:
First, we can do our best to look away. I understand how obvious that is, but seriously if we don’t want to struggle we need to learn not to look. We have to be proactive, not reactive. Satan is constantly looking for us (1 Peter 5:8), therefore we ought to be constantly on the lookout for him. Job was a guy who was proactive with his lust. He took it so seriously that he made a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at a woman (Job 31:1). Covenants were serious business in the Old Testament. This is not a if-I-break-this-covenant-it’s-no-big-deal-because-I-had-my-fingers-crossed kind of thing. This is a if-I-break-this-covenant-God-have-mercy-on-my-soul kind of a thing. If we want to avoid first (and second and third) looks we’ve got to be proactive not reactive. That means when we go clothes shopping we avoid walking by the women’s swimsuit/underwear aisle. That means we keep our eyes away from the magazine rack at the grocery store. That might even mean that we have to find a different route to work every day to avoid the billboards with lust-inciting images. Long exposure to porn has trained your brain to look intently. If we want to avoid porn addiction we have to learn to look away.
Second, we have to embrace community. The church is described as both a family and a body. A body of course is made up of various different parts that work together, and a family, whether we like each other or not, is always there for each other. We have to stop being so comfortable in church that we forget that everyone around us is a bunch of blood-bought sinners. Everybody has their problems and sins that Christ cleansed. We have to ask the rest of the body to help since that’s a big reason why the church exists (Gal. 6:1-2). Even if you’re a non-Christian the principle is still the same. We all need people to help us along. If we want to avoid porn addiction we have to embrace community. That means starting an accountability group. That means giving up computer passwords so your friends and family can keep tabs on your internet activity. That means opening up and confessing your shortcomings to those around you that you trust (James 5:16).
There’s more we could add here, but this is a good start. If we do our best to look away and learn to embrace community we can overcome the power of pornography and live a pure, God-pleasing life again.