As someone who has experienced the deep hold pornography can have on the life of an individual, I understand the acute level of distress, pain and frustration caused by this substance. I can attest to the overwhelming grasp it can have on a person, to the point where it lowers their self-confidence, inhibits their desire and ability to interact with others, stunts their pursuit of faith, and opens the door to symptoms of anxiety, guilt, shame and depression.
However, I can also say that pornography is not something that has to bind the heart, mind or life of an individual in any of these ways, and if we are serious about dealing with this phenomenon as a whole, we must understand the true starting point of such an endeavor, and it's not with pornography.
Guarding Our Heart
It would be easy to view the production and distribution of pornography as the primary issue we should be focusing on, particularly as it relates to putting an end to both, and yet by doing so I think we'd miss the most important place for us to begin.
There is a far more personal and meaningful starting point: guarding our heart.
Scripture addresses this matter clearly:
"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." - Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)
This verse is entirely relevant for our day, for with the advent of mobile technologies and the internet, pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation are not only easily accessible, they are literally placed before us when we're not searching for them. If we are unaware of how our hearts are being shaped and influenced by this influx of marketed sexuality, we can easily fall prey to the temptations that follow. However, we can avoid that pitfall by remaining aware of these influences and making choices in line with diligently guarding our hearts from them.
Time to Reflect
This is another reason why it is pivotal that we reflect upon how our worldview, assumptions and behaviors are being shaped by harmful cultural messages related to human sexuality. This type of reflection allows us to evaluate how we are actually living our lives, and recognize whether we've fallen prey to those stereotypes. If we have, we will need to begin doing the work necessary to shift our focus onto seeing, treating and respecting people as people, and not as objects to be had for our own gratification. Ultimately, we must determine in our hearts that we will not participate in any way with the exploitation of another's sexuality. Such a decision stands in stark contrast to current cultural trends and challenges us to hold a view of sexuality as sacred.
Split Second Decisions That Matter
It only takes seconds for someone to literally change the course of their life by clicking on a sexually driven advertisement or a link to a pornographic website. Some of you may think I am exaggerating this point, but I assure you I am not. It is impossible to fully convey the depth of pain I see individuals and couples experiencing because they opened the door of their heart to pornography. They didn't know it would eventually alter the course of their relationships and their lives.
So, what does staying or becoming free of pornography look like?
It looks like immediately shutting the door to every temptation luring you into the sexual exploitation of another human being.
The immediate shutting of that door reflects, for every individual, a declaration of liberty in the face of a culture of darkness. It is also an act of empowerment, a choice, in which we carefully determine how our hearts and minds will be influenced. These declarations and empowerments are beautiful, necessary, and accomplished with the help of the Lord who helps us to do what is right.
Quickly turning away from pornography, and from sexual exploitation, also allows our hearts and minds to remain free of entanglements related to lust and sexual addiction.
What Are We Turning To and Away From?
Dealing with something like pornography requires that we understand it is a play on lust, which is never satisfied. We see it, we enjoy it, and we need more to satisfy an ever growing hunger for it. But are we actually willing to deal with the pornography issue from the standpoint of lust?
If we are, we immediately draw upon a moral framework distinguishing between what is right and wrong, and also provide ourselves and others with the possibility of turning towards what is good and right. If we deny pornography as something dark, sinful and driven by human lust, we legitimize it at best, and celebrate it as worst as we merrily lose our way around sexuality.
It seems we are at a point where we must be willing to identify pornography for what it really is, so that we don't legitimize it, and so that we can provide ourselves, individually and nationally, with a compass by which we can navigate toward a harbor of safety and wisdom in preserving the value of human sexuality. If we throw away our moral compass, we lose ourselves entirely in this regard.
Orval Hobart Mowrer, the late American psychologist and former president of the APA, put it this way:
“For several decades we psychologists looked upon the whole matter of sin and moral accountability as a great incubus and acclaimed our liberation from it as epoch making. But at length we have discovered that to be free in this sense, that is, to have the excuse of being sick rather than sinful, is to court the danger of also becoming lost… In becoming amoral, ethically neutral and free, we have cut the very roots of our being, lost our deepest sense of selfhood and identity, and with neurotics, themselves, we find ourselves asking: Who am I, what is my deepest destiny, what does living mean?” (“Sin, the Lesser of Two Evils,” American Psychologist, 15 (1960): 301-304).
A New Way Forward
As a husband, father, and Christian based Marriage & Family Therapist, I am hopeful and optimistic that we will put an end to the production and distribution of pornography in our American culture. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, the starting point of change is with our own hearts, where we can decide to quickly shut the door to temptations drawing us towards the sexual exploitation of others. From that foundation, we can encourage others to do the same as we acknowledge pornography for the dark phenomenon that it is, and make headway into creating a new way forward for our culture, our children and our families.
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Eric Gomez, MS LMFT MHP
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling