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My wife and I were traveling somewhere - the destination I don’t remember, but I clearly remember the conversation.
Karen was talking about the moral failure of a pastor where she used to attend church. The pastor was looking at pornography, which led to an affair, which led to the breakdown of that family. She was angry about the impact on the family, church and community.
I was thinking…if she only knew. My heart was breaking. The burden and shame were crippling me.
You see, at that time I struggled with pornography.
Hello, My Name is…
It seems nowadays that everyone has an addiction of some kind. Some have even suggested that we are addicted to the word “addiction.” The reality for every human being is we learn to cope with the life we have been given. We find a way to cope with our journey. The challenge with our journey is that we are either turning towards Christ or we are turning away. My struggle with pornography, as you will see, was not a “banging down my door” experience. It promised me something it could never fulfill—“I can fulfill your longings.” What started out as dabbling became a way for me to manage my emotions and identity. I quickly built an idol for myself.
Throughout Scripture, idols are addressed. From Genesis through Revelation God condemns idols and tells His sons and daughters to turn to Him and away from false worship. In opening up about my struggle with the idol of pornography, three verses in particular came to my mind: Exodus 20:3-6 ESV, Psalm 135:15-18 ESV and Colossians 3:5 ESV.
Growing up I lived out a pretty strong Christian faith. I did not get involved in lots of the drama of high school, although I had my moments. In fact, I would often invite my close friends to church. I didn’t attend parties. I didn’t drink, smoke or have sex. I had a great core of friends in high school and was in an amazing youth group. I was a shy guy around girls; in fact, I went to my senior prom with my cousin who I was very close with.
In college I continued to grow in my faith. I had a college sweetheart until my senior year when I broke it off because I felt that was what God wanted me to do. It was an ugly breakup. I was ugly. So much of my identity was tied up in that relationship…
After college I started dating my wife. What started out as friendship developed into something much deeper. I asked her to marry me and after a turn of events and a few months she broke it off with me. It was during these very dark months for me that I turned to something that has haunted me ever since… pornography.
Living on my own—not really connected to a church or community, living as a residential director at a community college—was not the best environment for me. I turned to “soft porn” magazines which turned to the internet. When I look back on this short period of time in my life, I realize I did not guard my heart, but looked to medicate with what the world offered not what Christ offered. This led to reinforcing how much I didn’t measure up to anyone’s standards – not mine, my wife’s, or more importantly God’s. I remember thinking, “I am not hurting anyone. No one will know.” Boy was I wrong.
Eventually my wife and I got back together and married. I felt once I got married that it would fix a lot of my “issues” surrounding how I saw myself and the idols I had established. It did not. In fact, it got worse. These unmet expectations in my marriage (intimacy, communication, sense of worth, etc.) fueled my poor view of myself which led to me leading—and living—a double life.
As we were driving that day in Pennsylvania, about 4 years into our marriage, my life and marriage were falling apart. We were new parents, we were raising girls who were not our own, and the baggage we carried into our family began to overwhelm us. I could no longer be an “expert” in sin and idol management.
It was during that car ride that I came to the defense of that pastor. My wife was confused and then asked me that dreaded question, “Do you struggle with porn?” A shameful pause: “Yes.”
That simple word, “yes,” shattered my walls of shame and my double life crashed down like the walls of Jericho.
I have always struggled to find what is good and loveable about me. I lived a life that I thought God and my parents would be proud of. I didn’t drink or party. I didn’t smoke or do drugs. I remained a virgin until I was married. I followed all the rules…why did I feel so empty. I felt my performance—striving and fighting for my identity—would eventually win out over the poor way I looked at myself. Oh how I struggled internally. On the outside, I looked squeaky clean. On the inside I was a mess.
Over the course of the next few months, my wife and I went to counseling. The counseling provided opportunities for us to address our individual issues as well as the mess we needed to work through together. My wife’s past mixed with my self-perception and idols were a toxic combination that was slowly destroying our marriage. I was losing my wife and my greatest friend and ally. We longed to be whole. Over the course of that time we learned the valuable lessons of trust, unconditional love and extending grace. We allowed God to show up in the most painful parts of our lives.
Our culture is constantly looking to enslave us with pleasure. Addictions are everywhere. I sometimes find myself secretly saying, “be careful what you wish for,” when I hear people advocating their rights to everything and anything they desire. Our cultures’ definition of freedom enslaves our hearts by offering us empty promises.
Pornography is easily accessible and every single day is enslaving the hearts and minds of men and women, boys and girls. There is so much information out there about the harmful effects of pornography. A recent article from the former editor of a “soft porn” magazine stated that pornography is, "Like leaving heroin lying around." Please read, “Experiment that convinced me online porn is the most pernicious threat.” You will be shocked by the teens’ responses. It is not an easy read—especially when you know that those giving the answers are between the ages of 13-15.
As for me, I have come a long way. To say I no longer struggle would be a lie. But I have learned to protect myself in so many ways. Internet filters and safety nets; accountability groups and Bible Study. What has been most important though, is a strong marriage. What I have to guard against is that “doing all the right things” does not necessarily lead to the right outcomes. My heart is the key. A great process to walk through is found through Peacemaker Ministries, “The Progression of an Idol,” walks you through this process of unmet needs and how to win the battle against addictions.
I don’t want my sin management to lead to divorce management and custody management. Pornography’s promise of a fulfilled sex fantasy is exactly that…a fantasy with empty promises; an idol that leaves you empty.
I am not sure where you are in your journey. Maybe you are tired of living a “double life.” Maybe you know that your addiction has left you empty and is slowly destroying all that you have, including you. Don’t wait another minute… reach out.
The beauty of Christ is that he redeems us. He embraces us. He hates my sin but loves me despite it.
For those out there that struggle…there is hope. God promises restoration. (Psalm 517-12):
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
This is a fight for our hearts. This is a fight for our identity in Christ. This is a fight for our families and the hearts of our children. One of the most difficult things I will have to do is to sit down with my son and share my journey with him. I hope it allows him to understand the impact of giving in to temptation. Each and every day we have to guard against giving ground to what seeks our destruction. Typically it does not come as the gale force of a hurricane, but as a subtle “Hello, My name is….”
P.S. Focus has an incredible counseling service where you can reach out to someone and talk through your issue. They will then get you the right information to get you on the path to freedom. Christ came to set all captives free…and that includes you and me.
Roy Baldwin (@baldwin_roy) is a contributor for Dad Matters and the Director of Parenting & Youth at Focus on the Family.
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--An excellent, honest piece. We all have 'thorns' the deceiver uses to try and drive a wedge between us and God ... and us and others. When we deal with them openly and honestly, we short-circuit their power. Well done, Roy.
--Thanks for your words Rich. I so agree about "short circuiting." I often wonder as well when we are not transparent and honest how that also "short circuits" the church and Christian community. Love serving beside you at Focus.
--Thank you for this. My marriage was destroyed because of this same issue; it was ten years and 3 daughters before he told me; thirteen years later, he left, moved in with his girlfriend and married her 14 days after our divorce was final.
To me he said, in answer to 'how do you defend your decision theologically?' - 1. Scripture can be interpreted many ways; 2. good Christian people get divorced (presumably like us) and 3. we aren't married in heaven anyway.
Why does the church not confront this? Why is the message from the pulpit clear about smoking (now there's horrible sin) and drinking and drugs - but nothing about porn and adultery and fornication?
Has the church lost her men to the genital gods?
Where is the outcry?
Why are there DivorceCare groups and substance-abuse recovery groups but no damning of the specific idolatry of the pleasuring of self and and degradation of women, and girls, and boys IN THE CHURCH?
We make programs to rescue the trafficked while our men make use of the very industry in which these souls are enslaved.
And we wonder why God allows/appoints political leaders such as we have?
Where is the outcry? Where is the Nehemiah-solution as seen in chapter 13 verse 25? Are there no men left?
--@NBeise - I am so sorry for your loss. That is horrible how he misused Scripture for his own pleasure. I agree we have a "man" crisis in our culture. I think the reason we dont hear much about it is because I dont think we know how to talk about it. How often do we hear from the pulpit how important the family is or marriage is. Your point is that it is reactive. I agree. Blessings to you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts...
--Roy, three weeks ago I too was living a lie. Guys at work would talk about sex outside of marriage and I would be disgusted. Problem is, I am a recovering addict to porn. Three weeks ago after reading a Sunday school lesson for that week I realized I was living a lie. I would watch things on TV that I shouldn't and then feel guilty about it. It was a pattern that would repeat itself over and over. That Sunday morning was a turning point for me. during the altar call I got down on my knees and asked god for forgiveness. We had a meal after the service and while I was waiting to go home I realized I needed to speak to the pastor about it. For the first time in my decades of being addicted to soft porn, wait, porn, none of that garbage is soft, I actually talked to someone about it and asked him to pray for me. That did two things for me, it got it off my chest and I felt so relieved. It also forced me to have an accountability partner that will quiz me on how I acted that week. A few days later I came clean with my wife and confessed the same thing to her. She knew I had a problem and also knew that someday I would have to deal with it.
Now, I struggle with this, I know I can not be complacent about this ever again. I need to be on my constant guard and not allow this in any shape or form to enter my psyche. I will be driving along and Satan will lead me down a path psychologically that I know will lead to images of nudity. I tell him to get out of my truck and leave me alone. He does and I am able to move on.
Realizing I had a problem was not the problem, I knew I had a problem but was not willing to deal with it until I had to. I couldn't pray and read the scriptures and then with those same eyes look at porn and let those images harass me.
--Far too many people think that it is only magazines or the internet porn. My husband has a problem just being near a attractive young woman. He will stare at her until she becomes uncomfortable. He is usually having a sexual fantasy in his mind with her. He doesn't need porn. Jesus said if you look upon a woman with lust in your heart, then you have committed adultery. But my husband thinks what he does isn't hurting anyone, after all he didn't touch her.....but he did with his mind! I have told him how disrespectful it is to me and the woman he stares at. He says I am try to keep him from being a man. I am sure he can't tell you the message from God at church each Sunday because a young blonde woman attends. His time is spent trying to see how many excuses he can come up with to look her way. This is in God's house. I have told him that what he does is a sin and an addiction. I have argued, cried, begged and pleaded. I give up. I told him it is between him and God. He said he can't touch me without thinking of someone else...hurtful words.....
--@rglenndoty - Thanks for sharing. I so appreciate your zeal to conquer this and take ownership. I know those feelings. You are not alone. I am glad you have accountability and that your wife has extended unconditional love towards you. I agree that sharing it helps break down the isolation and shame associated with that sin. Blessings to you...I hope you will continue to follow our blog as we hope to be as real and authentic yet inspire men and dads to be more like Christ.
--Dear @bluetears...I am so sorry for your pain. I am sorry that you have a husband who is unwilling. I knew after that conversation in the car that I needed to do everything I could to breathe new life into my marriage. It took a long time to win back the trust of my wife. She was worth it and I am so glad that she felt I was. We both longed to Honor the Lord. I hope you feel you could share this blog with your hubby. What he is doing is wrong and he needs to man up. We are not victimized by our longings and choices. It sounds like he is unwilling to change...please feel free in reaching out to one of our counselors. They might be able to give some suggestions on next steps for you. You deserved to be Honored...your marriage deserves to be honored. Thanks for sharing.
--Thank you for your post Roy. It is a reminder of the most difficult time in my own marriage.
MEN. It's important for to remember a few things:
1) It doesn't matter HOW silly you may think it is that your wife is offended by whatever you're looking at women/porn/tv shows etc. If she is offended by it, even if it's just the silly cover of the latest tabloid, you better be offended by it too. Hopefully you married your wife because you LOVE her. And hopefully you Love the Lord too. Really MEN. It's time to MAN UP!
I've got to ask you, as a MAN, why WOULDN'T you give up these things you argue with your wife are SMALL or HARMLESS? If you REALLY think it's not a problem for you and that it's nothing for her to worry about, then you have just proved to her that it ALSO won't be a problem for you to give it up.
GIVE IT UP!...looking at porn, or other women, or browsing the victoria secret magazines or the checkout stand magazines or the movies or TV you watch..
Are you MAN enough to go to the "family friendly" checkout line at the grocery store so you don't have to look at the magazines?
Are you MAN enough to quit watching TV or MOVIES or ENTERTAINMENT for 40 days, or even just 7 days, and spending all that time getting to know your wife. (A 40 day entertainment fast was one of the most productive things I ever did for myself or marriage)
2) The struggles we face start in our minds and in our eyes....and you thought the flesh was difficult enough...
3) Don't be deceived. WE ARE IN A BATTLE! (Ephesians 6:10-20) I've been porn free for about 2 yrs now, but it has NOT been easy. I struggled for many years prior in what seemed like a loosing battle. It became so difficult and frustrating for my wife that she threatened to leave me. She wasn't going to divorce me....but she WAS going to get away from me until the problem was gone. She wanted nothing to do with it. I kept thinking she was going overboard...but she had this uncanny way of knowing when I had had a recent struggle, and she'd ask me "So, how are you doing?...run into anything?" Most of the time I would lie and tell her no....but eventually I would break down and tell her.
Guys, I'm speaking from my own experiences here, but if it seems like this is something you're not able to shake, you may be experiencing more than just your own desires, you may be facing demonic oppression. It was real in the days of Jesus, and it is real in this day as well. It doesn't pardon you, but it does take an already present spiritual illness and make it much much worse. I noticed a NIGHT and DAY difference in my ability to handle struggles after rebuking the demons of sexual immorality and pornography in my life, in Jesus' Name. I just wish it hadn't taken me so many years to do it!
Oddly enough, afterwards my struggle with porn was seemingly non-existant...but my struggle to keep my eyes from wandering on SIMPLE things became ever harder. We are NEVER free from the tireless attempts our enemy makes on our lives and our minds and our marriages....Not until Jesus returns. We are PROTECTED, but not free from attacks. Remember that our enemy has studied us since birth, and our fathers, and our fathers fathers. All temptations start with something small...like seeing a beautiful women jogging on your drive home from work...seeing those busty women on the magazine covers at the checkout stands...seeing sensuality on our TV showa, movies, billboards, videogames, everywhere. You have to keep your mind constantly in check. You must always be alert and aware. Do NOT let your guard down.
4) Don't think that any sexual image is too small. Victoria secret? Checkout counter magazines? Heck...I can't even walk into Target without being bombarded by scantly clad women on clothing posters. Don't even get me started with going to the lingerie section with my wife... Sex sells for a reason. Remember the phrase, "get a foot in the door." ...that's all Satan wants...and when your eyes are always open, it is a difficult door to keep shut unless you are mindful of your eyes. Another way of putting it..."it only takes one fly to ruin the ointment." Remember that. I'm reminded of Gordan Dalby's book, "There are no small snakes." Great read. Even the SMALLEST snake can kill you...and often...it's the smallest that are the deadliest.
5) Remember Jesus said "Mat 6:22-23 `The lamp of the body is the eye, if, therefore, thine eye may be perfect, all thy body shall be enlightened, but if thine eye may be evil, all thy body shall be dark; if, therefore, the light that is in thee is darkness--the darkness, how great!" In other words, where are your eyes? What are you putting into them? Where are those thoughts going? ...You say you're not hurting anyone? Do you think your thoughts don't hurt your wife? Do you think your thoughts don't offend or hurt the person you're projecting them onto? Are you HONORING these women with your thoughts?
6) PLAN. PROVIDE. PROTECT. PURSUE. PERSEVERE. Be intentional with loving your wife and family. Be intentional in the way you spend your time and thoughts and efforts. What are you doing? What are you planning? What thoughts are you providing to your wife? What images do your eyes see and mind perceive that you would not want your wife or daughter to hear/see? Are you protecting your family with your thoughts? Do you know that every thought you have affects your life? Take every thought captive! Protect your family. Pursue God and Persevere.
2Co 10:4-6 for the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful to God for bringing down of strongholds, reasonings bringing down, and every high thing lifted up against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of the Christ, and being in readiness to avenge every disobedience, whenever your obedience may be fulfilled.
7) MEN. Remember that even if you have no wife, we are still called the bride of Christ! Honor God with our thoughts and actions. With our eyes and ears. Honor the woman you WILL marry in the future, that God has for you. Keep your ways pure. Don't even let there be a hint of sexual immorality among you, for you are called to be pure for Christ. For those of you that are married...I hope that you'll MAN UP and show your wife that she is worth ALL your TIME, ATTENTION, EYES, EARS, and HEART. Don't you dare let anything (no matter how small) come between you and your wife. You married her to prove something to her....and I hope you will remember to keep proving it every day.
DO get angry with your man. Honor and respect him, but do not be complacent with his struggles. Help and encourage him, but do not settle for mediocrity. You are worth ALL his eyes, and ears, and thoughts. If you're not getting it and you've been honest with him...go get help. Hold him accountable.
My wife finally went and told some woman in the church...which was VERY awkward for me...but it was one of the best things she could have done, short of kicking me out of the house, hahaha. My wife loves me enough that she WILL make things awkward for me if, after countless attempts, I haven't gotten my act together. The best thing you can do is progressively ease your husband into an area of accountability. Be gentle with him, but firm.
....hmmm...maybe I should write a book on my 21 year struggle with this.... The last 7 yrs were pretty intense, and THANK YOU GOD things have changed so much now.
--Here's the mindset problem we have in our modern times. In the beginning... Adam and Eve in the garden was perfect. Since the fall, life has not been perfect...
We do not know what God's plan was to proceed in perfection because it was changed.
YHWH God knew this before HE created us.
God YHWH never punished man for having more than one wife. In fact HE God, gave all of Saul's wives to David, 2 Samuel 12: 7-8. David was not punished for having many wives and concubines. He was punished for breaking YHWH's laws. Adultery (another man's wife) and Murder. In 1 Kings 15:5, the Bible says David was perfect except for these two infractions.
In Deuteronomy 21:15 it speaks about" if a man having two wives", he must be sure to give the first born child his proper place even if the child is from the unloved wife.
YHWH God created sex. Why has Sex has been turned into something that can not be expressed in our times except by the media. Pornography is the result of misunderstanding life. People unable to communicate and live sexually with women are lured into nonsense imaginations. Not sure how the cultures adopted the one wife view, except due to economic hardships and ignorance foisted upon the people by those in authority over the centuries.
Get out of pornography, get into God's (YHWH) word and get real people!
-- Four years ago, I discovered my husband was addicted to porn, and had been since childhood! He professed that he was a born-again Christian, and was very skilled at hiding his addiction. From the beginning of our marriage, was never affectionate with me, and avoided intimacy with me. Because the lack of intimacy was not a major change from his "norm", I chalked it up to the fact that he had grown up in a non-affectionate home. I picked myself apart trying to figure out what was "wrong" with me that caused him to avoid intimacy with me. We sought counseling for our differences, but nothing about porn was ever uncovered. He knew all the Christian ways to act and talk, so he hid his addiction very well. When I confronted him about the sites that I found that he had been visiting, his comment to me was "that's just the way men are wired".
Well I, like the rest of humanity, am wired to lie, steal, cheat, lust, be prideful, and all the other possible sins, but THAT IS NO EXCUSE!! I am tempted to sin every day, but just because "I'm wired that way", does not give me a "get out of jail free" card!
I have e-mailed the pastor of the mega-church I am a member of, and asked him to please address this rampant issue of porn among men because of the damning consequences it has on marriages and families. Like another wife had commented, porn addiction is brushed under the rug, but covetousness, greediness, pridefulness etc. are discussed ad nauseum. Such sins, I consider as affecting the individual, for the most part, even though sins such as these can affect relationships. But nothing is more damaging to a marriage and family than sexual sin! In the day of divorce rates among Christians being the same as non-Christians, I would hope that the church would help address (and define) sexual sin. I sometimes wonder if a reason for this is that perhaps more pastors than we think are either involved in, or struggle with pornography themselves and want to avoid the issue so as not to feel totally hypocritical.
--@kballard - I am so sorry. Men "are wired for intimacy." We are wired for intimacy with our Heavenly Father. We are wired for intimacy with our spouse. We are wired for intimacy with our children....etc. The challenge as you have pointed out is sin. Sin has hijacked our worship of Him, and has hijacked the honor of marriage and being a parent.
You are right we need to address this. I have been blown away by so many response (not just here on this blog) like yours that men's responses are calloused and hard hearted towards their wives.
I always knew my struggle was sin...it was addressing the shame associated with it. I felt like I could handle it on my own...I never could. Darkness cannot thrive in "the light."
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights in this. I will be praying for your situation for repentance and reconciliation for your husband.
--@skennedy - thanks for sharing your journey with us and that you can have victory over this. That we can have victory over sin. That we can know that Christ can set us free. I love your words:
"PLAN. PROVIDE. PROTECT. PURSUE. PERSEVERE. Be intentional with loving your wife and family. Be intentional in the way you spend your time and thoughts and efforts. What are you doing? What are you planning? What thoughts are you providing to your wife? What images do your eyes see and mind perceive that you would not want your wife or daughter to hear/see? Are you protecting your family with your thoughts? Do you know that every thought you have affects your life? Take every thought captive! Protect your family. Pursue God and Persevere."
Thanks again for your encouragement to be the men and women God has called us to be.
--I"m with NBeise. My somewhat jaded view is that the Church (particularly the male leadership) is ignoring the problem. And it is one of the biggest problems the Church has. It is poisoning us.
My experiences include years of sexual abuse as a child by four different people (two of them church people, a female deacon and a male elder with a degree in Bible).
I look at the statistics on pornography and sexual sin and wonder: Why do all the voices crying out about this belong to women? If 53% of men in the church are using pornography, why haven't they been disqualified from leadership?
Perhaps we'd do something if 53% of the men who came to church on Sunday were throwing up as they sat down.
Using conservative statistics, about 22% of the adults in the pews (1 in 4 women, 1 in 6 men, 61% of church attendees are women) on Sunday are survivors of sexual abuse or assault before they turned 18. But the Church seems to think we need programs to identify pedophiles and keep them away from our kids (and we should). But what about healing for the survivors?
Sexual abuse, sexual assault, adultery, fornication and pornography are some of the best tools the enemy has in his arsenal to destroy people and we are silent about it. Sexual sin (either the sins we commit or the sins that are committed against us) is a direct attack on the image of God in each of us and is extremely efficient in inflicting life-long damage.
But the Church remains silent. That has to change. And men have to be the ones to finally say, "No more. This must stop. Now." Otherwise, as NBeise said, the men will be lost to the genital gods. The Church is becoming an outpost of the enemy camp. We watch out for the wolves who would come in and do damage while ignoring the wolves we admire inside our walls.
I can go on and on. 100,000 US Citizen children trafficked into sexual slavery each year. And the demand increases. 829,000 adult women raped each year in this country. And pornography is the major gateways into this nightmare.
We need Grace. Humility. Honesty. Integrity. And, perhaps, polygraphs.
We cannot be the Church when we have secrets.
It's got to stop.
-- @TeddCadd - Love your words; "men have to be the ones to finally say, "No more. This must stop. Now." I think you are right. I think we do it with a firm BUT loving hand. The church is silent on this but they are also silent on the family as well. The imporantance of strong marriages and strong families.
Thanks for sharing your heart and passion. I am writing a follow-up piece that will definitely be capturing some of your thoughts and others who are fed up.