Struggles With Pornography
As we have kicked off a new year, there is an important issue that I haven’t addressed for quite some time. I think it’s time to do so.
Sexual addiction is a major problem in the ministry. While I was at Focus on the Family, we estimated that up to 20 percent of pastors have a problem with pornography. One day, one of our assistants in the Pastoral Ministries Department said that she had received five calls just that morning from pastors on the issue of pornography. Initially, I thought the callers were looking for counseling aids to help others, but I soon discovered that they themselves were hooked. One had been struggling for more than 20 years.
Unfortunately, whether you are a man or a woman, pornography may be a problem these days. With all of the benefits the Internet has brought us, it has also facilitated great temptations to view or act upon improper things. As we teach our early adolescents, “garbage in, garbage out.” What you ingest into your life will leave its mark. When you give in to temptation once, it is so much easier the next time. Fighting the lure of pornography is a major battle for many of us — probably most of us — but it is a battle we must win each and every day — for the sake of our ministries, for the sake of our marriages, for the sake of our souls.
My longtime friend and one of the great experts on this subject, Dr. Archibald Hart, has conducted extensive research which concludes that sex has become dehumanized. In many circles, it is no longer regarded as an act between loving, responsible couples. Sex has become a sport. And, as in all sports, there is a strong desire to improve one’s performance. Pornography is a sport, too, and ministers are not excluded from the game.
By dehumanizing and desensitizing us to improper sexual thoughts and actions, pornography destroys our ability to have relationships of integrity and trust. The fantasy game becomes our new reality. While we may think that nothing has changed, we lose certain desires for our spouses. We view our children differently. We see many of our relationships within the church and within society through a new filter. And, truth be told, the main person who is fooled and doesn’t see a difference is oneself.
How do we break the pattern of pornography? First, we must realize that we choose our behavior. The men I have counseled say they could never break the habit gradually. It had to be done cold turkey. The Sexual Man, Dr. Hart’s book, makes the following suggestions for the man who is faced with a pornography habit or any other sexual addiction:
- Be honest with yourself and acknowledge that you have a problem.
- Be accountable to another person. Tell someone else you can trust about your addiction.
- Dispose of all the pornographic material you own. Don’t keep any of it. If you’re tempted to rent DVDs, don’t go near a video store of any kind. If you have Internet bookmarks or downloads, get rid of them … now!
- Be patient, and resist feeling defeated each time you fail. Your addiction took time to develop; it will take time to overcome.
- Pray about your problem. Rely on God for deliverance and strength. God promises to make a difference in our lives. Allow Him to give you the special strength you need to overcome this battle. Be especially alert to His constant presence with you, and let His will be done.
If you still struggle, seek professional help from a counselor who specializes in sexual addiction. To speak to someone on Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Care Line, call 1-844-4PASTOR. To speak to a general counselor, or for a referral to a counselor in your area, call 1-800-AFAMILY. For a list of resources and other help, visit the Thriving Pastor web site.
One last thing. As difficult as it might be for some of us, our spouses must act as an enabler to healing. That means not only do we confess our challenges, but we give permission to our mates to ask us the difficult questions. If you are serious about resisting temptation, you need everyone’s help — especially those who love you the most.
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
©2014 HB London. Originally posted on HB London’s Heart of a Pastor Blog.