Lust and porn foremost damage our relationship to Christ.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”Proverbs 28:13
A Christian man fighting for purity while embattled in the sin of pornography use is not alone. In fact, recent surveys say the number of Christian men—and even pastors—using and addicted to porn is “staggering,” even “shocking.”1
And the spread of porn seems to be only increasing, as smartphones make secrecy about what someone views online easier,2 use begins earlier in life,3 and men/boys drag women/girls into porn-like sexual relations.4
Setting aside the statistics or modes of consumption, porn use clearly disrupts relationships. This conclusion has been reached even by non-Christians. See recent exhortations to stop viewing porn by GQ magazine and the comic Russell Brand.
But Christians have more to say on the issue, of course. We aren’t concerned only about damaged sexuality and marital relationships. We’re concerned foremost about the damage porn and lust do to our most important relationship, that with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And we know that Jesus died on the cross to free us from sin.
With that in mind, we met with a man at Calvary Memorial whom God has recently given victory over porn addiction. We've chosen to keep this person anonymous, but for the sake of the article, we are calling him Robert—yes, a derivative of the classic generic "Bob." We encourage you to listen into Robert's story, whether you struggle with porn now, have been delivered, or have never been embattled by this deadly, soul-killing adversary.
Perhaps Robert's story will give you insight or courage to talk to someone. Calvary has a couple men's purity groups that meet weekly. If you would like to join one of these groups, please contact Pastor Gerald.
Interviewer When were you first exposed to pornography?
Robert It was probably at my cousin’s house or my neighbor’s house down the street. It was probably eighth or ninth grade. My cousins had magazines hidden and we all looked at them together. My friend down the street, his older brother had them hidden, and he said, “You should come check this out.”
Int You were a Christian at the time?
Robert Yes. The thought was always there that this was not appropriate to look at. But the appeal was always stronger than the desire to do what was right.
Int Were you looking at porn around the time you met your wife?
Robert We met in my junior year of college, and I told her I had done it before. Her response was that if I ever did it again to let her know. It wasn’t until graduation that I did it again for a brief time, but I didn’t tell her.
Int So, at some point you returned to looking at porn? Why?
Robert It was sometime soon after we were married. For the majority of my married life it’s been an issue. There’s been more time I’ve been deceptive toward my wife, telling her everything is fine, when in actuality it was just the opposite. Eventually it came to the point where I was being dishonest with her almost daily. The “why” has always been a difficult question to answer.
Int Did it affect your relationship with your wife?
Robert Yes, but she couldn’t put a finger on how it affected things. It was just that there was something I was keeping from her. It was like there was a dark cloud over my head.
Int Why didn’t you tell her?
Robert There were a number of reasons, but primarily I didn’t want to be done with it. There’s also a pride there not wanting to admit this is an issue, that I’ve messed up again. Plus, there’s the fact of how it hurt my wife—that I didn’t want to see her in the state of mind where she’s shaking because she’s so upset.
Int What was her response to knowing you were viewing porn?
Robert She felt that when I was involved in that I would treat her more as an object instead of a spouse. Sexually, primarily, but also outside the bedroom. She could tell that there was a problem between us, but from my perspective I wouldn’t necessarily notice it. But there was a distance between us; I didn’t necessarily want to spend time with her, or I would want to make sure things were always busy so there wasn’t time to talk about issues. There was always a fear she was going to find out.
Int How did you keep it from her all of those years?
Robert To keep things hidden from my wife, I would erase things from the computer or phone. I would delete the history on the browser and remove any cookies that my wife might somehow come across. I would then change the date on the computer and then go back online so there would be things in the browser's history. I hoped this would give the impression that the things I had been looking at on the computer were okay.
Int What was the lowest point in all of this? How bad did it get?
Robert Eventually it came to be a daily thing. Once smartphones came into the picture, it was so much easier because I had my own phone. I could be in another room, with the kids in the house … it was just much easier to hide it from other people because now we’re on our own individual devices.
During this time I thought, “Is there any hope of breaking this pattern?” It just seemed to have become so entrenched that I almost seemed hopeless.
Int What happened to turn things around?
Robert My wife eventually had no sexual desire. She said she was prepared to never have sex again, and started to wonder if there was something wrong with her. So finally I admitted it. She would be so mad at me, I can see her shaking and saying, “It’s not so much you looked at porn, it’s that you lied about it.”
I had come clean a few times before that. But it would be a year, six months, or whatever, and I would fall back into the pattern of lying to her again before I would finally crack under the pressure and come clean again.
I was finally to the point where I hated the pattern I was in and thought, “OK, somehow this has to be dealt with.” I knew I had to get help at the church.
Int So how is coming clean different this time?
Robert Well, first, coming to speak to someone on staff here at Calvary has helped. In the past I had done that but there wasn’t a follow-through on it. We looked at the underlying issues, why people are drawn to porn. And then, setting up an accountability group after that. Now on my smartphone there’s accountability software that if something is triggered on my phone, it sends a message to my accountability partners. I’ve hooked up with a small group here at the church as well. And they’re made aware of my struggles.
I think coming out and admitting my difficulty has made a difference. There’s been more of a freedom letting people know compared to keeping it inside. In reading Proverbs I came across 28:13—I was always good at concealing my sin but couldn’t understand how you could find mercy if you let people know what your issue is. But I’ve found that’s totally true now.
So now when I’m tempted to look at something, my mindset now is, “OK, that’s who I was. By God’s grace I’m not that person anymore, so why should I go back to that?”
Int In what ways have you seen God working to free you from this pattern?
Robert Some of it is knowing one day I’ll be held accountable for my actions; that I’ll stand before God and my actions will be revealed. That was a motivating factor for getting things right. There would have been a sense of shame appearing before God and being such a letdown to other believers once they found out about my evil deeds.
Int What advice can you give to someone still struggling with impurity?
Robert The hardest thing would be to tell your wife, or if even you’re single, to have that accountability. Not just a call to check in, but have that accountability software on your phone or computer so people will know if you’ve looked at something inappropriate and they can talk to you about it. Definitely seek counsel with the ministry staff. That’s been invaluable for me, being able to talk about it with other people. Realize you’re not the only one with this issue, and that there’s mercy in coming forward.
Int How has this changed your relationship with your wife?
Robert It’s drastically different. There’s an intimacy that goes beyond sexual intimacy. There’s an emotional connection. She said that even the way I touch her non-sexually, it just feels different. From my perspective, that dark cloud is no longer hanging over me. The shackles are gone.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”James 5:16
3 A 2008 study by researchers at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire found that about 15% of boys had seen pornography by age 12. By the next year, a survey of 29,000 college students found that 51% of male students and 32% of female students viewed pornography before they were 12. These studies predate the widespread use of smartphones.
4 See this article about the lasting physical and mental effects of “dubious consent” on young adolescent girls trying to get along with porn-watching boys. Note this article contains information some will find disturbing or even triggering.