I wrote a post similar to this a while back when I saw an article by a young woman who expressed her sympathy for men because of how hyper-sexualized our culture is. For this I applauded her, and her article is worth a read if only because she does a good job at exposing just how large and ugly a problem this hyper-sexualization is, including pointing out just how prevalent pornography is in the church (50% of men, 20% of women use it).
But I didn't post it, because it was too personal and I didn't really want to share it. But today I saw an article entitled 7 Good Reasons To Stop Looking At Porn Right Now and the anger and disgust all came back. It is clear to me now that there is a significant number of Christians who just don't understand pornography and its effects on people, and so I am going to post that original blog post, with a few updates to reflect the article I saw today, in the hope of maybe helping people who haven't been down this road to understand it.
So you should go read her article and come back to read me complain about it and also Tim Challies's article.
So what do I have to complain about? Freaking platitudes.
This isn't a very closely held secret of mine, though I almost never bring it up voluntarily, but lust and pornography are stumbling blocks of mine. A "besetting sin" if you will. I discovered pornography by accident in the 6th grade, and used it almost daily until the time I entered college. Fortunately for me, my senior year of college someone pulled me aside and quoted bible verses and platitudes at me until I stopped sinning.
Oh wait, no, that's not how it happened.
You see, while I am sure that Ms. Koistinen has every good intention, and while she certainly has a fix on the problem, she has no solution to the problem. Platitudes and Bible verses don't help someone in the position I was in in college and high school, and now, after all these years of struggling, when I have just the tiniest amount of control over my demons, platitudes and Bible verses are downright insulting.
Mr Challie is even less helpful. I had plenty of reasons to quite looking at porn. Porn is not fun to look at. I felt awful after every time I used it. But it was addicting, and I kept going back to it. I hated myself for it, but I was powerless to stop. In short, it became, and still is, an addiction. So as you can imagine its a bit infuriating when Mr. Challie says "For the sake of your soul, stop looking at pornography." Yes! I understood that! Even when I was in highschool I knew it was destroying my soul! But what Mr. Challie fails to understand is that having a reason to quit is not the same as having the power to quit. I wanted to quit so bad. I prayed for it daily. I begged God to take it away from me. But it never happened.
What I needed then, and still need now, is help. I need(ed) accountability, I need(ed) guidance. The thing that sent me on the path to recovery in college wasn't Romans 6:11-14, it was a school counselor named Scott. Who told me that if I wanted to beat this thing I had to take my desktop computer home to Ohio and lock up my laptop when I wasn't using it for school work. So I did.
That's when I started to have victory.Unfortunately, graduation came and I couldn't see the school counselor anymore. I knew I'd need to get help somewhere so, after moving to Texas, I tried to find it in a men's Bible study. No dice. There was lots of talk, lots of "I'll pray for you"s, but never any action. Never a call out of the blue to ask how it was going. Porn was never brought up unless I was the one bringing it up, and I know I wasn't the only guy who used it.
So out of desperation I ponied up 400 dollars a month for a counselor. Things improved, but it took physically handing him my cable modem and canceling my smartphone's dataplan to really make progress. Did you know that the brain takes 30 days to unlearn bad habits? I told everyone I was doing an "internet" detox for those 30 days. That I wanted to try managing my time better. By this point I knew that you can't talk about pornography amongst Christians, not seriously anyway, so I stopped trying. There were maybe three people who knew the truth: that I was desperately trying to beat an addiction to pornography that had started over a decade ago when a 12 year old who didn't know any better typed "sex" into a yahoo search engine because Google wasn't even a thing yet.
The thirty days came and went, I couldn't afford to pay 400 a month for help anymore so I said goodbye to my counselor. I tell this story because I want to make three points very clear:
1) Pornography is not something that can be well wished away.
2) This isn't just a "the culture is hyper-sexualized" problem, it is also a lack of support problem.
3) Pornography addiction is a real and common thing. It affects the brain the same way drugs do.
So, to bring this back, while I applaud Ms. Koistinen for actually talking about this, I find her platitudes unhelpful at best and depressing at worse. When I was in the depths of my struggles such platitudes were fuel to beat myself up with. Now that I am past all that its just insulting. Platitudes didn't save me from over a decade of pain and strife, three years of swallowing my pride and seeking help from men who could help me saved me from it! Mr. Challie is even worse, because I had reasons to quite all along!
As respectfully as possible, this is not a struggle someone who hasn't been through can really understand. There is actual hard science that proves pornography affects the brain in ways that are similar to drug use. This is a fight that needs better weapons than platitudes and sympathy, it needs accountability and action. The people going through it need more than your sympathy, Ms Koistinen. They need more than your reasons to quite, Mr. Challie. They need the help of people who have been through it before and who have the scars to prove it. If you want to help them, then pressure your church into hosting a chapter of Celebrate Recovery or some similar organization.
So, if you are reading this and are struggling with pornography, first of all: There is no shame in seeking help. Its hard, its humiliating, but its not shameful, and its the best thing you'll ever do for yourself. You will look back on the moment that you swallowed your pride and walked into a counselor's office as the moment you turned the tide. So go do it. Find a counselor. Get help!
Second, there is a group called Celebrate Recovery. If you can't find a counselor or can't afford one, go to this. If you have a counselor, this may still prove useful to you. Check it out.
And finally, you may ask yourself, where is God in all this? I asked that myself for a long time, and I'm not sure I have an answer for you. You'll notice He's conspicuously absent from my narrative. That probably isn't very fair of me, but I told that story as best I can. I'm sure he was there, working in the midst of it. And I know this because if he wasn't I wouldn't have had any desire to change at all, but all my prayers for divine intervention went, what seemed to me to be, unanswered. Perhaps yours are too. What I do know is that getting angry at God didn't help, though it sometimes felt good.
Also, maybe it is God's prerogative to make you work at cleaning up your messes. I've certainly had to struggle to clean up mine.