Church Leaders Answer Questions You Submitted During The Series
How would you help a teen struggling with a pornography addiction?
I think it’s important to help teens (and people in general) understand the Why first. It might be easy to tell someone “That’s wrong”, or “You shouldn’t do that”, or even “That’s a sin”. But when we understand why pornography is wrong, it better motivates us to carry out the How. It’s also surprising to me to hear how a lot of teens know that pornography is wrong, but don’t really understand why. This can lead to a lot of excuses or myths we start to believe trying to justify a behavior like pornography. This is especially true of a culture becoming increasingly more open to the idea.
So, start with the Why. I want to do that here by simply giving you some snap shots of Sean McDowell’s book, Chasing Love. He does a great job of explaining the Why for teens by talking about myths we often believe. I would recommend this book for both parents and teens to read! Here’s what he says:
Myth #1 | It doesn’t affect me.
This is clearly a myth. But, a lot of people begin to believe it’s true. McDowell says, “Pornography shapes the worldview of those who watch it, and this is especially true for young men and young women who lack the wisdom and context to process their experience. Here is the bottom line: whether you realize it or not, watching pornography unrealistically shapes your sexual expectations, preferences, and practices regarding sex.”
Pornography has an effect on us whether we know it or not. Scientific studies are proving this to be true as well. The thought that it doesn’t affect me, is a myth.
Myth #2 | I will quit later.
“Few people realize how deeply porn rewires the brain and thus shapes human behavior…research shows that it is far easier to quit gambling, alcohol addiction, heroin, and cocaine than porn. Why? Because of what it does to your brain.” He explains how porn is similar to a drug addiction, wanting more and more. Although with pornography, “to get the same ‘high,’ porn fosters the desire for greater and greater variety, which often leads down a more twisted and broken, more violent and even illegal, path. Can you see why it is so naïve to flippantly assume you can control it? The brain is simply not built that way.”
Myth #3 | I am not harming anyone.
In the book, he explains three people that are harmed because of pornography. He says, “pornography harms performers… porn harms marriages… porn harms children.” He goes on to say, “viewing porn helps line the pockets of porn companies. Thus, if you browse porn sites (even without paying), you are contributing to the harm they cause.”
This thought of “I’m not hurting anyone” is clearly a myth.
One of the things Sean McDowell says later is, “pornography aims to fill the good desire God has given us with a relational counterfeit.” When we talk about the why, it’s important to help teens understand that God’s desire for sex is not meant to limit our freedom or fun. It’s actually meant to give us real freedom. Real freedom is found in following God’s good design. Why? Glad you asked.
If we believe that God is our Creator, then we have to understand everything He created has a design. A way that it should operate. Every created thing has a design, and choosing to use or operate that created thing outside of its intended design has consequences. For example, let’s think of a campfire. Campfires are great, they can be fun and a great place to have meaningful conversation or play games. We love to build a fire when we’re camping and sit around to hang out. When you build the campfire, you typically build it within a boundary. You certainly have the ability to take the fire outside of that boundary, but if you do chances are there will be consequences. And since we live in California where wildfires seem to be around a yearly, I don’t feel the need to explain the extent to which these consequences might spread.
Same goes for God’s design for sex. It’s not that He’s a demanding dictator God making sure we follow all His rules. No, He’s a faithful Father that knows what’s best for you, because He’s the One that created you! That’s why we can trust Him. That’s why we understand that if sex is a created thing, using it outside of the way God designed it (within the context of marriage) has consequences. This is why God calls us to live a different way. He wants what’s best for you.
One of my favorite verses is this one:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.”
God invites us to choose His way over ours because it’s what is best for us – it leads to life! This is why pornography is wrong, it’s not God’s best for you. Help teens understand the Why. It’s important.
Now, let’s talk about practical steps teens can take. I’ll outline these quickly, as I’m sure these are things you’ve heard before.
• Prayer | Start with prayer. Encourage them to ask God for help. If you’re helping them, pray for them! Overcoming pornography is certainly not easy, so we can start by asking God for help. This might seem simple, or assumed, but don’t assume everyone starts here. And don’t neglect this one. Asking the perfect, holy, all powerful, living God for help is one of the most powerful things you can do. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7
• Read Your Bible | Again, this might seem assumed, or maybe like a church-y, Sunday school, answer. But it’s necessary. When we begin to fill our mind with scripture, allowing our thoughts to be renewed by His truth, it’s a powerful thing that replaces the lies of temptation.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
“…Take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
1 Corinthians 10:5
• Find Accountability | This is something everyone needs. And we all need to make it an active priority that we pursue – whether we have a temptation toward pornography or not. Find someone you can trust to ask you the tough questions. Often, teens will try to say they have accountability with their friends, but the question is, are they real with them? Are they honest? Will they ask the tough question? Or, be comfortable giving an honest answer? I’ve heard it said, that to be 99% known is still to be unknown. We have a tendency to hide. We need to fight that with real accountability, people we can trust. Use a program like Covenant Eyes that looks at everything you’re searching or looking at on all your devices and sends to a trusted person. You can’t do it alone, so don’t!
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
• Run From Temptation | Recognize the places you find temptation to be most present and find ways to practically combat temptation in those moments. Maybe it’s when you’re home alone in your room. Choose to go for a walk when no one’s home or call a friend to hang out. Maybe it’s when you’re in the bathroom. Don’t take your phone with you when you go to the bathroom. Or when your bedroom door is closed. Keep your door open, or just keep your phone, computer, and devices in the living room. Whatever the case is for you, find the moments you face temptation and run, find practical ways to get yourself out.
“Flee from sexual immorality.”
1 Corinthians 6:18