Pastor Counseling a Young Man from God’s Word

A 50-year-old married physician views Internet pornography for hours at home, masturbating five to seven times a day, then begins surfing porn sites at the office and risks destroying his career.

A woman spends four to six hours a day in Internet chat rooms and having cybersex, and eventually starts arranging to meet online strangers for casual sex in the real world.

A man spends many hours a day downloading porn, filling multiple hard drives, and devotes a separate computer just to pornography.

A married couple views pornographic movies together as part of their loving relationship, but the husband starts spending more time watching and less time with his wife, who feels left behind and rejected.

These scenarios are real-life examples of pornography addiction, a compulsive behavior that falls within the category of sex addiction.[1]

young_woman_sitting_on_park_bench_with_head_in_hands

A teen girl and boy are caught sexting (send sexually explicit photographs or messages via cell phone.) with each other when the boy shares her images with his friends. Back in the 1950s to the 1980s, it was embarrassing to get caught kissing a girl under the bleachers during an assembly. Today, teens view oral sex as not even as a sexual experience but rather as no different from kissing.

Pornography addiction or problematic pornography use is a behavioral addiction characterized by compulsive, repeated use of pornographic material until it causes serious negative consequences to one’s physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being. Addiction to Internet pornography is a form of cybersex addiction.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Diagnostic criteria do not exist for pornography addiction or problematic porn viewing. A study on problematic Internet pornography viewing used the criteria of viewing Internet pornography more than three times a week during some weeks, and viewing causing difficulty in general life functioning.

In 1990 Aviel Goodman proposed a general definition of all types of addictions in order to extend the specific disorders included in the DSM-III-R. While not explicitly in the context of pornography, Goodman explains his criteria for addiction as a “process whereby a behavior, that can function both to produce pain and to provide escape from internal discomfort, [and] is employed in a pattern characterized by (1) failure to control the behavior (powerlessness) and (2) continuation of the behavior despite significant negative consequences (unmanageability).”[2]

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “If people want to escape feelings of low self-esteem, shame, isolation or the pressures of life, work or relationships, pornography is a place to get lost and feel wanted, imagining the perfect partners who always desires them – and whom they can always satisfy.”[3] The Chronicle goes on to say that the risk of job loss and spousal loss is very high with those who are truly addicted to pornography.

Dr. Brown further says, “All too often, sexual addicts risk losing important relationships, being plagued with diseases, and place their jobs and careers on the line. For the addict, it is less about the desire and more about fulfilling a compulsive need.”

Prevalence

Though no studies have been conducted on prevalence of pornography addiction, research on Internet addiction disorder indicates rates may range from 1.5 to 8.2% in Europeans and Americans.[4] Internet pornography users are included in Internet users, and Internet pornography has been shown to be the Internet activity most likely to lead to compulsive disorders.[5] A study found that 17% of people who viewed pornography on the Internet met criteria for problematic sexual compulsivity.[6] A survey found that 20–60% of a sample of college-age males who use pornography found it to be problematic.[7]

Status as Addiction

In 2011, the American Society of Addiction Medicine published a definition of addiction that for the first time stated that addiction includes pathological pursuit of all kinds of external rewards and not just substance dependence.

The status of pornography addiction as an addictive disorder, rather than simply a compulsivity, is supported by a growing body of evidence but is still contested by some neuroscientists. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) includes a new section for behavioral addictions but includes only one disorder: pathological gambling. Other behavioral addictions were included in “Conditions for further study”. A 2011 paper by Donald Hilton and Clark Watts argued that studies demonstrating the effect of sexual experiences on neuroplasticity indicate the existence of process addiction, and specifically focused on pornography addiction as an area requiring further study. In a letter to the editor, Rory Reid, Bruce Carpenter, and Timothy Fong responded by arguing that the studies on neuroplasticity used correlational data, and thus could not be used to establish causation. In a commentary included with the letter to the editor, Hilton and Watts pointed to research connecting a marker of addiction, to sexual experience, and claimed that researchers who reject the research they cite are biased against research which connects neuromodulation to behavioral addictions.

Online Pornography

Psychologists who see pornography as addictive may consider online, often Internet pornography more addictive than ordinary pornography because of its wide availability, explicit nature, and the privacy that online viewing offers. Some claim that addicts regularly spend extended periods of time searching the Internet for new or increasingly hardcore pornography.[8]

Some clinicians and support organizations recommend the voluntary use of Internet content-control software, Internet monitoring, or both, to manage online pornography use.

Sex researcher Alvin Cooper and colleagues suggested several reasons for using filters as a therapeutic measure, including curbing accessibility that facilitates problematic behavior and encouraging clients to develop coping and relapse prevention strategies. Cognitive therapist Mary Anne Layden suggested that filters may be useful in maintaining environmental control. Internet behavior researcher David Delmonico noted that, despite their limitations, filters may serve as a “frontline of protection.”[9]

Treatment

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been suggested as a possible effective treatment for pornography addiction based on its success with Internet addicts though no clinical trials have been performed to assess effectiveness among pornography addicts as of 2012. Acceptance and commitment therapy has also been shown to be a potentially effective treatment for problematic Internet pornography viewing.[10]

Damage to Us Spiritually

Colossians 3:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

5 Therefore, Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

In telling believers to put to death certain behaviors, Paul is calling for complete extermination, not careful regulation. What must go? Paul gives us an “outside in” perspective. He starts with external actions and then moves to the internal drives which cause the conduct. In his “vice lists” Paul mentions three categories of behavior: (1) perverted passions, (2) hot tempers, (3) sharp tongues.

First on the list is sexual immorality (porneia), a broad, general term for all kinds of illicit sexual behavior. God created sex to be enjoyed by one woman and one man in the confines of marriage. Any sexual activity that does not fit that definition is not to be part of a believer’s life. The perverted passion list continues with mention of impurity. This reminds us that immorality is “unclean” or dirty and incompatible with the purity of our Savior. Believers are not to be slaves of their lust or evil desires.[11]

Matthew 5:27-28 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;[12] 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust[13] for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Again, this verse is mean for heterosexual relationships; however, what was meant can be useful in controlling same-sex desires, so it will be adapted below.

In verse 28 of Matthew chapter 5, you will notice the phrase “lustful intent,” keying in on the word “intent.” This is not a woman walking along who catches sight of a beautiful woman and has an indecent thought, which she then dismisses. It is not even a woman in the same situation that has an indecent thought, who goes on to entertain and cultivate that thought. No, this is a woman that is staring, gazing at a woman with the intent of lusting, and is looking at the woman, with the intention of peaking her interest and desire, to get her to lust.

Verse 25 of chapter 26 in Proverbs warns the son against just that, do not get “lustful intent” in your heart because of her beauty. The same is true of a man not getting “lustful intent” in his heart because of the beauty of another man. Yes, even when the evil man is seeking to flame such desires. Aside from the fact that it violates God’s Law, for mere moments of immediate gratification at a very inexpensive price, you are risking your eternal life.

When we view pornography, let alone take up the time to get addicted, we are out for self-gratification, and we are, in no way, reflecting the Christian quality of love. The apostle Paul wrote,

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;[14] that each of you know how to possess his own vessel[15] in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, just as also the Gentiles who do not know God; that no man transgress and wrong his brother in the matter because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in sanctification.

Pornography especially takes selfish or unfair advantage of women and children, and young men, who are likely in abusive situations, for the personal gain of self-gratification. Simply objectifying them for your gratification is demeaning them. If you are using their images, you are also supporting whatever company exploits them, taking advantage of their circumstances. Just taking advantage of images, makes you indifferent, at worst a hater of women and a sexual deviant, toward the very people group that the Mosaic Law and Jesus Christ tried to protect.

Breaking the Habit

Some early Christians, prior to finding Christ, were ‘unrighteous, sexually immoral, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality, and drunkards’ However, they “were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

Psalm 55:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be shaken.

This begs the question, how do we throw our burdens on Jehovah (i.e., the Father), and how does he sustain us. How it is that he will not permit the righteous to be moved? In addition, if we are looking at porn, are we not unrighteous? Let us get ever closer to the answer.

1 Corinthians 10:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Many Christians, even very mature ones, as well as those leading congregations, have succumbed to pornography. Therefore, you should not feel alone in your battle to get control over your vessel.

Hebrews 4:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

This verse contains four statements about God’s Word. First, it is living. God is a living God (Heb. 3:12). His message is dynamic and productive. It causes things to happen. It drives home warnings to the disobedient and promises to the believer. Second, God’s Word is active, an emphasis virtually identical in meaning with the term living. God’s Word is not something you passively hear and then ignore. It actively works in our lives, changes us, and sends us into action for God.

Third, God’s Word penetrates the soul and spirit. To the Hebrew people, the body was a unity. We should not think of dividing the soul from the spirit. God’s message is capable of penetrating the impenetrable. It can divide what is indivisible. Fourth, God’s message is discerning. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. It passes judgment on our feelings and our thoughts. What we regard as secret and hidden, God brought out for inspection by the discerning power of his Word.[16]

Proverbs 2:1-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to discernment;[17]
For if you cry for discernment[18]
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of Jehovah
and find the knowledge of God.
For Jehovah gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

Now, let us return to our questions, and provide answers. How do we throw our burdens on God?

We do so, by going to him fervently in prayer, asking him for help with the problem that we are trying to overcome. Our adding this in our prayers repeatedly shows him our deep concern.

How does he sustain us?

God sustains us by the Word of God, which contains the very knowledge of God, as explained in Hebrews 4:12 above. Thus, we need to discover the Bible verses that are applicable, and we then need to know what the author meant by the words that he used, as should have been understood by his original readers. In other words, we need to discover the original meaning. Then, we need to find the pattern of meaning that would apply to us. This is called working on behalf of our prayers. However, we are not done yet. We must be obedient to the Word of God. If we obey 50 percent, we will get 50 percent results. If we apply it 100 percent into our lives, we will get 100 percent results.

1 John 5:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments.

2 John 1:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

What is love? It plays itself out in the real world in obedience. The essence of love is that we keep God’s commandments. This glorifies God, is best for others, and is best for us. Everything God asks of us is intended to give something good to us or keep us from harm. First John presented the same emphasis on love and the same link between love and obedience. (Walls and Anders 1996, 237)

How it is that he will not permit the righteous to be moved?

God said he would never ‘permit the righteous to be moved.’ What is meant by ‘move’?” It means to stumble or fall down spiritually or get into a practice of sin that you seem to be in. In other words, God will help you to become stable, steadfast, or unmovable, not giving into sin. If we are looking at porn, are we not unrighteous?

No, this is not the case. We are all sinners, and God hates sin. However, he hates the unrepentant practice of sin. The unrighteous person is the one who lives in sin unrepentantly. If you are reading this, and you have been praying, trying to find a way to get control over yourself; then, you are not unrepentant. God makes allowance for our inherited sin from Adam, which means he understands our human weaknesses.

Thus, the steps are (1) Go to god fervently in prayer, (2) act in harmony with that prayer, by (3) research what the Bible offers toward recovery, (4) apply what you learn, and (5) get your stride again if you stumble, or get up when you fall down.

How often do you come across pornography?

  • Never
  • Sometimes,
  • Rarely
  • Daily,
  • Weekly

Where do you come across pornography?

  • Television,
  • Stores,
  • Internet,
  • Cell phone,
  • Email,
  • Work,
  • School,
  • Other

Do you see a pattern of how these encounters come about, and how you deal with them?

Is there a pattern to your encounters?

Do you find yourself depressed or angry, so you look at pornography, because of the feeling that override the depression, even though you know, even worse depression is on the horizon for failing to be faithful? Do you receive email attachments from friends that contain pornography?

The good thing about the internet is that its filters are far better than ten years ago, In order to get a popup, or end up with wrong pages; you need to be very specific in your search. For example, if you Google “race cars,” there will be links and images the movement that you get a few letters in. However, if you Google the word “porn,” it will do nothing until you hit enter. The same is true with email, like Yahoo and Gmail. The ads in the margins are only reflective of sites that you have been visiting.

How do you react the moment that your eyes see pornography?

  • You turn away immediately so that you could barely describe what you saw
  • You look at it for a moment before turning away, and could better explain what you saw
  • You continue to look until your desires lead you to search for more

The foremost thing that will help you to overcome the habit of viewing pornography is to appreciate the seriousness of it, as well as what your actions mean to you, to God, to your spouse, to your family, and to the victims in the images. You have to get to the point where you “hate evil.”—Psalm 97:10.

Remove yourself from whatever results in the viewing of pornography.

Proverbs 22:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.

Be determined that you will not let your eyes fall upon pornography, and if they do unintentionally, you will immediately turn away. When surfing the internet, this is especially important. Each time we encounter someone that stimulates us sexually, it just continues to feed our desires. Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Job 31:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 I have made a solemn promise
never to look with lust at a woman [or man].

Depending on your circumstances, you can apply the following as best you can.

  • You only get on the internet when another is in the room
  • You will place the computer in a public space
  • You will leave your office door open
  • You will immediate close out or delete anything inappropriate
  • You will find a sponsor that can talk with you when you are feeling weak, stressed, or have stumbled

Review Questions

  • Is pornography an addiction and what effect does it have on its victims?
  • How can we break the habit?
  • How does God sustain us?
  • If we are looking at porn, are we not unrighteous? Explain
  • Where can we come across pornography?
  • How do we react the moment that our eyes see porn?
  • What can we do to remove ourselves from pornography?

[1] http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Porn-addiction-destroys-relationships-lives-3272230.php

[2] Goodman, Aviel (1990). “Addiction: Definition and implications”. Addiction 85 (11): 1403–8.

[3] http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Porn-addiction-destroys-relationships-lives-3272230.php#ixzz2N3ZSi4o7

[4] Weinstein, A.; Lejoyeux, M. (2010). “Internet Addiction or Excessive Internet Use”. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 36 (5): 277–283.

[5] Meerkerk, G. J.; Eijnden, R. J. J. M. V. D.; Garretsen, H. F. L. (2006). “Predicting Compulsive Internet Use: It’s All about Sex!”. CyberPsychology & Behavior 9 (1): 95–103.

[6] Cooper, A., Delmonico, D. L., & Burg, R. (2000). Cybersex user, abusers, and compulsives. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 7, 5–29.

[7] Twohig, M. P.; Crosby, J. M.; Cox, J. M. (2009). “Viewing Internet Pornography: For Whom is it Problematic, How, and Why?”. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 16 (4): 253.

[8] Downs, Martin F.; Louise Chang, MD (reviewer) (August 30, 2005). “Is Pornography Addictive? Psychologists debate whether people can have an addiction to pornography.”

[9] Delmonico, David L. (1997). “Cybersex: High tech sex addiction”. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 4 (2): 159.

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_addiction

[11] Max Anders, vol. 8, Kendell H. Easley, vol. 12, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Holman New Testament Commentary, 329 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998).

[12] Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:17

[13] πιθυμία [Epithumia] to strongly desire to have what belongs to someone else and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong–‘to covet, to lust, evil desires, lust, desire.’– Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996).

[14] Gr porneia, fornication

[15] I.e. body

[16] Thomas A. Lea, vol. 10, Hebrews & James, Holman New Testament Commentary, 72 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999).

[17] The Hebrew word rendered here as “discernment” (tevunah) is related to the word binah, translated “understanding.” Both appear at Proverbs 2:3.

[18] See 2.2 ftn.