“For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (Ephesians 5:12)
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the secret that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this secret, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27)
Another friend has been found out. Strip away the Christian happy face façade, and pull the curtains back to reveal just another guy addicted to pornography. It started with Playboy Magazine as a teenager, and all those salacious centerfolds. It continued with the Internet, where instant fantasy is only a mouse click away, and you don’t have to hide anything under the bed.
You just have to hide it from God, and your spouse, and yourself, never quite admitting what you know to be true, always caught in a losing battle between what you know to be right and good and the incessant, leering demands of lust, always being led by your head, but the wrong one. And now all hell has broken loose. His wife is angry, hurt. He is ashamed. Their kids are confused. And his life is in a terrible place of reckoning.
I feel great sympathy for my friend. There are only two kinds of men when it comes to pornography – those who have indulged in lust, and those who lie about it when they tell you they haven’t. It’s the American way. But I have a great sense of hope for him at the same time. I don’t doubt that he feels terrible. I don’t doubt that his wife feels terrible, and I have great sympathy for her as well. But his secret is out. All the guilt he has carried around for decades, all the mental and emotional energy he has expended in hiding and rationalizing his secret sins, can now be brought into the floodlights of God’s grace and mercy.
But they are floodlights. And they seemed damned, uncomfortably bright. Those images that he looked at furtively on the computer monitor are suddenly displayed on a big projection screen, and it seems like the whole world is looking on. And the temptation is to run away, to deny, to rationalize, to blame. It takes a man to admit that he, and no one else, is a royal fuckup, and that’s not the American way.
More and more I am convinced that addiction is the great American affliction. It may be the great human affliction; I don’t know. But somehow I can’t imagine the natives in Papua New Guinea bookmarking the porn sites on their Internet browsers for easy reference and retrieval. We live in a culture that offers instant pleasure, and if you can’t find it through digitized sex, then you can find it more directly through a bottle or a joint or a line or a pill. We do anything and everything to stifle the great, yawning void of another grey February day in the cubicle jungle of corporate America, another thankless day at home, stuck with demanding kids, another night of nothing more adventurous than Dancing With the Stars or Survivor. And we think we’ll do a little something to ease the pain and the crushing boredom, and the little something ends up doing us.
My friend is not a bad man. He’s a good man. He loves his wife and kids. He’s kind, caring, giving. But he’s in a terrible place right now. He’s lived a double life, this Agent 777; on one hand sincerely desiring to love and serve God, on the other faced with the constant awareness that there is a corner of his existence that he wants to wall off from God and others. It was just his little secret.
But he has another little secret, one that gives me hope. He serves a God who loves assholes, and died for them. It is true for him and it is true for me. And he serves a God who is in the business of change, for whom it is never too late to turn around, for whom redemption is not just pie in the sky, but right now, today. It is an amazing thing to be guilty, guilty, guilty, and forgiven, and filled with the hope of glory.
And so I have hope for him. And for me. I cannot provide any personal details, but if you’re the praying type, I’m sure he and his family would appreciate your prayers.
Will be praying Andy, thanks for the opportunity.
Andy, I'll be praying for your friend. Many of us can relate to what he is going through right now. Yet, today is the day for his redemption and restoration. But it is going to be like being hell for right now.
Getting caught in the light is often the first step to getting free. Guilty, guilty, guilty, forgiven, then redeemed.
i watched a friend go through this with her husband a few years ago. he was even fired from his job as a result of the addiction. this man approached it with humility and hope. he met with church leaders regularly for prayer and guidance. it seemed that everything would and should work out because jesus was at the center of it. well...years later, my friend is one of the most bitter women i know. can you guess to what it is she traces so much of the pain in her life? so i'll be praying for the wife, most definitely! it would suck if it destroyed her as it restored her husband.
Yeah, you're right, Nikki. I certainly don't want to minimize the pain that this causes his wife, and I sincerely hope and pray that this won't be a source of bitterness that will poison her life.
There is a good book about the wives restoration with this issue called "Every Heart Restored" by Fred and Brenda Stoeker. Excellent it deals mainly with forgiveness and how critical it is for a wife to rebuild trust with her husband after his deep betrayal.
how devastating. like nikki, i can't but help think of what the wife must be going through. i will pray for them.
it would suck if it destroyed her as it restored her husband.
Right on. I think that so many people don't feel like they CAN come clean about the shit in their lives because they're really afraid that the ones who love them the most would reject them if they ever told their secrets. It's a dark, dark place to be.
We are such a sexually screwed up society. It can't be excused, but maybe it can be explained. Obviously, most guys are wired differently than most girls. And our society spends billions of dollars every year pushing this crap on our little boys and girls. As Julie Miller says, "You make people just like animals, turn a child into a whore, make a precious thing worthless just to sell a little more."
Parents dress their little girls like prostitutes, and boys are fed a non-stop stream of semi-pornographic filth from, what? age seven or eight on everything from music videos to video games to action figures... Gah! I hate to sound like a prude, but I'm just so sick of it all.
And this God damned internet, it's like an adult bookstore in every bedroom. As a friend quipped the other day, "At least when we were growing up, we had to WORK HARD for our porn."
Ironically, the ubiquity of sexually explicit materials has actually LOWERED the sex drive of the average American male. The bra and panty section of the Lazarus catalog used to be enough to provoke arousal among an average Joe. But the exchange-rate-value of a semi-naked woman has really declined over the last few years.
Hell, the value of a REAL naked woman has declined for most men over the years. Sure, the ample, Rubenesque physique of the yore has been passe for quite some time now, but even attractive, fit women aren't enough to cause a decent erection for most men in our society. Today, if she doesn't look like a 12 year old with a boob job, if she isn't permanently hornier than a cat in heat, it's not really worth it, is it?
If I paid an extra 8 bucks a month, I could get the 'perfect' woman broadcast into my bedroom, ready to pleasure me on 24 channels, 25 hours a day. Why the hell should I take the time to give my wife a backrub and actually attempt to pursue the messy, time-consuming, sometimes disappointing "Act of Marriage" as Tim LaHaye calls it?
Damn you, Satan, and all of your soul-sucking pornography in all of its God damned forms. Stay away from me, from my computer, from my friends, from my church, and from my little boys.
Andy, your paragraph on addiction is so well put. The chemical addictions get so much attention because they tend to have a wider path of damage, but I think all of us have addictions, addictions that can destroy our relationship to God and others if not addressed openly.
Bravo, and I'll be praying for your friend and his family.
"Right on. I think that so many people don't feel like they CAN come clean about the shit in their lives because they're really afraid that the ones who love them the most would reject them if they ever told their secrets. It's a dark, dark place to be."
Yes. And sometimes they're right. It's the great trap. We are conditioned to respond sexually all our lives, and then when we respond sexually we can lose our marriages. Yes, I feel bad for the wives. Yes, they've been betrayed. But the men have been sucker-punched.
I do know that pornography is the besetting sin of most Christian men. And when I say most Christian men I mean most Christian men. As in more than half. I would venture to bet that within the subset of Christian men with Internet connections, the number approaches 100%.
It is impossible to live as a male in our society and not be affected by lust disguised as marketing. You'd have to be a hermit in a cave.
Given that, I think we need to talk about it, and not politely, umm, skirt the issues, either. I mean specifically ask one another how we are doing in this area, pray for one another, encourage one another, hold one another accountable, and kick one another in the butt/crotch if need be, whichever is more appropriate.
We owe this to our wives, and to the Lord we serve. But let's not kid ourselves. As men we are hard-wired to lust, and the mass media have us by our handles, and they lead us merrily along. Like any other temptation, we can fight, and we are not destined to succumb. But as long as the subject is taboo in polite Christian conversation, we don't stand a snowball's chance in hell. We cannot do this alone. Let's talk to one another.
I am quoting Andy's last comment:
"Given that, I think we need to talk about it, and not politely, umm, skirt the issues, either. I mean specifically ask one another how we are doing in this area, pray for one another, encourage one another, hold one another accountable, and kick one another in the butt/crotch if need be, whichever is more appropriate."
We need to talk about this issue in the church. I agree with Mark and Andy that by talking about it, confessing it, repenting, and forgiving each other is the only way to combat lust.
I know for me personally, I struggle, and the only way for me to stay free is to confess to God and one other person daily that I cannot stay pure on my own power or accord. It's the whole Romans 7 thing. Some days I do better than others, but I still need to hand this area over to Jesus daily. That is giving up. I think this is the first step in AA. Realizing that our lives have become unmanageable, and then giving it over to Jesus.
Because the consequences of this sin area is so severe, many men feel trapped and won't confess. On one hand their marriages are in jeopardy, on the other hand if they confess to an elder in the church, they feel like they are going to get whacked because elders and Pastors don't know how deal with this themselves.
However, the only way to defeat lust is by bringing it into the light, confessing it, repenting, and receiving God's forgiveness.
Sorry for me ranting, this is a hot button area for me.
BTW - Andy, I'll bring the book, "Every Heart Restored" to homegroup Friday Night for you to review if you want to give it to your friend. This book helped me see things from a wives perspective. The other book is "An Affair of the Mind".
thanks for this post, Andy. Your blog is always thoughtful and honest; you seem to be a man of great integrity.
I've fixed a lot of computers for friends and neighbors, and out of the dozens that I've worked on, I think there was only one that didn't have any trace of pornography on it. And I wasn't especially looking for it on them, either. One computer owned by a married man had a cached page of a site for clandestine sexual encounters. It made me never want to look at another man's computer again.
If my limited experience is any indication, you're right on about the pervasiveness of this addiction to pornography. God help us all.
I feel a bit strange commenting in your blog, Andy, as you and I have never met. But, after reading Nikki’s story about her friend (which I know to be true) I feel compelled to do so, so here goes:
Stephen and I went through this toward the beginning of our marriage. It would be hard to exaggerate the pain I was in. The betrayal was overwhelming and the sense of isolation in a culture that thinks porn is no big deal was incredible.
It was awful. From the pit of hell. I can’t comment with such authority on Stephen’s experience through it. But I know what addiction’s like, and so I know it was a dark, dark time. I would have given ANYthing to not go through it.
This is why I feel compelled to comment. Because if your friend or his wife read this, they need to know. (Forgive me. I know I’m preaching to the choir.) We serve a God who works miracles. Sometimes they’re tiny, tiny miracles that add up to a huge one. There is so much hope. I’m glad you feel it for your friend, Andy. There is so much healing and freedom available. Restoration is hard. So hard. But so, so sweet.
It’s a miracle in and of itself that Stephen and I are still married. A bona fide act of God. But He was not satisfied just to keep us from divorcing each other. He wasn’t even content to restore what we had before all this. Instead, He gave us something so much more beautiful and real and useful to Him than I could’ve hoped for even before any of this happened.
I would’ve given anything not to go through it. But, if it would mean losing what we have gained, I would not now choose to have escaped it.
In Ephesians Paul says that God is able to do more than all we ask or imagine. And we are proof. Once-dead-but-now-alive Proof. I’ll pray for a similar miracle for them. An even better one.
It's not just a problem for men... women can get addicted to porn as well. I know. Pray for me too.
- A woman
Thanks, anonymous, for bringing up the issue of women struggling with porn. It's something about the church that grieves and angers me, that we seem to deny that women have any sexual drive. I myself have struggled with addiction to pornography (whether that be images or erotic stories/chats) and masturbation, and I know that many other women in my circle of friends have struggled with masturbation and erotic stories as well. It's not just a male problem. If you think it's hard to talk about struggling with lust/porn as a man in the church, try being a woman and bringing it up. I assumed for years that I was a freak, the lone woman struggling with lust, because anytime the subject came up at church, it was a whole sermon aimed at men about combatting lust, and then a quick, "Women, dress modestly so as not to incite men's lust" tossed to the women, as if we don't have any of our own issues of lust to grapple with.
At any rate, I will be praying for your friend and his family, Andy. Porn is devastating, but God is good. He brings healing to the most dead of places.
Thanks for bringing up this issue. It's clear that both genders are sexually broken and confused. I'm truly sorry that this issue is so often mishandled in the church, and I hope that we're making a dent in that, at least for the readers of this fine blog.
I am, in no way, trying to belittle your struggle with lust. It must be very difficult to struggle as a woman and have no healthy forum for discussing it. That having been said (and as Mike G once said, "I'm no sexpert, but...") it seems to me that pornography affects the average man differently than the average woman.
If my vast experience with conventional wisdom (albeit limited experience talking with actual women about this) is accurate, most women are unable, or at least unlikely to be aroused to a state of sexual readiness by a glance at an erotic picture.
Women, it seems, most often require the correct mood and a fair amount of preparatory stimulation -- both physical and psychological -- to enter a pre-orgasmic state. Most men are about 10 seconds from orgasm pretty much 24 hours a day.
In other words, a glance at a Victoria's Secret poster at Easton can LITERALLY trigger a sexual response in a man that, for most women, would require a nice glass of wine, an Al Green CD and a 15 minute backrub. Distracting, to say the least.
I guess my point is that the draw towards pornographic images and the power of lustful thoughts for a man is different (not stronger -- I've never been a woman, so I can't say) and more immediate than it is for a man. This doesn't in any way excuse men for indulging in lustful thoughts and impure habits, but it might explain it for some women who find it inconceivable that their husband could ever struggle with anything like this.
I'm thankful that God is indeed powerful enough to protect us from our own twisted physical, emotional and sexual desires.
"I've never been a woman, so I can't say) and more immediate than it is for a man."
Sorry. This paragraph should read:
"I've never been a woman, so I can't say) and more immediate than it is for a WOMAN."
Can't type today.
Great comments all around.
Kirsten, please comment any time. Thanks for sharing a "success story" in this area. That is heartening to read. I am so glad that God was able to work through a very difficult situation and draw you and your husband closer together. It *is* a miracle, and one worth sharing and celebrating. I'm thankful.
Sadly, many marriages have broken apart over this issue. I don't think that will happen with my friend. He and his wife are mature people who have already lived through a lot of the crap that life tends to dish out if we just stay alive and keep waking up day after day. They have many, many likeable and good qualities, and I believe they'll be able to work through this and see the good in each other. But it's hard. I do understand the sense of betrayal that his wife is experiencing.
Anonymous, I don't want to downplay at all the fact that this is a very real issue for women as well. And you're right; as difficult as it is for men to be honest about this issue, particularly in a Christian environment, it must be even more difficult for women.
I do agree with John that there are differences in the ways that men and women deal with this issue. And I could be wrong, but I tend to think that men in our society are confronted with lust in a much more blatant, "in your face" way than most women.
I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. One commercial, which aired twice, featured a beautiful young woman in a bra, and little else, offering her most provocative "come hither" look to the cameras. And the strings on her bra snapped off, one by one, in slow motion, as she sat in front of an older gentleman whose executive nameplate bore the inscription "Big Daddy." Hmm, I wonder what that could be about. I felt assaulted. And I just wanted to watch a football game, you know?
In any case, I struggle in this area, and I suspect most people do. And I appreciate the way this discussion has proceeded; good thoughts, lots of provocative (in the best sense) ideas, and plenty of honesty and encouragement.
Are we talking about sex or addiction?
Andy suggests we are talking about the plague of addictions facing us as Americans. I agree. From my own experiences, I believe sex has very little to do with what we're talking about. I think we are talking about on a lighter level, destructive behavior (habits) that separate us from God; and on a heavier level, addictions which slam the door on the Spirit.
The question is not 'how many of us are doing it,' it's 'why are we doing it?' And, of course, it's not just a guy thing. Anon, your point illustrates why most seekers turn to the church of oprah/dr phil than the christian church in america. It's good to be angry at the church for this over site; as long as you are willing to help correct it.
Andy suggests that we should get together and talk through these issues. I agree. I would be happy to host a group of men for the purpose of shedding light on this problem. If someone would like to host a women's gathering this would also be a good idea.
Let me know if anyone is interested.
Good comments, everyone. To clarify, I was in no way suggesting that men and women struggle with lust in the same way. I do think that the cycle of addiction and shame is similar, although, as has been pointed out, the immediacy of lust is far more prevalent and plaguing to men than women. I'm sorry if in my previous comment it sounded as though I was trying to belittle the battle that men do with lust. I was in no way trying to do that...I know that men are constantly bombarded with images designed to arouse them, and can only imagine how difficult it must be to fight to keep a pure mind and body amongst those temptations. It's a sin that plagues both genders, in different ways. As someone else said, we are indeed a sexually screwed-up society.
"Are we talking about sex or addiction?
Andy suggests we are talking about the plague of addictions facing us as Americans. I agree. From my own experiences, I believe sex has very little to do with what we're talking about. I think we are talking about on a lighter level, destructive behavior (habits) that separate us from God; and on a heavier level, addictions which slam the door on the Spirit. "
I think that we're talking about both sex AND addiction. Sex addictions are, perhaps, more complex than others, in that, it is 'normal' for every human being to desire sex, and to experience attraction and arousal. It is not 'normal' (or perhaps 'universal' would be a more useful term here) for human beings to experience a desire for heroin, for instance.
I think that our culture has devised countless methods of not only enabling sexual addictions and sins, but entrapping those who are not yet addicted.
Imagine a society where every single person has an innate attraction to heroin and in which heroin addiction is seen as the ultimate form of self expression, wherein restrictions on heroin are equated with oppression, and where heroin procurement and delivery devices are offered to even the youngest members of our society, and where addicts are solicited by hundreds of pushers each day, and we'd have something sort of, kind of like what we have with sex in our society.
The Church may be waking up.
I saw an interview with a pastor on a news show. He was talking about dealing with porn in the church.
Better late than never.
A friend once shared with me the Joseph solution to the problem. When faced with Potiphar's wife, Joseph ran away. Fast.
The modern equivalent is: don't look. Train yourself to immediately look away from such images.
The old adage "it doesn't hurt to look" is a damn lie.
Andy, you mentioned addictions in terms of an American problem, and wondered whether it's as bad in other cultures. I agree that America has a lot of bad stuff so EASY to hand, much moreso than most other nations.
However, I think it can be boiled very simply down to this: addiction is idolatry. Idolatry is putting anything -- a substance, a self-gratifying act, a desire -- higher than God in our lives. As such, it's a universal problem.
Addiction springs naturally from idolatry, because when we seek (and find) gratification from something, we keep going back for more. However, only in Jesus do we find the water that so satisfies us that we'll "never thirst again". That's the trap of lust: it's desire for something non-God, and it always never satisfies for long (if at all).
Then again, maybe the analogy doesn't work that way. I suppose you can be "addicted to God" and always wanting more of Him... but the good news is that He doesn't have any bad side effects. ;-) Addiction to (worship of) God and His way of life only leads to blessing and love and restored relationships and healing.
It's funny how many things in my life lead back to this summarization: I'm a being created to worship God. When I wander outside of that divine purpose I find only hardship and pain and destruction. Putting my worship (my thoughts, my desires, my time and other resources) towards any other thing leads to an inevitable crash.
Anyway, my original thought was in answer to the comment about whether this is an American problem. I don't think so. I really don't see any other cultures with the perfect model marriages (or male/female relationships), regardless of cultural details. I think it just looks a little different in other places, but it's the same thing. Idolatry.
I've heard a great message series by Creflo Dollar on the topic of lust. He really boiled it down clearly, with an understanding of the mechanics of the problem and practical application for deliverance and restoration.
Here's a link to the video version (there's audio CDs, too):
Oops, that link session (to the Creflo video) times out and doesn't work. Just go to Creflo Dollar's website and search the bookstore for "I Declare War on Lust". Good preaching.
Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, we don't have enough lust. If our desires were strong enough we would bypass the things that don't really satisfy us (porn, immoral sex, etc.) and pursue what (or Who) really does satisfy.
Mark K took the words right out of my fingers. Part of our "addiction" problem--as John has very nicely described--is that we're settling for the unreal. And we settle for it so often that we think it is The Real. If the sheer accessibility of porn doesn't drag you in, it seems that something else will--the attraction of power, etc. (David Wilcox's "Sex and Music" is insightful here).
Maybe it's too idealistic or abstract to write this out loud, but it seems like what we really want is completeness. Sex--more, perhaps, than other pleasures--seems to be an avenue toward completeness. It's not the whole story, of course. But if sex is the closest thing we can get to completeness (even if it's just virtual sex), we'll settle for it.
thanks for sharing you struggles. visit www.xxxchurch.com it is a ministry to those who struggle with this. they've done things like open a booth at porn conventions and try to minister even to people in that business.
Teddy wrote --
"Andy, you mentioned addictions in terms of an American problem, and wondered whether it's as bad in other cultures. I agree that America has a lot of bad stuff so EASY to hand, much moreso than most other nations."
Certainly lust/monogamy/sexual continence is a universal problem, but it seems that we Americans have added a whole new twist to it.
I have to strongly disagree with Teddy that we have more of the "bad stuff" here than you'd find in other cultures.
In Japan, it's common to see well-dressed businessmen thumbing through porn/hentia on the subway. In London the average phone booth is plastered with boob-baring ads for call girls. In France you can see prime-time TV that we'd reserve for Skinimax in the States. The beaches of Brazil are awash in barely-there bikinis, and the list could go on.
Now, the question is: Are they the worse for it?
Outside of certain obvious examples of Gary Glitter-driven underage prostitution and the like, I'd have to say no.
(Now, these last comments stem from casual experience. I have not seen any studies comparing teen romance / abortion rates / spousal abuse / prostitution / STDs / HIV / etc. with an eye toward porn and attitudes on sex.)
Much of the rest of the world seems to have a more mature attitude towards it all, while we snicker and feel ashamed like we're still stuck in junior high.
It seems that many other cultures have the ability to be more causal about sex. As I said before, I'm not sure that it's a good thing, but it certainly is the opposite of addiction.
There seems to be a greater acceptance of the fact that the body has certain parts and does certain things, which can be sometimes beautiful, sometimes funny, sometimes mundane, and occasionally sublime. But they don't seem to be so wracked with angst about the ramifications.
If you're hooked on something, you just can't have a casual attitude about it.
I agree with you, Grant.
Just a quick clarification, though. The person you were responding to was Teddi, not Teddy. I know Teddy, I don't know Teddi, and although I'm glad that Teddi felt free to comment, I just wanted to note that the person you're responding to is probably not who you think he (she?) is.
"If you're hooked on something, you just can't have a casual attitude about it."
You think? I know people who smoke pot round the clock, and have for decades. They are hooked as surely as anyone can be hooked. But they don't sweat it (unless they happen to be out of pot). It's just part of their daily routine, and otherwise they don't give it a second thought. I'm not sure that "casualness" equates to "non-addiction." Sometimes it simply means desensitization and a numbed conscience.
Interesting discussion... provacative. Most of it I dont really have any thoughts or experience to contribute too. One thing thought did strike me personally...
John you said
"Hell, the value of a REAL naked woman has declined for most men over the years. Sure, the ample, Rubenesque physique of the yore has been passe for quite some time now, but even attractive, fit women aren't enough to cause a decent erection for most men in our society. Today, if she doesn't look like a 12 year old with a boob job, if she isn't permanently hornier than a cat in heat, it's not really worth it, is it?"
I believe that. I think that effects us a lot... as women. Or at least me. My husband has never made me feel that way, but society does. Even though I only care about my husband, I have felt that pressure most my life to live up to a standard that is not possible. Like no matter what I do or how I take care of myself it will never be enough.
You articulated it well... A 12 year old with a boob job.
ahh... teddi/teddy, such are the pitfalls of jumping uninvited into someone else's conversation!
so, since that's the case, let me rephrase: Teddi, I most respectfully disagree with you... ;)
Good point about not being fully aware of ones habits/crutches. Without a little conflict (or someone to shine a little light) we've rarely got an incentive to change our ways.
Hey, no problem, Grant. Jump in any time. I just thought you might have the famous Teddy D. in mind, when this is Teddi Baer (okay, I made up that last name, but wouldn't it be fun?).
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