I’m a big believer in the evil of secret-keeping. I think that if an action or belief or similar is worthy of being kept under wraps, then it probably should be exposed. And I thoroughly believe that a kept secret has a hold over the keeper. Obviously, some secrets are good – surprise parties, for example. But a secret, like an addiction, shames the keeper into believing that they are the only one suffering, and the longer one hides it the harder it is to tell.
So I am writing this today to tell you about my secret: I am addicted to pornography.
It started when I clicked on an email at the tender age of 11. What seemed like a harmless action to sate my curiosity began a fight that has lasted over 10 years.
One cannot deal with an addiction to pornography and come out the other end unscathed. For one thing, like any addiction, pornography must be avoided at all costs. For all that one may think they are on the right track (not looking at it for months, or even years, for example), usually all it takes is a picture of an overexposed woman or man, or similar, and one falls into the hole again.
Studies have shown that pornography changes the brain. I can certainly attest to that. While I don’t show all the symptoms discovered in the study (for example, I have grown even more intolerant to violence – of any sort – against women, as opposed to accepting of it), I can certainly see the affect of others in my life. Particularly that I no longer connect emotions to sex and that it is never enough to just look at one picture. There is not and never will be enough porn to satiate the addicts in the world.
This last point was particularly illustrated to me by a conversation I had with my husband, Daryl. I was talking with him and he asked (I’m paraphrasing), “Aren’t boobies the funniest looking birds you’ve ever seen?”
I hadn’t actually ever seen a photo of a booby, so Daryl Googled it. Initially, he came up with entries for the female breast, but he soon corrected that. After I had been sufficiently introduced to the booby, he clicked on the Wikipedia article about breasts. He laughed at a couple of the pictures on the article, then closed the page and put his iPad away.
I was dumbfounded.
By this time, the desire to look at pornography had dug its claws deep in my brain. I could not, in any case, ever have just closed the page. That Daryl, who is not afflicted by addiction, could do so, shocked me. It was here I realised just how much pornography had rewired my brain.
Now, at 21, I’m more in control of my addiction, but it still has a hold over me. Let me tell you, though, that I would never have been able to get this far if it weren’t for the people God used to encourage me to be faithful and teach me how to love and honour Him better. It was their encouragement and the work of the Spirit that inspired me to do better.
There is hope for me yet, however. I know that I am a dirty, evil sinner. I don’t deserve my husband’s forgiveness – as he forgives me each and every time I give in to the temptation. I find it difficult to accept, in fact, that he doesn’t want to kick me out for betraying his trust.
But harder to accept than the forgiveness of my human, sinful husband is the forgiveness and lack of condemnation I find in God. He doesn’t hold my sin against me. In fact, in His mind, the slate is wiped clean. So I know that nothing I do will separate me from Him. As we read in Romans 8:1-11:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
My difficulty in accepting God’s forgiveness doesn’t change the fact that I am forgiven. I’m forgiven by a God who suffered a horrific death to pay for my brokenness. I’m forgiven by a God who comforts me and gives me peace. And, even more than that, I am not condemned by my mistakes. Instead I’m stood back up, brushed off and sent back along the path to righteousness.
Knowing that doesn’t change the fact that I am addicted to pornography. It doesn’t make it ok. Actually, it makes me fight harder against temptation. Knowing that God did this for me makes me want to thank Him, and I can think of no better way than to live for Him. I will continue to give in; that’s the nature of this fallen world. But I know that at least from God I will not be judged and cast off. And that makes me happy again.