It’s my hope that you are convicted of the destructive nature of pornography (if not, click here), and that if you have a habit of viewing it, these five short articles will motivate you to change, grow, and heal. To that end, I would like to propose five helpful steps (one step per article). Well, I call them “steps,” but they don’t need to be taken in order—they’re simply five approaches to healing that are proven to work.
Before we look at these five steps, I think it’s important to dispel a myth about purity that many people believe: that it’s a destination. In reality, purity is not so much a destination as it is a daily choice. If you are thinking of purity as a state you’ll arrive at after such and such a time, or once you get your prayer life in order, you will almost certainly remain frustrated and discouraged. Why? Because even after we have come to the Lord we are still left with a fallen human nature and “must still combat the movements of concupiscence that never cease leading us into evil” (CCC 978). Sexual purity involves self-mastery, which is a “long and exacting work [that] one can never consider. . . acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life” (CCC 2342).
That said, the following steps are crucial, and, in my humble opinion, indispensable to anyone who is serious about overcoming his porn problem.
The importance of prayer may seem so obvious, perhaps even trite, that you might think it isn’t worth mentioning. But guess what? When we stop mentioning it, we stop doing it. Many people—perhaps even you— often complain that they just don’t have the time to pray, or can just manage to rattle off an “Our Father” before bedtime.
Lack of time is a lame excuse though, for we always find time for that which we love.
Despite our busy schedules we usually find time for TV, Facebook, waiting in line for coffee… and sin. So from now on, don’t say, “I don’t have time to pray.” Be honest and say, “I don’t have the love to pray.”
And then tell our Lord that. Tell him “I don’t have love,” in a similar way to how our Lady told Jesus at the wedding of Cana “they have no wine” (John. 2:3). She didn’t make demands of Jesus, she simply stated a fact, trusting that he would act. We should do likewise.
Allow me to suggest three methods of prayer which have been of great help to myself, followed by two short prayers for purity of heart and when in a moment of temptation to lust:
“To recite the rosary,” wrote Pope John Paul II, “is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.” To commit to praying the rosary, perhaps even daily, is to commit to spending fifteen to twenty minutes in quiet contemplation. Often those who use pornography habitually say they experience an inner disquiet that can make contemplation seem almost impossible. The rosary is a practical and beautiful way to reverse that problem, to begin quieting our minds and our passions.
Some people dismiss the rosary as too simple, a prayer for blue-haired church ladies. Though it’s true that the rosary is a humble prayer, this is by no means a defect. Consider the humble offering of the young boy who volunteered five barley loaves to our Lord (John. 6:9). That two was a simple offering, but its result was magnificent! In the same way, when we offer the five decades of the rosary through the hands of our Blessed Mother to Jesus, what can he not do?
The famous words of one bishop, Hugh Doyle, are appropriate here: “No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the rosary.”
The Word of God is, as Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” Memorizing Scripture verses that pertain to purity can be of great help in moments of temptation. Here are over twenty Scripture verses for you to look up:
||1 Pet 5:8-9
|1 Tim 4:12
||1 Cor 10:13
||1 Thes 4:3-8
||2 Tim 2:22
Take the time to meditate upon them. There is power in the Word of God. The Bible puts it plainly, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word” (Ps. 119:9).
In the battle of the flesh, fasting can also be a powerful way to pray. You could say that prayer without fasting is like boxing with one hand tied behind your back, and that fasting without prayer is, well, dieting. To achieve purity, both are needed. “If you are able to fast,” writes St. Francis de Sales, “you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church, for besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit.”
The vice that often leads to sexual sin is a lack of self-mastery. Fasting from legitimate pleasures, even small ones, builds up that virtue within us. When I get a plate of hot fries, I may choose to deny myself salt. When I pour myself a cup of coffee, I may choose to deny myself cream or sugar. The regular habit of denying us good things gives us the inner strength to avoid bad ones. Put it this way: If we can’t say no to a cookie or another slice of pizza, how will we ever say no to the temptation to look at pornography?
Here are two prayers found in Christopher West’s excellent book, Good News About Sex & Marriage for purity of heart, and for use in moments of temptation:
A Prayer for Purity of Heart
Lord, you have created me in your image and likeness as a man (woman). Help me to accept and receive my sexuality as a gift from you.
You have inscribed in my very being, in my sexuality, the call to love as you love, in sincere self-giving, and you have made the “one flesh” union of man and woman in marriage a sign of your own life and love in this world.
Grant me the grace always to resist the many lies that continually assail the truth and meaning of this great gift of sexuality. Grant me purity of heart so that I might see the image of your glory in the beauty of others, and one day see you face to face. Amen.
A Prayer in a Moment of Temptation to Lust
This is a woman (man) made in the image and likeness of God, never to be looked upon as an object for my gratification. Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to see the image of your glory in the beauty of this woman (man), and order my sexual desires towards the truth of love. I renounce any tendency within me to use others for my own pleasure, and I unite my sufferings with hours on the cross. Amen.
Read Step 2 now!
For more from Matt Fradd, check out his post on: What I Wish College Students Knew about Pornography