Tom Ponchak, BSCD, graduated with a degree in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville before leaving the Catholic Church to become an Evangelical pastor. After ten years away from Catholicism he returned to the Church in 2007. Today, Tom holds a master catechist certification from the Diocese of Orlando and is actively involved in the faith formation ministry at his parish. He and his wife, Lisa, are members of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, a lay association of the faithful emphasizing Franciscan and monastic spirituality. He lives in central Florida with Lisa and their six children, and spends his days as an insurance claims manager to pay the bills and feed the family.
Loving Jennifer Lawrence
This week there appeared a story about an interview that actress Jennifer Lawrence gave to Vanity Fair in the wake of having explicit photos of herself hacked and shared on the internet. The story included this excerpt:
“I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you” (emphasis added).
When I read that last line, something inside me grieved. My heart broke for Jennifer Lawrence, for our society, and for my five daughters. What have we become when a beautiful, smart, talented young woman believes that her only choice in a “loving, healthy, great relationship” is to accept that her boyfriend will lust after other women through random porn, or to make homemade porn for him?
Although the media have been treating this as a story about internet privacy, I think Jennifer’s remark reveals a deeper issue, a deeper wound that has been inflicted on our culture: the confusion of love and acceptance with lust and sex. (Full disclosure: this topic isn’t foreign to me. I’ve publicly shared my own struggles with porn and with trying to find acceptance and love.) This confusion is why J-Law can look back on a relationship in which she felt that she had to compete with porn—by turning herself into porn—as something “loving” and “healthy.”
There was nothing loving or healthy in my relationship with my wife during the time of my addiction. There was only me, focused on me, satisfying me. I was looking for love, but I settled for less. It wasn’t until real love, unconditional love, was shown to me that I could see lust for what it was—a cheap substitute that always leaves you empty. Ultimately it is only when we encounter the love of Christ that we can understand what love is and how to truly love others. Love is a gift freely given, not a commodity that is earned.
If I could talk to Jennifer Lawrence, I would want her to know that she is more precious, more beautiful, more accepted, and more loved than she could ever imagine; and not for what she can do, but for who she is. I’d let her know, just like I want my daughters to know, that she doesn’t have to earn or prove love. That she doesn’t need to compromise in order to know love. If I could talk to her old boyfriend, I’d tell him that he’s better than the expectations he’s made for himself. I’d want him to know, like I want my son to know, that love makes no demands; that being a man means respecting women by loving them as persons—not lusting for them as objects. I’d tell him that he, too, is loved and accepted for who he is, not what he does.
Maybe the aftermath of the recent celebrity photo hacking has a silver lining. People are speaking out against the voyeuristic culture that has created a demand for these types of pictures. Others have echoed J-Law’s sentiments that looking at these photos is a violation not just of these celebrities’ privacy but of their very personhood, exposing in public what is intended to be private.
Exposing in public what is intended to be private. Does that sound familiar? Maybe this can be that moment of hitting bottom for the porn addict we call America. There is something that awakens in our spirit when we recognize other people as deserving of dignity and love, and see them suffering when their dignity is violated and their love abused. Through their tears and brokenness, objects of desire become daughters and sisters and sons and spouses again.