If you or someone you love struggles with pornography, it’s my hope that the following two blogs will be of help to you as you seek to be free, and seek to be healed.
In this blog I will suggest two approaches, and in my next one I will suggest three, that are proven to help those who want to be free from pornography.
Before we look at these five steps, however, 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” (Jn. 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 a short prayer for purity that was written by St. Thomas Aquinas:
“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:
|Matt 5:8||Jas 1:14-15||Sir 23:18||Mk 2:17||1 Pet 5:8-9|
|1 Tim 4:12||1 Cor 10:13||1 Thes 4:3-8||Ps 51:1-2||Eph 6:10-17|
|Phil 4:8||2 Tim 2:22||Mk 9:47||Heb 8:12||John 10:10|
|Ps 24:3-4||Ps 101:3-4||Ps 51:1-2||Ps 103:12||Rom 12:2|
|Sir 7:36||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?
2. Become Accountable
Accountability means allowing another person to remind you of who you are and who you desire to be. It means being transparent with a trusted friend or mentor about your struggles so that he can offer encouragement and support. It’s an ongoing reminder that no sin is private; that even our hidden choices can have disastrous consequences.
I have never met anyone who was able to break free from porn without accountability. No recovering porn user can be an island! We need each other. If you’re a Catholic then one obvious and necessary way to be accountable is to find a good confessor and stick to him. Don’t “priest hop” because you’re ashamed of confessing the sin again so soon. The priest is not there to judge you but to love you. Confessing to the same priest will be an opportunity to humble yourself while honestly facing the severity of your problem.
One very practical—and in my opinion essential—tool for online accountability is accountability software called Covenant Eyes. Instead of just blocking certain websites (although it has that function also), it monitors all the sites that you visit and then sends a report to your accountability partner (it even monitors the websites behind the advertisements on the site you’re visiting). Online accountability changes your web-surfing mentality: Rather than wondering how you could get around a filter to visit some forbidden-fruit website, you will know that you could visit the website, but that you will be held accountable for it.
When you think about it, isn’t this how the heavenly Father acts towards us? He could “block” us from turning our backs on him and from the pain our sins bring, but he does not. Rather he teaches us right from wrong, and implores us to do what’s right (while giving us the grace necessary to do it). He does not censor our every thought and action because he desires us to grow up to be responsible moral agents: sons and daughters who freely choose what is good.
Covenant Eyes seems to have thought of all the loopholes porn users will think of ahead of time. For example, if you delete your account, view porn and then reinstall your account, your accountability partner will be notified. If the temptation to view porn at any moment threatens to overwhelm you, there is also a “panic button” you can click. Your Internet will be completely disabled; the only way to get it back is to contact the folks at Covenant Eyes.
For a free 30 day trial, use the promo code “pureinheart.”
In my next article we will look at three more approaches to freedom from pornography.
Prayer for Purity by St. Thomas Aquinas
Dear Jesus, I know that every perfect gift, and especially that of chastity, depends on the power of your providence. Without you a mere creature can do nothing. Therefore, I beg you to defend by your grace the chastity and purity of my body and soul. And if I have ever sensed or imagined anything that could stain my chastity and purity, blot it out, Supreme Lord of my powers, that I may advance with a pure heart in your love and service, offering myself on the most pure altar of your divinity
all the days of my life. Amen.
Matt Fradd is the author of the new book Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women who Turned from Porn to Purity.