Is pornography cheating?
Oh, sorry…I guess I need to write more. Well, I guess I can explain it a little better.
Girls can usually see this issue for what it is. We guys, on the other hand, rationalize, make excuses, or are just simply too addicted to our lust to admit what is staring at us from the computer screen.
Pornography is cheating on your family, cheating on your spouse, and ultimately cheating on yourself.
I really believe that pornography is the “silent killer” of our generation, stripping men (and a growing population of women) of their vitality and potency to become the men they’re called to be. We are all the “walking wounded,” having been exposed to pornography in one way or another. Some men and women have been mildly rocked by their encounters to porn, while other marriages and faith communities have been completely torn apart by just one individual’s addiction.
Pornography is inherently shameful because we know—deep down—that something extremely personal has become entertainment. We men don’t hide or check our surroundings when we try to sneak a peak of Home & Garden in the magazine rack at the store, or clear our online browsing history because we spent too much time looking at websites of fishing equipment. We aren’t proud of viewing pornography for a reason. The computer screen becomes a mirror that reveals to us our failure to be faithful—faithful as husbands to our wives, faithful in preparing ourselves to be a gift to our future wives, faithful to our call to be men of sacrifice as Christ was in embracing the Cross.
And we’ve all heard the excuses:
“Nobody gets hurt.” Very few men truly believe in the “nobody gets hurt” excuse of pornography. Many men want to believe this, but deep down they know otherwise. Just ask any sister/girlfriend/spouse.
“It’s healthy for me!” Pornography re-wires the pleasure sensors of your brain and has been proven to be as addictive as heroin.
“She isn’t a real person.” Yes, she is.
It’s not that pornography shows too much of a person, but that it truly shows too little, and we men, who are called to be protectors of the dignity of the women in our lives, forego our mission for fleeting moments of pleasure. Shame and self-centeredness inevitably follows the repetition of viewing pornography, and—for a rapidly growing population of youth—addiction and acting out what has been viewed on screen.
We’re living in a warped time period where viewing pornography is aggressively marketed as something “healthy” and should even be viewed with your significant other to “spice” things up, as several mens’ magazines are continually promoting (and I’m getting tired of reading). Douglas Wilson said that authentic masculinity is about “sacrificial responsibility,” but pornography robs men of both sacrifice and responsibility. How truly backwards it is that “adult” stores cater to men who refuse to grow up. It took a generation of people understanding how secondhand smoke could be just as harmful as those smoking cigarettes—I wonder at times how many lives have to be wrecked by “secondhand” porn before we wake up as a nation.
I saw my first Playboy magazine when I was about ten, playing hide-and-seek in my uncle’s closet. Waiting for my brother and cousin to find me, the magazine caught my eye. I didn’t open it (somehow I knew this wasn’t a normal periodical), but the way this cover model looked both enticed and instilled a certain fear in me. She seemed angry, and yet alluring (I do remember thinking it was strange that her clothing was falling off). It wasn’t until college, though, and all the “freedoms” that college life offers, that the bell sounded and my personal boxing match with pornography really began. Thankfully, I met some good guys through the campus ministry and we began to hold each other accountable. Deeper purification happened during my time in seminary, and I’m graced to say that I haven’t looked at the stuff in a long time and was purified in many ways before pursuing Jackie.
But the battle isn’t over.
I have to recognize my humanness and be vigilant. There’s a spiritual battlefield happening around me (and a selfishness in my own heart still) with an enemy wanting to tear me down, especially in this time of engagement and preparation for marriage. I’m thankful that the Lord rooted this out of me; I would never want to bring this evil into my marriage. But I also understand the struggle and the humility I’ve learned in passing through what will likely be the major battle of our generation, and the battle our sons and daughters will all have to face. There’s a wealth of articles and information online regarding the evils of pornography and how to overcome its snares, but I want to offer three tips that have worked for me.
1). Get over yourself.
The temptation to view pornography usually finds us in moments of inactivity, boredom, or indulgence, and it breeds a cycle of self-centeredness and self-pity that just leads to further porn viewing. Breaking the cycle usually means getting over yourself and going outside of yourself. Serve the poor. Be generous towards your family or your co-workers. It’s not enough to say “no” to pornography—we have to channel that energy towards something positive, and eventually, when moments of temptation stir up again, we can recognize the destructive force that pornography is and can make a more life-giving choice.
“As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man” (Proverbs 27:17) and we men cannot be lone rangers on this Christian journey and expect to rise to each challenge. We need community. We need brotherhood.
The seminary really hammered this point home to me, and to this day one of my seminarian brothers monitors my online activity through an accountability website (www.covenanteyes.com). Basically, he gets a report every week of what I look at, and it’s enough to keep me on the straight and narrow (and he calls me out, even when I’ve happened upon belly-baring pictures of Shakira). Even just having a guy you trust to whom you can say, “Hey man, it’s been a rough week,” and knowing he won’t judge but will support you, makes all the difference. We guys know that looking at porn is shameful, but by bringing it into the light we cancel so much of its power over us. And if we need some stronger remedy, we have to be humble enough to seek professional help.
St. John of the Cross asserted that the desires of our fallen nature are so strong that we need a love that’s stronger still to conquer them—the love of the Bridegroom, the love of Jesus Christ. We’re called to real love, not quick fixes or counterfeits. Satan delights when we turn our gaze from God and try to quench that “ache” or “longing” without Him. Asking God for help is step #1. We can’t “muscle” through temptation with our own strength—not for long, anyway.
Pray for the healing of those involved in the porn industry, especially all the women addicted to drugs, alcohol, and whatever else may be numbing their senses or imprisoning their hearts. Nothing sobers you up like realizing that the woman in front of you is someone else’s daughter.
Doing a daily rosary really turned my prayer life around as well. If any woman could lay the smack down and rightly order our desires, and teach us how channel them into the life-giving force that it was made to be, it’s Mary. Meditating on her tender femininity is a great antidote for the poison that pornography pushes into our veins. Mary will lead you in purity and lead you to her Son, and kick your butt in the process.
I’ll also go to confession as often as I need it (which is often; my spiritual director once slyly commented as I approached, “Back so soon?”). No matter how long or how deep the snares of lust have entrapped us, Christ can and does make all things new. We just need the humility to know that, despite the mistakes we’ve made, He is still calling us to redemption.
We have been created for real love and for real greatness. We have been made for both sacrifice and responsibility.
Let’s stop cheating ourselves.
(Used with permission from http://www.jackiefrancois.com)
Bobby Angel hails from St. Petersburg, FL, and is now a campus minister and theology teacher at an all-boys Catholic high school in Anaheim, CA. In August 2013, he married Jackie Francois and the two have been sharing the Good News together through blogs, talks, and webcasts. They enjoy living by the beach, eating good food, swing dancing, game nights with friends, and being married. Their blog can be found at: www.jackieandbobby.com