My Relationships Addressing Pornography: a Guide to Conversation by Helen Maier “Friendship, as has been said, consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.” -Saint Pope John Paul II After a five year battle, I finally opened my heart to a loved one concerning pornography. It was the scariest and most freeing conversation I have ever had. If you are personally struggling, check out my recent blog “Too Precious for Porn.” But if you know someone who, like me, needed a friend, I hope you find this helpful. Pornography is no joke and it’s becoming more of an everyday concern. Maybe you’ve encountered it yourself, and you’re fighting to overcome it; perhaps a loved one or a friend is struggling. It’s difficult and nearly impossible to tackle this epidemic head-on, let alone have a conversation about it. Your high school bestie, your boyfriend or girlfriend, or even a family member might share that they’re struggling with a porn habit or addiction. To quote King Theoden from The Lord of the Rings, “What can men do against such reckless hate?” Well, we can begin with a reckless love. We can use Christ’s example of how to respond to our neighbor to approach the conversation with compassion for the individual. First, it’s important to clarify that pornography, no matter how involved a person is, is a serious and addicting problem. It is an issue that needs to be addressed with gentle caution, but more so with kindness and sympathy. A frequent relationship with porn is much like an addiction to drugs or alcohol. A study held by researchers at Cambridge University found that habitual consumers of alcohol mirrored frequent consumers of porn. MRIs of a person who compulsively drank alcohol had high activity in the same region of the brain as a person who compulsively consumed porn. There are multiple ongoing studies to test how porn reroutes your brain’s reward and motivation pathways, which helps understand why someone would consume something that harms them. It limits, damages, and separates a person in more ways than just physical. So when someone you’re close to shares that they’re struggling with using porn, what can you do? Someone you care about came to you with this hidden sin and struggle. They came to you, trusting you with something extremely sensitive and personal. How do you even begin to respond? Let’s walk with Christ on this one. Your duty as a friend is not to condemn, but to communicate the reckless love of Christ. The best way you can do this is by being fully and authentically yourself when approached by someone longing for forgiveness and a better life. Whether you’re a baptized Christian or not, imitating Christ as priest, prophet, and king will help you serve, speak, and act with love in this moment of vulnerability. Priest Your first priority is to pray and offer sacrifice. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your words and thoughts as a friend shares their story. Offer up your time to sit and listen. However long they need. Sacrifice the temptation to “fix” them and just be there, listen, and really hear them. Chances are if they summoned the courage to open up out loud, they’ve been working hard to get better behind the scenes, too. If you’d like, close the conversation with a prayer and continue to offer your time and encouragement as they fight for freedom. Prophet Pornography is a disturbing phenomenon, and if this is your first time encountering something of this nature it might be hard to withhold judgment, much less find the right words at all! Here it’s important to exercise your role as Prophet and speak God’s word since yours can fall a bit short. “Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me, See, I place my words in your mouth!” -Jeremiah 1:9 Let your friend know that you recognize their courage for coming forward. That first step is always the hardest. Tell them how happy you are that they are no longer in the dark. If you’ve been where they are, feel free to share some of your testimony. If not, ensure them that they are so loved. It helps him or her know they aren’t alone. These conversations are wonderful opportunities to share God’s love to someone who may be struggling to believe in it. Speak into their life the hope you have for them. Celebrate their human dignity, weep with them for the pain pornography has caused their life, and remind them of them the Father’s eagerness to forgive. Do your own research on how to battle the issue by reading the Catechism’s teaching on sexuality so you can continue to speak for God on the issue. King This is where you offer your assistance. By listening and allowing your friend to voice their struggle, they now have the ability to openly pursue holiness without the fear that grows in hiding. Invite them to be proactive in reclaiming their relationship with Christ and victory over the enemy. If you’re truly willing to dedicate yourself to it, ask if they’d want you to journey with them an “accountability partner” and be there for them when they are tempted or struggle. Both of you can download The Victory App by Life Teen to keep up with their progress. Let them know you’re with them as they climb out of sin. Fill the relationship you have with them with encouraging words and uplifting counsel. Check in on how they’re doing, meet up regularly. You have the power to inspire, so continue deepening your personal relationship to Christ with your friend by your side. Be creative and be involved. A personal favorite is inviting my fallen brother or sister to confession with a donut date afterward. How can we love like He who is Love? Your duty as priest, prophet, and king does not stop at this conversation. Invite them to live! Healing can take a while and their wounds are still sensitive. Their battle doesn’t end at your conversation. They will be tried and tempted spiritually, their brain will seek out the pleasing effects of consuming pornography, and they’ll most likely think they are still alone. Coming out of that cave presents a long road and they may fall numerous times before they’re far away from threat. Do what you can to love them well. Be patient and run to them with Christ’s enthusiastic love. Watch loving change you. One of the best experiences of my life has been loving someone close to me while they struggle with this sin. That is where I meet Christ. I also encounter Love when I see a willing heart ready to listen to my own struggle. Your presence is so important. Say “yes” and do not be afraid. He is with you. Because pornography can become addictive, it’s important to discern how to best help a friend or loved one. Don’t be afraid to invite them to see a priest or a youth minister if you don’t feel you can support them as much as they need. While the battle they face is not fought alone, there is a place for friends and a place for professionals. It can be dangerous to try and help someone who doesn’t want it, so use your best judgment and ask for guidance along the way. Understand that pornography affects a person in more ways than you may be qualified to help. Simply love them where Christ is calling you to and hope for their future without this burden.