My Life

Practical Freedom from Porn

No one feels good after watching porn, and no one wants to be addicted to porn. If this is true, and I believe it is, then why the heck is it so hard to break free from it? I would suggest it is because this is where and how evil works — it takes and distorts the beautiful and powerful gift of sexuality into something into a source of shame and insecurity. We are not our worst struggles; you are not your porn habit. You are beloved. God delights in you. Because I believe that, here I hope to offer some different ways that you might approach your struggle with pornography based on my own struggle with pornography and through my experience over the last seven years teaching high school and walking with many students through this struggle in their own lives.

Lean Into Community

You have to talk about this! If you try and go at this alone, there is no chance. The Devil works in the dark and wants us to feel alone. Community is at the center of Christian living and has to be engaged when overcoming any adversity. I can confidently say that there are other teens in your community who are facing this struggle.

Reach out to your youth minister to see if he/she would be willing to start an anonymous group for teens in your youth group that struggle with pornography. Finding a safe place where you can share your struggle and find accountability is essential to success. Bearing your brokenness to others is terrifying, but the liberation you will feel by simply sharing about your struggle will ultimately empower you to express your sexuality in a healthy way.

Build Intimacy with Jesus

At first glance, this one might sound weird or even make you uncomfortable, the first time I heard that phrase it made me feel that way. Jesus spent all of his time with the broken and struggling. The disciples were a hot mess, yet he chose to meet them where they were at, spending time with them, and through his love, transformed their shame and insecurity into power. It is in our brokenness and struggles that we encounter God. The Paschal Mystery is marked by the transformative way that God’s love transforms pain, insecurity, and shame into love and strength. Father Greg Boyle S.J. writes in his book Tattoos On the Heart, “Behold the One beholding you and smiling. It is precisely because we have such an overactive disapproval gland ourselves that we tend to create God in our own image. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment”. Spend time with Jesus, his loving gaze decimates our shame if we allow ourselves to be loved. Spend time with the numerous healing parables, especially throughout the Gospel of Luke, and pay attention to the way that Jesus heals, listens to, and spends time with people in their brokenness. Place yourself in their shoes, taking their place in the story, and allow Jesus to heal you.

Fixating on our Goodness

You are inherently good, and God exists within you. This has to be our starting point. The power of evil is rooted in the devil convincing us that we are not good and that ultimately we have a limited capacity for goodness. Instead of focusing on all the different ways that you struggle with watching porn, work to focus on all the ways that you are successful in resisting and loving in healthy ways. Celebrate the small victories, the ways that you have overcome, and the ways that you have loved well. Work on building this habit, and pay attention to the way those victories leave you feeling. Try praying through your breathing, every breath in, breathe in something that you know to be good about yourself, and every breath out, let go of something that is negative. You might have to start with just breathing out the negativity, but eventually, space will be made for you to see your own goodness. Or, take some take a few moments each day to list the ways that you have loved well, with an emphasis on how you loved yourself or how you have accepted love.

Pay Attention

Pay attention to your feelings. St. Ignatius names our movements of the heart as consolation and desolation. Consolation is marked by energy, inspiration, and clarity, while desolation is marked by turning inward, cutting ourselves off from the community, and the limiting of our vision and potential. Take note of the places in your life, and in relation to your sexuality that you experience consolation and desolation. Do you feel like there are any parts of your life that you need to hide, or can’t share? How can these moments and places of desolation, be brought into the light or moved towards consolation? In moments of consolation or in places of consolation, how can you amplify those? How can you turn those experiences into habits?

Move!

Our sexuality is part of our physical bodies, and as a result, the struggle with porn is not just a spiritual or mental struggle, it has a deeply physical component. Sexual tension is real and many times unavoidable, especially as a maturing teenager. Physical activity can be a really healthy way to work through the sexual tension and urges that you find yourself experiencing. Build a habit of exercise that can replace your habit of watching porn. If you don’t exercise, start small with little challenges each day and build into larger habits. There are lots of great apps that you can you use to build into something like this, such as couch to 5k, or the Johnson and Johnson series of seven-minute exercise videos! If that isn’t your speed, start playing pokemon go, get into geo cashing, or simply go for a walk (if you have a dog, your parents will LOVE this and you take care of a chore!).

Examine Your Social Media

Many times the triggers that make breaking free of pornography are the visual ones that we encounter everywhere. Unfortunately, no matter where we turn there are sexually provocative images that can make it really challenging to work toward moving away from porn. While this is the world we live in, many of these images come to us through our own social media accounts, of which we have a reasonable amount of control. Take some time and look through who you follow on Instagram, what Snapchat stories you see, or the Tik Tok videos that you swipe through. Would you feel allowing your friends, family, siblings, and parents to scroll through your social media account, not checking your DM’s just simply looking at the photos that come up? Do the accounts you follow and the people you interact with represent loving, healthy, and lifegiving representations of sexuality? As you approach your social media accounts with this lense, unfollow those accounts, or if need be, get rid of the social media account that causes you to feel insecure, shameful, or are ones that you would want to hide. Replace those negative account by following accounts that offer you support and strength, such as @fightthenewdrug and @covenant.eyes!

Freedom, not Restriction

How would your life change, or be different without porn? Many times the way that the struggle is approached is through a lense of restriction, fixating on the quantifiable time that passes between moments that you look at porn. While it is important to celebrate those victories, this approach is many times ineffective and setting us up for failure or let down, and potentially a plunge into a spiral. Changing the approach to focus on what you are losing out on and the ways that pornography limits our ability to love can offer us true power over porn. Porn affects everything, especially our relationships. It distorts how we interact with others romantically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Think about how moving away from porn could change the way that you look at people allowing you to focus more, on who people are and less about how they look. What would it be like to authentically be you with everyone, because you no longer are hiding this dark part of yourself that isn’t a true reflection of who you are or want to be? Start by listing all the things you might be missing out on due to your struggle with porn, especially focusing on the ways it might be limiting your ability to love and care for others. How would it change your emotional, spiritual state? What potential within you, what part of you is being limited by this habit? These missed opportunities might be some things that you bring with you when you go to reconciliation.

About the Author

Will Rutt

He currently teaches religious studies at Brophy, in Phoenix, Arizona and serves as the Director of Ignatian Service and Advocacy in the school's Office of Faith and Justice. He is a product of Life Teen, growing up in Scottsdale at St. Patrick’s Catholic community; served as a core member in the EDGE and Life Teen programs for a number of years. He loves anything outdoors and spills any liquid he comes into contact with.

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