One problem that biblical counselors will surely face in their counseling and everyday conversations, regardless of gender, is the addiction and enslavement to pornography. It is not uncommon to hear and meet counselees whose first introduction to pornography happened in their pre-adolescent years of 7-12.
With a problem so prevalent and pervasive in the church, numerous books and articles have been written on the topic. How can biblical counselors contribute to this conversation?
Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC) member and Association of Certified Biblical Counselor’s Executive Director, Heath Lambert recently authored a book entitled, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace which has ably defined and elucidated a gospel-centered approach to fighting the sin of pornography. Additionally, a helpful list of resources has been gathered on the BCC website to equip biblical counselors on this topic as well.
Something I have found personally helpful in counseling with both men and women through this issue is helping the counselee identify what motivates him or her to seek out pornography. In some ways we might say the actual viewing of pornography is symptomatic of a deeper worship disorder that is happening in the heart. What motivates and precedes the viewing of pornography? Once that can be identified then more specific biblical counsel can often be offered.
In some ways this might sound a bit benign, but many men I have met find themselves viewing pornography out of pure boredom. They have nothing to do on a given evening, they begin surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, and before they know it they are accessing pornography. What started out as boredom and a lack of vigilance soon gives way to viewing pornography.
One man I spoke with recently described his battle with pornography as a struggle of entitlement. After a long day of work, he felt this self-gratification was something he deserved. It was a reward for him, a way he could make himself feel better. Pornography became a vehicle for him to feel good and experience pleasure. After closer examination of his life, we were able to discover that this sense of entitlement actually tainted many areas of his life.
Escapism & Fantasy-ism
Many men are very dissatisfied with their work life, home life, sex life, situational circumstances, spousal relationships, etc. This brooding dissatisfaction and discontentment soon gives way to seeking out satisfaction and contentment in a virtual world. In this virtual, on-demand world the counselee can escape and create their own reality. Pornography in many ways becomes a haven from the “real world” they inhabit.
Fear of Rejection
Other men I counsel experience significant insecurities. Insecurities, which go something, like this, “I fear rejection from my wife when I pursue sexual intimacy, so I pursue pornography where I am always accepted.” Issues of self-image and performance soon preoccupy the mind and lead to paralyzing self-focus. The fearful man, afraid of rejection, can easily give into the lie that the people he views online always want him, they love him, they need him.
This particular motivation might seem obvious as well on the surface, but many men pursue pornography I believe, because it is easy and accessible. It is easier to type in a web address then it is to pursue intimacy with my wife. It is easier to view pornography for a few fleeting moments than to build a deep and abiding relationship with my wife. It is easier to selfishly fulfill my desires with no expectation of self-giving, self-sacrificing love for my spouse.
Believe it or not, I have met and listened to those who have viewed pornography out of a heart of vengeance. The reasoning goes something like this, “Because my spouse viewed pornography and hurt me, I am going to do the same thing to show them what it feels like.” Needless to say, the reasoning is specious and the result is always guilt, shame and empty satisfaction.
These particular motivations are in no way meant to be exhaustive, but categories to use to explore with your counselee. Many are intertwined with each other, and some perhaps are more evident than others. The wise biblical counselor should seek to understand what is going on in the counselee’s heart with the illuminating help of the word. Proverbs 20:5 states, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
Once a motivation has been more clearly discovered, I often find that the promises and warnings of God’s word can be even more effective in counseling. Rather than dealing with pornography in a reductionistic and truncated manner, robust biblical counsel can be offered like an eyedropper dispensing valuable and restorative medicine.
Join the Conversation
What other motivations have you encountered with both men and women in their struggle with pornography? What biblical promises, warnings or imperatives could uniquely deal with one of the above motivations?