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The three links that typically connect to porn are lust, pornography, and masturbation. The person begins with the seed of desire in the heart. When the passion connects to an outward object (porn), the lust ignites, and masturbation extinguishes the flame. This process proves to be deadly. James provides an illustration of this concept.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14-15).
Do you see the links in those two sentences? The lust nests in the heart, alone, untempted. Ignition happens when there is an object in the person’s sightline. In this case, it’s porn on the Internet, let’s say. The flames of lust burn robustly. The person chooses gratification to extinguish the problem, which is masturbation—a deadly response.
James says this person will bring forth death, which is an accurate way to think about it. The steps to that end begin imperceptively Then, at some point, it becomes a rote habit: Without thinking, the addict will go through this sequence a zillion times. The person is now a “dead man walking.”
The prevalence and preference of porn are mainly due to the secretiveness of this sin. We can do it in cyberspace, where we connect with each other and detach ourselves from each other, all at the same time. We are a weird community in our cyber-silos where intimacy is artificial but real enough to satisfy any dark longing.
Cyberspace is the perfect evil where those who prefer darkness over light to habituate themselves. In a sense, Facebook is porn for a few lonely, cynical, self-imposed, social-distancing people. They don’t want real relationships because those real-world connections have proven to be disappointing, hurtful, or unfulfilling. But they want intimacy, even if it’s artificial.
The porn addict is similar, as he uses the Internet to create the shortest distance between lust and gratification. The habituated addict can jump on the net, get their “fix on,” and go about their day without entangling themselves in the messiness of real-world lives. The social media porn addict will do similarly.
The porn or Facebook addicts give themselves over to an artificial relationship addiction because they want to control the narrative of their lives. Rather than trusting God, they can be a god, and when we’re in control, we pick the easy path every time. There is a precedent for this perspective.
Satan told Eve that if she disobeyed God, she could be like God. For whatever reason, his suggestion was plausible enough for her to say no to God and yes to evil. When you want to do something badly enough, you will believe a lie rather than the truth. Eve wanted it, and there was a path of least resistance. She took it. Adam was not far behind. (Read Romans 1:21-25.)
Although they knew God, they did not honor Him as such. They chose the path of futile thinking, and their hearts went dark. As improbable as it may sound, they walked with God but willfully chose to embrace a lie. As you have already intuited, you can’t judge them too unkindly because you have done this many times—and me, also.
God’s response to His two friends was not to change them back to their former state. He decided to give them up to the impure lusts of their hearts. Frightening! He allowed them to exchange the truth about Himself for a lie, and the effect of their sin was an insatiable desire to worship and serve themselves more than the true and living God. (Read Romans 1:21-25.)
The first “sin scene” in the Bible is the story of a man and woman who wanted to be like a god. Rather than resting in the all-sufficient and self-existing One, they wanted to experience their version of self-reliance, self-actualization, and self-satisfaction. They wanted to experience life on their terms—doing it their way. Just because you may know God, it does not mean you won’t implement a do-it-yourself plan into your life.
The problem with a human-centered model for doing things your way is that you may have worked your way into it, but you will not work yourself out of it. Adam and Eve had no fix for what they did. You need to know this, or you will complicate your [original sin problem] as they did. You may choose self-reliance to make your messes, but you need God-reliance to extricate yourself from it (Genesis 3:15, 21).
As you know from Adam and Eve’s story, there was the offer of self-sufficiency, which is a without God theology. The perceived, perverted upside to this type of twisted theology is how the sinner becomes the collector of all praise, fame, and adoration. For example, porn is not primarily about a woman’s body.
Indeed, there is a form of twisted pleasure in the object of his desires. But it’s the desire for praise, fame, adoration, and [fill in the blank] that is the control center of his heart. Once you can identify and isolate the hidden desires of the heart, you can help the addict down redemption’s road. Don’t make the mistake of giving the object (porn) of his lust all your attention.
Another example of how this works is the person who surrounds himself with a “harem of cyber ladies” who fawn over him. The cyber-girls are objects that satisfy his desires. He enters the “theater in the mind” as he role-plays with the women. It’s similar to the kid who pretends (heart desire) to be Superman (object) or his favorite WWE wrestler (object). Of course, the difference is that porn addiction is not a child’s game—but a dark sin that will shrink the soul and kill a relationship.
I’m going to share with you four characteristics of a porn person’s heart desires. Before I do that, I trust you have perceived already that I have been steering away from gender pronouns so that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking only men can be addicts. There are three reasons for not being gender-specific.
Insecurity – A component of the porn problem is someone craving power. Surrounding himself with objects that he can pretend are adoring him is one way a person will feel a sense of strength and power. While some may look aghast at this kind of twisted thinking, you struggle similarly, though your behavioral sin might not be porn. Your problem could be caring too much about what others think of you. You shudder at the thought of exposure for who you know yourself to be on the inside. What do you do? You present yourself as [fill in the blank], which is your way of securing the power you crave.
Escapism – When you live in a world of your creation, you are continually working to keep up the illusion. For men, it could be workaholism, for example. The individual’s craving for reputation is so intense that he “works himself to death.” His identity is in who he is—according to the world of his creation, rather than who he is in Christ. It takes work to pretend you’re something that your inner-self is saying you’re not. At some point, you become drained in search of a break. You need a pick-me-up to get through another day. Some addicts find that release through mindless Facebook streaming. Others will binge-watch television. The porn person will turn to that addiction.
Appreciation – Our approval drives can be so potent that we delve into the darkness of our worlds to find a way to garner applause. Late at night, sitting in the basement, entering the theater of the mind, the addict surrounds himself with his cyber-associates. A craving for “somebody to like me” is so alluring that he creates a false world with false narratives, breathing lies into his mind, and he makes what he did okay. Adam and Eve jumped into this ditch (Genesis 3:12) immediately after their first sin (Genesis 3:6-7). Their dark craving for approval sent them down a twisted road of excuse-making and blaming, hoping God would like them.
Soul-Deflation – All of these things, plus a few others that you may have, point to a deflated soul. It’s a person who feels small on the inside and is shrinking by the day. He needs an ego trip, which his “go-to addiction” provides. Many parents with critical attitudes toward their children have expedited the process of the child’s addiction, whether it was porn or real-world sexual relationships. One of the worst things you can do to an addict is to criticize them uncharitably. Whenever you degrade a person—deflate them, there will be a corresponding temptation to pump themselves back up again, which could be the road to addictive behavior.
I have been talking about the characteristics of porn mostly, but I trust you can see your tendencies in these descriptors. The four soul-shrinking components are not exhaustive but complete enough to demonstrate the need to look at the heart as you’re helping the person with their behavioral addiction. Indeed, the lady with the Facebook addiction must “cut the cord,” at least for a season. The person with a porn addiction must make those external adjustments, too. But if you miss the heart, you will not bring long-term restoration to the addicted soul.
The addict’s most significant heart problem is their problem with the Lord. They are choosing something over God, a commentary about their thoughts, expectations, and experience with the Lord. When a person picks a pet sin over the Lord, they are saying they had rather have [this], which points to a deficiency in their understanding and practice of Theology Proper, which is the Doctrine of God. A gospel breakdown is active in that soul—so much so that the choice to sin is a quick fix over God’s solution.
Once you identify these desires, you want to bring them to light. The assumption is that the person wants this outcome, too. You won’t help anyone toward a worship reorientation if they are not willing to cooperate. Tearing down a faulty worship structure is a community event.
One Last Thing – Did you notice the title of this article? Specifically, the ambiguity of it? It says that our choices to feel better are addictive. It’s true whether those choices are righteous or evil. Didn’t you feel better after God regenerated you? Of course, you did, and that was an exceptional choice. The problem should not be our hope to feel better but the methods we choose to accomplish that desire. Find your “feel good” in God, please!
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).