by Gerard Terry
Yesterday, I met a man who had engaged in unlawful sexual behavior involving pornography for a decade. He described his anger at God for not providing him a wife after years of prayer. Today, I sat thinking of a woman I met two years ago who engaged in unlawful sexual behavior following anger at God for not providing her a husband. Both felt justified in their “self help” conduct to feel better when their expectations of God went unfulfilled. I often feel the same way.
My Unmet Expectations, My Sin
I next considered how my disappointment with God has played a role in my pornography use. While I cannot identify a 1-1 correlation, I can recall a much stronger tendency to involve myself in sexual sin when God’s provision has not met my expectations. I recall thinking “why not sin and feel better?” In this “self help” mode, I felt that God was unlikely to punish me worse. Conversely, when I had joy in seeing the expectations of my wants and needs met, I avoided pornography because I didn’t want God to withdraw the blessing.
Unmet Expectations May Occur For a Greater Purpose
When our expectations of God or life are unmet, we first assume we are being punished or that we’ve been abandoned by God – that He does not care. The Bible doesn’t support this assumption. First, our loving Father disciplines those he loves – not punishes. Jesus already took the full punishment for our sins on the cross, once and for all. Next, God’s discipline is a loving “care” for us, not an abandonment of our well-being. We can’t always see behind the scenes. Look at the bigger purpose behind Job’s tremendous loss and suffering. Stephen was not being disciplined when stoned for his faith, was he? Joseph was sold into slavery while doing nothing bad. At another point in his life, he was put in prison for running (literally) from sin with Potiphar’s wife. Looking back now, we can see God’s plan to save a nation through Joseph.
The Bird’s Eye View
You and I rationalize sinful conduct to feel better in our circumstances. We think that our anger and pornography use is justified because God has not given us a spouse, or because He took one away. When chewed out by a boss or lied to by a close friend, we justify conduct to make us feel better. Yet, only by trusting in Jesus to accomplish His good purpose in both our joy and our distress will we keep our sanity. Like Joseph, we simply don’t have the bird’s eye view to see where God is taking us through our “good” and “bad” experiences.
I have known several clients who lost their jobs after being falsely accused of wrongdoing. In most every instance, after a period of suffering, they drew closer to God in dependence. Then, they ended up with even better jobs than before. What outsiders might have seen as discipline for wrongdoing, looking back, I now see discipline for the sake of refinement and eventual blessing. In some cases though, like Stephen’s stoning or the death of a child from cancer, we may never know God’s purpose.
Expectations of God and Others
My wife recently told me that my frustration with family members and friends is based on my expectations of them. She counseled me to have lower expectations of others in order to experience less disappointment. She was right on track. With changed expectations, I have less disappointment and hurt.
Can we apply this principle to God? Is it fair to have expectations of what our creator should and should not do?
“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'" Romans 9:20
While we have promises from God in the Bible, they are not real specific. Perhaps we will suffer less distress and disappointment if we only expect His great love for us. Beyond that, we get into deep disappointment when we impose our expectations on Him. In this disappointment, we tend to lose perspective on life. Then, in an attempt to feel better, we engage in harmful behaviors like pornography. As the man and woman I mentioned above, long-term disappointment with God can result in progressive anger toward Him. Carrying prolonged anger can even result in our justifying unlawful sexual behavior to make us feel better.
I want to suggest that our expectations of God and others creates a good share of the disappointment we experience. In many cases, these expectations are unfair to the freedom others enjoy to manage their lives as they see fit (both good and bad). They are also inconsistent with God’s authority over us, His creation. When we come to accept this and adjust our internal expectations accordingly, we will have a lot less disappointment and pain in life. With less pain and disappointment, we will find less need to medicate with pornography or other destructive habits.
by Gerard Terry
I struggle to find my woundedness. Jonathan and other deep thinkers teach that many men struggling with porn are coping with a childhood woundedness. I can’t find mine. Sure, I grew up with disappointments and discipline, but I had a great childhood. From motorcycles to going hunting, life was great.
Today, however, I can identify daily wounds which come from a lifestyle of excess work and stress. Being in a fiercely competitive business, I frequently work twelve hour days and keep my guard up to always be a step ahead. In a real sense, my customer’s lives are greatly impacted by my expertise or my mistakes. After over twenty years doing this, I’m exhausted and wonder if I’m a burned out or a workaholic. Porn makes me feel good, if only for a moment.
Step One: Soul Searching to Find Our Wounds
We should all do a present-day soul search to find our recurring wounds of today. While I understand long-term historical wounds, unhealthy behavior like overeating, drugs, drinking to excess and pornography use can also be caused by recent or reoccurring daily wounding. Who in their right mind would hurt themselves and the ones they love only to feel better for a moment? Woundedness is another concept for being “injured” – having something broken on the inside. We are complex beings and it doesn’t take much to injure our emotional or mental state.
I recently heard a Pure Sex Radio podcast where Jonathan identified characteristics accompanying porn use to include stress and tiredness. I am right there. You may have others on the list which included boredom, hunger, anger and laziness. How about low self-esteem from a critical wife or boss? Consider the long-term effects of a mundane factory job or the loneliness of an over-the-road truck driver who can’t build relationships? These can all wound and injure men.
Step Two: Prepare Your Defense
Step two dictates dealing with the triggers in our lives in advance of negative compensating behaviors. We need to find tools to reduce stress like working less, exercising, participate in rewarding hobbies or leaving work when tired. I need to trust God that He can take over after I work a reasonable schedule. The lonely among us need to be intentional at making friends and hanging out with encouraging people. Consider joining a bowling league, billiard club or professional network to avoid isolation. Even having a dog (not a cat – cats won’t work) at home to greet you can provide some relief. Personally, I enjoy motorcycle riding and can feel the stress draining from me when traveling down a twisty road.
So, to answer the question, I would say “yes”, we are all wounded or injured – either from today or from years past. Counseling can be very helpful to identify causes of your woundedness and suggestions for changes to make. The bottom line is that life is difficult and we all want relief where we can find it. The secret is finding healthy ways to compensate for the difficulties we will encounter.
by Jonathan Daugherty
I'm not a biologist, but I struggle to think of anything in the animal kingdom that thrives (or even survives) alone. I believe humans especially suffer when left alone. More so than maybe any other creature on the planet we need each other. Yet, so often the wounds we carry from the difficulty and cruelty of life are carried alone. This is no way to thrive (or survive).
Having lived a life of addiction myself, I can predict a common question that might come from those drowning in the self-deception of compulsive thoughts and behaviors that seem impossible to shake: "What are the benefits of togetherness?" In other words, what's in it for me? (By the way, this is the way an addicted person thinks about everything: me, me, me.)
Well, I have good news. There is a LOT in it for those who are willing to step into the realm of community and engage the process of doing life together with others. The following are just five such benefits that I believe make doing life together way better than doing it alone.
Together we find comfort
Ecclesiastes 4:11 - ...if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Living alone is painful, and cold. And I'm not talking about not having a roommate, or a spouse, or living in a cave on the side of a mountain. I mean that living detached from others emotionally is painful. And many live like this, especially addicts.
But in recovery, an addicted person finds that they are wanted, embraced, even loved in spite of their brokenness. This brings great comfort to a lonely, broken heart. There is a warmth felt in relationship that can't be replicated in aloneness. God made us to soothe one another, to "keep one another warm," when the difficulties of life press in on us.
Together we protect each other
Ecclesiastes 4:12 - And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
We are more vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually when we live alone. We need friends, family, a community to help protect us against the harms that swirl about us in life. Temptations do not have the same power over us when we have a brother or two to fight alongside us. But if we are alone, as the verse above states, we likely will not stand.
But we don't just need relationships so we can be protected, we also need them so we can protect others. It's just as important for our brothers that we are in the foxhole as it is for us that they are there. When you have someone specific to fight for, rather than just a concept or principle (i.e. purity), you become quite a bit more invested in the battle. You realize that there are actual lives on the line, and they need your presence to help them be victorious.
Stand up and fight -- together!
Together we learn
The longer a person is isolated or disconnected from relationships, the more prone they are to delusional thinking. We rarely come up with brilliant ideas alone. How do I know this? Try bouncing one of your "brilliant" ideas off someone else, or better yet several someone else's. You are likely to get some push back on your ideas, maybe even causing you to realize that they weren't even good, let alone brilliant.
Proverbs 18:17 - The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
We need each other to help us learn and grow and be accountable. This requires humility, acknowledging that we aren't as smart as we think we are and that there is good that comes from sharing ideas. Surely, the Word of God contains the most important ideas, and we must be willing to wrestle with the truth that sets us free, even when it demands that we change our ways.
The best context for such learning is in community with others who also desire to grow.
Together we multiply good
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
The point of fellowship and togetherness is to multiply good; to pass along the blessings we have received to those struggling. As we stumble through life, we do so together. We pick each other up when we fall, helping one another to move forward and not get stuck -- in addiction, depression, shame, etc.
Which is more encouraging:
When you fall, someone hands you a book to read.
When you fall, someone lifts you up by spending time with you.
(It's rhetorical; the answer is obvious!) This is how we multiply good. When someone has cared enough to lift you up through their time and presence, you feel compelled to demonstrate the same care and sincerity, not only toward them, but also toward others who fall.
Together we love
1 Corinthians 13:13 - So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Our chief aim in all of life is to love -- both God and others. At the core of our being we were made for relationship, to love one another with all our being. Love cannot be fully expressed or enjoyed alone. It makes no sense. Love must be shared.
The deepest need we have is to be known and loved. You cannot be known if isolated and disconnected from others. And if you cannot be known, you certainly can't be loved. To love someone is to know them; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We long to be loved, and we are made to love others.
Don't live any more of your life alone. Reach out to others around you and start the journey of knowing and loving one another. The greatest joys in life only come in relationship.
We are better together!
by Gerard Terry
You should know this up front: I am not a theologian. I don’t even know if I spelled the word correctly. But, in reading the Bible, I love present day application. Take the verse Mark 9:47, for example: “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell...” There is a radical tone underlying this verse, and to the non-theologian (me), it means, take radical steps to avoid sin.
The lust surrounding pornography use is clearly sin and harms us and others in many ways. You and I are both on this website to find help dealing with pornography use. Practical suggestions can make a huge difference. Have you considered implementing radical steps to impede or hinder your path to pornography and lust?
After I told a friend my favorite spot of seclusion to visit porn sites, he asked me why I had not made changes to make it harder to be there. He asked why my monitor was not turned toward the entrance to the room so anyone walking by would see what I was viewing. That simple change impeded my path to porn. For some, taking a different path home from work at night will cloud their desire to stop at a porn shop. Recently, I stopped watching Netflix at night in order to avoid the temptation to watch inappropriate videos. Other men have their wives control the password on their home computer.
At a restaurant with a friend for lunch, I asked if he had seen the gorgeous, short-shorts wearing beauty who came in a few minutes earlier. He replied, “yes I did, that is why my glasses are off sitting on the table.” I then took mine off and the temptation to gawk at her faded.
The Anti-Porn Agent
Sometimes, filling our minds and time with positive influences is a good anti-porn agent. In the car, I listen to the Daily Audio Bible podcast every day. Guess what I don’t think about during this time? Plus, I am on my fourth year of listening to the host read through the entire Bible.
We all know how porn hurts our wives. Why not invest in playing games with your wife rather than watching TV or surfing the internet? When my wife and I play Mastermind, Backgammon, shoot some pool, or go for a walk, I invest in our relationship and I avoid porn. Time spent with my wife builds up our marriage while porn tears it down.
Don’t literally pluck out your eye. Instead, make radical changes to install obstacles to porn use. Fill your time with relationship-building activities with your friends and spouse. Let’s not look back after the next thirty days and regret wasted time spent on the man we wish we were not. Instead, start today to build the man you want to be.