No one would argue with you if you said man’s biggest challenge may be his battle with lust and sexual temptation. A study by Pure Desire Ministries reports that 68 percent of Christian men and 54 percent of church pastors view porn on a regular basis. It seems like we’re losing the battle. But as a successful 15-year recovering porn and sex addict, I want you to know you actually can win the battle against lust. But the battle in how to overcome lust has to be fought and won between your ears, not between your legs.
The reason many men, including myself, struggled for so long with pornography and “acting out” is because we often try to change our behavior rather than address our thoughts. Changing your behavior helps to an extent, in the short term, but nothing is going to change in your body until you change these 3 things in your head.
Who you think you are will always determine what you ultimately do. Ask yourself:
- Who do you believe you are when you’re at your best and at your worst?
- What do you believe about your character?
- What do you identify more with: what you do or who God says you are?
The scary thing about identity is that it doesn’t even have to be true; it just has to be believed. When I first started attending SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous), we always had to introduce ourselves by saying, “Hi, my name is Joe and I’m a sex addict.” The purpose was to get us to accept responsibility for our actions. But personally, it also conditioned me to identify more with my addiction than what I believe is my true identity.
So, after a couple of years, I finally changed my introduction to, “Hi, my name is Joe, and I’ve been saved by God’s grace and redeemed for His purpose.” My new identity changed my destination; I was now moving toward something instead of just trying to avoid something. We will always act consistently with who we think we are.
Second, you have to change your beliefs about your authority. When it comes to lust, pornography, masturbation, or fornication, many men convince themselves that they have no power over their sexual appetites. The truth is, we’re more powerful than we think. Many men have overcome their battles with lust and sexual temptation, including Jesus, the apostle Paul, Joseph, Job, and others, just to name a few.
Be honest: If the only way you could keep your children alive were to abstain from sex, porn, and masturbation, could you do it? Your answer to that question doesn’t reveal your weakness as a man; it only reveals how powerful you think you are as a man. Personally, I couldn’t do it in my own strength. But I believe I can do it through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me, based on what Paul says in Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The power is in your belief, not in your will power.
3. Level of Intimacy
The reason pornography is so attractive to us, beyond the chemical release of dopamine in the brain, is because it gives us a false sense of the intimacy we so desperately crave from women. Think about it: Pornography is attractive because we can have any woman we want, anytime we want, without having to risk rejection, answer questions, listen to complaints, make a longterm commitment, or take responsibility. The problem is, it’s not real intimacy. It’s false intimacy, which never satisfies.
Instead, we have to believe that true intimacy is possible. An intimacy that involves being accepted for who we are, not just who we pretend to be. A level of intimacy that’s connected to our being, not our performance. A level of intimacy that allows us to be vulnerable without appearing weak. And we have to believe that intimacy can be experienced, not just with women, but with other men, without the fear of our masculinity being questioned.
Sound off: What are some other things you need to pursue or “move toward” instead of moving “away” from lust?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Have you ever craved something, but didn’t let yourself have it? Why was it challenging?”