Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

When You’ve Messed Up Your Life with Porn finding hope in the middle of deep shame

Looking at porn exhilarates a person. You feel as if you’re being let in on sacred secret. And, at least for a moment, a sense of competence, satisfaction, and bliss overwhelm your mind and body.

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It feels so good you don’t want to stop. You return. Something inside of you tells you to keep it private. You clear the history of your Internet browser, make sure the door is locked or that you’re at least in a position where you can quickly escape if someone walks in. Before you know it, this private ritual of erotic worship becomes a pattern in your life you can’t live without.

But you also begin feeling dirty. Whether it’s feeling unable to look people in the eyes or guilty for how often you get away with such exhilaration, shame begins eating away at your self-esteem.

Perhaps you’ve taken it a step further and are regularly masturbating as a way of sexually expressing your insatiable desires. But every time you do so you feel worthless.

Empty.

Less satisfied than when you began.

 

I was thirteen when I first looked up pornography. There was a three-day period when I didn’t care whether it was right or wrong—I fully indulged. Calculating times when I knew people wouldn’t be around, planning my strategy for searching, worshiping, and retreating.

I say “worshiping” because that’s what it felt like. Totally consumed with the images before me.

But then I got caught. I hadn’t realized the whole browser history thing, yet. Dad saw what was going on, and it grieved him deeply.

And once I knew I couldn’t get away with it, when I realized how violating my “acts of worship” were, I felt engulfed by shame.

 

I spent five years “struggling” with porn. What I mean is five years of my life were filled with a vicious cycle of purity and passion for God and then, every month or so, a fling with porn because I “couldn’t help myself.” God never gave up on me and I am free today because of His overwhelming grace.

But sometimes, when I’m going through an emotionally low time in life, I’m tempted to get back into old habits. Maybe the temptation isn’t to look at porn. After all, I have a wife I need to face every day and two smiling, wildly captivating boys I’d have to hide my sin from. But still, when I was looking at porn, my mind played fantasies through my head. Sometimes the temptation is simply to replay those fantasies. Fantasies I’m too embarrassed to tell about in a public nature as this.

And sometimes, when I’m feeling excruciatingly tempted, it hits me, like the time I scraped my new car against a poll, how looking at porn messed up my life.

And it has left a deep scar.

 

If you’ve ever looked at porn, you know what I’m talking about. You know the shame and guilt that hangs over your mind. It clouds your ability to think, to experience joy and engage people.

My guess is if you had it to do over again, you would do everything in your power to get away from porn. You’d never look because you now know the way it latches on to your heart, your mind, your will, your choice of actions. Like an eagle that swoops in and carries off its prey, porn clutched you with its claws and has taken you to a place you never intended to go.

And maybe you’re not sure if you can ever get back.

What if I told you that you can do better than just “get back”? What if you could have satisfied in your heart the very thing you were longing for before you ever looked at porn?

 

When God created Adam and Eve, it says He created them in His image and likeness. And after they were created, they were both naked and unashamed. (Gen. 1:26; 2:25)

This means the human race carries with it the image of God Himself. And even more, the likeness of God. Reason, freewill, self-consciousness—attributes of God that are true of us. Furthermore, they were naked and unashamed. Another way of saying it is they had no reason to be ashamed.

This is significant because we are made by God and for God. (Col. 1:16) Man receives his value, his sense of self-worth and purpose, his feelings of delight and importance all from God. And in the Garden, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was so strong, so undefiled that they didn’t have to hide anything. They shared an open (aka naked) relationship with Him.

But, as we all know, that didn’t last.

 

Adam and Eve believed Lucifer when he suggested God was holding out them. They could have a better life, but because God didn’t want them to be like Him, He told them not to eat the fruit. Or so he suggested.

In their disobedience, even in their listening to a lie, they defiled their relationship with God. No longer were they unashamed. Now they felt the need to cover up, to look for something else to give them value and purpose.

Just as Adam and Eve covered themselves in fig leaves to protect their vulnerability, we cover ourselves in other sorts things to keep our nakedness, our shame, from being exposed. We are all looking for something to give us identity and a place to belong. And because of our sinful nature within us, we tend to look for those things in places outside of God.

You and I were looking before we got into porn.

 

Maybe we didn’t realize it, maybe we even thought our lives were fairly well established spiritually and emotionally. It’s weird how much vulnerability we can cover up even in the context of church and right living. We do it with our jobs. Our achievements. Even our families and ministry, sometimes, can be a “fig leaf” we use to feel safe and significant.

And when we get into porn, and realize how exhilarating and satisfying it feels, we begin believing deep in our hearts, in a place we’d never tell others about, that we have finally found what we’ve been looking for all along.

Only, fig leaves just compound the shame. They never take it away.

 

Being restored into that perfect relationship with God, the kind Adam and Eve enjoyed, is a process so complex and so drawn out, humanity has yet to experience relationship like that again.

There is a story—sixty-six books worth—written to help us understand God’s plan for redemption. So, I’m not going to pretend to have a few simple steps for you to take in order to fix your life from porn. We are broken, and we will face the consequences of brokenness for the rest of our lives.

But there are a few chapters in this story I have been through already. Three, specifically, I would point others to if they were in the middle of feeling deep shame and wondering if they could ever be whole again.

First of all, connect with other men.

I don’t just mean get together with other men and have a good game of softball or a solid round on the Xbox. I mean connect.

James says when a person is sick, and they come before the elders of the church and ask for anointing and prayer, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will raise them up. And if anyone has committed sins, they will be forgiven.

Therefore, he says, confess your sins one to another so that you may be healed. (James 5:15-16)

We are broken not just at a physical level (we are no longer in Eden), but a spiritual and emotional level as well (our relationship with God is defiled and we feel shame). Connecting with other men at an emotional and spiritual level by sharing what is going on in our private world and praying for each other helps us begin to experience the presence of God again. It encourages us in the journey. We’re less apt to give in when we have brothers we love (and who love us) we’ve got to face the next week.

So, find men. Find some who are where you’re at in the journey, some who have overcome and are no longer in the cycle of failure, and others who may have never looked pornography to begin with. Tell them what’s going on, ask them to pray with you. And when you’re done, ask when you can do it again.

Secondly, explore what makes you gravitate to porn (and what makes you lose desire for it).

Psychologists (secular and Christian alike) say our sexual fantasies are linked to emotional wounds. When there is deep pain or a void in our lives from the past, the subconscious plays out stories in our minds that ease pain or fill the void. These wounds may come from early in life, even from before we can really remember.

What do you feel when you’re tempted to look at porn? More than desire to have sex, how are you feeling about yourself? Did anything just happen to you?

Explore your emotions and see if there’s not something in the past you subconsciously are trying to soothe or satisfy.

Hebrews hints at the connection between forgiveness and defilement and sexual immorality when it says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.” (12:15-16)

Something deeper drives your pull toward porn than the fact that the ladies are beautiful. Your brain releases dopamine when you beccome sexually aroused. That’s what makes you feel exhilarated, as if you’re walking on cloud nine.

You are not just looking for a beautiful lady; you’re looking for a dopamine fix. Exploring why you need that fix in the first place will help you get to the bottom of why porn has such a hold on you.

Lastly, accept that Christ saves you not because of anything you do to clean yourself up, but because of His own choice and mercy.

Titus 3:4-7 says,

But when the goodness of God and His love

for mankind appeared,

He saved us —

not by works of righteousness that we had done,

but according to His mercy,

through the washing of regeneration

and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly

through Jesus Christ our Savior,

so that having been justified by His grace,

we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.

Ironically, the word “saved” in this passage is the same word as “healed” in the James 5 passage above. God saves us, according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and the renewal by His Spirit. Not because we finally get ahold of ourselves and are able to resist temptation.

We must first grasp our undeserved salvation before we can fully realize the grace that enables to resist temptation in the future.

Remember Mary Magdalene, the prostitute who washed Jesus’s feet? He forgave her sins.

Here’s a lady that willingly sold herself for sexual use. She was at the bottom of shame’s torture pit. And Christ totally restored her, regardless of her history, because she believed Him. She accepted His gift.

There is nothing you can have done that He can’t redeem.

 

If that isn’t hope, I don’t know what is.

But the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb. 9:11-14)

When you’ve messed up your life with porn, as I have, there is deep shame. But deep shame is not outside the reach of redemption. Christ stands waiting to pour out his cleansing Spirit on your life.

I have experienced it. Will you?

Which of these feels most difficult to do: connect with other men, explore your emotions, or accept God’s mercy? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Paul F

    I think I needed to read this right now, thank you