Flirting with pornography is flirting with disaster. It may seem harmless at first, but any involvement has serious repercussions for your life and relationships. And often, an encounter with pornography is the first step toward a nightmare of sexual addiction. Here are some ways you can protect yourself against pornography's destructive power, or heal if it has already been unleashed in your life:

  • Examine your family of origin to better understand how your background has affected your current life. Consider such factors as how your family approached boundaries, communication, responsibility, accountability, roles and coping strategies. Pay particular attention to how you were or were not allowed to express your thoughts and feelings, how healthy or unhealthy your parent's marriage was, whether or not you were abused in any way, whether or not you received regular affirmation, how much time your parents spent with you, whether or not anyone in your family suffered from some type of addiction, and how you first learned about sex.
  • Ask yourself whether you have any of the following attitudes that could make you vulnerable to pornography: feeling like no one understands you; feeling like God doesn't really care about you; not wanting to take time out from work to take care of your personal needs; avoiding accountability; feeling frustrated about your marriage or sex life; or struggling with boredom, loneliness, or anger.
  • Once you've identified aspects of your life that need healing, ask God to heal them through the power of His Holy Spirit.
  • Give yourself permission to be a sexual being, realizing that God created you that way. Know that as long as you are using the gift of your sexuality in the way God intends for you to use it - within marriage - it is a good thing.
  • Accept God's unconditional love for you and know that there is no sexual sin so perverse that He cannot forgive it. Know that God has experienced your pain and redeemed your sins.
  • Genuinely repent of your mistakes and ask God to use them to humble your heart.
  • Be willing to make sacrifices to pursue greater emotional and spiritual intimacy with your spouse. Realize that selflessness and service lead to intimacy, which often leads to great sex.
  • Enlist a team of friends to provide regular encouragement, support, and accountability as you seek to live a healthy sexual life. Don't just rely on one person; make sure you have several people you can count on so at least one is always available.
  • Don't wait for temptation to strike; be proactive. Use times when you feel strong to develop your resolve to avoid pornography. And take whatever measures you can to avoid temptation, such as installing filters to block access to porn from your computer and driving only on roads that aren't near places that might have tempted you in the past (like massage parlors).
  • Expect to struggle with fatigue and distraction during your healing process. Every day, ask God for fresh grace to continue.
  • Study your fantasies and seek to understand them. Through your fantasies, discover what you're truly longing for, then set out to find that in healthy ways.
  • Make a list of all you have to offer a partner in an intimate relationship, and believe that, with God's help, you can enjoy a healthy relationship with someone.
  • Build close friendships with others, rather than mere acquaintances.
  • Realize that only God can ultimately provide all the love and nurture you need. Look to Him for that rather than expecting it consistently from imperfect humans.

Adapted from The Pornography Trap: Setting Pastors and Laypersons Free from Sexual Addiction by Ralph H. Earle Jr. and Mark R. Laaser, copyright 2002 by Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.  Published by Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, www.beaconhillbooks.com.

Ralph H. Earle, Ph.D., is an internationally known speaker and author on the topic of sexual addiction.  He currently serves as director of Psychological Counseling Services, Ltd.  Mark Laaser, Ph.D., has ministered to hundreds of sex addicts and their families, counsulted with numerous churches, developed treatment programs for a variety of hospitals, and conducted workshops and seminars worldwide.  He is a frequent guest on radio and television.