“Can I be honest with you?” I know what’s coming. The student doesn’t know that I know. He thinks that this is the first time that I have had this conversation. It’s the first time I’ve had this conversation this week, but probably the fifth time this year. We’ve been meeting for a few weeks to read the Bible together and I know this conversation is coming; I don’t need to bring it up. The student’s face is red, he’s fumbling over his words, and I know he’s embarrassed.
“I have a real problem with P.” How does one react? Surprised? Disgusted? Disappointed? I’ve heard it all before, so I reply in my usual way, “I know.”
The student is surprised, thinking that I’ve been stalking him.
The reason I know is because I assume this is the case about every young guy. I’m happily surprised when I come across a young guy who isn’t addicted to P. It’s sad, but for most (not all) young guys this is reality. I feel how relieved he is now that he’s let someone know about his sin. And we start to chat about what next.
Now I’m not talking about methamphetamines, I’m talking about porn. But what if we saw porn as a drug? As an addiction. As something that consumes lives.
Porn is one of the worst things that has proliferated since the dawn of the Internet. A recent study showed that 90% of 12- to 17-year-old males have been exposed to hard-core pornography. Their ideas of sex and relationships are being shaped by an industry that uses and abuses others for self-gratification. A generation of young men are growing up being told that their happiness is found in taking something from someone else. For many, porn is a drug whose grip they cannot escape even when they try. Its addictive nature and cycle of guilt and depression continually drag them down.
Many beyond the Christian community are concerned about the implications. Secular psychologists and feminists have also expressed concern that we are losing a generation of young men, a generation that will grow up not knowing how to love or be loved in a sexual union.
So how do we respond to young men – and women?
FIRST, WE REMIND THEM OF THE GOSPEL.
The good news that Jesus is Lord and their salvation is in him. Remind them that no amount of masturbation or pornography will separate them from God. But no amount will make them happy, either. True contentment can only be found in knowing Jesus. If we don’t have Jesus as our foundation, then we will just cover this sin over with another. When the gospel is at the centre, we stay humble in success and see hope when we fail.
THE NEXT STEP IS FINDING SOMEONE TO CONFIDE IN.
I’m not a big fan of accountability partners, but having someone to talk to without feeling judged brings huge relief. This is a sin that grows in the dark. By exposing it to others and confessing it to God, we are freed from guilt and reduce sin’s hold on us.
DO SOME RESEARCH.
There are plenty of good websites discussing this topic and its pervasiveness. Fight the New Drug has great articles on the science of the brain and some helpful tips on how to help others (or yourself).
GET SOME SOFTWARE.
There are programs that can record dubious sites visited on your phone or computer. You can nominate a friend to receive an email of this list – a great way to help resist temptation and allow others to help you.
Relieved, the student says, “I feel like I’ve been struggling with this for so long and I’ve tried so hard to stop but I can’t.” I reply, “I know. The problem is not that you are struggling with this. That’s actually a great thing. The problem comes when you are not struggling with it. God still has a hold of your life and it’s not an easy journey, but there is hope.”
Ian Reid is the Palmerston North Team Leader.