Secrets and Shame: Why we need to confess our porn struggles to others

“Everyone needs to write their stronghold down on a piece of paper and give it to your accountability partner.”

My blood started to boil, and I set my jaw. Never before had I been more aware of my rights. You can’t make me do this, I thought. You can’t make me tell you anything. I looked up, conflicted, tears welling in my eyes. “Do I have to?” She seemed shocked, and nodded her head.

I looked back down at the paper. God, why this? Why couldn’t it be something else? Bible reading, prayer life, anything but the porn. I don’t need to tell anyone. I can beat that on my own.

God’s answer, inaudible, was gentle and firm, “No, you can’t.”

Failing On My Own

Confession. Accountability. Those words can make our skin crawl. The idea of telling someone our deepest darkest secrets, of admitting our most personal failures, is far less than appealing.

Every expert I listened to. Every resource I found. They all talked about accountability, and it made me angry. I did not need other people. I could do this on my own. I got myself into this; I could get myself out.

I tried the hatred route: I would go online, print off pictures, and then set them on fire. I tried the negative thinking route. I tried sheer willpower. I would just get up in the morning and tell myself today was the day. This was the day I would finally be free.

Within hours, I would realize how ineffective my methods were. Then would come the wave of guilt, feelings of worthlessness, and determination that tomorrow—tomorrow would be the day.

Eventually, I ran out of tomorrows, and just decided to live with it. I was a porn addict and just needed to accept that fact. Surely, I could love God and serve Him in spite of my porn addiction. It was not that big of a deal. It was just something I did in private. It did not affect my public life at all. I was doing well in college, had great friends—life was good.

Yes, my relationship with God was a little rocky. I often felt like my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. I just attributed that to my immature Christianity. I needed to practice praying harder. I needed to practice serving more. My faith was just out of practice.

The Night It All Changed

Then came a women’s night at my college and the one statement that changed my life:  “We know some of you struggle with pornography and masturbation, and we are going to help.”

There was recognition! For the first time, my struggle was validated. Someone else acknowledged that I—a woman—could be addicted to pornography. There was help. They offered acceptance and counsel. They offered freedom. One thing stood between my struggle and that freedom—me.

Confession is the bridge that connects the hurt with the healing. It is how brokenness becomes whole.

Why We Hate to Confess Porn

So why is it so hard? Is it because we have a hard time being truthful? No, because many of us are truthful about other things. Is it because we do not want help? No, because many of us do.

Confession is so hard because we love ourselves. In our heart of hearts, we care about how people see us. The last thing we want to be viewed as is the porn addict. That immediately lumps us in with a class of societal rubbish—serial rapists, murderers, pedophiles, adulterers, prostitutes. It is not pleasant company.

What is so hard to see from that place of secrecy is that so much of our shame is of our own making. We do not tell because we are afraid others will ultimately see us the way we see ourselves. We think there can be no way that confession leads to anything other than humiliation. We imagine forever walking around with a label, doomed to bear the condemnation for our sin for the rest of our lives.

But we are wrong.

Confession leads to grace.

Confession removes one of the last obstacles standing between us and freedom—our pride. We love ourselves, and the moment that we admit that we make mistakes, the moment we confess that we actually aren’t that lovable, that love of self dies.

You would think that a dead love of self leads to self-loathing. After all, if I do not love me, then I must hate me, right? No. A dead love of self leads to brokenness, a sense of unworthiness, a sense of helplessness, and that is exactly when grace shows up.

But confession actually paves the way for grace. Grace, not shame, comes to the humble.

Killing the Shame

Shame is a product of our secrets. Keeping my struggle a secret only made me feel isolated and, at times, inhuman. The longer I kept my secret, the more I believed I could never share it. The longer I kept silent, the darker and stronger my sin grew. The longer I kept silent, the more convinced I became that I would just have to live the rest of my life with this.

With confession came light, hope, and freedom. With confession came the death of my overly high opinion of myself. No, I did not have it all together. Yes, I had fallen. Yes, I desperately needed help. That night, I acknowledged that I desperately needed his grace.

The beautiful thing is, it came.

Pure Minds Online | Issue 28 | January 2013 | More in this issue: “My Boyfriend Loves Porn” | 10 Biblical Proverbs About Accountability | Think on These Things

Stories of women addicted to pornography