About the author, Jessica Harris

Jessica Harris is the founder of Beggar’s Daughter, a ministry dedicated to walking with women who have an addiction to pornography. Telling her own story of porn addiction and struggle with lust, Jessica seeks to help other women find hope, healing, and grace. Jessica shares resources and insights from her own journey on the Beggar’s Daughter blog and occasionally travels and speaks on the topic of female lust addiction and how churches can minister to women who struggle. She resides just outside of Washington DC where she works as a teacher and serves on the Biblical counseling team in her church. She is the author of Love Done Right: Devos - A Journey From Lust into the Love of God.

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40 thoughts on “Secrets and Shame: Why we need to confess our porn struggles to others

  1. LW,

    Loving Christ is the key. Fear of telling someone doesn’t always stem from a love of self. In fact, many women trapped in porn have a very low self-esteem. They hate themselves and figure everyone else does too. So, for them, the answer might be, “Love Christ more, and believe in how much He loves you.”

    • How can I stop watching and preventing myself from getting addicted…seriously I need help..looking onto your response thru my mail Thanks

  2. I always thought that women viewing pornography was the devil s way of deceiving me/us.
    As a man one of the ways I continued on somewhat of an unhealthy spiral of Shame and addiction was the lie that no woman would want a man who looked at pornography.while thus is fairly true for most women, it still is not true that only men view it. Knowing that we are (men) some evil animalistic creatures with a unique gender-biased addiction, makes me feel human again, like i’m not only not by myself because there are tho whose in my gender who struggle but i’m not alone because all MANKIND needs a SAVIOR and everyone struggles. Thank you for this article

  3. It’s funny how God puts things in our lives. Been wanting to write a blog on my sexual addiction porn and masturbation but it’s funny I don’t want to put it on my blog I write now. So liked what you said about Confession leading to grace. We are far more worried about how people see us. I read this week that somebody said why we are ashamed t o confess when we all sin. Good point. So I want to talk about my addiction but want nobody to know who I am. Maybe that’s my pride creeping up so now I read your blog I can’t get away from it all. Thanks God

    • Sarah, I’m in the process of writing a book about porn addiction and that its not just for men anymore. I want to include a few testimonials from women that have struggled but are finding freedom. Would you consider writing a testimony for me and I can add it to the book with or without your name. Your choice. if you feel you need to share it but don’t want to reveal yourself maybe this would be the best way.

      My name is Kimberly Tippit and my email is kimberlytippit@gmail.com

  4. Give me a break. Poor self-esteem? Let’s keep this Biblical if this is supposed to be a “Christian” site. Sin IS love of self. The criminal and sinner has excellent self-esteem. Like Satan and His fall from grace, the sinner thinks he’s superior to God. That’s pretty good self-esteem. When i committed adultery, I thought I was better than anyone else, including my wife. The thought that women who are in to porn have “poor self esteem” is psychobabble and a submission to the psychology baloney (I practice psychiatry). I recommend a reading of the standard Biblical counseling texts by such as Jay Adams to reorient your thinking to a Biblical paradigm.

    Blessings.

    jc

    • John,

      I appreciate your feedback. I think the obvious misunderstanding might just boil down to the difference between counseling men and women on this topic of pornography addiction.

      I have background in Nouthetic Counseling so I am well acquainted with the writing of Jay Adams. I also share your apparent apprehension for modern psychobabble. I would encourage you to keep my comment in its context, because in the article I touched on the self-esteem to which you refer to. The reason we do not confess is because we esteem ourselves highly which is why it is important to knock that pride down and pave the way of grace through confession.

      However, the comment I was responding to was one to love Christ more and love yourself less. And I specifically referenced women struggling with pornography, which is a significantly more emotional struggle. If you go up to many of the female porn addicts and ask them if they love themselves, they are actually going to tell you no. They don’t. They hate themselves for getting into this and hate what they are doing to themselves. They are not proud of what they have done and they don’t think they are better than everyone else for doing it. While the sin does have a base in a love of self it is not a love of self they can see. So, that approach will not work.

      Speak with them and many times you will hear the undertone of self-loathing. They feel worthless, freakish, disgusting, etc. I work with many girls who struggle with self-harming, suicide, and eating disorders as well as pornography. Low self-esteem (read: low self-worth) is not an excuse, but it is an issue. It’s not necessarily the reason they get into it, and I never stated that it was, but it can be a byproduct of it.

      When I considered actually joining the adult industry, it was not because I thought I was better than any one else or even because I didn’t love God. I wanted to love God, but I truly believed that He could never love me. It was because my time in pornography had broken me to the point that I felt I could never get free.

      I honestly believed I was worthless, so I gave up. I stopped fighting, figured God had made a mistake, that He couldn’t possibly have a plan and a purpose for me. I didn’t love me, and if someone had walked up to me and said, “Jessica, you need to get over yourself. You need to stop loving yourself so much.” I would have looked at them like they had ten heads.

      Pornography, by its nature, robs women of their worth. Leave them in it long enough and they don’t even know who they are anymore. There is absolutely nothing unBiblical about showing a woman who she is supposed to be in Christ and building up her worth in that way. She has to understand God’s love for her or she will never be truly free because part of her captivity is believing all the lies porn tells her about herself.

    • This comment seems harsh and out of line with Eph 4:15. Adding “blessings” to the end of a harsh and hurtful comment doesn’t actually make itany less harsh or hurtful.

  5. Jessica,

    Even amidst our low self-esteem, we want others to see us as healthy, self-sufficient, regular, good people. Keeping our own struggles and sinfulness to ourselves is a way to try to preserve our “image.” We don’t want them to know who we really are, because then they won’t accept or love us. But, this is not true. This is a lie from the devil. The beauty of Christ is that he tells us that when you are weak, then you are strong. Letting a trusted, wise, Christian friend know of your struggles is freeing, and helps both people to acknowledge their sinfulness, and rejoice in the goodness of God and His mercy. In sharing our struggles, we free ourselves of the burden of trying to preserve our “image”, and in our honesty and weakness we allow God to fill us with grace, and others to pray for us and help us be accountable. In the Catholic faith, this practice is seen visibly through confession, where a man/woman confess their sins to a priest who has been ordained to act in the person of Christ. The priest gives guidance to the confessor and through and only through the grace of God is able to give absolution of sins. This practice does not mean that one should not also have a good friend who they are accountable with about their struggles. God created us to love and serve Him and one another. We must fight against the “me and God alone” mindset. God bless!

    • Philip,

      Thank you for that. A Catholic friend once shared with me that the beautiful thing about confession is that you go and, if there is a line, you realize you are standing in a line of sinners, and they are all aware of it.

      I think that is an attitude we need to keep in the church as a whole, Catholic or not. If we functioned every day aware of our own sinfulness before a holy God and sensitive to the brokenness in others, the church would function differently than it does today. The fear of judgement would be gone. I agree, we do need to fight against the me and God alone mindset, and I hope I communicated that clearly.

      Thank you!

    • Shame and low self-esteem are two very different things, though both are rooted in pride. It is error to confuse them.

  6. Wow! Thank you for sharing this! I agree with everything you said here! I was raised with morals and values and became a Christian at age14. I promised The Lord that I wouldn’t have sex until marriage. I stumbled upon porn and because disgusted, shocked and addicted. I would tell myself it was ok because my friends were having sex with their boyfriends and I was single and pure. I met my husband when I was 21. He was very worldly and got saved within the year we met. We waited until our wedding night and I’m so glad we did… Even though there had been some smooching that lasted a little too long! I really thought that I would be healed of the addiction when I got married. And I was for a while… Until life became stressful… Pregnancy, house, bills, depression… Hormones, feeling ugly after having babies… Life was so weird. 4 kids in 7 years, husband with ADHD and bipolar 2… Started counseling last year, to deal with life. And my own ADD… Confessed the porn and learned that I had to find out why I was going to that. And fix that… Confessed to my husband just 2 months ago and our marriage has become more amazing than I ever thought possible. He struggled with this in the past too, but these past few years it has been more of a struggle for me. The open, honest confession and conversation that we shared changed our marriage. I felt free. Our sex life is even better too. Even though I am overweight and still struggling with my self esteem, I feel closer to him than ever. I haven’t even talked to my best friend about this because I don’t want her to know. I’m sure she would be great about it, but I’m not ready for that… The shame that comes with this is awful and I pray for more hope and healing for all women struggling with this.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I always felt like my struggle with pornography was part of just being a man. I always thought that women didn’t have those struggles. But I now know that women have the same struggles. This gives me hope for the future that when I do find my future wife that I can tell her of my past struggles with the grace of her understanding.

  8. Hurting hurts. Nobody wants to hurt, so we avoid it. Much that has been written conveys that the road to freedom from sin is confession, repentance, and a knowledge that God loves us more than we understand. The Bible tells us this, but the Bible does not tell us how to get there. A signpost points the right way, and even tells us how far the destination is, but it reserves telling us how to arrive. We all come from different roads. It does not have my name on the sign, but everyone’s name. It is a guide put out by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is also void of pictures; man inserts them, The Creator wants us to see pictures which He inserts that are not clouded. His impressions are perfect. Our eyes were meant to see what was good, but the Fall cursed not only man, but the whole Earth as well. Whatever we see with our eyes is stained with sin. God wants us to “see” with our hearts, by faith. It is a struggle. Some may take a year to overcome their sin. Others may take ten, but God keeps no record of wrongs. He wants us to finish as winners. No one in Heaven got there sinless. The great “Cloud of Witnesses” were made new—restored according to the Gospel. We cannot do this ourselves. We are broken, and we come to Jesus with the words, “I cannot stand up alone. There is nothing in me strong enough to get back up. I need You.” Do we see this? Do we believe this? Jesus said, “It is finished.” He already won. We cannot add or subtract a single thing. And He did it because He loves us. Paul did not say that we could not boast. He said, boast in the Cross. To the extent that we shout His name, brag on Him, and share His love with others will be the extent to which we will be free.

  9. Jessica, I struggled for 7, almost 8 years, from about 8th grade to just now when I am a junior in college. I recently, in the past few months experienced exactly what you are talking about in this article. I was at a point of desperation to find freedom from my addiction. I had dealt with just accepting it as part of who I am, but I wasn’t satisfied. I would’ve rather died than ever told anyone about it. but, when I discovered what confession and true accountability can do to tear down the chains of addiction I ran towards it. The hardest thing I ever did was say “I struggle with pornography” out loud to another person. But it became the first step to the hardest but most rewarding journeys of my life this far. I have never been so free in my life. I serve a mighty mighty God that break any chain and tear down any wall and heal any hurt. thanks for sharing this. I love being reminded that God changes our lives. God Bless.

    SKB

  10. I don’t think it helps to bring satan into this, that can become a distraction from taking self responsibility and looking at the cold hard facts of science and psychology. God gives us hope to overcome this and a solid purpose for doing so, we can trust in him. The devil is not out to get you, own your personal struggle and share this with someone, tell them everything. Shame is the driver of this, a very powerful emotion.

  11. Also don’t expect church to help you with this problem, they don’t………they’re not equipped to deal with the power of this…….it takes approx 5 years to come out of sex addiction

  12. Not just shame in this area, but what is the root cause of this symptomatic behaviour??? most likely childhood shame/ secrets etc……make friends with your past if you haven’t already or you will be running from yourself for the rest of your life……plenty more addictions waiting……food/caffiene/alcohol……marital sex…….cigarettes, codependency, rescuing, anger, rage……

  13. I have internet addictions for years since I was very very young. I am 24 now male. It is very furstrating not being able to over come it and not being able to tell anyone:(

  14. It just started with me. And really it has not gotten that bad but I know it will if I don’t do something about it. But the confession thing is really hard. I am not sure if I can do it.

    • Understood. It is hard. But you have to ask yourself what costs more: a life of openness and honesty with others or a life of secrecy while you stay trapped in your addiction? This is what should motivate you to share. You need to realize that your secrecy is costing you a lot more than a confession will.

  15. Three years ago I resigned from the church I had pastored for 19 years because of my addiction to pornography. In the next few months I was more or less forced by circumstances into a series of confessions as I disclosed to my wife and adult children, to my board of elders, to my denominational leaders, to my SA group, to my therapists, to my marriage counselor, etc. All of that confession was necessary, but it did not seem very healing at the time. It was painful and tiresome and humiliating as I kept repeating my acknowledgement of my problem and my sin.

    Eventually the season for all these dreary admissions came to a close. It seemed everyone who needed to know now knew my secret. I entered a new season of actually working on my recovery and sobriety. And then I hit a plateau. Spiritually I was stagnant and life was going forward and I was not. I was sober, but feeling like my feet were stuck in the mud.

    Then one day the church my wife and I were attending offered some simple dinner opportunities so people in the church could get better acquainted. We had made no connections in the church; just showing up and leaving. I asked her if she wanted to attend a dinner and finally get to know some people. She asked me what I might tell these people about myself (about my past). I said I would tell them as little as possible. She said that that would not be honest enough. I said I don’t want to just dump my story on people in setting like that. It would be inappropriate.

    But she did get me thinking. I as lived my life as a pastor, I was public person. I was a public person with secrets. I was a public person whom nobody really knew. I told people as little as possible and only what made me look good in their eyes. Then it came to me. Perhaps I should tell my story publicly. “What!?! Egad! I can’t do that!” But soon I sought the counsel of the pastor of the church–a friend who already knew my story and my recovery–and I asked him if he would allow me to speak to the congregation some Sunday. It would be a confession disguised as a sermon. I would let all the people know. He welcomed my request.

    I was scared out of my mind. How does one stand up in front of a crowd–even if it is a gathering of God’s family–and say such things? Before I attempted doing this in this church where I was attending and wanting to get more involved, I wanted to do a “test run” in another church where I am and will be more or less a stranger. I called another pastor friend of mine and he graciously to let have his sermon time to come and address his congregation and to experiment on them with a public confession/testimony/sermon. Soon God guided me to scriptures and appropriate words of talking about my shame, my struggle, my brokenness and my yearning to be restored into the fullness of the experience of grace and community.

    This experiment took place last Sunday. It was my “trial run” in a church in another city among people I did not know, so that even though they saw my face and learned my name, I still maintained a level anonymity. I got through it. I was warmly and graciously received. The people could not have been more loving and supportive. And as for myself, I sense that I have taken a huge leap forward. I have crossed over a huge threshold of some kind. I am still evaluating the experience and waiting to see how this plays out. Hopefully soon I will be able to make a similar address in the church I attend. I think I am accepting and owning my failures and finding God is faithful. This was not a coerced confession, but I was certainly compelled to do it. I needed a public platform because I spent so many years as a public personality. Maybe others do not have to be so public. But telling others is indeed a part of releasing God’s grace to flow–both inwardly to rebuild my damaged spirit and hopefully also outwardly to bring mercy and hope to other fractured souls.

    • Hi Duffy,

      I’m so glad you are “going public” about this. While I know not everyone is called to stand on a platform, others like yourself who are gifted in speaking, should most definitely allow the Lord to use them as a trophy of his grace. I’m excited to see how your honesty could be free people to be honest themselves.

      One of my favorite expressions I’ve heard over the years is “Give people the gift of going second.” No one wants to “go first” when it comes to spilling your guts about sin or brokenness. But when one brave soul goes first, the others feel free to speak. That person has given others the gift of going second, and that’s exactly what you have done. It is, for some, one of the most loving things you can do for them.

  16. Reading ya’ll comments makes me feel less alone in my struggles. It scares me to even admit I have this problem and how it is effecting my life. On a physically, mental, emotional and spirtual level.. This ish like a drug iterrially. I feel so weak, lazy and tired all the time.. The only time I feel good is if I have an appointment to meet with someone but then my energy level go down hill from there. Maybe my depression has an effect to it? I have a hard time building intimate relationships too so that don’t help. Does anyone struggle what people think of them? even after confessing to someone u trust? If so, what do u do in those situations?

    • Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for your comment. I can’t speak to your situation from the perspective of a female (as I am not female), but I can speak as another human being with similar struggles.

      First, have you considered seeing a counselor about your feelings of depression? Finding a good Christian counselor can be a great help, especially one that is willing to see you as a whole person—body, mind, and soul—and can suggest ways you can take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually in ways to counter the depression.

      Second, consider reading the book When People Are Big and God is Small. It is one of the best books out there on struggling with what others think about you.

      Third, consider developing an accountability relationship with someone based on Biblical principles. This book can really help you with that (and its free).

    • Hi Melissa, I’m glad you’ve found some companionship for your journey here. That’s what it’s all about! You’re not alone! There’s help! We do see quite a lot of depression with internet addiction and it’s a chicken-and-egg situation–not sure which comes first, but they do seem to go together a lot of times. That hit of adrenaline you get with using just doesn’t last, and then you’re lower than you were before. Honestly, it sounds to me like you’d do well to see a counselor who could help you work through how all these issues are intertwining for you. I like to recommend the American Association of Christian Counselors, because they have lots of different kinds of counselors in lots of places. I hope that might help you! Let me know. Kay

  17. Thanks for the wonderful article. Confession and grace are such important things for us all right now, and for everyone really. I just think you really nailed it, and said it in a way that really affects the heart. Thank you very much.

  18. I stopped myself for about a month from watching porn. I’m 20 years old boy (not a Christian) and I’m just fed up with all this. It has ruined everything, be it my focus, be it my social life and so on. Nonetheless this post helped me in tightening my fickling commitment.

  19. This is hard for me. We were taught as a man to be attracted to women. I don’t want my son to not be attracted to women. Pornography is a lie. It is an empty feeling of satisfaction that means nothing. It doesn’t cure lonliness. It doesn’t cure emotional pain. Porn is a leech and has taken everything that I had.

    • As men, we ought to be attracted to women. We should never equate attraction with lust or even a desire to have sex with lust. Lust is coveting—a strong craving for something that isn’t yours to have. I can find a woman attractive, but when that attraction becomes a covetous desire, then I am lusting after her.

      You are so right about how porn is a leech. What have you done to break free in the past?

  20. The devil and his followers are so cunning. I know that confession is a key part of forgiveness and healing, yet I feel that if I can stop FIRST for a few weeks, that that small amount of will power will put enough space between me and pornography that there will be less Shame ( being able to say I quit, even if for small time) than if I were to confess that I battle pornography currently. Of course these “few weeks” never materialize and the procrastination sets in.

    • Hi James – I, too, cycled in and out of bouts of false confidence in my own efforts. Self help is not strong enough. The powerful light of trusting, Gospel-centered accountability is what can break the darkness and chains of addiction. I’m living proof!

      Peace, Chris

  21. I lost myself in the rabbit hole! Down in there I wanted others to want me, to desire me, to lust me, to talk to me,.to say iam beautiful, to say it’s okay to be a sin. I realize all my craving for just one thing led me to this dark world. I became a dirty girl and for what ? Do you really think men cared about me? The way I wanted them to. No, they didn’t! They just wanted to use me!

    We would talk for awhile then it was alll about sex, phone, cyber, exchange adult pics we like, watch the video, and so forth, it was good in the beginning or how it starts out, then for some odd reason it becomes dark and sick! I fall victim to it, and like it for a lil awhile then I realize hey! Feeling shame and guilt! And my mind run rabid about this! How sinned I became in the heat of the moments I am my worst enemy! I use drugs to dissovle my emotions and my pain! Which doing drugs and this , is pitiful and I been doing this! Oh oh why! I cried when I read the stuff in here

    My problem seemed to escalate when everyone started running away from me, I wanted just the feeling of someone so I don’t feel lonely, but it became a crime against myself and feel used and feel more down

    Also doesn’t help when you have a family that destroys you! Feels like I lost my family, and so called friends and others. Especially when your family says, this is not you , I know that this is not u (because I was born different, born this way, I am her rather or not my family wants it;, I was using my true female voice and enjoying me and myself and felt awesome, (morphing into a female more and more) till my family crushed it by saying that
    Which, led me also into the rabbit hole! On top of everything else.
    What did I do! Why why I cry out , so much pain and shame and guilt

    I cried when I found this, thx all for sharing and this site?

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