My Dad is Addicted to Porn: Can I Help Him? How Should I Talk to Him?

Recently we received this comment from a reader:

I am in my 20s and I found my dad viewing pornography on the computer. Honestly, it came as a shock to me and has been a difficult thing to work through.

I have read some of the blog posts on Covenant Eyes. The articles addressed for wives have helped me learn how to confront my dad in a godly manner, as well as helped me learn what perspective to have on the topic. However, I believe there are unique differences in how I respond as a daughter than I would as a wife. I was wondering your thoughts on this.

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All children are confronted with the reality of their parent’™s sin at every stage of their lives. A five-year-old may receive the brunt of a dad’™s anger or a thirteen-year-old may have to deal with the discouragement of her mom who is in a bad marriage.

When the child is young, they do not have the maturity or the capacity to carry these burdens, interpret them correctly, or to “disciple” their parents. When they become a teen, they may be too into themselves or too angry to care about their parents.

Even if the child did care about the parent’™s problems there will be a level of fear and insecurity about accepting a mentoring role toward the parents. Most 20-year old women or men do not perceive themselves as wisdom-givers to their parents.

However, they know they can disciple their spouses because they see their spouses as equals. They dated for a while. They discovered they had many things in common. Eventually they were married and they began sharing their lives together.

The parent/child relationship is different. The parent has always been the superior one in the relationship as well as the stronger and smarter one. Children come into the family dynamic dependent and needy and their main providers are the parents.

Parental leadership through vulnerability

A good parenting model should include the parents inviting loving correction from their children. Bible-centered parents are open about their sin and failures, as well as their need for redemptive care from their children.

These parents are honest with Scripture by affirming its testimony ”we have sinned and sanctification is progressive throughout our lives. This means we are not perfect and are in need of a community of care.

If the children have been discipled this way, the parents then have created a sanctification community within their home. Our children have been a valuable means of grace to me and my wife Lucia, as they have helped to disciple us regarding our sanctification.

They are often invited into our lives as we ask input regarding how we speak to them and how we can serve them more effectively as parents. Some of the things they have told us have been instrumental in our ongoing growth in the Lord.

The people who know you the best should be encouraged and motivated to help you grow closer to God. Wouldn’™t it be sad to have spent eighteen years with someone, even if it were your son or daughter, and never accessed their knowledge of you so you could mature in Christ?

Convoluted honoring

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

The spiritual aspect of our lives is more important than the biological aspect of our lives. Jesus saw our spiritual needs and spiritual relationships as primary, while placing physical accommodations secondary.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “œHere are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)

Cultural expectations and traditional thinking should not subvert our biblical priorities. While Christ would never diss His mother or His brother, He does inform us of what is most important and how to think about these relationships.

I think sometimes we, as believers, become caught up in convoluted definitions of what honoring parents should be like. Some people perceive bringing corrective care to their parents as not being loving.

This is far from the truth. There are times when the most loving thing a child can do for their parents is to correct them when they are going down a wayward path. This is one of the stronger implications of the Gospel. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

It is because the Father so loved the world that He brought corrective care into our lives (John 3:16; Hebrews 12:6). His desire to redeem a broken people was infinitely high.

Without a doubt it was the love of God which identified the sin in our lives and provided a way of escaping the wrath to come (Romans 2:4; John 3:36). What greater way could a child model the Gospel than by loving a parent enough to identify their sin, while offering a redemptive plan to change?

Who’™s on my team?

There comes a time in most adults lives where they do see their role with their parents changing. At one point the child was being cared for by the parent, but as the parent ages the child becomes the primary caregiver.

This should also be true for the spiritual side of things as well, but it should happen long before the parent becomes elderly. As soon as you come into the family of God you’™re asked to begin providing biblical care for those in need.

When Paul tells us this in Galatians 6:1-2, he only makes one stipulation ”that you have the Spirit. He is calling all the spiritual people to help those who are caught in sin.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’™s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

There are no other rules for care “Spiritual” means you who have the Spirit because nobody is truly “spiritual” until they have the Spirit working inside of them (1 Corinthians 2:14). Every child of God should be on the Savior’™s Redemption Team without discrimination regarding who receives their care.

Paul is calling all Christians to become engaged, by cooperating with God in the restorative work of those caught in sin. He does not stipulate if the person caught in sin is a believer or not. He simply says it’s our job to help put broken lives back together again.

It does not matter who the person is or what your relationship is with the one caught in sin. Is he caught? If you have appropriate context and relationship, then you who are spiritual should see how you can go to the rescue. This is the Gospel in action.

Practical steps to honor your dad

There are several things you will have to do in order to prepare your mind for what is ahead of you. I’™m going to give you a few sequential steps to think about as you prepare to care for your dad.

Affection – Be sure you have affection for your dad. More than likely there have been a number of bad things which have gone down in your life which can hinder you from having affection for your daddy. If he is into porn now, then he has not been the best of fathers. There has been bad water under the bridge, which has had a negative effect on you.

It is nearly impossible to authentically and effectively help someone you don’™t have affection for in your heart.

This is one of the things we learn from Paul’s approach to the Corinthians—”he loved them and hoped only the best for them (1 Corinthians 1:1-9). There were no other people in the New Testament worse than these folks. They were a bad bunch and even hostile toward Paul, but his affection for them was extraordinary. This is what you’re going to need for your dad. You may need to spend time in prayer, asking the Father to give you biblical affection for your father.

Similarity – Be sure you do not see his sin as worse than your sin. He may be into porn, but you put Christ on Adam’™s tree. You should have a different perspective between what he did and what you have done. You must not be tempted to compare yourself with whatever your dad has done, thinking you are a better person (Matthew 18:23-33).

If you do, you’™ll fall in the ditch of self-righteousness, which will negate the care you could offer your dad. People who compare themselves with other people are without understanding (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Don’™t go there in your mind. You both are sinners in need of grace and to think he is worse than you will motivate you to be condescending, arrogant, impatient, harsh, and maybe apathetic.

If you become a fellow-sinner helping a fellow-sinner, then your approach to his problems will have a completely different feel to it (Matthew 7:3-5). Ask the Father to give you biblical pity for this man (Psalm 103:14).

Fear of man – Be sure you do not need your dad’™s affirmation or acceptance. If you do, then you’ll soft pedal your counsel. You cannot need someone and correctly love someone.

You may desire his acceptance, but if this kind of thinking gets a stronghold in your mind, then you will not be able to serve him the way he needs to be helped (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). The only opinion which should matter to you is the Lord’™s acceptance, not your dad’™s favor.

You are fully loved and accepted because of the works of Christ. You do not have to perform according to your dad’™s expectations in order to be approved by him. This is idolatry.

Jesus did not need people because He was fully aware of His Father’™s pleasure in Him (Mark 1:11). This released Him to be true to biblical counseling. You must likewise be released and you will be if you’re fully resting in the power of the Gospel.

Humility – If you’™re applying what I’™ve said so far, then you’™re operating from a position of humility. This is great news because God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Expect to be surprised by God.

Approach your dad through the door of encouragement and gratitude even if he may not have been the best dad in the world. Think Paul here—”he was able to find a way to encourage the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:1-9).

More than likely you were not the best child in the world. Let him know this. Share your failures and areas where you could have done a better job as a child. Then let him know how God has changed you.

After you share your failures as well as how you’ve changed, you can begin sharing what you have observed in his life and how you would like to help him to change. Ask the Father to give you the grace and courage to go where you have never gone before with your dad.

Faith – You may be asking at this point, “What do I say?” There is no answer to this question because God will not give you an answer to this question.

The Father is asking you to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The Father cannot give you the words to say because if He did you would be trusting the words He gave you rather than trusting Him alone.

And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11-12)

The better question is not to ask what to say, but will you trust Him as He leads you down this restorative path (Psalm 23:3). Will you trust Him? You have an amazing privilege to serve your dad by providing help for his addiction.

Go and care for him. Walk humbly before the Lord while being courageous toward your dad who needs what you possess. Steward God’™s treasure in you by offering its redemptive and transformative power to your dad (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/

This article also appears on RickThomas.net: “A child’s call to disciple her dad