About the author, Joel Hesch

Joel Hesch is an author and founder of Proven Men Ministries, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring families and helping men break free from porn and sex addiction through a 12-week daily workbook study and accountability. After breaking free from his own 20-year addiction, Joel created “the proven path for sexual integrity.” His vision is to help 1 million people experience victory from strongholds of porn and sex addition.

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Your Brain on Porn

Parenting the Internet Generation Ebook Cover

Watching just 5 hours of porn has been proven to significantly change people's sexual beliefs and attitudes. Find out 5 distinct ways that porn warps your brain, as well as 5 biblical ways to renew your mind and find freedom.

19 thoughts on “The Two Most Important Questions to Ask If You Have a Setback

  1. Wow, nice article. I can relate in how I can have an unbelievable high mountain top moment then trip on a rock and it seems I fell 10,000 feet and look at that as another looong horrible climb back up.

    I have decided, no smartphones for me. I get scared to even think of owning one. It’s like I hear that small evil voice saying “get it and you’re mine.” Maybe it’s the Holy Spirit warning me in a more gentle way, but the first is what I tend to hear in my spirit. Maybe that is the problem…the spirit of “fear” I tend to listen too that then leads to anxiety that leads to the reaching out (?) All I know is that the technology we have today makes it soooo easy for anyone to fulfill the lust of the flesh and I know the bible says “not” to make provision for it, so I’m just gonna stay away from those areas I feel I would probably struggle and give in.

    What a battle we have before us, we live in such a sex crazed world which makes this such a hard thing to overcome. I have heard of the brain being able to be rewired and this is encouraging. Today I am 77 days clean. I can feel the tug to lust getting lighter at times when in the past I would have given in with just a light thought. Though, as with another writer mentioning those times of the year when the temptation seems stronger. I think of just how more I will struggle in the summer season. Not all, but a portion of women will leave not too much to the imagination. I thank God that I have a wife that understands this and also understands how visual men are. I say this because I am more opt to share with her how this impacts my struggles and thus “releases” the anxiety that pushes me to reach out to porn. It does not bottle up and lie in wait until that moment I am alone at the house and feel it surface along with the possibility of being bored (two dangers with me). With my wife not being so touchy about me sharing how the half naked woman walking in the store makes me uncomfortable she is actually helping me turn away because the anxiety was released through communication rather than through bottling-up that thought and stewing on it (in fear of her finding out I noticed) until I fulfill that lust with images on a screen.

    It’s a battle I know I’ll take to the grave, but just like other sins that will be taken to the grave also, Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. Sin have left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.

    Thanks CE and keep up that great work with the Dirty Dozen List….awesome research!!

    • Hello, Anonymous, thank you for your honesty and your story. It sounds as though God is turing your misery into possible ministry. I love it when He does that.

      Peace, Chris

  2. Hopefully a husband would confess this sin as adultery and not just “I looked at porn”. Matt. 5:28.
    Perhaps if it is viewed and remembered in this light, a spouse would think before cheating.
    God has a lot to say about all habitual sin.
    No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
    1 John 3:6 NIV
    Things can always be forgiven, we are commanded to forgive and not be bitter.
    However, there is a big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
    This behavior is no light thing to the spouse.

  3. I am struggling because I’m on my own and have no one to turn to. My wife has left me and I still can’t seem to overcome my addiction to sex and porn. Even with all the pain ithat has caused me. I still find myself going back to the old easy paths. I have accountability partners but they are not really close friends and i have a hard time opening up to them. I have filters on my phone and computer but I find ways to get around them and I can’t figure out what I should do next. I was free of the issue for about 4 months and so thankful then I relapsed because of going through the divorce and the stress and loneliness and feelings of failure overwhelming me and I knew I was going to fail and I told myself not to but I did it anyway. I keep reaching out to God for help and I feel like there is no one there and my conversation is simply with myself. I have repented every time and cry out to him for forgiveness and a chance to start over but I wonder how many times he will forgive and if I continue to fail will he simply just walk away.

    • Hi Ray. I’m so sorry for the pain you’re going through. I suggest that you find a counselor or spiritual director to talk with. When you talk about stress, loneliness, and feelings of failure, along with having conversations only with yourself–that just breaks my heart. And there’s no need to be alone in this. Find someone who can help you bear this burden of pain. I think you hit on something so important in your frustration with accountability partners: unfortunately, many men are not comfortable being truly open on an emotional level with one another. I personally think this is what the porn problem in the church is all about: men who are wounded and can’t bring their pain to a real person for healing. So, that’s why I’m saying, find a counselor or a spiritual director. Not for the “porn problem” but for the pain problem. And I think once you’ve got some healing in that area, you won’t need the porn so much any more. Peace to you, Kay

  4. I like and agree with the general content of this information. However:

    “First, the Lord reminded me that I cannot rescue anyone and that my materials only work when they point others to Christ and healthy accountability.

    Second, the Lord whispered that I needed to start asking men who had a setback two questions. Okay, I did not hear an audible voice from God, but it was as clear of a message from God as I have ever heard, and it caught my attention.”

    is a bit disingenuous. I appreciate his saying it was not an audible voice, but if he is attributing something to God, I would like a bit more clarity and/or transparency on this. I’m a bit weary of the “God told me this” backstop many Christian writers use to try to lend authority to their words.

    • Thanks for this! Yes, “God told me” is a power play. If our words and ideas have merit, they can stand on their own.

  5. Hi Joel,

    Thanks for the article. It is liberating in many ways. Up until now, I have always felt guilty when I looked at porn. This made it almost impossible to come to God because I always felt dirty and undeserving of God’s love; almost impossible for God to love such a habitual sinner like me. Psalm 51 and Romans 7 have been my anchor in this battle and as you rightly pointed out, victory is certainly ours. But this can only be possible when we begin to acknowledge that in our own, we have nothing good in us and that it is only through his love and unmerited favour (Grace) that we stand a chance. Thanks again. Emmanuel, UK

    • Pornography is absolutely adultery! For the wife it feels worse than an affair with one real person. We can’t compete with something that is Not Real, plastic, air brushed or otherwise altered, disingenuine and fake. Look it up (theinstituteforsexualhealth.com), we are forever tainted by your actions choosing thousands of others over us and your family. Stealing money and hours of time from your families. Doing downright sinful, uncaring, despicable things that were never intended through God’s eyes. Then projecting onto us, the ones who Chose You above all others the ones who really love you. Blaming us directly or indirectly, when it was always simply a CHOICE you made. You CHOSE to lust after others. Making us feel disgusting, worthless, never truly loved, always doubting, scared and forever not good enough. Our world has crumbled. Sometimes knowing we were Never Worth The Truth in your eyes is the worst part. Other times doubting your love, our entire relationship and every word you have ever spoken while not being able to be touched by you without cringing inside is the worst. It is also very difficult to know that you see females as objects and servants regardless of their very young ages, their horrible upbringings, their alcohol and drug use just to “get thru” a scene, regardless of human sex trafficking, the fact that they are usually being coerced or forced to act out those despicable things you enjoy at their expense, your family’s expense and your wife’s heart and soul. It especially terrifies those of us with daughters. If any of you so called Men tried to ever experienced an ounce of the pain you have caused your significant other and your family you would vomit for days (much like most of us wives do) and you would NEVER EVER see pornography the same. You would begin to see scared little girls being taken advantage of by a selfish hyper sexualized culture. Pornography IS ADULTERY… it is lusting after another that is not your wife… it is your plethora of Mistresses at your fingertips 24 hours a day 7 days a week! If you are lucky enough to still be with your spouses, DISCLOSE ALL YOUR LIES RIGHT NOW! It is the least you can do, you owe it to them. Be brave and strong like the Men we thought you were. The ones that would always protect us and our families. We know something is wrong, don’t wait for us to stumble upon the truth, it will be WAY WORSE! Help your wives to stop bleeding out, dress their wounds and help them heal. YOU OWE IT TO THEM. Protect them like you promised you would. MAN UP, set an example for the next generation (MAKE HEALING A PRIORITY, stop making excuses to not do it, buy the Worthy of Her Trust book and read it together this weekend, call a counselor, add accountability software, get rid of your smart phone, tablets and TV if its too tempting), ASK HER how she is feeling every day, show her you have changed and she is worth it. She can not get through this without you (especially with partial truths, tell her EVERYTHING, if you forget something tell her as soon as you remember a lot of times we are fearing much more/worse), you will feel better. You will get past the fear and tears and destruction you have created and she will see you as the Brave Honest Protector you once were. Women that have their Men disclose their actions completely and reach out to them for help almost always stay. It shows them a glimmer of who you once were and reminds them what they are fighting for. Protect her and your families. It will be a very difficult road at times but if you remember to communicate and help one another along your journey you will make it. Prove to her she is worth something to you…You will feel so much better letting her know the real you and knowing she still loved all of you and wanted to stay and work it out. If you are married you should put yourself in each others shoes and walk through this together. Rip off the bandaid and TELL HER NOW!

    • Wow, I’m just rejoicing at the honesty you have shared here. Men, I hope you read these words! Thank you for pouring out your heart. This paragraph clearly comes from a very sensitive and personal spot and I hope that it is impactful for many.


  6. I read this article because my husband has used porn in the past. But by the end, I found myself much encouraged and given new weapons to fight my own sins. My compulsive sins include deadening myself to pain in relationships, burying myself in inane web surfing, shutting others out, avoiding giving love to my children, doubting God’s love, and bitterness. As I am struggling to turn away from these sins, I am discouraged when I get to the end of the day and find I spent 4 hours on various meanders through Wikipedia, but couldn’t find time to read my Bible or read a book to my daughters. These 2 questions are applicable to shining the Light of God’s Truth into my own deceitful heart and finding a constructive way forward, rather than piling contempt on myself for my failures and wallowing in more failure the next day. Thank you.
    by the Grace of God,

    • Amen Worthless. So evil and hurtful. It destroys the wife and sexual relationship. I wish I would have left before having kids.

    • Hey Leah, I hope you’ll find a therapist who can help you process through the painful emotions and find healing for yourself. You might also look for a group, and check into the online resources at Bloom for Women. Marriage betrayal is a trauma that is often left untreated in spouses, sadly. But you can find help! I hope you’ll get the healing help that will restore you to life and joy, no matter what your husband chooses. Peace, Kay

  7. I agree with Johanna. There is no “Godly Sorrow” in this article shown by the comment “I could see her heart being ripped apart, but I’m glad I did.” “No more secrets”. His wife is collateral damage again, but he feels much better.

    While the husband demonstrates some awareness of his sin against God, the connection to the ongoing damage to his marriage & wife is missing.

    There is no mention of the boundaries the wife has set, & what the consequences will be if the husband continues to violate the healthy boundaries she has set for her own safety, security & rebuilding trust.

    If the tables were reversed & the wife dumped on her husband that she had not only seen again the man she had an adulterous affair with, but had a minor slip & had kissed him & let him touch her. I don’t think for a moment the husband would stay married.

    Bottom line if a husband continues in viewing Porn & participating with it, he may destroy his marriage.

  8. I am greatful for this article and some of. The comments that we’re Expressed​. As a wife that has had my husband experience setbacks on occasion. I find that through forgiveness and love and healing as a team effort is a saving Grace in our marriage. Countless prayers and soul searching has been key in overcoming all these things. And l may not have this addiction but I am not without sin. Jesus Christ atonement is not just for me but for all Including my husband. Though are sins maybe as sacrlet red he can make them white as snow. It’s Satan that wants men to give up and tell us we are not worthy of God’s forgiveness and that our setbacks or messups can’t be forgiven etc. But the Lord Jesus Christ always has his arms open ready to receive us and he knows we are not perfect and that we may slip up ,so he has provided away for us to escape sin no matter what it is through repentance and staying close to him by putting on the armor of God on. Which is praying, reading scripture, attending church, which can also be called CPR(spiritual resuce or spiritual life line etc) , church, pray ,read scriptures . May God bless you all and strengthen you.

  9. This article is written entirely from the mans perspective. There is NO consideration for how this guy’s poor wife feels when he cheats on her twice in one day! It’s like the author is giving men a get out of jail free card. You can have a “setback”, (call it what it is – SIN), as long as you confess it after and “see what you’ve learned”. Thing is, if you continue to sin over and over, you haven’t learned anything! No excuses. No “thats what the doctor ordered”. It’s what YOU ordered.

    I am a man, almost 5 years into recovery. I go to a faith based 12-step group at Dr Doug Weiss’s Heart to Heart counseling. We also ask the “2 questions” when somebody repeat sins, but not “joyously” and with happy tears in our eyes. We hold them accountable. If this has been an ongoing issue we don’t applaud their confession, we challenge them that they are not interested or caring enough of their wife to change. We ask them why are they bothering to come to group if they are not wanting to have a true change of heart, attitude and behavior. Get rid of the smart phone. Put Covenant Eyes on your computer. Give your wife every password, every account, and she has free and instant access to anything she wants.

    The author states at the beginning that almost every week there is someone who has sinned. Maybe that’s because the group is being too “It’s OK, you can do better”, rather than holding the mirror up to them and making them realize the trauma EVERY “setback” does to their wife. Each betrayal puts HER back to discovery day. There is no trust, there is no protection, there is no healing. Humble yourself at the foot of the cross and tap into the power of the Holy Spirit to stop you from EVER betraying your wife again. It can be done. It just requires you to CHOSE to do it. Every man has that choice. You can chose porn or you can chose purity and faithfulness. That’s how God created us. It’s that simple

  10. I read through this several times and couldn’t believe what I was reading. So I read it again. The two questions that are asked are: 1. What lead to the setback? 2. What did you learn from your ‘setback’?

    The answer to #1. has no other answer than selfishness and sin. “I wanna get off and feel good so I did it — oops, my bad” #2. Has no other answer than I am a poor excuse of a husband and I am sinner in need of repentence for committing adultery against my wife. I need serious counseling and my wife needs trauma therapy for how I continue to chose other women over her. And I will pay every dime to help her recover from my selfish betrayals. ( check out https://www.btr.org/services/betrayal-trauma-recovery-club/ )

    WHAT? I didn’t offer a comforting and non-shaming response? I didn’t use nonthreatening euphanisms — these are those literary devices used to make nice sounding synonyms for horrendous actions like: Moral failing = I had sex with a woman who was not my wife or pregnancy termination = abortion.

    One of the most appalling feel good euphanisms here is the word “setback” instead of “Hey, I had online sex with a woman who isn’t my wife.” This is NOT a setback to the wife — I can assure you. It is traumatizing! When you say it’s secrets that kill marriages, not porn — who are you trying to convince? It IS porn that kills marriages — AND secrets. According the the latest studies from divorce lawyers, family therapists, and a wide variety of Christian surveys — The reason for 60% + of the divorces are porn related!

    As long as we keep worrying about making the offender feel better about himself or else he will keep wallowing in his behavior, GUESS WHAT? He WILL keep wallowing in his sinful abusive adulteous behavior.

    Let him hit bottom — then MAYBE he will look up to Christ as his savior

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