Do you have the motivation it takes to quit porn?

“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a couple dozen times,” captures well the pattern of trying to change any unwanted but enjoyable behavior. We want to, but we don’t. We’re motivated, but we’re not. We think we should, but wish people would just leave us alone.

This mindset is called “ambivalence”–feeling two contradictory emotions about the same thing. Even if we didn’t know what ambivalence was, we’re good at it.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” –James 1:5-8

This is often a guilt passage. We read it and think, “If it applies to me, I should freak out because it sounds really bad.” Start with verse five and realize the passage begins with presenting God as generous. God is not upset about supplying what we need in our double-minded moments. This will help you not doubt that there is hope for your fickle desire to change (v. 6). God is a gentleman. He won’t change us against our will (v. 7). But God is also loving and warns us against the dangers of our double-minded tendency.

Related: Is It Possible to Break Free from Porn?

Don’t feel ashamed of your conflicted motives. God already knows and He still wants to help. The only person you can lie to is yourself and those who love you.

In this post, we will look at five levels of motivation from Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change (headings only).

Motivation Level 1: Pre-Contemplation

This is the stage when you don’t anticipate making any changes in the foreseeable future because you don’t think they are needed. You are probably annoyed and offended if someone suggests that you change. “Change” as a concept is either not on your radar or is met with resistance instead of consideration.

Pre-contemplation ends when you’re willing to have a conversation about the possible need for change without getting defensive (at least some times).

Motivation Level 2: Contemplation

Now you are beginning to believe that change might be beneficial and are wondering what the process might look like. You are trying to decide if change is “possible,” and, if so, if it’s “worth it.” You want to know what would be required and whether these sacrifices would produce a more satisfying life than continuing to neglect them.

Contemplation ends when your “decision balance” (which way you’re leaning) tips towards a consistent desire to be free from porn.

You are regressing back towards pre-contemplation each time you get defensive or deceitful about your struggle with lust.

Motivation Level 3: Preparation

In this phase, your consideration becomes more concrete. You gather the information necessary to enact an effective and sustainable plan. You assess obstacles–both logistical (external) and motivational (internal). You begin to enlist people to come alongside of you for the journey.

Preparation ends when ideas become actions and plans are implemented.

You are regressing towards contemplation whenever the wisdom principles of purity begin to seem unnecessary or you think about viewing pornography as getting back to “the good old days.”

Motivation Level 4: Action

At this point, plans come to life; ideas become choices. Progress is made and setbacks are navigated. There are successes and failures, but the trajectory of your journey is forward. Techniques become habits and habits become a lifestyle. The roles once filled by your pornography are now filled with healthier and more satisfying and God-honoring ways of managing life.

Action ends when intentionality is increasingly less needed because your default life style of one marked by God-honoring pleasures, healthy relationships, and purity.

Related: How to Quit Porn–6 Essential Steps

You are regressing towards preparation whenever you neglect to consistently implement the things that you know will contribute to your personal purity and freedom of conscience before God.

Motivation Level 5: Maintenance

A new lifestyle is embraced. Your emotions and thought patterns increasingly conform to this new lifestyle. Pornography is no longer your “reward or escape of choice” so you are enjoying life. At this stage, you begin the work of restoring relationships and pursuing interests that were damaged or made impossible by the bondage of pornography.

You are regressing towards action when you can tell you are having to make active choices to resist temptation.

How to Use the Motivation Levels

Write out the five levels of motivation on a piece of paper. Write “today” beside where your motivation is now. Write significant dates or events that came to mind when you read each description.

Chances are this is not your first attempt at this journey (even if the terminology is new). But you might be asking, “What do I gain from these concepts?” I think the most important benefit these concepts can provide is additional language with which to be honest–the most important part of purity.

Can you hear yourself saying something like this to an accountability partner?

  1. Pre-Contemplation: “I can tell my motivation to change is really low because I am just arguing with everything you say. Pray that God would humble me and give me eyes to see things for what they really are.”
  2. Contemplation: “I’m exhausted right now because I feel like purity is a perpetual battle. I want to change and I don’t want to change. Pray that God would give me a single mind committed to purity.”
  3. Preparation: “I’m struggling to accept the things I know are in my best interest as really being necessary. I have a tendency to call wisdom steps extreme and its making me vulnerable to temptation. Pray that I would see God’s wisdom principle as good and leading to my flourishing.”
  4. Action: “I’m doing what I should be doing. I’m committed to continuing to honor God. But it is taking a lot of effort. Pray that God would give me strength to persevere.”
  5. Maintenance: “I’m really enjoying life. I can honestly say that my life without porn is better than my life was with porn. Pray that I continue to pursue the things that God has for my life and that this would continually make temptation less appealing to me.”

Do you hear the common theme in these statements? Honesty.

There is no shame in falling–only quitting. Even in the statements that indicate a regression in motivation and a fall back into some form of sin, there is honesty.

Be honest about where you are, invite others to pray for you in ways fitting that level of motivation, and identify what would be a next step of growth.