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Enslaved to Porn: Why I Returned Again and Again to Porn

Last Updated: August 10, 2015

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

During a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973, robbers held several hostages for six long days. During this time, a curious thing began to happen: The hostages began to show signs of sympathy for their captors.

Even after the ordeal was over, one of the hostages later became good friends with one of the robbers.

The criminologist assigned to help police with the case coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome.”

While there is considerable discussion surrounding the exact nature of this phenomenon, there have been several reported cases of the syndrome; some hostages seem to form powerful emotional attachments to their victimizers as an internal defense mechanism.

Enslaved to Porn

Israel longs for Egypt.

By way of analogy, we can see Stockholm-like symptoms in the attitudes of the Israelites during their wilderness years.

Only weeks after they watched God open the Red Sea, they were murmuring against God when they ran out of provisions. They thought about their life back in Egypt—the bread, the pots of meat (Exodus 16:1-3)—nothing like the scorching wilderness. Even after the revelation of God at Sinai, they said, “Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:1-4).

Wasn’t this the same group of people who groaned because of their slavery (Exodus 2:23)? Why, instead of remembering the cruelty of Egypt—the task masters, the heavy burdens, the centuries of toil making bricks under the hot sun, the ruthless slaughter of their children—did they remember pots of meat?

My longing for porn.

I have been just as guilty of the same lunacy when it comes to my own habitual sins—like my love affair with pornography.

Yes, in my sober moments, I could see the ugliness of porn for what it was. But there were many times I rushed back to porn like a dog to its vomit. In the moment of indulgence, I was blind to the shame and oppressiveness of my addiction—or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I saw the shame of it, but it somehow seemed less ugly to me.

Something in me wanted to be addicted, wanted the slavery.

Over the years, I’ve pondered why this is, and here are my observations…

Who do you trust?

God made Israel many promises of deliverance. If they trusted God, He would bring them out of slavery into a land of blessing. But “the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4:2).

That generation died in the wilderness because they did not trust in God.

It wasn’t that Egypt was better than the wilderness; rather, trusting the Egyptian slave masters was somehow easier than trusting God. Sure, Egypt was a cruel place, but at least it was a predictable place.

For me, it wasn’t that slavery to porn was all that desirable, but it was easier for me than trusting God. Sure, I knew the cruelty of the slave master’s rod, but at least in front of my computer screen, he delivered predictable rations. In the wilderness of trust, however, I would be asked to die to my selfish demands and enter the unpredictability of following God’s Spirit.

In order to finally overcome my addiction to porn, I needed to confess my sin of unbelief.

Trusting God on my way to the Promised Land.

When I felt totally inadequate and rejected in life, it was easy to long for the “pots of meat” offered by pornography.

There, in that fantasy world, I was never rejected. But God was calling me to repent of needing the approval of others, pursue His glory above all (1 Corinthians 10:31), and anticipate the glory He promises to those who trust Him (John 5:44). His approval is far better than the approval of women made of pixels on a screen.

When I felt pathetically lonely, sitting at home while all my friends were out on dates with their beautiful wives, I longed for the rations porn would deliver, the temporary illusion of intimacy. But God was calling me to trust Him as I entered the risk of godly intimacy with real people. God can and will take all my relationships—even my failed ones—and use them to conform me to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29).

There were nights I felt genuinely angry at God for not giving me the spouse I so clearly “deserved” and the life I so desperately wanted. I would run back to the slavery of Egypt as my way of throwing a tantrum at God for not catering to my desires. “Fine, God, you won’t give me what I want. I’ll take it however I can get it.” But like a loving Father, God called me to stop acting like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:29-31), to stop acting like God “owed” me something.

In the wilderness, God taught me that He does not relate to His children this way. As a Father, He knows me better than I know myself. He knows exactly what blessings are best for me in His perfect timing.

And like a loving Father, He spoke tenderly into my spirit, saying, “Everything I have is yours.”

Longing for the Promised Land.

The only thing that cures a longing for Egypt is a longing for the Promised Land. I needed to begin believing that what God offers me, even in the unpredictability of following Him, is far better than the false promises of porn.

I know until I get to that Land, Egypt will still be in my blood.

I still bear the scars of my former slave master’s whips. In my foggiest moment, I will naturally be drawn to the memory of the pots of meat.

But God feeds me with the heavenly manna of Christ’s body. He has given me a hunger for the milk and honey of the new heavens and new earth. And He has given me traveling companions that constantly remind me that we are on our way home.

  • Comments on: Enslaved to Porn: Why I Returned Again and Again to Porn
    1. It’s like The Shawshank Redemption. The character Brooks had been in prison for 50 years when we was released, the vast majority of his life. He had been institutionalized. He had become so dependant on his prison that he was afraid and unwilling to function on the outside.

      “These walls are funny. First you hate them, then you get used to them, enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”

      • Jim

        Thanks for being vulnerable so other men/women could heal too. When it says to confess your sins one to another it really is not about shaming the guilty, it is really about healing and real hope for a new tomorrow.

      • John cameron

        Hey my name is John I would like some help please

      • Andrew

        This exhortation is one of the best, if not the best, descriptions and explanations for our (including mine) underlying failure to overcome sin and obtain freedom from it with His grace!

        I too have compared myself, with this sin as well as with others, like an ignorant and forgetful (i.e. unfaithful) dog who is stupid enough to return to his vomit rather than to participate in the life of freedom made available to me by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

        Not only do I feel, and sometimes believe in my heart, that I am unworthy of such love from Him, I also tend to believe the lies of the dEVIL that tell me I’m not worthy of love from anyone at all.

        Many situations in my life work to worm that false doctrine into my heart, especially after being faithful and/or blessed, which is why it’s we must remain steadfast and resolute in our love for Him, and rely on never ending help of the Holy Spirit, to overcome those times by riding out the storms while staying focused solely on Him.

        Thank you so much for this testimony and may God continue to bless you, and us all, with the desires of His heart for our lives so we may know, love, and serve Him better-and-better as we walk in holiness with Him all the days of our lives!

        Your brother in Christ, Andrew

    2. manoj

      It’s wonderful,straight to the point.

    3. Isaac Cruz

      I m so blessed by this word brother: you have no Idea how refreshing this website has been to me personally!!!
      Just a humble comment about your “our enemy been powerful” statement.
      According to Our Master and Savior; satan has no power what so ever. The only power that our enemy, satan, the devil has; is the power that we the church give to him every time that we agree with his lies and deceptions.
      From the beginning of times satan didn’t have any power over adam and eve at the garden and all that he could do was to talk and talk and talk and talk to eve, questioning what God had said about eating the fruit, and questioning her Identity.
      Adam and Eve where perfect in a very perfect place and environment and satan had no entrance or any chance in their life, minds, hearts unless they agreed on every lie that the devil had said to them. Now; JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD AND THE HEAVENLY FATHER TOOK ALL POWER AND ALL AUTHORITY AND GAVE IT TO HIS SON JESUS AND HIS BRIDE THE CHURCH; US!!!!! that means some one(the devil, death, hell) has been left with no power what so ever; and all that he(the devil) can do still is: keep talking and talking and talking until we agree with his lies; then and only then he is empowered to kill our faith and believe, still our peace, purity, and destroy our future and our assignment to preach the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM!!!!
      He will try to convince us that he is the crocodile and we are the chicken when in reality he is and ant and we are the elephant. Satan remains the same; lier, deceiver, weak, disarmed, naked, defeated and without hope; how can an enemy like satan be powerful? Our position in Christ is way, way greater than any devil, spirit of dead and hell it self.

      • @Isaac – I agree that Satan is a toothless lion. All growl, no bite. Any sway he has in the world is based on his ability to accuse. We find him playing the roll of the prosecuting attorney in Scripture. Because Jesus has taken our condemnation, he can no longer rightly accuse us before God (Revelation 12:10). He will, however, try accuse us to our faces.

        I remember an excellent song by Shane and Shane called “Embracing Accusation.” The song is about how the devil likes to accuse us of our sin and tell us how unworthy we are of any grace. The devil is portrayed as one who sings this condemnation over the children of God: “The devil’s singing over me an age old song
        That I am cursed and gone astray. Singing the first verse so conveniently over me. He’s forgotten the refrain: Jesus saves!”

    4. david

      in this time, the powerful evil is freemasonary that want to force and impose his wicked ideology to us but in an unconsciously way

      pornography, modern slavary and so on derive from their dirty’s mind

    5. Steve N.

      This is a great post, Luke!
      My wife and I were just having this conversation today about how easily we go back to what we know and what is familiar, even if it means destruction. We are so accustomed to pain and misery, that the idea of freedom and true joy is almost intimidating to us. It is as if we will have no idea what to do with ourselves when there is no taskmaster controlling our hearts and minds. This is the beauty of the growth God works through our lives as we walk with Him and ask for His wisdom. He will teach us what it means to rely on Him and Him alone. We will no longer have that draw of being driven by our flesh, but will have a drive from deep within us to chase after the Eternal God.
      The further we look away from our own navels, the more hope we have in breaking the bondage we tie ourselves to.

    6. Wow. I could easily write myself into this dialog, but in the context of a marriage gone sour. I suppose that we can use any excuse to be bitter toward God when life is not going the way we desired. I am only slightly becoming aware of the fullness of the Promised Land, but somehow I know that it is enough. Though I hope beyond hope that He will heal my marriage, I am willing to submit myself to the unpredictability of His will as He leads me through the desert of my own sin.

      • Glad my story could encourage you, Jeremiah. The wilderness is the place where you learn to die to things you didn’t even consider idols before, but its also the place where you honeymoon with God himself (Jeremiah 2:2). Be encouraged. Yes, you are more sinful than you thought, but you are more loved than you ever dared hope.

    7. Kyle

      I really appreciated your article. Very insightful for so many areas of our lives. Also really appreciated the 40 day challenge. Keep up the good work!!

    8. Jason Bolster

      Let me suggest that what stops us from longing for the Promised Land is feeling so at home and comfortable in this place. We have loyalty to the world and have an interest in maintaining it so leaving it is a shock when it should be a blessing.

    9. Ta

      Powerful message indeed.i need God,s grace in my life right now.i was about to go back to my pornography vomit but to God be the Glory ,i ended up looking for ways to overcome falling into this pit again.Your message was medicine to me.i am a girl and i have been enslaved in pornography for 14 years now.sometimes i feel like i have total victory over this addiction but sometimes i feel too weak to fight against it but to just submit.its been over 40 days since i stopped and i dont want to give up .

      • Mark Stone

        Hi there, be of good courage ! Go and read 1 Corinthians 10 verse 13 and also read Hebrews 4 verses 14, 15 and 16. Main thing is this “Just be still and know that I am God ” He will never leave or forsake you !!!! The devil is going to hell forever and you are going to Heaven !! Be of good cheer and forgive yourself, because God does !! – through Jesus Christ who died on the cross to reconcile us back to God. Too many Christians never get the Peace and Joy, that really only God can give them, merely because they believe ( and listen ) to the lies of the devil. Rejoice in the Lord and praise Him even now for His victory over sin – ( and your sin ), and enjoy life. Come on, look up ! Your Redeemer lives !!!!!

    10. Steve

      At The End Of This Magnificent Journey—You guys Have given me Hope Beyond Measure–Today by The Grace of GOD–I Will Grab Hold Of VICTORY–By The Way–I’m 39 Days –PORN FREE–GLORY!!!!!

    11. A.F.

      The Best Post of the 40 Day Challenge !

    12. Mburu

      I like the way it has been put. It is of help to me and I believe to many others out there. The urge to knowingly go for something forbidden is a temptation that has to be overcome. But God is able and willing to restore those who put their trust in Him.

      ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.’ Mat 5:6 King (KJV)

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