3 minute read

Help for Porn Addiction: 3 Critical Steps for Accountability Partners

Last Updated: April 10, 2015

Luke Gilkerson

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

Often I’ve wondered what I would learn if I was a fly on the wall of a counselor’s office. I don’t feel a great need to snoop on others’ private problems; I just feel there is something to be learned listening to an honest, raw conversation about things that really matter to people. When all the masks are off and the guards are down, how can I really listen and speak to others in a way that helps them navigate through their toughest problems?

 

To offer us some help for porn addiction, David Powlison writes a story in the Journal of Biblical Counseling, letting us be the fly on the wall of his office as he interviews a man he calls “Bob.” Bob reflects back on his preoccupation with fantasy, lust, and pornography. While Bob does most of the talking, the interview allows the reader to get into Bob’s head and see how he was able change. (Read the pdf here: “Slaying the Dragon.”)

At one point in the interview Bob talks about going to another counselor for his problem, but these visits did not ultimately help him to repent of his pornographic fantasies.

He mentions three things he wishes his counselor would have done.

1. Get Specific

Bob says when he met with his counselor he almost spoke in code. “I was not explicit enough as to what my sexual problems were,” Bob says, “I said I struggled with lust, but everybody struggles with lust. It would have been helpful if the counselor had been more specific in his questions.”

Accountability conversations need to be specific. Specific questions should be asked. Are you masturbating? Do you watch porn? When? What did you see? How does your fantasy life cause you to think about and treat women? What are your fantasies? (For a detailed list of questions, download, “Christian Accountability: A Discussion Guide.”)

Often we confess in vague generalities because we want to temporarily soothe our guilty consciences. The real ugliness of sin is not unearthed. We take comfort in the confession process itself, treating people (as Jonathan Dodson says) like “Protestant confessional booths.” More specific questions cut through the self-deception. Then, when the guilt, ugliness, and evil of sin is acknowledged, this gives both you and your accountability partner to relish in God’s forgiveness.

2. Go Deep

It wasn’t through Bob’s counselor but through his pastor’s preaching that Bob later came to realize that his lust was not just a struggle, but was actually a form of self-worship—idolatry. “I never really came to see that I was trying to serve two masters,” Bob says. “For me, the basic idolatrous self-worship expressed itself in pornographic fantasy.”

In our accountability conversations, it is important to get to the heart of sin. According to the Bible, sin isn’t just a dysfunction or personality flaw: it is related to what we worship. We may not be used to thinking along the lines of idolatry because we associate idols merely with statues carved out of wood and stone. But the Bible also identifies that idols live in the heart (Ezekiel 14:3).

As Pastor Tim Keller says, when something captures our imaginations and hearts, when something makes us feel personally significant and secure so much that it guides our choices, these are our potential idols. “Sin isn’t only doing bad things,” Keller writes, “it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God.” This is idolatry.

What idols do we find under porn addiction? There isn’t just one. For some the idol might be the image of the porn girls themselves: he is worshiping her beauty. For others the idol might be something the fantasy woman gives him in his fantasy world: approval, respect, a desire to be loved, a desire for companionship, comfort, pleasure, control, power. Many of these thing are good things, but we worship them when our thirst for them becomes an ultimate drive.

Good accountability partners make it a practice to explore the question, “What have I been worshiping?” When we look at our day-to-day choices, habits, dispositions, motives, purchases, and daydreams, what themes do you notice? What idols are hiding beneath the obvious sins? (To help you ask these kinds of questions, read, “6 Reasons Men and Women Are Drawn to Porn.”)

3. Get Personal

Part of Bob’s recovery was coming to terms with his past. His old counselor didn’t explore this angle. Bob says, “I’ve come to understand some things in my background better. An incident when I was molested by a babysitter, several voyeuristic incidents where I witnessed naked women, and the reading of Playboy were all incidents that I think contributed to patterning my sexual sins.”

Bob recognizes these incidents didn’t make him sin, but they did shape what objects his lust gravitated toward. Knowing his past, Bob understands more of where he is most vulnerable.

Good accountability conversations need to take time to explore the past. First, this can be a very powerful exercise for building genuine friendships. Second, it helps us to understand the things that drive us.

Photo credit: pezz

  • Comments on: Help for Porn Addiction: 3 Critical Steps for Accountability Partners
    1. David Frazier on

      A great book to really expose the depth of depravity that sexual sin cultivates is “At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry,” by Steve Gallagher. Steve is the founder of Pure Life Ministries in Dry Ridge Kentucky, a men’s live-in facility geared toward a passionate pursuit of holy living and separation to God from the world.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        @David – That is a really good book. I highly recommend it as well.

      • Maria on

        thanks luck this article help me to know am not crazy my husban has bein watching porn behine my back when he knows we has christian believes this is not the first time he does this but the thirt time my trust has run out i feel that when i go out to the store he maybe doing it as a women am starting to dought my self and is affecting me what can i do about this ?when i confronted him he denied but the history in his phone dont lie he gets relly agresive when it comes to trying to solve or help him

      • Lisa Eldred on

        Start by reading Porn and Your Husband, which will give you practical tips on setting boundaries and next steps for your marriage. You may also want to have your husband read The Porn Circuit, which explains the impacts porn use has on his brain and even his body. It may be the wakeup call he needs.

      • Michael on

        I need help with porn, and looking at naked women, I want to get saved , pray for me to get over this addiction, I want a clear mind and heart , not treat women as sex objects, need prayer to stop.

      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi, Michael – I’m so sorry that you’re struggling. I can sense the real struggle in your post. The blog post here provides some clear steps you can take, and too often, people overlook the first one which is to actually make a clear and effective decision to stop. If you don’t do that, then you won’t get rid of the smartphone or device that you’re using to get to these sites? If not, do you really want to quit? What are you willing to do? You won’t be able to quit unless you’re willing to “gouge out the eye” or “remove the arm” if that’s the problem. God is for you and so am I!

        Regards, Chris

        p.s. no amount of “I’ll never do it again” prayers will work. It starts with a clear and effective decision. Then, I see often that the Spirit of God sweeps in to empower that decision. Not the other way around.

    2. Robert on

      good article but I tends to be a bit inclined towards a religious point of view which is ok but porn addiction is something universal.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        @Robert – You are right. That’s because the authors are coming from a religious point of view. I don’t believe someone can approach this subject (or any subject for that matter) from a “neutral” position. One’s personal belief system is always the grid through which they see the problem and potential solutions.

    3. Keith I on

      Thank you for this article.

      I agree that being specific is really important. I appreciate that at my weekly accountability group we encourage guys to be specific. Often men use general phrases like ‘this week I stumbled’ or ‘I blew it’ and then fail to openly confess and process with the others in the group about specifics. Vagueness does not help with recovery–it delays and hinders it.

      From a general recovery perspective, specifics are helpful because they can get at the root of the ‘thinking errors’ or choices/habits/triggers that come before a large relapse. Biblically, the Lord commands us to confess our sins and not just voice bland and general statements. So I think that being specific is really key.

      I would agree with the previous comment that the Gallagher book is helpful. My group now is working through ‘Faithful and True’ by Laaser.

      Thank you Covenant Eyes team for your software since this is also a big part of my accountability and has been for several years.

      Keith

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        @Keith – Thanks for stopping by and sharing some of your story.

    4. God on

      Verily I say unto thee,

      Thou hast done an act which is pleasing before me. Thou hast protected the souls of my children from the carnal, virtuous state. I shall pour my blessings upon you, insomuch that ye cannot contain them.

      Reply
      • Mark on

        Whether you are sincere or not, you are playing a dangerous game by posting a message claiming to be God. If you believe you have an encouraging message from God to give to people, post as yourself, then let others decide if God is speaking through you to them or not. Thank you.

    5. KennethColeman on

      I am nopt new to accountability. I am a leader in a step study. What should I be looking for

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Is there a specific point in this post you wanted more information about?

    6. KennethColeman on

      I adhere to Phil. 4:8 – think on these things

      Reply
    7. Christie Kitchens on

      How do you help someone who has Covenant Eyes installed on the phone and computer but sneaks in to someone else’s computer when they left it open at work and accesses porn. Now I am afraid to leave my own computer in the living room when they come visit for fear they will get on my equipment. It has ruined the trust I have in my friend.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        It is important for anyone to remember that there’s always a way around software, and your friend is using the most common way: just find another computer to do it. How did you find out about the latest transgression with work computer? Did your friend confess it to you?

        One way some people protect more devices is by getting a Family Account with Covenant Eyes. This means they can have as many usernames as they want. In your case, you would have a username for yourself: you would sign in when using the Internet and sign out when you were done, and if your friend ever got into your computer, they would have use their own username to get online (thus, they would be monitored).

        Otherwise, I agree: it might be best to leave your computer out of reach for a while.

        How do you help someone like this? First, it would be good to remind yourself that is the sad nature of an addictive habit. Your friend is looking for a “fix.” Second, help your friend to set personal boundaries that rule out these possibilities in the future. What can your friend do to prevent it from happening. If your friend says they can’t do anything, kindly remind them that they need to find a way: their integrity is worth a lot more than whatever freedom they want to cling to. Third, help your friend unravel the process their mind went through before the last relapse. For instance, were they sitting around at work thinking about watching porn and then suddenly the opportunity presented itself? Were they feeling particularly lonely, tired, or irritable that day? Help them see looking at porn was not just a freak occurrence, but there were likely small steps made in the mind that made them more susceptible for temptation.

        You might want to read this free book about being a good accountability partner. It might help you with these particulars.

    8. Johnny on

      a friend has come to me and asked if he can be accountable to me. I want to help him, but I am not sure how. where do I start?

      Reply
    9. Chris Winters on

      Luke, I can see why you would want to be specific and thorough when overcoming a porn addiction. I have a friend who has struggled with a porn addiction for years. I definitely think that he should find some counseling that could help him to overcome his issues.

      Reply
    10. Michael w on

      I need help with porn, I need prayer, I’m on dating sitesvto get pics of naked women , I want to be free of this addiction, I’m on websites looking at naked women, need prayer for heart and mind to be change and rid of this addiction I want Jesus in my heart

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi, Michael – I’m so sorry that you’re struggling. I can sense the real struggle in your post. The blog post here provides some clear steps you can take, and too often, people overlook the first one which is to actually make a clear and effective decision to stop. If you don’t do that, then you won’t get rid of the smartphone or device that you’re using to get to these sites? If not, do you really want to quit? What are you willing to do? You won’t be able to quit unless you’re willing to “gouge out the eye” or “remove the arm” if that’s the problem. God is for you and so am I!

        Regards, Chris

    11. Michael w on

      Want Jesus to come into my heart, want to get saved , need prayer

      Reply
    12. Michael w on

      I need prayer, and need help with pot, I am on dating sites looking at pics of naked women, I view porn every day, I want to be free of this addiction , pray for me, I want to get save, a new mind and heart. I want to treat women not as sex objects, but a person with respect, I need Jesus to help me, pray , pray, for me to get over this porn addiction

      Reply

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