6 minute read

4 Ways to Talk About Accountability Without Sounding Like a Pervert

Last Updated: November 3, 2020

Lisa Eldred
Lisa Eldred

Lisa Eldred is the Educational Content Strategist at Covenant Eyes, and has 10 years of experience in researching and writing about porn addiction and recovery. She has authored numerous blog posts and ebooks, including More Than Single, Hobbies and Habits, and New Fruit, which was co-authored with Crystal Renaud Day. Her writing about faith and fandoms can be found at Love Thy Nerd.

The Covenant Eyes Customer Service Department has an unwritten rule when making outbound calls: Be cautious about leaving voice messages.

This seems strange. After all, doctors leave messages instructing patients to call back for test results, and loan sharks certainly have no shame in harassing their debtors at all hours of the day. So why should we refrain?

Because many of our users come to us as a result of habitual porn use, Covenant Eyes to them has the automatic association with porn problems. Hearing our name on a voice message, seeing our Filter block page, or even just seeing our omnipresent eye icon in their menu bar can be a source of shame, and they may fear being publicly outed as a porn user.

It’s understandable. Nobody wants to be in a business meeting, giving a presentation, and have the filter block page pop up…and then have to explain why they need a filter in the first place. (This has happened to our users before.)

But when our users think of Covenant Eyes solely as a solution to their very personal problem, they’re missing out on an opportunity to help others who may secretly be sharing the same burden. They’re missing the chance to reframe the issue and make it about hope.

So then, when your nosy coworker asks why you don’t use Safari on your iPhone, what should you tell them instead?

1. Make it about your marriage.

One easy way to talk about it is as a protective step for your marriage. Spouses (especially wives) often report feeling betrayed and heartbroken when they discover their partner’s porn use. Many even show signs of PTSD. If your marriage is important to you, then frame your use of Internet Accountability as a tool to keep it strong and to protect yourselves from even the hint of temptation.

Even if you’re in a situation where your spouse has discovered you using porn, and you are using Covenant Eyes as a help in your recovery, your acquaintances don’t need to know you’re directly in the battle. They don’t need to know the current state of your relationship; just focus on what you want it to be.

Say: “I want my wife to know I value her above all other women. I want to give her the peace of mind of knowing that I’m not going to look at porn.”

2. Make it about your kids.

I periodically get into conversations with friends and acquaintances who are staunchly pro-porn. They sometimes choose to enjoy it themselves and they don’t see anything wrong with consenting adults viewing it. But when I mention Covenant Eyes’ role as a tool for parents to protect their kids, something unexpected happens: they agree with me. They understand that childhood is not the time for kids to stumble onto sexual content. As one Wiccan explained to me, one of the most sexually messed up guys she knew had stumbled across porn at age 12. And even porn star Ron Jeremy, who has often publicly debated X3Church’s founder Craig Gross about pornography, firmly believes that porn is for grown-ups, not kids.

So if someone sees Covenant Eyes on your computer and wants to know what it’s about, tell them your kids use Covenant Eyes because you want to keep them safe, and you use it yourself because you want to lead by example. Chances are, the second a child’s safety is mentioned, they’ll understand.

(Of course, this only works if you have kids, and if they also use Covenant Eyes. I can’t help you with the former. As for the latter, now that our Family Accounts are here, protecting them is more affordable than ever.)

Say: “It’s so easy for kids to stumble across inappropriate content online, even while just doing homework. I want to know when it happens, so I can talk to them about it before it becomes a problem. I use it on my devices to serve as an example, which means I’m not asking them to do something I’m not willing to do.”

3. Make it about your beliefs.

For many of us, this should be the biggest no-brainer of all. People of virtually every faith are called to a higher standard of living. Speaking as a Christian to Christians, we are commanded to not commit adultery or covet (Exodus 20), we are to set no worthless things before our eyes (Psalm 101:3), we are told the adulteress’s house is the way to the grave (Proverbs 7), and we are not to associate with sexually immoral people in our churches because it’s a sign they’re not actually believers (1 Cor. 5). I could go on, of course, but you get the point.

So, then, if you are a Christian (or of a faith with similar values), call attention to your commitment to those beliefs. For many of us, using accountability software in an accountability relationship should reflect our commitment to these values, and should be another tool or habit, like going to a small group Bible study or reading theology books. It’s not a requirement, but it’s usually a good idea for personal growth in faith and fellowship.

If you’re asked about why you use Covenant Eyes and don’t want to explain any porn issues, point to the Bible. Talk about your avoidance of porn as a faith issue (or even simply a lifestyle choice). Focus on being prepared for the future. As Tim Challies explains:

It is when we are not being tempted, it is when we are standing strong in the Lord’s grace, that we ought to consider the times we will be weak and tempted and eager to sin. We need to assume such times will come and we need to use the moments of strength to put measures in place that will protect us when we are weak.

Say: “Because of my faith, I feel so strongly that I should not view inappropriate content that I want to remove the temptation completely. I’m avoiding even the appearance of evil, and keeping my Internet use transparent.”

4. Make it personal.

Sometimes, you should just admit that you struggle with porn.

This may be a bit counterintuitive. After all, this entire article is about not sounding like a porn addict. So why am I now saying to tell people you use Covenant Eyes because of a porn problem?

From a cultural level, porn is increasingly de-stigmatized. It’s mainstream. There’s Don Jon, which encourages sticking to the “right” part of porn. There are university sex weeks, which often feature porn stars. There’s even an academic journal dedicated to the study of pornography. And it’s rare to find someone (at least in America) who has never seen a salacious image online, whether they were intentionally looking or not. So in some contexts, it may actually be safe to admit that you have a problem with pornography.

The real key is to follow up with why you no longer want to watch it. Consider sharing your story. Maybe a relationship suffered because of your porn use. Maybe you just read enough about the science behind porn problems that you wanted to call it quits. Just like in the other three suggestions, it’s about who you want to be and why.

Confessing may have a surprising effect. Look at the stats: 85% of college men and nearly half of college women view porn at least once a month. That means an increasing number of the men and women you know (at work, at church, at events) may themselves be struggling with pornography, or feel betrayed by a spouse’s porn use, or have a child who was exposed to porn. They may themselves feel hopeless, and need a solution…and your own confession may provide the “way of escape” to a temptation that is very, very common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As a personal example, I was part of the leadership team for a Christian group in college. One memorable evening, when only five of the six student leaders and the staff worker were in attendance, we entered a time of deep, heart-to-heart confession. Four of us wound up confessing issues dealing with lust and masturbation. For two leaders, the problem was very specifically porn. It was a strange and kind of awkward night, but with the first confession, we all felt freer to admit to our own sins and take the steps toward healing. A night that could have been horribly embarrassing wound up being a beautiful night of the “godly sorrow that brings forth repentance.” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Obviously, my own experience was among a trusted group of friends. Obviously, there are people who should not know about any porn problems you have in your own life. Most certainly, if the Filter Block page pops up in a business meeting, you shouldn’t derail it by telling everyone how many days it’s been since you last looked at porn. But among two or three people, even if they aren’t your closest friends in the world, it may be safe or even good to talk about it. It may be exactly the message they need to hear.

Say: “Yes, I admit, I struggle with porn. It’s extremely tempting. But I didn’t like how it affected who I am and how I viewed other people. That’s not the person I want to be anymore. Knowing that someone will see when I view porn helps me stay clean.”

Photo credit: thedeiwz

  • Comments on: 4 Ways to Talk About Accountability Without Sounding Like a Pervert
    1. Joshua Brooks

      Thanks WasabiJane for providing the guardrails for how to talk about accountability. One of my issues is boundaries. Sometimes I have a tendency to share too much. Others might have a tendency to share too little. I can’t speak for them. This article helped me understand better when (and when it’s not) appropriate to talk about your struggle with pornography. I appreciate your work. :)

      • Lisa Eldred

        Glad to be of help!

    2. Tom Hawkins

      Great information Lisa. Thanks so much and God Richly Bless you and yours!

    3. Brian Elderkin

      Excellent article. Thank you for giving me guidance about who I am in Christ and what is expected of me. We all need reminders from time to time.

      God bless you for the encouragement you gave me.

    4. Andrè Schwarzer

      Thank you very much for guiding me out of the shame zone, and into the protection zone, and reminding me that I am still a child of God, regardless of my actions.

      My God shed his light in my Darkness…

      God bless you and the work you are doing across the world.

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