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7 Principles of Freedom from Porn

Last Updated: May 12, 2021

Nick Stumbo

Nick Stumbo is the Executive Director for Pure Desire Ministries and has been in leadership for over 15 years. He was in Pastoral Ministry at East Hills Alliance Church in Kelso, Washington, for 14 years. Nick has a Bachelor’s Degree in Pastoral Studies from Crown College and an MDiv from Bethel Seminary. He has authored two books: Setting Us Free and Safe: Creating a Culture of Grace in a Climate of Shame.

Five years ago, I was in jeopardy of losing my marriage. Despite the countless promises I had made to my wife about change, I found that was unable to avoid relapsing into pornography. Though I could not acknowledge it at the time, this addiction had a control over me that I couldn’t comprehend.

Today, I am porn-free and enjoying a healthier marriage than ever before. While I must continually guard my purity and my heart, I no longer struggle with relapses into this behavior. So what changed? Here are seven principles that I have found at work in my life and in the lives of many other guys who have walked this same journey.

1. Get Honest

One of the things we all do with behaviors we’re hiding is to minimize them. This means that we have spent a great deal of time convincing ourselves, and others, that porn really isn’t a problem. We use lines like “All guys do this,” “No one is getting hurt,” or “I can stop anytime I want” to try and reduce the guilt or negative emotions we feel.

Freedom begins by confronting these lies.

Change will only occur when we say willingly and frequently to ourselves and other trusted friends, “I have a problem and I need help.”

2. Create Boundaries

When we are busy minimizing destructive behaviors, this keeps us from seeing how vulnerable we are to acting out. If we want to establish freedom for the long haul, then we will have to make some major adjustments to how we do life.

Creating boundaries means that we look at the places where we are most susceptible to accessing pornography and we deal with them. For example, I don’t have a smartphone, but that’s okay. I’d rather have a dumb phone and be a smart user! You will never regret setting your personal boundaries too high. You will always regret the ones that were so low they were easy to step over or ignore.

3. Join a Group

Guys especially are guilty of thinking that we can do just about anything on our own, if we but set our minds to it. But the problem with this thinking, when it comes to pornography, is that porn is a problem we got into on our own. It is through isolation and separation from relationships that this problem grew to the level of addiction. So, we cannot hope to find freedom on the same path.

Freedom comes as we process our journey honestly and openly with others who are doing the same.

4. Commit to the Long Haul

When it comes to not looking at pornography, willpower and sheer determination will never be enough. We aren’t looking to simply stop a behavior; we are looking to process life differently.

This means changing our brains and the ways we react to certain stress or stimuli. Scientific research reveals that true and lasting brain change takes a minimum of two years and as long as five. If we want to be free of porn for life, then we must embrace that this journey, and this change, takes time.

5. Proactive Check-Ins

One of the greatest faults with traditional approaches to accountability is the relationship where one person says, “Call me and ask how I am doing.” In this setup, we are giving responsibility for our change to another person.

If we really want to change, then checking in with others is something we take responsibility for, and we do it proactively. We commit to calling others a minimum of three times in a week to report on how we are doing and what steps we are taking to stay free. This move keeps us in charge of our own change.

6. Know Your Pattern

The problem for most of us with porn is that we know when we’ve looked at it (it’s pretty obvious) but we don’t have any clue why. Far too many guys think of a bout with pornography as an isolated, hormonally-fueled episode. But it’s not. Our brain works on a complex system of punishments and rewards, and if we keep returning to a behavior that we know we don’t want, it’s because our brain has associated it with a reward.

We must learn to recognize our pattern, and then change how the pattern starts. If we only try to fight against viewing porn as we’re sitting alone in front of a computer feeling tempted, this will be a losing battle. Winning starts when we fight further up in the process.

7. Tell Your Story

Telling your story means you know where you have come from and what drives you. If we know the pain, turmoil, and the joy of our own past, we begin to unlock the secrets for what drives an addiction to pornography. Our struggle is rooted in the deeper issues of what we believe about life and ourselves. As we learn to see and tell our story accurately, we gain the power to change it. This is one of the primary roles of a group in our lives- a safe, supportive place to start telling our story.

I believe that if you were to remove any one of these principles from my story, I would quickly be back where I started. Much like the six or eight cylinders of an engine must fire together in perfect sequence, so these principles function concurrently to create real and lasting freedom in our lives. Where do you need to begin? What principle have you been avoiding or ignoring? Take that step today, and trust that God will bring freedom your way as you do!

  • Comments on: 7 Principles of Freedom from Porn
    1. JeremiahP on

      Spot on. My patterns emerge from visual entertainment where women with tight fitting or revealing clothing might be present. I have realized that for the foreseeable future (and probably beyond), I will not allow myself to watch ANY TV or movie, at all, unless it is something my kids are watching (and even then, I have to shut myself off from some shows because I believe the danger is imminent – my kids were watching an old TV show named “Merlin”, where there were some low-cut blouses, and I needed to walk away). You have to want it, gentlemen.

      Reply
    2. Timothy Goughnour on

      While your seven steps to freedom are concise and easy to understand, you forgot to mention the real #1 step, prayer. This should be the first step over all others. Prayer is the biggest defense we have over the strongholds (aka addictions) of the evil one. We as humans, created by God Almighty, know we are flawed and can do nothing to overcome these strongholds without God and yet we choose to do it on our own. It used to be said “Only the strong shall survive”. This is suggestive that if you cannot do it on your own, you are weak and therefore unworthy or useless. However, as a 3 year sober port addict, I can assure you that prayer was my greatest weapon. My marriage was also failing after a 10 year addiction during my then 11th year of being married. I cred my eyes dry after she told me it was over and that she had been unfaithful because of my addiction. I knew I had to do something. I tried to reason with her, promise change, and even blame her for what happened. None of that changed her desire to end the relationship. I tried reading self help books on marriage, tried a secular counselor, and even spoke to our family and friends, but nothing helped. One more cry on my hands and knees that included a prayer to God lead to immediate results and a meeting with a local Pastor. Today, my wife and I still struggle with minor issues, but pornography is not one of them. Prayer should always be the FIRST thing we go to when dealing with strongholds. The body of Christ (aka the church) should be the second. The Word of God (aka The Holy Bible) should be included with both prayer and church. It changed my life, and it can change the lives of all who listen.

      Reply
    3. steven hurd on

      Thank you for taking the time to write this article. These steps are very helpful and insightful. By Gods grace and magnificent power I have been pure and clean from online adultery (my word for pornography) for over 14 months now. The change really started to happen when I “committed to the long haul”. I realized that this wasn’t something that was going to change over night and so I set my mind to spend the next 3-5 years to researching and acting on biblical information for staying pure. I read 2-3 biblical articles each week on staying pure, I read the bible every year cover to cover, I am in a Mens Bible study, and serving in AWANA. These are all part of my long term plan to have a more godly mindset about the opposite gender.

      I noticed lately that I have become complacent. The accountability and zeal I had at first has slowly faded away. Point #2 about creating boundaries reminded me to go back to the accountability I had at first. For me this means blocking YouTube on my work computer, because sometimes sinful images will show up on the front page and it causes me to remember images from the past. I also have set my browser to block all google images, as God led me to a great article that showed me how to do that. This has made internet surfing very hard, however, it has blessed me and kept me safe from many unwanted images.

      Again, thank you for writing this and I look forward to taking action on the other steps as well.

      Reply
    4. Felix Bitrus on

      I really appreciate the steps given in overcoming addiction. Am addicted to masturbation and I really want to be free from it. I want to have a good life and really have Jesus at the centre of my life. I need help. Thanks

      Reply
    5. Rog on

      Thanks. March 5th 2018…I haven’t seen a pornographic image since July 19 of last year. I praise God daily!! It’s been hard work as I have no filter on my smart phone at all. You have to realize that it is a cancer in your marriage! It must be removed.
      In my case my marriage was over if I didn’t. I got involved in a small super honest group of men who revealed and repented of their son. It took about 8 months of that before I had the nerve to tell my wife everything! Crazy hard… every disgusting sin I can remember I typed out for my wife to read. I think a major problem is that we cheapen repentance. A quick ” sorry God” after we fall on our faces…” I promise I won’t do that again”…then the old cycle behinds again!! True repentance is HARD!! I sat down with my in-laws and asked their forgiveness . I exposed the sin to my parents. You need to close the door! I don’t have all the answers but today I walk in victory and sobriety. My wife is scarred. That kills me. However, there is no hope unless the cancer is surgically removed…. surgery can be a bloody mess.

      Reply

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