A doctor walks into the treatment room to tend to a patient, “What seems to be the problem?”
“Well,” says the man sheepishly, “Every time I remove this Band-Aid to put a numbing agent on my open, festering wound, the Band-Aid pulls my arm hair and stings something awful.”
“So, what can you give me for the Band-Aid pain?”
The confounded doctor looks at the man with quizzical disbelief. “Maybe we should treat the wound instead.”
The way most men approach their porn addiction is no different than this doctor scenario. Pornography addiction is never the root problem. While physical factors do fuel with the addiction, most men run to pornography in the first place because of a heart wound, need or lies(s) that we hold in our heart.
The confusion comes because we don’t experience conviction from the Holy Spirit regarding our heart wounds. Instead, conviction happens when we act out in sin to compensate for them. When we feel this conviction of the Spirit, we are grieved and pained in our souls because of the sin. This grieving soul-pain is like the Band-Aid pain of the man in the analogy. We feel this soul-pain and conviction of the Holy Spirit and wrongly assume, “This must be what God is dealing with. This is what I have to stop.”
The truth is we aren’t feeling the pain of the preliminary root issue in that moment because the sin temporarily numbed that pain. I only became aware of my real wounds when I stopped running to porn. Rather than self-medicating our wound, we should run to God. We would instead become acutely aware of our actual problem and receive the care and comfort of the Father, the Great Physician, to heal what is really hurting the most.
Most men are battling pornography rather than addressing the root cause. This pursuit can never result in freedom, and God doesn’t actually want it to. You heard me correctly. For Him to allow you to overcome porn without healing the root would be as irresponsible as that doctor treating only the Band-Aid pain. Yes, God hates sin. But God hates a broken heart more; and like the doctor above, He is wise enough to know in what order to address these issues.
Divine Wisdom and Order
In Luke 4:18, Jesus shares the reasons He came. His list is a progression of priorities that is divinely inspired and divinely ordered.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
Phrased differently, Jesus’ logically ordered priorities are: (1) eternal salvation of the soul, (2) healing of the broken heart, and then (3) deliverance for those in bondage. It can be no other way. Salvation puts us into right relationship with God so that we have the intimacy, favor and unbroken fellowship with the Father. In restored relationship, we receive all things from Him that we need to overcome. God, by giving Jesus as a sacrifice for all sin–past, present and future–created a scenario where we don’t have to be perfect in our flesh to enjoy being perfect in the Father’s sight. Many Christian men wrongly believe they don’t receive these benefits of salvation until after they clean up their own act.
Important: if you aren’t experiencing the love of God or walking in the confidence that Jesus has made you righteous despite your shortcomings, if a fall sends you into a downward spiral rather than propelling you into the experiential joy of your salvation, if you feel shame when you think of standing in His presence–I recommend you go back and read some of my previous posts. These attitudes indicate you aren’t walking in a Christ-centered, right relationship with the Father. God’s first priority is for you to experience all the benefits of salvation so you have the right foundation for growth. He doesn’t just want you to overcome this sin–He wants you equipped to walk in the fullness of all He has for you in life.
After restoring you to right relationship with Himself, God wants to heal your broken heart. When we get saved, our spirit-man is saved, but our souls still carry the scars of living in a fallen world. I know a man who had an eating addiction. He got his stomach stapled and lost 300 pounds! But then he developed an alcohol addiction. After losing his medical practice and going through rehab, he developed porn and sexual addictions that escalated to the destruction of his marriage. The Holy Spirit showed me his real, root problem wasn’t with pornography–it was self-hatred. I promise you this: if you stop looking at porn without addressing the wounds, like self-hatred, that fuel the addiction, you will inevitably substitute one addiction for another–and not all addictions are as obvious as this man’s.
Related: What Your Sexual Fantasies (Might) Say About You
The wounds at the root of porn addiction can be vastly different. They can be self-hatred, shame, insecurity, distrust of God, anger at God, control, rebellion, rejection, retaliation, loneliness, lovelessness and so many others. Here’s a hint to help identify yours: your sexual fantasies are inseparably linked to your wound. Fantasy is the subconscious mind’s way to compensate for these wounds. After years of helping men with their heart wounds, I can usually determine his wound by hearing his fantasies, and vice-versa. If you have a wide range of fantasies, you probably have more than one wound.
The good news is God knows your wounds and wants to heal them. As surely as the cross guarantees salvation, the other reasons Jesus came are equally certain. After your salvation, God’s highest priority is to heal your broken heart. The seemingly big and insurmountable sins become small issues when no longer fueled by a wounded heart. This is the wisdom of God’s divine order.
Healing Heart Wounds
So how do we heal these heart wounds? Keep in mind that each person received their wounds differently. I think this is why Jesus never healed the same condition using the same method twice in the Bible. Because of this, I teach principles for heart healing, not a formula. If a formula for healing heart wounds existed, then we’d rely on the formula more than we rely on intimacy and relationship with Jesus. This would be tragic–Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. I encourage you to spend some time with the Father, our Great Physician.
The following are a few helpful principles when praying about heart wounds.
- Ask Him to help you see and understand the things fueling your actions and addictions.
- Forgive any people involved in causing the wound and treat them as broken vessels with their own wounds that fueled their sin.
- Repent and forgive yourself of any wrong ways you responded.
- Repent of any wrong agreements with the enemy’s lies you may hold in your heart and ask God to form new ways of thinking and seeing these issues.
- Invite God into the area of wound. I like to picture Jesus holding me while the traumatic event happened. I like to ask Him what He would say or was saying to that young person who processed things wrong and formed wrong agreements.
- Remember you are a new creation now in Christ. God has set you in a new family. The person those things happened to died. There is a new you now that doesn’t have to feel or think the way the old you did in response to what happened.
- Keep crying out for revelation and healing if you don’t experience it instantaneously. I’ve had healing come at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. God is faithful.
This isn’t an exhaustive list–nor can there ever be such a thing when it comes to heart wounds. If you’d like more guidance, there are several chapters on this in the Mighty Man Manual, as well as resources on other issues we’ve touched on here: healing from shame, experiencing more of God’s love, your identity in Christ and much more.
Thanks for the ideas Jon! I have only been viewing Covenant Eyes for a few months but I am always amazed that the guest writers often offer the “only” solution, the “best way” or I am repenting wrong or some other one and only method. Then I read an article by a lady who has probably never battled porn (she did not indicate) but has two degrees in Cannon Law. Yes we need to look at the underlying cause but only after we stop. I had to break the long cycle of masturbation. I used it to cope with life and porn and alcohol and smoking all were ways I coped with life. After I came to faith in Christ some of those were miraculous healing I call them that my desire went away. Yet with porn and lust it was on and off. We can go cold turkey on chemicals or even buying porn or watching but the mind continues to remind me that I am a sexual being. It was God’s idea, sex and marriage. After I was able to break the cycle of fantasy, porn and masturbation (8 Years recent sobriety by God’s grace) then I was able to start dealing with issues like self hatred, bitterness, resentment, family dynamics, compulsive, obsessive thinking and many other issues. I needed to hear other men talk about this stuff. Many accountability groups don’t provide this. I only found it in secular 12 step recovery. Something is wrong in The Church of Jesus Christ when an honest seeker of purity can not get help from other Christian groups. I have tried many, many and have not found the love and acceptance I found with non Christian secular groups. Just something to think about. Steve
That was powerful thank you so much!
Thank you for this. I have been battling with porn for well over 20 years and have found help from all kinds of areas. God has never given up on me and reading this wonderful article is a wonderful reminder that porn is in a sense only the symptom of a much bigger and deeper problem – for me it was self hatred, a sense that no one loved me or cared about me, especially in childhood. I have come a long way, while still having some issues with porn, but thank you for your help and wisdom – a gift from God
I am 15 years old. Between the ages of 5 and 8 or 9, I was sexually abused by my brother. I have struggled with masturbation, porn, and sexual temptation ever since. I had counseling initially after my brother’s actions were discovered, and still am receiving therapy for it, but this helped me see that the battle I’m fighting is not as hopeless as it seems. It showed me that the problem is not my addiction, but my brother’s past actions that kept me from developing a normal sexuality. This post honestly brought me to tears, a rare event for me, with the realization that I truly am loved and cared for, and that my flaws do not keep me from Christ. Thank you for this. Thank you.
This was an amazing article. I have your book, but had put it down for a time. I think I’m going to be picking it back up again today.
“The wounds at the root of porn addiction can be vastly different. They can be self-hatred, shame, insecurity, distrust of God, anger at God, control, rebellion, rejection, retaliation, loneliness, lovelessness and so many others.”
Anger at God for desire He hard-wired us with (e.g. testosterone levels roughly 15 times what women have) yet without a means for expression for most, if not all our lives for many of us, is definitely another.
The anger is wrong; the frustration is not; and sadly, this side of heaven, still won’t be receiving any plausible explanation.
But a great post–thank you for addressing the REAL issues of pornography addiction: namely, the heart and sin.
this article has been very helpful in helping me to better understand porn addiction. It is something I’ve struggled with for years and it has only been the last year that I’ve begun to get a handle on it.
Wow, what a great article.
I wish we could get more writers to give us out here some things we could actually work with as you detailed “The wounds at the root of porn addiction can be vastly different”. Gosh, just thinking about me, I would say definitely insecurity without a doubt. I have spoke with my wife about how insecure I feel many many times. Not in the area of sexually, but insecure feelings toward loosing our home, making sure needs of the family are being provided…emotional, financial, etc… Before I was married I used porn and the family was not there, but the insecurity was. I was kicked out of my home by my father and before that we moved constantly and he (my father) had a drug problem that left the family always in the “what’s going to happen next” mindset. I was sexually abused by a female babysitter when I was at least a toddler. I began having dreams about the incident more after I was married. I always knew something had happened before I was married. I never told my parents, because I though my mother would have a nervous breakdown. I ended up praying for that individual and forgiving them for what they did. The dreams went away almost immediately, but maybe there still are some scars lingering (?) Jon, your article gives further insight that I never had thought about. As with another that replied, I to like to read or hear about others testimonies of where they’re at and have been. This helps me as what I’m doing now, getting it out. Anxiety also seems to be another that triggers. As of today, I am 22 days “porn free”, I do feel a strength that I had felt last year when I went over a 100 days. I let my guard down and fell, but have since tightened up filters and blocked areas. Because of family needs (school), I have to have the internet, but after these needs are met I plan on getting rid of it permanently. If it were not in our home, many of my “events” would have never happened, but the other side of the coin is that the process of dealing with it would neither have happened. So, I guess there’s a purpose.
Thanks again for a most insightful article and Gold bless you folks at Covenant Eyes.