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The Deadly Cycle of Pornography

Last Updated: September 14, 2021

Dan Armstrong
Dan Armstrong

Dan Armstrong has been featured in local and national publications regarding the issue of pornography’s harm on society. He has spoken at several national conferences regarding purity, protecting your children, and being educated on how technology and porn impact the brain. Dan and his wife have five children.

In my last video I talked about the cycle of temptation, applying it specifically to pornography. If you haven’t gotten a chance to look at it go ahead and watch last week’s video. If you are finding yourself in the middle of the series, don’t worry, click this link and it will take you to the start of the series so you won’t be confused.

Last week we looked at James 1:12-15. James says it all starts in desire, leading to enticement, leading to the conception of sin, then the birth of sin, then the growth of sin, and finally death.

We broke these steps down into smaller steps so we could really understand the experience of the person enslaved to porn: desire, triggers, tempting thoughts, rituals, indulgence, defeated thoughts, loss of control, guilt, shame, and self-atonement.

The Deadly Results of Porn Addiction

The last part of the cycle is death, and for the person entrenched in pornography, death is experienced internally in several different ways.

First, is a sense of crushing guilt. We see the ultimate dissatisfaction of our sin, and we know we’ve violated our conscience and God’s standard.

Second is a sense of shame. Now, guilt and shame are related experiences, but they are different. You can think of the difference this way: If guilt is our sense of failure before a STANDARD, shame is our sense of failure before the EYES of people. It might be a sense of failure before our spouse or our boyfriend or girlfriend. “What would they think of me if they knew about this?” It might be a sense of failure before our church or community. “What would they think if they knew what I’ve done?” It might be a sense of failure before the eyes of God. “What must God think of me now? He must be disappointed in me right now.” It might be a sense of cosmic shame, as if the universe itself was frowning upon you. Or it might be a sense of self-shame. “I am so ashamed of myself.”

Lastly, guilt and shame often leads to self-atonement–ways we try to make up for our sin. Someone locked in this cycle can do this in many ways. We might develop a sense of moral resolve. “Never again,” we say. We promise ourselves we will perform better next time. Or we assign ourselves certain duties to make us feel better: more prayer, more Bible reading, more Christian activity, more romantic gestures toward our spouse, more effort. Or we might simply feel like we need to wallow in pity for a while. We come crawling back to God with penitent offerings in the hopes He will take us back, hoping our emotional pain is good enough for Him to see we’re sorry.

Time passes and we’re back at the start of the entire cycle, back at desire. We find that all our moral resolve may keep sin at bay for a while, but we still feel that latent craving inside.

This is the common cycle of temptation for the Christian man or woman. For some, this cycle is slow, something that builds over time, and they eventually give in a few times a year or once a month. For others who’ve been entrenched in pornography for a while, this cycle can happen very fast: a couple of days or even every day. It happens so fast they don’t even see the stages along the way.

How Do We Escape the Cycle of Addiction

So the million-dollar question is this: how do we escape this cycle. Notice, I’m not asking how do we escape porn. The Bible promises us that God provides a way of escape out of not just the moment of indulgence, but the whole cycle.

That’s what our next video is about, so stay tuned for more. In the mean time, leave me a comment below: which of the desires I mention really identifies with your experience or the experience of those you are helping with this problem? Is there a deeper desire I didn’t mention? Share your thoughts or your questions about this cycle and be looking for my next video in a couple days.

Also before you leave, I’ve got a gift for you. If you are involved in church leadership at any level at all: you’re a pastor, an elder, a deacon, a small group leader, a youth leader, whatever—please download a free digital book, Fight Porn in Your Church: What Works and Why It Matters. In this book, there are some broad, higher-level strategies churches can implement to really tackle this huge problem head on.

One question that has been prominent in regards to this topic is: how are we supposed to use this model to help others? It’s a great question. Here’s what some have done:

  • Simply sit down with those struggling in a one-on-one context or in a small, manageable group
  • Quickly introduce this cycle and then talk about each stage of the cycle in depth for a specific person
  • If you get stumped applying a specific stage of the cycle for a specific person at a specific stage of the cycle, don’t worry. Just skip that stage, move on to the next one, and come back around to it as the conversation warms up.
  • Asking people to dissect the cycle in their own lives can be hard at first, but it is critical to do.

So, now that we know the steps of the cycle of temptation, what steps can you provide to others to help them break free at each stage, or maybe even break free yourself? Tune in next week to hear what steps you can take to break free at each stage of the cycle.

  • Comments on: The Deadly Cycle of Pornography
    1. Steve

      Thanks Dan. Breaking the cycle was what I needed. I had to go cold turkey after years and years of relapse and sobriety. I can never go back–don’t want to. It was not always that way. I wanted to get as closely back to the fire without getting burned but ultimately I would be dragged back into the fire when only trying to warm my hands. The addiction becomes an obsession and compulsive in nature. It becomes what I live for. Thanks for the thoughts and ideas from The Book of James, one of my favorites! Steve

    2. One of the things that I do not seem to find addressed in any of these type of articles is this: Juxtaposing.
      It is one thing to get tempted into looking at Porn by clicking a mouse on an Ad…or perhaps, thumbing through a magazine of some type…or watching a movie ect. and then taking steps to resist it. What about when a man sees a real live woman that he finds sexually attractive, interacts with her (even simple business transactions) and then comes home and continues to fantasize about her? Taking the next step, he then approaches his wife for sex and superimposes his fantasy regarding that other woman while making “use” of his wife’s body during sex.

      I have plenty of experiences with my husband doing this after he has flirted with a woman at work, or watched a movie with a sex scene or right after watching a racy Youtube video…he suddenly has “use” for me sexually, whereas, normally he would just ignore me being flat out disinterested. This desire for other women (strange, variety, forbidden) is kept locked in his mind/heart until he finds an opportunity to “give birth” to it…no Porn needed. I noticed a pattern with this. Every Saturday, he’d get a particular woman “customer friend” into the back room at his store “for lunch” (alone)…then he’d come home and want sex with ME. I found it insidious that our sex life revolved around his contact with another woman…and ONLY on days that this contact happened. He could easily claim innocence simply because he did not look at porn or actually touch that woman in some physical way…but I felt very violated nevertheless. Not only did he give himself to her with emotionally charged conversations and through fantasy, he USED me to pretend that he was “with” her, thereby did not ever consider himself to be in violation of his purity on any level.

      I have news for those who do this…you need to look into your heart and mind before you think that you are really getting victory over lust…or fooling your wife. If all you do is keep the fantasy in your minds until an opportunity to unleash it with your wife happens…then who are you REALLY fooling? Yourself?

      You can move the man away from Porn…but can you move the Porn away from a man? I have asked him to STOP touching me the moment an “image” of another woman creeps into his mind…or better yet, do not even approach me if this is what fuels his desire. I would have respected him if he had…and I would have felt that he truly wanted victory over his sins. But once that fantasy took hold and sparked his libido, there was no stopping him…and it resulted in my never wanting him sexually again. I simply could not trust him. So you see…there is yet another layer of “temptation” that needs to be seriously addressed.

      • What about desire..

        I thought the speaker touched on this with the “desire” area. How do you know he’s doing this when interacting with other women, has he told you (just curious)?

    3. Hi.I see porn as a way of relaxation to all and a tool to keep folks busy anytime of the day or nite.Its organized and its build mainly for your indulgence.Its is formed in Hell and kept alive to track as many souls as possible into te realms of Satan.Porn in essence is a toxic, formulated best for the devoted child of God.it is manufactured to break down the towers build by God and to destroy its roots.Many Christians has faced this or have heard of Mighty men in Christ, caught in the web of porn.I too was mangled up in this. I was so against porn throughout my life.I hated what young people do with themselves and I could not stand the fact that people actually watch this.A few years into my marriage,my wife suddenly refused to have sex.She just flipped off the switch and I stood there with a huge desire for her.As much as I hated porn,it was build for me and in a very innocent way I sneaked a peak.A peak so small, I never knew was a seed of sin planted in my hart…it grew,My hunger for my wife were replenished by porn. She just abstained from sex for months and that was good reason enough for me to satisfy my desire to watch more.Porn will kill you. It will destroy your marriage and confuse your kids.I still have my family and I have to accept that my life without sex will be sad, but there is nothing God cannot fix. Porn is written just as it says, People of race neutralized .take

    4. Craig White

      Thanks for the blog post. Very real to me in my battle for freedom. The enemy would tempt me by starting the cycle through many ways i.e. seeing an attractive woman, something on tv, a fantasy, etc. the cycle would continue as noted in James, and if not interrupted, would lead to a moral failure. I have learned to just say “Help me Jesus” when I realize that I am in the temptation cycle, and He joins me in the battle. I am finding freedom in the realization that my position is “in Jesus” and He has defeated the enemy. Every small victory is building new pathways in my brain!!

    5. Tim Maddox

      There is therefore NOW NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Rom 8:1

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