When It Feels Like You’ve Been Irreparably Damaged by Porn

I looked at porn pretty regularly from the ages of 13-19. I’m 34 now and have been almost completely unexposed to pornographic images throughout the past 15 years. My wife and I were both virgins when we got married and we recently celebrated 13 years of marriage.

You would think that 15 years of not looking at porn, with 13 years of those within marriage, would be enough to wipe out the effects porn had on the way I view women. Not to mention that I’m a seminary-trained pastor and have spent my entire adult life seeking the Lord in my personal time and my “on the clock” job time. But that’s not the case.

It can sometimes feel like porn has left me irreparably damaged. Have you ever felt this way?

When It Feels Like You've Been Irreparably Damaged by Porn

Porn damages us.

Did you know porn literally changes the chemistry of your brain? Especially when exposed to it during the formative adolescent years.

There are still individual images that I fight to keep out of mind, images I looked at 20 years ago. Worse than this is the way I’m auto-programmed to view women.

We can get to a point in our spiritual maturity where we reject the sin of lust, we do everything in our power to rid it from our lives and to live in obedience to God’s will, but we still have a hardwired desire for something we are not choosing to desire. In my case, a hardwired desire to objectify women.

This is never an excuse to sin, but it lays out the map for the fight that stands before us. We all own a different mix of nature and nurture within a fallen world, and while there are many variables out there, I have no doubt that pornography has played a primary role in wiring the auto-responses to women I still have to fight against 15 years after the fact.

If you have not started watching porn, do not start. If you are a parent and love your children, do everything you can to get them to never look at porn.

Porn is a very powerful professor. It is not merely something you view or do, it teaches you how to view sex and how to view other human beings.

Every time your eyes take it in, it’s another lesson learned, another image of humanity further burned into your consciousness.

These are of course polluted and contorted images, which is the definition of any sin. Sin in and of itself is not a thing, it is only a contortion or pollution of a thing. When God created the world “very good” in Eden, He did not create sin. He created good things like men, women, and sex, but sin distorts those good things. Sin is a shadow.

This is relevant because our ultimate process of healing requires getting away from the shadow, away from the pollution, and getting back to embracing the original design God has for men, women, and sex. This is very different than simply trying to train the behavior out of us. Bouncing our eyes, having accountability partners, and even using filters and monitoring software–all are needed and have their place, but none retrain us back to the good creation.

Rather than turning women into objects and acting as if their body parts determine their value, we have to relearn that women are daughters. Daughters of God who are whole people, full of dignity and personhood. I have three daughters. What lust says a woman is and who I know my daughters to be are as opposite as possible. When I see my daughters, I see the Garden of Eden. When I truly understand what lust is, I see that beautiful picture of Eden smashed, stepped on, puked on, and thrown in the garbage.

But has porn irreparably damaged us?

Has porn irreparably damaged me (and you)? Yes and no.

Yes, in that I can’t undo what I did and that temptation is a part of life. (And it’s important to note, temptation and even attraction are not sins, what we choose to do with that temptation and attraction is where we sin.)

But no, we are not irreparably damaged by porn in that there is a solution for us beyond the symptoms. One of the main reasons we seek porn and extramarital sex is because we want to feel valuable, accepted, and approved. First and foremost, we can find all of these things in the saving gospel of Jesus. We can be filled to the brim with His love in a way where we won’t have need to thirst for it elsewhere.

In addition, Jesus desires to take us back to Eden. He desires to be our new professor. Once we find the bottom to our bottomless pit of hunger, we are in a renewed position to learn to see men, women, and sex the way we were created to. We were never created to be monsters who consumed men or women. We were created to see them as full humans, as sons and daughters. We were never designed to see sex as a selfish act of consumption. When we truly see our sin for what it is, we can even get to the point where we lose our appetite for it.

Accountability is essential, but it must go past being merely symptom-based with surface level techniques. It can’t only be, “Did you look at porn today? Did you lust today?” It must be a classroom for rewiring our hearts the way God originally designed us.

I wrote a book called Beyond the Battle that is a guide for men to learn these things, and to learn them together. (A parallel book for women will be released soon after.) I wrote the contents of the book, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t wait to go through them with other men because I have to live these things out in community to find the full healing Jesus desires for me. It shouldn’t surprise us that lasting healing comes through Jesus’s Church: His hands and feet, the Body of Christ, not in something we will into being on our own.

If you feel irreparably damaged by porn, there is hope. There is a path back to Eden that Jesus wants to take you on. A path back to upholding and giving life rather than consuming and discarding it. A path where we become attracted to life, rather than a polluted distortion. This path is in Jesus, we must dig deep to find it, and we must walk on it together.

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