5 Common Myths About Your Friend’s Struggle With Porn

As we talk about myths, let’s understand what many myths are—truths exaggerated beyond accuracy. For a statement to be repeated frequently enough to merit the title “myth,” there has to be a kernel of truth in it. A myth is usually not an irrational statement. People don’t like to repeat irrational statements, because they won’t be taken seriously.

If you take the appeal of myths and combine that with the stigma of pornography, it becomes even more difficult to separate the kernel of truth from the chaff of exaggerations. The harder something is to talk about, the less nuance we tend to bring to the conversation. With that in mind, we can see why it is even more important for allies to be able to think well about common myths.

As we examine the five myths below, we need to identify the kernel of truth, so we don’t dismiss the element in the myth that made it seem useful enough to a large number of people to be repeated. We need to do this for our own good, and to effectively engage with our friend who likely goes through bouts of all-or-nothing thinking regarding their struggle with pornography. When we succumb to all-or-nothing thinking, we are more prone to believe myths.

Myth #1: No big deal. Common means safe.

When something becomes prevalent, it is easy to minimize its significance. It is easy for our friend to look at the prevalence of pornography in our culture and conclude that their actions aren’t “that bad.” After all, we live in a democracy and the majority vote is usually the law of the land.

But we wouldn’t say this about obesity and heart disease. No matter how prevalent obesity becomes that doesn’t make it healthy. There may be less stigma associated with it, but the negative effects on our body do not evaporate. We can understand the emotional resonance of the myth, without buying into the logic.

Myth #2: Huge deal. Bad means unsafe.

This is the opposite of Myth #1. The opposite of one myth is not always truth. Truth is often found in the tension between two important points. When talking with our friend, we must be careful not to counterbalance their myth statements to such a degree that our statements also become myths.

We can respond to the wrongness of pornography as if everyone who looks at porn is on a slippery slope towards becoming a rapist. This fuels shame and makes it harder for our friend to withstand the unpleasant emotions he or she is escaping from through pornography (if that is his motive… ask, don’t assume).

Again, we wouldn’t say that obesity is the equivalent of a heart attack. We don’t call an ambulance because someone is overweight. If we did, we would lose credibility with our friend. Usually, when we resort to exaggerative appeals of this nature, we are trying to force our friend to embrace a high level of motivation to change. But, then, we’re buying into the lie that motivation can be coerced.

Myth #3: Simple. Clear means easy.

It’s not that hard to figure out what needs to happen. “Stop typing things in your search browser that take you where you say you don’t want to go.” This buys into the notion that answers are the same thing as solutions. We all know the answer to being out of shape. Go to the gym. It’s simple. But it’s not easy.

If we press into this myth, we discourage our friend. We make them feel dumb or juvenile. This usually results in either our friend finding better ways to hide or the fading out of the accountability relationship. No one likes to be talked down to. If physical trainers talked to their clients this way, gyms would go out of business.

Myth #4: Impossible. Addiction means forever.

When we realize that overcoming a deeply engrained habit is hard, we easily become fatalistic and lose hope. The more empathetic we are, the more prone we may be to embrace this myth. We sense our friend feeling overwhelmed and our emotions start to mirror theirs. As an ally to our friend, this may be temporarily comforting (they feel understood), but it’s not helpful.

Let’s stick with our metaphor of the physical trainer at a gym. Do they know what they are asking people to do is hard? Absolutely! But they also know it is both possible and worth it. Sometimes the trainer’s role is technical—teaching a new exercise. Other times the trainer’s role is motivational—reminding them that becoming stronger is possible and worth it. Our role as an ally carries these same two facets.

Myth #5: Honesty is forever. Points in time are permanent.

This final myth doesn’t have a complement. That’s what happens when you have an odd number of myths in your list. But it does highlight another area that allies need to understand. We became an ally when our friend was vulnerably honest with us. We admire that honesty. That honesty took the additional step of installing Covenant Eyes on their devices with internet access.

But, overtime, commitment can drift. If we assume that our friend’s level of honesty with us and commitment to purity is permanent, we do them a disservice. The repetitive nature of an accountability relationships can foster a deterioration of commitment.

That doesn’t mean we become skeptical and mistrusting towards our friend. It does mean we periodically ask a new question, “If, when we started, your commitment to change and honesty with me were a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, where is it now?” This keeps are the forefront of both our minds that an accountability relationship is only as effective as we both are honest. We don’t get lulled into thinking that because we’re meeting regularly, our friend is still committed to purity.

What other myths would you add to the list?

The benefit of an article like this is as much in “how to think” as it is “what to think.” The list of myths and subsequent discussion gave you some content to consider. I hope it serves you well.

As an ally to a friend who struggles with pornography ask yourself, what other myths exist? What forms of all-or-nothing thinking is your friend prone to believe?  Use this article as a prompt to help you learn how to deconstruct myths in a loving, clear way.

Invite your friend to read this article. Add to this list of myths. Discuss the myths at a time when your friend hasn’t just succumbed to temptation or isn’t feeling shame. Having this conversation at a neutral time will help you appeal to the falseness or exaggeration of these myths in the moments when that instruction is most needed.