5 minute read

Your Willpower Is Not Enough: How to Level Up and Quit Porn

Last Updated: January 19, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. During that time, he also served as a worship leader, Bible teacher, and pastoral assistant. He's now an educational content creator at Covenant Eyes and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Rexford, Montana with his wife Ruby.

“Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.” —Psychologist Erik Erikson

There are a million theories on how willpower works—and a million self-help books offering advice on how to get your willpower to work for you. It’s an exciting prospect, isn’t it? There’s a hidden key to unlocking your willpower so you can accomplish your goals, break free from bad habits, and get the life you want. When it comes to quitting porn, many people approach it the same way: what’s the secret sauce that will unlock my willpower?

Most of the answers to this question involve some form of looking to yourself. Fix your mind on the goal you have, believe, and achieve! Set up small daily habits for easy wins and these will eventually accumulate into powering accomplishments. The problem is these internal solutions don’t work. Not with the big problems. Not if you’re really hooked on porn.

Your willpower needs a boost. You need a relationship to renew it.

Time saps your willpower.

Imagine your life as an 8-bit video game. You know, the old side-scrolling video game where you progress through a world from left to right? All you have to do is get from one side to the other within a certain time limit, navigating the obstacles that are in your way. Your ability to avoid or fight those obstacles requires willpower—how much strength you have to avoid falling into porn. (Think a health or mana bar.)

When you start the level, your willpower is pretty strong. But as time elapses, your willpower diminishes. Each fight or obstacle you encounter costs willpower. Your willpower meter even depletes over time!  The problem is, there’s a big pit right before the end of the level—the pit of porn. You have to use a special combo to jump over that pit and finish, but you never have enough willpower left by the time you get there.

Now, if this were a real video game, you’d manage to do it eventually. You’d find the perfect speedrun route or the exact button combo, or you’d cheat and enter the Konami Code to unlock infinite willpower. But in real life—your life—there are no save points or cheat codes. You can’t just respawn and try a day again.

This is the challenge people face trying to quit porn. They have a limited amount of willpower to resist temptation. They might have one day’s worth. They might have one week’s worth. They might even have a whole month of willpower for resisting porn. But eventually, they come to a jump with their resources depleted.

And they fall down the porn pit.

Triggers sap your willpower.

We have a serious willpower depletion problem. Just making our way through life saps this precious resource. Eventually, we’re going to encounter an obstacle bigger than our reserves. Your willpower will slowly fade over time, even in the best possible circumstances. But we know the circumstances aren’t always that great. We call these bad circumstances “triggers.”

A trigger is a situation that makes you feel a certain way, and those feelings speed up the willpower depletion process—or even drain it completely. To go back to the video game analogy, think of these triggers like the bad guys you encounter throughout the level. Each one of these triggers gives a mega-hit to your willpower.

Everyone’s triggers are different, but one obvious trigger to porn is the sexual images that bombard us every day through advertising and media. It’s impossible to avoid. Less obvious, but just as devastating to willpower, are emotional and physical triggers. These triggers include anger, loneliness, and tiredness.

Say your normal willpower is strong enough to resist porn for a week. If you run into a triggering situation it can knock out your remaining willpower in an instant. Your willpower is limited as it is. And triggers destroy your willpower. 

Porn wins again, this time even more quickly than before.

Relationships renew your willpower.

This can all sound pretty hopeless. And it definitely feels hopeless when you’re the one falling headlong into the porn pit. What’s the secret sauce to level up your willpower? Here’s a hint: you need help. So far we’ve imagined the video game in single-player mode. You’re on your own, trying desperately to conserve willpower, getting knocked flat by triggers, and coming up to the porn pit with no strength left to jump.

But what if the game was intended to be played in two-player mode? What if you have an ally who helps you finish the level? What if just connecting with another person can restore your willpower long enough to make the jump? This is the power of accountability.

The porn pit has great power as long as we live in isolation. Eventually, either through the gradual erosion of time or the big hits of triggers, our willpower is going to weaken. We’ll fail to make the jump. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you need human connection to keep you on track and motivated as you journey through life.

When you connect with a trusted friend or loved one who cares about you and has your best interest in mind, you enter two-player mode. Why is it so powerful? Because we were never meant to be alone. It’s not good for man—or woman—to be alone. We need relationships. We need community.

That second player in the game restores your willpower. They re-energize you so you can resist the power of porn again. When you meet with your ally, it refreshes your willpower and renews your resolve so you can start jumping at full power again. Those meetings and conversations we talk about aren’t just opportunities for your ally to talk with you about what you’ve been looking at.  They’re opportunities for dynamic introspection and positive encouragement from your ally to fight for what really matters most.

That’s why it’s so important to have accountability software on your devices. The software makes those conversations exponentially more honest and powerful.  It turns them into a source of power to renew your focus and move to the next level.

So how does that second player help restore willpower? They help you identify triggers and come up with strategies to deal with them, resulting in less of a hit to your willpower when they come up. They affirm and encourage you, giving you that extra little boost. They even ask about what else is going on in your life—maybe not triggers, but other stressors that deplete your willpower, or hobbies and habits that help build it back up.

Start two-player mode and win.

That’s great—it’s exactly what you need to jump over that porn pit, in fact! But how do you invite someone else into your life? We don’t normally talk about things like having the willpower to resist porn in our daily conversations. This is where Covenant Eyes comes in.

When you sign up for Covenant Eyes and ask a friend or loved one to receive your Screen Accountability reports, you’re asking them to be your player 2. You’re inviting them into the game. Screen Accountability gives them a window into your life so they can track your progress–and help you level up. They can even intervene when necessary.

A second player who’s committed to helping you win is there when you need them most, in those moments when you’re standing at the edge of the pit.  Having them already means you can lean on them in times of temptation to help you get across without falling. Each meeting you have with your ally refreshes and renews your willpower.

As you successfully overcome triggers and the porn pit, you will get better at resisting. You’ll find your willpower capacity increases through the relationship.

You level up.

You defeat porn.

  • Comments on: Your Willpower Is Not Enough: How to Level Up and Quit Porn
    1. Dennis

      In the battle against porn there must be a realization that you are in a life and death battle. That the war you fight is a spiritual battle. As in Ephesians 6:10-12. A warfare that goes beyond the flesh. The most vital partner is Christ. He must be your ultimate strength. Without him you can do nothing. You must have a living, breathing relationship, not a casual one but a virtual dependency, a moment by moment urgency to live for him. We fight against the world, the devil and our flesh. As it says in Galatians: walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. “ Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality . . . . . I warn you, as I warn you before, that those who do such things WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of God”. Men we need to get dead serious about porn in our lives. You can not say you know and love Christ and still be actively involved in Porn. It wasn’t until I took the warnings of scripture seriously and stopped playing the “besetting sin game” that I got “fearfully” urgent about dealing with my porn addiction. It was then that I truly “cried out” to Christ for help and used every means possible to overcome porn, yes, Covenant Eyes on every device, and if I had a devise that Covenant Eyes didn’t work on or had a work around I destroyed it, yes with a hammer. I pray the Love of Christ will compel all of us “to pluck out right eye and cut off right hand” . Man up and fight for Jesus. Christ has conquered, we can WIN. God Bless, in your warfare.

    2. Jon Jewell

      Not familiar with the video game you are using in your post.
      I understand will power but isn’t more then that?

      • Keith Rose

        Hi Jon! Thanks for your comment. We’re using the idea of an old, side-scrolling 8-bit video game as a metaphor for quitting porn! See here for more: https://hope.covenanteyes.com/willpower.html

        Blessings,

        Keith

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