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Mind, Body, Spirit: A Holistic Approach to Recovery

Last Updated: March 16, 2022

Sam Black
Sam Black

Sam Black joined the Covenant Eyes team in 2007 after 18 years as a journalist, serving as a reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines in six states. Sam is the author of The Porn Circuit, and he creates partnerships with like-minded organizations to strengthen the worldwide fight against pornography.

“What are you made of?”

It sounds like a rhetorical question, something from a motivational speech. And in the context of overcoming porn, “What are you made of?” could be taken as a challenge—a test of your willpower, determination, and character.

But have you ever tried to answer that question literally? As a person, what are you? What are the different parts or aspects that comprise your whole self?

At Covenant Eyes, we focus on three parts that make up a human being: mind, body, and spirit.

The mind, body, and spirit never function in isolation. God has dynamically interwoven these three parts together in humanity. When our bodies are unhealthy, it changes how we think and feel. This impacts our relationships with ourselves, others, and God. When our thinking is corrupted, it influences how we treat our bodies. It also hinders our spiritual life. And of course, our spiritual lives affect both our minds and bodies.

When Christians think about recovery from porn, we need to focus on our whole selves. As believers, our goal isn’t just crushing lust and pornography; it’s overcoming every kind of sin and growing closer to God!

Let’s look at each of these three parts more closely.

Mind

What exactly is the “mind”? We can say our mind is “the part of our soul marked by cognition.”

From a Christian perspective, it’s too simplistic to think of the mind as an isolated inward part of us where thinking occurs. That’s the brain. But the mind is more than neurochemicals flowing and synapses firing. The mind links inextricably with the heart and soul.

It’s where we perceive, feel, remember, store knowledge, grow in understanding, and obey. It is the home of our conscience and sense of morality.

As part of our souls, our minds allow us to focus on Christlikeness, self-control, and to sow seeds that bear the fruits of the Spirit. Through our minds, we communicate with others, we join community, and we view ourselves within our relationships, including our relationships with God. It’s where we recognize good and evil, truth and lies, and where we make our choices of rebellion or restoration.

The Mind and Pornography

Pornography corrupts the mind. There is a common threefold theme for most men and women who struggle with compulsive porn use as adults:

Often beginning with accidental exposure in childhood, pornography becomes a form of escapism or self-medication. For example, a child who is exposed to porn may later begin seeking out porn when she feels lonely, afraid, or anxious.

When repeatedly used in this way, the mind is trained to look to porn for relief. It becomes more than a habit; it seems like the most readily available solution to the challenges and hardships of life.

Pornography changes how people think and feel and what they desire. For Christians, recovering from porn means renewing the mind (Romans 12:2).

Body

The body is the physical self and the home of the spiritual self in our fallen world.

Our bodies are multi-faceted wonders, comprised of many interconnected systems. Science is just beginning to uncover the incredible complexity of our bodies.

For example, we know that exercise doesn’t just keep the muscular, respiratory, and digestive systems healthy, it strengthens the nervous system. The things we do with our bodies directly affect our ability to think, learn, and regulate our emotions—so we know the body affects the mind.

The Body and Pornography

Even beyond its psychological effects, pornography causes neurological damage. It actually changes your body. Numerous studies have found brain damage caused by watching porn.

To reverse the effects of porn on the body, it’s vital to practice healthy habits. Restorative habits include simple things like regular sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet.

(That’s why we wrote an ebook called Hobbies and Habits!) 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.”

We know God cares about our bodies, because one day our bodies will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). However, the body’s wellbeing is not as important as your spiritual wellbeing (Matthew 5:29-30, 10:28).

Spirit

The human spirit was made in the image of God. It’s not defined by our bodies. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24).

The Bible teaches that we are spiritually broken by the fall (Romans 3:23), and spiritually dead apart from Jesus’s saving power (Ephesians 2:1-5). This means that while porn affects our minds and bodies, it’s also a spiritual problem.

To address the spiritual side of porn recovery, the Bible gives two primary instructions: repentance and obedience.

Repentance

True repentance from porn isn’t limited to just looking at pictures, or even lust more generally. The spiritual nature of porn recovery tells us that there are many sins interconnected with lust (James 2:10). Here are just a few:

  • Greediness (Ephesians 5:3-5)
  • Selfishness (James 3:16)
  • Anger (James 4:1-3)
  • Bitterness (Hebrews 12:14-16)

Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” In other words, the Christian isn’t done when he or she confesses to looking at porn.

They’re more concerned with their hearts than their outward actions.

Obedience

Repentance isn’t just feeling bad about these sins. Whether it’s looking at porn or the deeper motivations that drive us to porn, repentance goes deeper than feeling sorry. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.”

What is this “salvation without regret?” It’s much more than quitting porn. It’s a life of God-centered obedience and holiness (Acts 5:29, Hebrews 13:14). It’s becoming who we were created to be (Ephesians 2:10).

Mind, Body, and Spirit Working Together

These three parts—it might be better to call them “aspects”—of human beings shape our approach to overcoming porn. If you’re made of a mind, body, and spirit, then you need to tackle a problem like porn on all three fronts.

Holistic porn recovery means a recovery plan that addresses all aspects of your life. But one thing that is consistent with all three aspects is the need for accountability. We need allies who can speak truth to our minds, help us discipline our bodies, and encourage us spiritually.

Covenant Eyes is committed to equipping you for the battle against porn in all three areas. We’ve developed resources to explain the psychological and emotional effects of porn on the mind. We’ve written about the neurology of porn—how it affects the body. We also have biblically-based resources to address the deeper spiritual side of overcoming porn.