The following story is one of the winners of the 2023 Covenant Eyes Scholarship. For more information on Covenant Eyes scholarships, see here.
There are some statements that stick better in my mind than others. One statement that caught my attention years ago from a pastoral mentor: “My integrity is not for sale.”
When I first heard this statement, I was puzzled. Over time, I began to grasp the significance. My mentor was the first to “keep me accountable” for my lust and masturbation struggles, via phone calls and in-person meetings. I realized that disengaging from looking at porn was more than keeping myself from being consumed with instant gratification. This addiction—like all addictions—revealed the lack of affirmation and self-worth I felt inside. It only served as a defense response to my past traumas. As I later discovered, this addiction had the potential to negatively impact more people around me than I had originally assumed.
Struggling With Integrity
Early on, this struggle to live with integrity in today’s world appeared to be an impossible task. What my mentor meant by this statement was that integrity is something to be treasured. Porn and masturbation were a thief attempting to take this treasure from me and leave me feeling empty and bankrupt. They would leave my loved ones feeling abandoned. He expressed that living with integrity means being above reproach and having a godly character and a Christ-like reputation. He helped me understand that Satan and his demons’ goal is to destroy my reputation for Christ, and cause those close to me to think less of me, and what my faith has stood for.
Often we would call one another after I confessed each time I had a relapse, such as struggling with masturbation or lusting over women viewed on my phone. This style of accountability persisted for over three years. Since sexual struggles are primarily more than just “bad habits,” the first step to living with integrity was a heart change. Lust and masturbation are not things that feel easy to “just stop struggling with” overnight—as some of my peers informed me. Brain pathways have been formed as a result of living in a sex-saturated culture and having sexually explicit content ingrained in my mind before marriage. This meant it would take time and intentional accountability with others if I ever expected to transform into a person free from these struggles.
Gaining Awareness of Integrity
Getting Covenant Eyes over four years ago was a necessary step taken that really transformed my habits and mindset on the subject of sexual integrity. The porn struggle ended years ago, but Covenant Eyes did more than keep me from ever going back to looking at explicit content. It helped me become more aware of who I was becoming as a person, and what I viewed on my phone would help me understand at times that I was on a very wrong path.
Proverbs 18:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a person but its end is the way to death.” I knew that I wanted to be a person with integrity, especially as a minister of the gospel. My home church had three pastors in the past 10 years who sexually betrayed their wives. As someone now engaged to a lovely woman who was sexually abused as a child, I did not want to follow down the road that leads to death.
Sexual addiction hurts everyone, but the addict is only focused on his or her own pleasures. Covenant Eyes helped me see outside of myself. My mom kept me accountable through the software, now she and my fiancé do. Eventually, after marriage, it will only be my wife.
Focusing With Integrity
I no longer focus on myself. I have learned how to view women as daughters of God, not objects to be coveted and lusted after. The combination of personal accountability with my pastor friend and having Covenant Eyes was crucial to my sexual health and journey of long-term recovery, but there was more accountability I needed. I needed to be around other men my age or older who knew what it was like to struggle sexually and were looking for a way to grow out of this addiction.
I joined a Pure Desire group at my church this past fall sponsored by Pure Desire ministries, a nationwide Christian Counselor based ministry dedicated to helping men and women heal through their trauma and find sexual healing and wholeness in Christ and within a community of other believers. This group of mine walked through an 8-week video/written curriculum course together called “Sexual Integrity 101.” During this season of life, 10 of us or so met for two hours every Monday night in person, and we learned surprising facts, one being that every person is sexually broken in some way or another. Most men in the average church in the United States struggle with pornography.
What sex-saturated people need is a culture of truth and grace and the time for brain pathways to be formed to change. This group, as well as the 7-month group I was part of after (Pure Desire: Seven Pillars of Sexual Freedom) immensely changed the way I responded to sexual temptations. I have experienced victories such as: becoming more vulnerable and honest as a man by disclosing my past with my fiancée and trusted men, more able to emotionally understand how to express myself to others without being angry and selfish as before, and I now have a specific and detailed plan written out for my goals of continuing to be a person of integrity and being sexually pure for my soon be wife. Such plans include always disclosing any relapses I have with my trusted support group and keeping my phone out of my room at night, and if I feel tempted to get up or call a friend on my phone.
Leading With Integrity
After these groups I have been part of, the accountability I have had with my pastor friend, and having access to Covenant Eyes I would say I now know what it means to live and lead a life of integrity. In today’s world to live with integrity while using technology means not letting your phone take control of your mind, but rather allowing your mind to be renewed through being in a safe community where you can grow in sexual wholeness by disclosing your struggles with other trusted friends. My pastor friend inspired me to believe that my integrity is not for sale, and he’s right. I’ve counted the cost, and others have paid the price on my behalf for the hurt and betrayal I have caused them due to my sexual brokenness. However, since being on this journey of recovery I am now in a much healthier relationship with my fiancée, friends, and family.
Covenant Eyes and others that hold the same goal in mind for integrity have helped me believe that change from sexual addiction such as pornography is possible, and I am evidence of that. I am proof that people don’t have to stay broken. Help is given to those who truly desire to change and develop a life of integrity. It all starts with reaching out, knowing when and how to put your phone away when tempted, and focusing on whether or not you want to become a person of integrity. A wise person I know once said: “What screams integrity is longevity.” Indeed, my integrity is not for sale, and through the help of Christ and others, I pray it stays that way for myself and all others looking for help out of sexual bondage.