Putting Porn Away for Good

woman standing with arms outstretched, chains broken

I’ve broken free from my addiction to pornography, but I still need a long-term defense — a strategy I call “proactive freedom.”

“Do you still struggle?”

I’m asked this question often when people hear my story of breaking free from pornography addiction.

My response: “Pornography will always be a weakness in my life. It is something I have to guard against, but that doesn’t mean I’m not free.”

Certain countries are free, but they still have a defense. They defend and protect not because they are captured, but because they are free.

On the contrary, many people have a passive approach to freedom, an attitude that says, “There, now that struggle is over and I never have to worry about it ever again. I am free to do whatever I want.” That simply is not the case.

When we take this passive, hands-off approach to freedom we completely disregard the truth that our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

In my own journey, I practice a strategy I call “proactive freedom” — purposefully protecting the freedom I already have. Proactive freedom is a way of not taking freedom itself for granted.

Defining Freedom

What does it mean to be free?

Too often we define freedom as a complete erasure of an issue. For people who struggle with pornography, they might think freedom means they’re able to surf the internet without filters and not have a problem. Maybe they’ll go five weeks without watching any kind of pornography, but then slip up once the filters are down, and then they feel like they are no longer free.

As I came out of pornography, I struggled with this, too. I kept track of my “days free from porn and masturbation” like I was a foreman on a construction site. It was always discouraging when I had to reset the count to zero. No matter how much time had passed since I last watched porn, it felt like I was starting over.

Women sometimes email me with the same frustration. They’ll write, “I went three months without watching porn, but last night I did it again. When will I ever be free?”

That’s the trouble we can run into when we define freedom as a set number of days free from pornography. Instead of defining freedom as a certain number of days without pornography, define it as the ability to say no. Let me explain.

There was a point in my journey when it dawned on me that I was choosing pornography. Yes, it may have been a coping mechanism and there may have been a level of addiction, but ultimately, I was choosing it. Freedom meant being able to not choose it. When that clicked with me, I stopped choosing pornography and started exercising freedom.

In Romans 6, Paul talked about how when we are in Christ, we are freed from sin. We were once slaves, but now we are free. Free to choose whom we serve.

Our freedom has been won, not by any resolution on our part, but by Christ. When we see freedom as a position we fight from — as opposed to a status we are fighting for — it changes the fight entirely.

Know Your Weakness

Remember, though, that freedom is not perfection. We don’t have perfect strength.

As you walk in freedom, it is important to know your weakness. For many of us, pornography fills something in our lives. It can be a way we cope with emotion or a way we release sexual frustration. Do you know what some of the driving forces are in your own journey?

Yes, you may be free and you may be walking in freedom, but that freedom does not eradicate a weakness in your life. We will all continue to experience temptation, even in freedom. If you have an experience that brought pleasure, such as pornography or another form of sexual immorality, that experience will likely continue to be a weakness. That weakness can grow stronger, but it may never totally go away.

I openly acknowledge that pornography will be a weakness for me for the rest of my life. There are times when it is more of a temptation and times when I don’t even think about it. But I can never forget that it is there, and that, in times of struggle, my tendency will be to turn to it. If I ever think I am “over it” and that it will never be in an issue ever again, I’m in trouble.

Yes, I am free, but freedom isn’t ignorance. Rather, it has a level of awareness.

Run When You Can

Knowing our specific weaknesses, we must run when we can. Too often we have the incorrect notion that freedom looks like completely conquering temptation. We want to stare temptation in the face and be able to say no and call that freedom. We want to prove our strength, so we will get as close to the edge as we can without falling. The journey becomes more about fighting for victory instead of living in freedom. We have a conqueror mindset that can get us into trouble.

We forget that when it comes to temptation, we’re promised a way to escape it, not a way to overpower it. When we constantly put ourselves in tempting situations just so we can “beat them,” we can find ourselves trapped by the thing we were meant to overcome. If there’s a way for you to escape the temptation, do it. Don’t trick yourself into believing that it’s more spiritual to stick around and fight.

Acknowledge that certain things may always be a weakness in your life and don’t constantly expose yourself to temptation just to prove you are stronger. Don’t go online when you’re tempted to try to prove temptation wrong. Don’t uninstall your filters or accountability software because “you’ve got this.” Learn the importance of running when you can.

Shore Up That Weakness

Sometimes, though, there’s nowhere you can run. Your job may require you to face temptation — maybe you required to work on a laptop, to travel alone. For various reasons, running sometimes just isn’t an option. Since avoiding temptation is not always an option, you need to have a strategy for strengthening your weakness. It’s important to fortify and protect it. Think about it this way: If someone kicks in a side door to gain access to your house, you’ll work doubly hard to reinforce that door. Pornography has kicked in a side door of your heart and mind, so you need to focus on how to reinforce those areas.

Do you know what your triggers are? What emotions or situations tend to lead you into more fierce temptation? Think of ways you can protect against temptation in those situations.

It might be as simple as installing accountability software on your phone so that when you’re frustrated, tired and alone, you know someone will still see what you’ve been viewing.

Or if you know that stress tends to trigger temptation for you, work on other ways of managing and coping with stress. We can’t avoid all stress, but if you know stress causes you to struggle, then finding other ways to cope and manage the stress before it gets overwhelming will help protect that weakness in your life. Know your triggers, and work to strengthen yourself when you can’t avoid them.

Call Before You Fall

When you know a tempting situation is coming, reach out to someone to tell them beforehand. Maybe you have to travel to a conference and be in a hotel room alone. Before you go, let someone know this is a specific weakness for you. Sometimes this act of humility is all it takes to help you win the fight.

I have a friend who fills this role for me. Now, as an engaged woman, I also reach out to my fiancé. If temptation is unavoidable, I tell someone and I know that person will check in with me afterward. This is an important part of freedom. It acknowledges your weakness and strengthens it by calling someone else to come alongside you.

This is part of the strength of being in the body of Christ. We can shoulder each other’s burdens. We strengthen and build up each other to help fight the battles we each have to fight. Don’t feel you have to go it alone and don’t be afraid to be honest about areas you still fight temptation. Remember, acknowledging and guarding your weakness is not a sign of failure; it’s a part of defending freedom.

Keep Your Focus Forward

The final key to proactive freedom is to make sure it faces forward. For many of us, we know exactly the last day we fell, and our freedom centers completely around getting as far away from that day as possible. But we’re making the mistake of thinking freedom faces backward.

In a sense, forget about the last time you watched pornography or the last time you sexted someone. You don’t need to mark it on a calendar and track days since it last happened. If you’ve repented, you’ve been forgiven and you can turn your back on it. Too many of us think freedom is walking backwards away from a struggle until we’ve lost sight of it. But that’s not freedom at all. Freedom is turning your back on it and walking away.

If you are facing forward, that struggle is always behind you. Some days that struggle might sneak up on you, but freedom is far more about forward growth and the abundant life than it is about stopping a behavior. In the Christian life, we are pressing forward toward a goal (Philippians 3:14), laying aside the sin that easily besets us and running the race before us (Hebrews 12:1).

Ultimately, that’s what proactive freedom is about. Run the race with your eyes forward. Know your weakness, reinforce your defenses, reach out to those who can help you, and don’t lose sight of the freedom that Christ already won for you. We are set free to choose better things. And proactive freedom chases those things.

Copyright 2018 Jessica Harris. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Jessica Harris

Jessica Harris is a blogger, an international speaker and the author of Beggar’s Daughter and “Love Done Right: Reflections.” She addresses the sexual struggles of women in the church.