It’s natural to feel a sense of shame when you fail and relapse into sin.
But when this shame stops us from immediately turning to God in repentance, it becomes an enormous problem. When we feel like we can’t return to God until we straighten out our behavior on our own, we become trapped.
That’s because we could never free ourselves. We need God to wash us clean.
In this video, I talk about escaping this shame and running immediately to God, as well as the magnitude of God’s love for us and what Christ really has accomplished.
I don’t know who you are, and I know you’re probably not the only one reading this. But I’m talking to you specifically. You are different from me. Your life is different. Your mind is different. Your desires, weaknesses, strengths, motives, experiences, and knowledge are all different from my own.
There is a theory that language by itself is not very effective at conveying completely new ideas. That the best it can do is direct your attention to something you can perceive yourself, or draw a comparison to something you’re already familiar with.
This is more or less true. It’s why real-life experience is a better teacher than a book, and it’s why analogies are often so much more powerful than raw, factual descriptions. It’s why a blind person can study and learn all about the color red, and still not know it as well as someone who has seen it.
Another example: Last year, as part of December of Discipline (AKA 31 Days To Masculinity), I ran without resting for as long as I could, right up until I collapsed onto the ground.
I could go into great detail describing that experience to you, but you still wouldn’t really know what that’s like unless you’ve done it yourself.
Experience is simply the best teacher out there. You can learn from others, and they can even give vital input by drawing connections or pointing out details you missed. But ultimately, first-hand knowledge is the easiest to understand, apply, and remember. And it is the basis for all further learning.
This rang true during my experience quitting porn. Along the way, I did learn and benefit from the insights of others. But the major breakthroughs occurred while taking time by myself and doing some real thinking.
After a failure, I had to sit down and figure out what went wrong. I had to personally and honestly analyze the thoughts and events that led to relapsing. I had to take time to think about how my own experiences were related to the lessons I had learned elsewhere.
I had to take the second-hand knowledge from others and turn it into first-hand knowledge.
There is no substitute for this. You yourself must learn. While teaching is good, no amount of teaching can make up for a failure to learn.
Take time by yourself. Turn off the music, walk away from the computer, put down your phone. Think. Pray.
Dissect your mind and your behavior. Dismantle your excuses and self-deception and get to the true heart of your thoughts and actions.
This is something that must be done, and nobody else can do it for you 100%.
Other people can help expose the lies you tell yourself and give you shortcuts to finding the truth. They can give you hints and reminders and explain things you haven’t put together yourself.
But you still have to find out how the truth of these lessons manifests in your own life so you can put them to work. Sometimes this is quick and easy. Other times it takes hours of intense introspection. Either way, you have to take the time to feed and train your mind.
I’ll close with an analogy to drive the point home.
You could assemble the best physical trainers in the world and they could tell you what workouts to do, the best nutritional plans, how to exercise with the best form, and give you all the information you would need to reach any fitness goal as quickly as possible.
But they can’t go to the gym for you. You have to do that.
The Biblical story of Jesus being tempted by Satan is very interesting (Matthew 4:1-11). It always seemed odd to me that Satan’s first choice was to tempt Jesus to turn stones into bread. After all, Jesus is known for food-related miracles, and there doesn’t seem to be anything inherently sinful about the act of turning stones into bread. So why would Satan tempt Jesus to do something, if it isn’t even wrong?
As it turns out, the story contains an excellent lesson on how to perceive and handle temptation. In my latest video, I talk about how it applies to quitting porn and how these insights can help you stay clean.
Over the past few years, I’ve been involved with several different communities focused around quitting porn, Christianity, and masculinity. Because these communities are primarily composed of human beings, the subject of relationships tends to come up frequently. Often, these conversations are started by a guy asking how to get a girlfriend, or where he can even find a woman worth dating.
When these questions do come up, I rarely answer them directly. Instead, I tend to respond with some important ideas the asker should consider before pursuing a relationship. They pertain to who you are as a man, where you are in your life, and what your life is about. And from what I’ve seen, they aren’t commonly talked about.
I’m not a relationship expert. But I believe that dating/courtship/marriage should not be taken lightly, and that one should enter that playing field with a certain mindframe and a certain level of preparation.
My latest two videos cover this subject and give a good, clear starting point for men looking to get into a healthy, godly relationship.
If you knew a person who broke his promises to you as often as you break your promises to yourself, how would you view that person? Is he dependable and honest? Or is he full of empty words and failed commitments?
How long would you tolerate it?
Most people let themselves down more than they would ever allow someone else to. We love to give ourselves a free pass.
You must hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold anyone else to.
You control your own actions, and no one else’s. How can you expect others to do the work necessary to keep their promises to you, if you won’t even do the work necessary to keep your own promises?
Other people have their own lives to worry about. How can you demand more from them than you demand from yourself?
When other people break their promises to you, they’re teaching you something about themselves. They’re teaching you that their words are empty. That they don’t have follow-through. That you don’t really matter that much to them.
And when you break your promises to yourself, you’re teaching yourself the same thing.
I wish you all a happy new year. But 2018 is here now. It really is time to stop wishing for a happy new year, and start creating one. Some of you have made resolutions, some of you haven’t. In any case, we’ve all got work to do.
When the excitement wears off, when the work gets tough, and when you think about giving yourself a free pass for giving up, remember what you’re teaching yourself by your actions. Are you going to prove yourself steadfast and dependable? Or are you going to be fickle and inconsistent? What would you think about someone else if they quit on you now?
Stay committed. Prove to yourself that you’re the real deal. That you are who you say you are, and that you do what you say you’ll do.
Quitting porn is tough. It sounds simple—after all, how hard can be to not do something? But for a lot of guys, it’s one of the most difficult things they’ve ever done, or ever will do.
One of the reasons for this is the fact that porn hijacks one of our most powerful motivators: our sex drive. When you combine that with modern pornography’s unending variety, 24/7 availability, relative secrecy, and the fact that most of it is completely free, it becomes one of the most compelling habits imaginable.
The most common approach to quitting is to persuade yourself that you don’t really want porn as much as you want to quit. Many temptations can be overcome by thinking about the benefits of abstaining, or by reminding yourself of the consequences of relapsing. Most of the time, this is an excellent way to go about it. Focusing on setting yourself up for a better future creates a very positive and forward-moving attitude.
But anyone who has tried and failed to quit porn in the past knows that, no matter what, there will come a time when temptation is so strong that nothing else seems to matter. No matter how strong your desire to stay clean, there will be instances where your desire for porn is even stronger.
At this point, the above strategy breaks down. You can still try to convince yourself that you don’t really want porn, but this is relatively ineffective. Sometimes it can even lead to absurd subconscious rationalizations that result in failure anyway. “Of course I don’t want to watch porn! But I do want to visit this one website, which normally leads to watching porn. But it won’t lead to watching porn this time, because I don’t want to watch porn anyway!” By pretending that we’re “over” temptation when we’re practically drowning in it, we open ourselves up to being tricked and lured into an ambush.
An entirely different attitude is needed for these situations. I call that attitude “denied gratification.”
You’re already familiar with the idea of delayed gratification. In a way, that’s what we do when we convince ourselves we don’t want to watch porn. “Yeah, I would enjoy giving in to this temptation right now, but I’m going to enjoy my porn-free future even more. No thanks.”
Denied gratification is much different. It wastes no time trying to change or refocus your desires. Instead, it simply breaks the connection between your appetite and your actions. It says, “I admit I really want to watch porn. But it doesn’t matter. I’m going to deliberately do the opposite of what I want to do right now.”
Choosing denied gratification is embracing and enduring the feeling of hunger, instead of indulging in a slice of poisoned cake. It’s tying up your selfish desires in the trunk and giving the driver’s seat to something greater. It removes “what do I want?” from the discussion, so you can focus on “what’s the right thing to do?”
This means you throw out everything else. And I do mean everything. When I use denied gratification, I even refuse to think about any of the benefits of staying off porn. Why? Because that only shifts the focus back to what I want.
This isn’t simply about ignoring the temptation, or feeling really, really, REALLY determined. It’s about getting your “self” out of the way completely, so you can focus on what you need to do.
It’s about taking a moment to liberate yourself from your own desires.
Most people tend to assume that freedom means doing whatever you want to do. In reality, there is very real risk of becoming a miserable slave to your own wants. To be truly free, you must be able to cast aside your momentary desires whenever they get in the way of your wellbeing, your goals, or your purpose.
True freedom includes freedom from being ruled by your own appetites. It’s the freedom to pursue what really matters.
In my last article, I mentioned that anger is sometimes an appropriate attitude in your personal battle to stay free of porn. Let’s talk about how that works and how you can use anger effectively.
Anger is just one part of the natural spectrum of human emotions, but it is uniquely forceful. Like a weapon, it has a great capacity for both good and evil. It must be carefully controlled, and is only to be used under the appropriate circumstances. For some, it’s difficult to keep anger in its proper place, and there is a great risk of it getting out of hand. It depends on your emotional health and how your mind works. People in this position are better off leaving anger out of their strategy (just like some people are better off quitting alcohol completely, rather than trying to healthily moderate their consumption of it).
One of the most crucial things to understand is that anger should only be used as a tool. Anger must not be used to make decisions, only to add force to them. You should never be ruled by your emotions, and that goes double for strong, negative emotions like anger.
The next consideration is how anger is directed. Again, like a weapon, it should only be pointed at your enemies. You don’t ever want to shoot yourself. And you certainly don’t want innocents or allies to get caught in the crossfire.
What this means is that you should never get angry at yourself. At best, doing so would replace porn with other problems. At worst, it will drag you further down into a spiral of guilt, self-loathing, and even self-harm as you degrade yourself and associate your very identity with your failures. We’re not here to to trade one enemy for another, and we’re not here to become the enemy ourselves.
You can’t let anger poison your interactions with other people either. Anger should only be directed at your enemy. I’m a Christian and I believe that Satan and his demons are very real, and are deliberately tempting us. Even if you don’t believe that, it’s useful to imagine that you do have a real opponent who is scheming and plotting against you. This gives you a specific direction in which you can channel your anger safely and effectively.
Now that you understand how to limit anger, how exactly is it useful?
Like I already mentioned, anger doesn’t have any place in the decision-making process. But once you’ve decided to quit porn, or to get back on track after a relapse, anger can help you stay on course. It reinforces the decisions you’ve already made.
That’s because anger doesn’t compromise. Anger doesn’t give up. Anger doesn’t come to the negotiating table and hear what the enemy has to say. Anger doesn’t care about bribes or enticement. Anger sees through the deception and sweet-talk of its enemies. Anger doesn’t relent. Anger doesn’t pat itself on the back or relax. Anger makes no room for hopelessness. Anger is not apathetic. Anger doesn’t cry in a puddle of self-pity and wonder if it will ever be able to stop watching porn.
This war is ultimately about saying “No.” And anger is the emotion of “Hell no.”
The other day, as part of a challenge called “December of Discipline”, I had to run until I physically could not keep running. It was exhausting and painful, and I wanted to quit after the first few laps. To keep me going, I used a number of mental tactics, including anger. When every other part of me wanted to give up, anger said, “Hell no. Keep going.”
Anger helps you stay on course by taking surrender and compromise off the table. And as anyone who has tried to quit porn knows, every failure consists in a surrender or a compromise. In the heat of a tough battle where your other strategies are failing, the stubbornness and savagery that anger promotes can turn a seemingly un-winnable situation into a quick and decisive victory.
The final note I’ll make is that anger should not outlive its usefulness. Anger has a time and a place, but should not become your way of life. Just like you wouldn’t walk around day-to-day with a pistol in hand, you should not remain angry when anger is not needed. Keep it holstered with the safety on until you have to use it. Because anger is such a powerful and aggressive emotion, it can damage your relationships with others and with yourself if it comes into play at the wrong place and time.
Do you need anger to win? Of course not. At the end of the day, winning is all about saying “No” whenever you’re tempted. Nonetheless, anger can sometimes make this decision easier.
Anger gets a bad rap, and for good reason. It can be very dangerous and it can create any number of problems. But if you’re responsible and emotionally healthy enough to use anger appropriately, then by all means, do so.