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.