The lie is that porn (or anything for that matter) can satisfy this true and deep need to be fully known, vulnerable, wanted, intimate, and connected.
Last month I wrote an article discussing the E.P.I.C. generation acronym to describe millennials and Generation Z (Experiential, Participatory, Image-Rich, Connected). If you haven’t read that article, it might give some helpful context about why we need more focused efforts at discipling teens and students in age and generationally appropriate ways.
In this article, I’d like to address an elephant in the room for younger generations – pornography. The epidemic of porn addiction has swept not just the millennial generation, but maybe the majority of the male population (and many women) of the Western world. There have been many other resources (i.e. Tim Chester’s Closing the Window) that sum up what I’m attempting to address in far better and more in-depth ways, but in light of my last article, I must put this front and center when ministering to and through teens and young adults. If you want to be effective in discipling the younger generations, this will inevitably be part of the journey. Don’t be even mildly surprised if porn addiction is lurking behind the scenes of your youth engagement and sidelining many of your most promising young leaders with shame and enslavement of their minds. Just this school year alone, I’ve already discussed porn addiction at length with five student-athletes and three adult men. Those are all “new cases,” so to speak, in my life-journey with those guys. One of those is a sophomore student and is on the ropes for being expelled from school as his issue has bled over into other things more publicly. Am I making a mountain out of a mow-hill? You decide.
- 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18.
- The first exposure to pornography on average among boys is 12 years old.
- 83% of boys and 57% of girls are exposed to group sex online.
- 71% of teens have done something to hide their online activity from their parents.
- 28% of 16-17-year-olds have unintentionally been exposed to pornography online.
- 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a sext.
- 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least 1x/month.
- 68% of young adult men and 18% of women watch porn at least 1x/every week.
A Masterful Liar
If we’re serious about discipleship as a process of bringing every area of our life under the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus Christ, then porn must be included in that definition, both specifically & intentionally with young people.
So, how do we help? Where do we start? You guessed it, the heart.
As we know, behind every sin is a lie (or lies) we believe about God. Porn, unfortunately, is a masterful liar. Or shall I say, Satan is a masterful liar and his native tongue is expressed fluently in porn.
Here are 5 examples of how his voice may communicate through porn:
- Here with us you’re always wanted…always desired.
- You need this. You deserve this. It’ll only happen this one time.
- No one needs to know. This isn’t harming anyone else; it’s just something you do now and then to make it through a tough time.
- Life is anxious and chaotic, but with us things slow down and you’re in control. We’ll do whatever you want.
- Come be connected. With us, you won’t feel lonely anymore. You can be vulnerable.
I was meeting with a friend recently and he was confessing and explaining how porn entered his life unwillingly at a young age at a friend’s house (as was mine), and how now decades later, he was finally realizing the grip it had on his life, heart, and mind, and why it was so hard to stop. Part of this discussion was about how porn wasn’t necessarily a sexual addiction as much as it was an emotional addiction with a sexual expression. I have also found this to be true and have heard countless testimonies from younger and older men I disciple who echo the same sentiments.
You see, porn in many experiences is rooted in a desire to be vulnerable and known by a woman/person who displays the same vulnerability; to have a moment of shared intimacy where they want and need connection as much as you do. And there’s the lie. A similar lie that all idols whisper. The lie is that porn (or anything for that matter) can satisfy this true and deep need to be fully known, vulnerable, wanted, intimate, and connected. A video/image can’t give that connection to us. It is a lie. Porn promises much and delivers little. It actually only increases shame, loneliness, and feelings of disconnectedness.
So, What Do We Do?
Ask the Spirit to give you eyes for those enslaved. Ask students to describe if they see porn as an issue in their friend groups. Then ask if any of them struggle as well. Don’t miss this – ask if they personally want help with stopping. You must get buy-in or you’re just a new self-appointed, moral policeman in their life. Their heart must want to be free and embrace repentance and faith. If you’ve been given permission to help, begin asking questions about what the payoff is, or what drives them to porn. This is where you listen for their heart longings. Lastly, commit to following up with them intentionally and put it in your calendar to do so.
No matter what, make sure to articulate the gospel specifically to this issue.
The bad news is that in a broken sinful world, our souls all yearn to be “naked and unashamed,” but we can’t find it here.
The good news for all of us, including those you disciple, is there was One who, for our sake, chose nakedness on a cross and endured it’s shame so that we might walk without shame. There is One who offered Himself to be fully known and yet was totally rejected. He chose to be vulnerable and was betrayed. He desired us, yet was dismissed and ignored. He offered intimacy yet experienced hypocrisy. He opened his arms for connection but experienced dislocation. The answer to the lies of porn is the Truth; Jesus Christ. He came and has come, offering everything you’ve been longing for that you can’t find anywhere else.
The good news for the porn addict is, “You were made for Him. He bore your shame so you can now stand blameless in front of Him without a single fault; naked and unashamed as you always longed to be, fully known and fully accepted in Him.” Now the question is, do they believe this? Do we believe this? Is He more beautiful and faithful to us than what anything else in this world can offer? Our heart’s answer to those questions will yield the fruit of our experience. If we seek satisfaction, safety, and escape, it can only be found in Him.
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”