By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor
Sarah woke up from a deep sleep at 3 AM and realized that her husband wasn’t in bed, so she got up to see if he was okay. She was not prepared for what she saw next. Her husband of 27 years, who she respected as a man of integrity, was sitting in front of their home computer in some sort of “trance” while looking at the most sexually graphic pictures that she had ever seen.
“Mark,” she shouted! “What are you doing?” Mark was shocked to see her, but then looked up into the confused eyes of his wife and sobbed out, “I don’t know.”
Sadly this sort of scene is played out every single day in good homes all across the country. Research shows there are over 1,000 “adult” pornographic sites added to the internet every week, which are readily available to anyone surfing the web looking for a quick sexual thrill.
Sexual addiction is a huge problem for all segments of society, including Christian circles. The Men’s group ‘Promise Keepers’ did a confidential survey and discovered that 62% of men attending their stadium events listed lustful addiction to porn as their number one life problem. Ministries Today magazine reported that 29 % of men who regularly attend church believe that they have a sexual addiction.
This type of struggle is not new. Thousands of years ago the key leader of ancient Israel was a man named Samson. You may remember the Bible stories which teach he was physically stronger than any other man who had ever lived, yet was totally weak in his struggle with sexual temptation around prostitutes and eventually was seduced into captivity and prison by a temptress named Delilah who sold him out.
Samson had seen God work incredible miracles in his life; he had even been raised in a godly home by godly parents. He knew the ways of the Lord and although he was the strongest man on the battlefield, he never had any strength or victory over his lustful eyes and sexual desires.
Think of it! The strongest man who ever lived was no match for the sexual temptations of his culture. Could the same reasons that plagued Samson thousands of years ago still be the reasons why so many strong men still fall into this addictive area? Let’s look at some of the main issues that led to Mark’s struggle to discover some answers.
The dictionary defines “lust” as sexual desire, often to an intense or unrestrained degree.
There is a simple counseling outline to use to see if someone you love is being overwhelmed by lust, with each letter spelling out the behaviors that had slowly taken over Mark’s life leading to his on-line addiction, and may be warning signs for someone you know as well.
Men today are more lonely and “disconnected” than ever before. This loneliness leaves them feeling empty as they realize that they are totally alone in the world. You may remember that when God looked down on Adam in the Garden of Eden, He saw that man was alone and it was not good, so He made a perfect partner for him named Eve.
The Bible models the need for relationships in countless ways. From Jonathan & David, to the twelve disciples, to the connected relationship of the Holy Trinity that God the Father has with God the Son and with God the Spirit, we see the need to do things together for comfort, strength and unity. Sadly, in Mark and Sarah’s case, he had become isolated and had pulled away from her, so he was alone more and more of the time, leading to his “middle of the night” ritual with pornography that almost destroyed the marriage.
* Think of the men you know. Are they connected in healthy relationships with accountability?
* If you see significant times of isolation, especially if it involves the computer, television or a smart-phone, you need to be aware of the possible temptations and dangers of sexual addiction that lonely men often turn to and then become trapped by.
This letter represents the tremendous levels of being unfulfilled that men feel in their personal or professional life. They don’t know what their purpose or life passion is, which can be especially challenging during the middle years of life where there is incredible pressure to be successful and financially secure.
If a man begins to question his ability to keep up with the expectations of his culture, or his own personal goals or expectations don’t look like they are going to be realized, he begins to give up inside. It is this lack of fulfillment which leads to the desire for something more than he currently has in his life, something bigger and more exciting to fill the emptiness and frustration in his life.
Sexual addictions are often about escaping from inner pressure or pain, but equally common is the short-term pleasure associated with these mental fantasies. Whether the on-line searching behavior is driven by pleasure seeking or by escapism or both; the bottom line is that sexual addictions are an attempt to find some relief from pressure.
He might feel empty or like a failure over the things that he believes are going wrong in his business, finances, marriage or family so the secretive behavior of on-line porn usage becomes like a quick ‘fix’ to cope with the pressures. It doesn’t last and it only makes a man feel more empty and more like a failure inside, further trapping him into an addictive pattern of sexual addiction.
Mark tried to forget about the pressure he felt to financially keep his family and business going, while keeping up with the growing expenses of having two kids in college and still trying to find enough money to fund his retirement. These were huge financial goals, and though he was seriously stressed over them he was still barely making it financially. Still, in the back corner of his mind he thought he was a financial failure and it was this ongoing fear which continued to fuel his escapism into pornography to forget about the pressures of his life for a few minutes.
* Consider if the men in your life are living out their purpose and passion. If not they can often feel tempted to seek the wrong passions which can ruin the rest of their life.
* Asking questions to challenge a man before he wrecks his life is a kindness to him and everyone who cares about him, so be direct in voicing any areas of concern. Better to have a difficult conversation now than to have a tearful one later.
Stress is the next dangerous warning symptom that can snare men into long term sexual addictions. Every man faces stressful times as a normal part of life, but what happens when he doesn't deal with the stress at the main source?
Answer- it just gets bigger and bigger and that is what happened in Mark’s case. He had learned to cope with the growing stress and financial pressure in his life by just stuffing it inside. He had learned to simply say that ‘it doesn’t bother me’ or ‘no big deal’ but in reality the stress and pressure was eating him alive inside.
Stuffed emotions are a way of life for many men, but eventually those stuffed feelings will come out, sometimes through an angry explosion of rage, sometimes through long moody periods of brooding or depressive behavior. Either way, when a man doesn’t deal with the pressures eating away at him, he very likely may end up addicted to porn just like Mark.
Attempting to use media images and fantasies to avoid the very real fears, doubts, worries and anxieties a man often faces is only a short term escape anyway since nothing is done to actually deal with or resolve the real problems in life.
It’s like the classic General Motors commercial about ‘Mr. Goodwrench’ who says ‘pay me now- or pay me later’. The difference being that with stress you have to ‘Deal with it now, or deal with it later,’ because either way, he is going to have to deal with the real issues in his life and the sooner the better because it’s always easier to address stress now before it becomes a life dominating problem later.
* Since stress is a normal part of life consider how the men in your life reduce pressure. If you don't see any healthy outlets then look for unhealthy ones because stress doesn't go away or get smaller by itself, it just grows in size and scope leading to bigger problems
* Don't be afraid to suggest logical ways to reduce stress and pressure. Exercise, recreation, meditation, church, family time- any of these activities are great ways to unwind pressure to prevent secret temptations from taking over a man’s life.
This word in the formula is familiar to most men, because Mark was tired, really, really tired. The many years of secret, sexual behavior, (mostly during the night hours), had really taken its toll. He had cheated his body out of sleep for too many years and was totally exhausted most of the time.
Face it- tired people are really easy to tempt. Think of the chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer when it is late at night and you have starved all day. The more physically fatigued you are, the more likely you are to do and say things that are impulsive as an attempt to find some relief.
Mark knew he was fatigued and that he hated his behavior, but he just didn’t have the energy to say “no” to the temptation anymore so he would cave into to his desires and feel like a failure as a Christian and as a committed husband over and over again.
Put this formula together and you have letters representing the biggest reasons for sexual addiction- L.U.S.T. which represent the symptoms of a lonely, unfulfilled, emotionally stuffed and tired man. No wonder Mark was so open to the temptations of his culture and no wonder he became so enslaved to this increasingly common sin.
John Stossel, from ABC News did a TV special on the issue of addiction to pornography. He made this observation at the end of his investigative report.
“Media images trick us into believing there are many available, attractive people that really desire to be with us”.
While you know the perfectly airbrushed Hollywood ‘babes’ in the magazines or movies are not really going to seek out a 25 year older guy with a big belly and growing bald spot, a stressed out man’s need to believe in the fantasy is often is stronger than simply in facing the tough reality of his life.
Perhaps it is better understood when considering the ancient wisdom of St. Paul who wrote “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”
Culture offers many escapes from facing reality and often considers porn as a normal way for ‘boys to be boys’ yet Jesus when teaching the sermon on the mountain showed exactly the opposite. He didn’t excuse a lustful look as typical and normal male behavior instead he challenged men to live at a higher standard. His words are just as powerful today as they were 2,000 years ago when he said, “whoever looks at a women to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (-Matthew 5:28)
Is this standard of mental purity impossible? Not at all, but it takes a man learning to view a woman as a real person, instead of an object to be sexualized for personal gratification. I believe lustful addictions destroy marital intimacy and then steal the emotional energy which belongs to their marriage partner. Pornography is not a victimless crime as some suggest since someone always gets hurt and often it is a wife or child who discovers that the man in their life is a secret sex addict. Marriages often fail because of porn and kids may never look at their father the same way again.
Final Plea from Mark and Sarah
Thankfully this is an addiction that can change. Mark and Sarah sought out professional help with a skilled Christian counselor and over time, trust was rebuilt and their marriage was able to recover from the major betrayal that always comes after porn addiction is discovered.
This is a real couple I personally know, (although the names were changed), who would plead with me to share their story of relationship restoration. They would want me tell you that you can’t get better by yourself, and to secretly keep stuffing it inside only makes the problems bigger.
Living with a secret that is eating you and your marriage alive is like a cancer that is killing you a little each day. You have to deal with it or it will kill you and your marriage!
They would urge you to open your eyes and ears to any odd behavior that may be an indicator that your mate may be addicted to pornography and often is just too weak to stop the behavior without help. They would plead with you to take this seriously before it ruins another home like it almost did theirs. They would challenge you and your family member to seek out a good church that offers grace for those struggling with addictive behaviors and accountability groups to prevent relapses. They would tell you that it can and will change, when you get honest, humble your heart and seek some professional help on your road to break free of sexual addiction and rebuild a life of sexual purity as God designed for married couples.
Tragically we know Samson didn’t do that. He had no power over his lustful eyes. You may remember his enemies captured him with the help of the seductress Delilah who he foolishly believed actually cared for and loved him.
The first thing they did was to poke out his eyes with a burning hot iron rod. Blinded, and in prison, Samson repented and came back to his God. As a blind man, he could finally see the truth reflected in Psalms 101:3 “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes”. My prayer is that men everywhere would live out that Biblical truth and then boldly reach out to help rescue other strong men trapped in the “Samson Syndrome”.
Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2010), To subscribe to this valuable weekly resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org