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The Destructive Cycle of Pornography

by Dan Pallesen, MA

Outside of the counseling office, Seth was a confident and gregarious young man. His career as a financial advisor was becoming successful and satisfying. He was engaged to Jennifer, the woman of his dreams, who he met at church. His 6’ 6” athletic frame moved swiftly as he entered the office and the nerves in my hand would be painfully reminded of his strength when he reached out to greet me. Everything about Seth screamed, “I have it all together!”

Once inside the office, a different man emerged. With slumped shoulders and his head in his hands, Seth rarely matched my gaze. When he did, the look of confidence was lost and only the dejected look of failure remained. He no longer looked like a man in control and his posture whispered, “please help…”

Seth was caught in the cycle of pornography and masturbation and no matter how hard he tried, he could not break it. He succeeded in every other area of life including academics, athletics, profession, and relationships. But in this dark part of his life, he had no success.

The effort was there. Seth recalled his attempts in high school to do pushups and sit-ups whenever he felt the urge to look at pornography. That just left him frustrated (and in pretty good shape). College was the first time he shared his struggle. He and his roommate became accountability partners. While this was freeing for Seth, he continued to struggle with pornography and masturbation, leaving him feeling more guilty and ashamed. Seth joined a men’s group at his church and even met one-on-one with a pastor when he and Jennifer got engaged. But the cycle continued and he felt utterly powerless. By the time he sought out psychotherapy, he had almost completely surrendered to his lustful desires and was contemplating calling off his engagement.

Paul’s words to the Romans rang true for Seth: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:19). Something was flawed in Seth’s system. He was relying on his own strength to break free from the heavy chains of lust in his life. Over and over again, he was forced to face the limitations of that strength as he fell deeper and deeper into the cycle of pornography and masturbation.

In a recent lecture at Biola University, Dr. Dallas Willard presented his “VIM” formula. Like Seth, many men focus heavily on their behaviors. However, Dr. Willard encourages them to challenge the cycle at its roots. This begins with the Vision of women as sex objects. When women are degraded to means for sexual gratification, the cycle has already begun. Secondly, Intent to use pornography plays a major role in the cycle. When someone has already decided that pornography and masturbation are a viable source for self gratification, they will be inclined to use them as such. And last, the Means for ridding oneself of pornography should include accountability to others and what Willard describes as a “resolute avoidance.”

To reverse the cycle in his life, Seth had to look beyond his Means to his Intent and Vision. He began to view himself and women as God’s image bearers. He also began to make conscious decisions regarding pornography rather than trying to fight against it in the moment. Pornography and lust may always be a struggle for Seth but battling the cycle at its beginning has allowed him to experience immense freedom. If you find yourself in the middle of this destructive cycle, therapy may be a place for you to begin your battle.

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Comments»

1. Jeremy Julian (@jjulian00) - December 19, 2012

Great Post. I know tons of men that are stuck in this same cycle. I once was as well.


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