Pornography and False Repentance

pornrepentanceYes, I am going there. I was a pornography addict from the ages of eight until twenty-nine when I came to Messiah, at which point I gave up all pornographic materials, struggled minute by minute in my thoughts for another four years before I was released from those. Then sadly, for about ten more years, although I would never watch or read anything even remotely sexual, I had an overactive fantasy life in my head during times of stress before vowing by the Name of YHVH never to consciously do it again – so yes, I do get to address this. Yom Kippur is almost upon us, and this is an important topic that plagues the Body of Messiah – especially those in the ministry.

If you have never heard my testimony, it is here.

My problem was very typical – partial repentance. Don’t get me wrong, the bonfire of all the porn in my Idaho backyard took enormous willpower and a love for what is right. What I didn’t have was enough love to give up the most potent form of porn, the fantasy life. Honestly, I felt that I deserved to experience that rush of emotions, the endorphin drugged state that any porn inspires. This was about entitlement – it was always about entitlement. Make no mistake; pornography is the cheapest addiction there is – you need nothing except an active imagination, although generally, that isn’t enough. In my case, it had to be enough because I had no more willingness to look at the filth I had once wallowed in. I didn’t want God to be looking at it through my eyes. I convinced myself, however, that I had every right to feel those feelings when I was stressed out, or sad.

The worst part was the mental gymnastics I would go through to justify it beforehand, “I know this is wrong, and I will repent afterward, but I need this. I need to feel this right now.”

That right there is the difference between merely feeling guilt and having any intention of repenting. I had no intention of repenting! I sinned willingly, with forethought and self-justification – all the while knowing it was wrong and I simply planned to beg forgiveness later.

I felt guilty, but I wasn’t truly sorry because part of me felt entirely justified. I had no intention of turning away from it, I simply begged forgiveness and said I was sorry to alleviate my guilt. I didn’t love God enough or trust Him enough to believe that I could live without that perversion running around in my head from time to time.

Make no mistake – there is more false repentance associated with pornography addiction than with any other sin. People want to be free from the guilt and torment, but not from the pleasure.

I don’t know what changed, but one day I did feel repentant – repentant but still too weak to resist on my own. I did my most drastic thing – I swore an oath by the Name of YHVH. It was the first time I had ever done such a thing – and at every point of temptation I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to drag His name through the mud and make it worthless just so that I can feel the endorphins?” Praise God, no, I was never willing to do that. I wasn’t willing to break the second commandment even though I had been willing, in my mind, to shred the prohibition against adultery. As time went by, I found that I really didn’t need those fantasies at all – I haven’t died from endorphin deprivation all these years later.

Whenever we do something, after justifying it to ourselves with the intention of repenting afterward, that is not repentance – that’s simply what we do in order to avoid the discomfort of feeling guilty. Really, not only is it self-deception, but it’s just a different sort of drug to make ourselves feel better. Do we want to justify gossiping, or holding a grudge, or whatever pet sin we have cloaked in “I have a right to do this because…” – we need to see it for what it is. Repenting afterward is nothing if we sinned with that plan of action in mind, just so we could feed our flesh, and experience something forbidden – true repentance means that we stop with the justification beforehand because it is a grave insult to God. Don’t get me wrong, that guilty feeling is usually a good thing – unless we shut it down or divert ourselves from having to deal with it. Then that guilt becomes a form of condemnation sending us deeper into sin – because we have been warned by the Spirit.

True repentance is hard. It is much easier to admit we were wrong and say sorry later after we did exactly what we wanted in the first place. Saying sorry is a small price to pay – and meaningless in this situation. Stopping, turning around and walking in a new direction is hard. Have you ever heard that it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission? Easy isn’t usually right, and oftentimes it is a presumptuous sin.

All that is to say, if you keep lapsing back into pornography, check out the validity of your repentance. Did you repent simply in order to make yourself feel better? If so, then the deep root of the problem is a focus on self, and I would wager it has its tendrils wrapped around every aspect of your life. I have never met an addict, myself included, who wasn’t self-absorbed – I still fight that. You have to be willing to deny yourself – pleasure, comfort, solace, excitement – and with women, generally the feelings of love and safety that we incorporate into the fantasies.  We have to learn to sometimes be alone, sad and stressed out so that we can find and root out the real issues driving us towards the drug.

I am completely free now. It was difficult, nothing has ever been more difficult, but God helped me. I had to fight and fight but in the end, the self-control I exerted was met with divine help. It was worth it. He didn’t leave me to fight alone, but He didn’t sweep the issues away like magic either. Repentance and redemption are a team effort – but our repentance has to be more than a relief valve for well-earned guilt.

 

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11 Comments


  1. Thank you Tyler for sharing. The struggle is real Deciding to follow Torah was a huge help. Working with Youth I can attest to how rampant the problem is with young men. My heart aches for those who are not stable enough to shake this sin. I still pray for those young men on a daily basis.

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    1. Indeed, I have two 15 year old sons and the struggle is very real!

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  2. “repentance and redemption are a team effort.”
    This is an incredible statement. For some reason, most people (myself included) feel as if repentance is an easy flick of the wrist.
    Aware that Yom Kippur is closing in, this very article is exactly what the Grace of Yah looks like. I’ve struggled with porn addiction for many many many years, and it’s the most difficult thing that I have ever needed to overcome. Everything about it is a deep rooted addiction that’s been festering ever since it started. I was 8 years old.
    I’ve been asking Yahweh to reveal a path for me to follow down this dark and haunting place deep inside my mind, and He has ever so gracefully revealed that to me. And my prayers have not been ignored, obviously… even though I sure can be a dumb sheep. It’s such a narrow pathway, and it feels so lonely to walk down, but realizing that others have overcome these struggles is a strong glimpse of hope. I can’t just look at these “green pastures” and think it’s worth stalling my salvation over. I need to have faith that this torment will end.
    Heavy thoughts of temptation and spurts of depression do haunt me.. and it is so easy to fall off track.. to “admire the green pastures along the way that ultimately turn desolate and barren” as I often do.. but the statement saying repentance and redemption are a team effort has really spoken to me. Yahweh is still with me through it all.. the repentance is to repetidly say no to the temptation to fall off course, when Yah’s redemption is guaranteed. Like any good Father, He wants to see you overcome. I thank Yah for my freewill every day.
    But… I can’t keep claiming repentance when all it seems to do is distort my perceptions of guilt… that just causes more damage. It calluses my emotions. And all it’ll end up doing is desensitize me to the voice of Yahweh..
    Thank you for sharing this, as it is such a personal and isolating battle.
    Shalom.

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    1. I think you will find that it is not as isolating as you would imagine. I battled it alone, but nowadays it is easier to find online support from other men. I encourage you to get some buddies and just be really raw and open with them – you will find that your feelings are in no way unique.

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  3. I myself also quitted pornography by a promise. I feel with you brother. However after my deep struggle I went through something 10 times worse (can you imagine?!) But I managed to get through it. If you ever want talk or get an advice feel free to send an email to hopelife250@gmail.com

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    1. I appreciate the offer, but as a woman, I doubt we should talk about pornography together. I know, my name is Tyler – I guess we can chalk that up to being born in the sixties 😉

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  4. Thank you for posting this, absolutely went through similar experiences to yours. I have been battling pornography for roughly 6 years now, overcoming it gradually. My experience was different though in that the voice of pornography was strengthened every time I did a particular activity, that being computer games. It didn’t matter what genre it was, except educational, it would fuel the fire. I remember playing quite harmless games like slay or even a money accumulator game on Facebook. Not even 1min later I can feel the voice getting stronger. It’s like if I play even just one, it’s an almost immediate feeling of eroded willpower over pornography.

    Education and Torah have been the antidote believe it or not. Since denying myself, I have found refuge in furthering my knowledge. I have spent countless hours studying scripture and language, even taking up learning Hebrew. A downside to refuge in knowledge is finding an alternative to alleviate boredom which didn’t come without lapses. Nevertheless the Lord has been faithful to me and through denial of the flesh, has reduced the voice to a mere occasional whisper, totally fulfilling scripture: “And when the devil had completed every test, he departed from Him until another occasion”(Luke 4:13).

    There is always a risk though that I might play a game in my boredom, pushing the domino over and beginning the chain reaction again allowing a mere 2 mins of porn time. Thankfully the Lord sends us His grief afterwards to turn us back to Him in His faithful love. Be strong and stand firm on Yeshua and you will overcome! Keep as much Torah as you can, worship Him daily and watch the enemy flee.

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    1. Yes, I went right from pornography to MMO’s on the computer, had to smash my WOW authenticator card to get free of that, then started on silly things like Farmville. Finally had to swear an oath never to play again and now I study the ancient near eastern and first-century context of Scripture as well as studying Hebrew and the Temple lol. Yes, it’s an addiction, but I finally found a useful one lol. Praise God that my book sales cover my expenses!

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  5. I struggle the same and have for many years and have used this same false repentance in my wall I’m ready to deny my lust and repent genuinely!

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  6. Sin, is like a disease or illness, I liken it unto cancer. When a person has cancer they need to seek a physician that specializes in providing services to either remove the cancer or treat the cancer. Sin is the same way,if we could do it for ourselves then we would remain in sin. Because it is our fleshly nature to do those things that are contrary to the nature of God. A relationship with God and alignment with his will is the only way to shed these illnesses from our heavenly vessels, corinthians describes the war of the flesh and the spirit of man so well. I thank you brother for your testimony of your struggle because it has opened my eyes today not only with this particular sin but also of the normal day to day struggles that most of us if not all of us encounter in which we blame others for either our short comings or our selfish motives and then we justify our actions so that we feel better. I thank God for you and I commend your spirit for remaining strong with God’s grace and help. Peace be unto you… Shalom

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