If I see someone smoking a cigarette, I’ll ask my kids, “Hey, want to go light up? Just one smoke?”
My middle schooler scoffs and says, “Why would I want to puff a cancer stick?” I don’t think I’ve had two conversations with them about the dangers of tobacco, but back in the 80’s our culture made a dramatic shift. They knocked the Marlboro Man off his horse, and smokers faded to the fringes.
People who smoke aren’t stupid. They don’t exclaim, “I never knew smoking could paint my teeth yellow, blacken my lungs, and coat my throat with cancer. Why didn’t anyone tell me?!”
Schools start early with anti-smoking TRUTH campaigns. Billboards prophesy death. Commercials scare with Hollywood horror efficiency.
Smokers know the facts – but facts alone won’t change a heart. Those who puff believe the short-term pleasure is worth more than the long-term side effects.
Which is exactly what I believe every time I choose to puff up my pride to impress important people, or buy the latest shiny gadget I can’t afford, or go out of my way to look longingly at a woman other than my wife.
As a good friend of mine says, “I’m not stupid, I’m just stubborn.” Every time we chase “fleeting pleasures” (Hebrews 11:25) we say to the Psalmist crying out that God doesn’t withhold any good thing (Ps. 84:11): “God may be real, but he cannot satisfy me as much as (insert sin)”.
Twenty years from now, I believe our kids and grandkids will look at us like we look at three-pack-a-day smokers — they will wonder why we consumed pornography at such an alarming rate. The facts are indisputable. Porn is just as addictive as heroin and cocaine. It spikes dopamine levels with the same ferocity as any narcotic. While it promises sexual virility and freedom, it delivers sexual chains and frustration. Doctors are prescribing viagra to guys in their 20’s with a history of porn use because they’ve trained their brain to be satisfied by pixels more than people. On top of all that, it’s helping to fuel the largest slavery movement in history.
But facts alone won’t change a heart. For the vast majority of us, we don’t suffer from temporary amnesia when we look at porn. We go into every session with full knowledge this will damage my relationship with my God, my body (1 Cor. 6:18), and if I’m married or dating, my significant other. We look because we want to. We believe those fleeting pixels will satisfy us, curb our loneliness, or be a soothing balm for our insecurities far more than God can.
I don’t pretend to think there’s an easy answer to fighting porn. At least with smoking or drugs we’ve made a societal decision to create legal, economic, and social barriers to getting hooked. Thanks to the internet, we’ve removed all obstacles to porn. This may be the first vice in history that is instantly accessible, affordable, and culturally acceptable to everyone as long as you have a decent connection.
Jesus said in John 8:32, “The truth will set you free.” But let’s not confuse truth with facts. Facts, as John Adams said, “are stubborn things.” They may change your perception about porn, but facts alone can’t change a stubborn heart. Two verses later Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Porn, like any sin, slowly enslaves us when we believe our secret glances will satisfy us more than Jesus. Jesus invites us to change; will we take him up on that offer?
Written by Brian Goins, Sr. Creative Director of FamilyLife and author of Playing Hurt: A Guy’s Strategy for a Winning Marriage (http://catapultconcepts.org/) and Executive Producer on the documentary, “Brain, Heart, World: The Harmful Side-Effects of Pornography.”
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; John 8:32-24
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