How can I break the habit of looking at porn, once and for all?

Be assured that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20). I recommend four steps that will help you resist the temptation in the future.

First, you must deepen your prayer life. Prayer is essential for those who want to persevere in purity. In particular, go to Mass often, receive the sacrament of reconciliation whenever you fall, and develop a strong devotion to the rosary and to Saint Joseph. This is pretty much a one-two three punch for fighting temptation.

Second, do whatever you can to rid yourself of occasions of sin. If you have pornographic magazines or videos, throw them all away immediately. Since the Internet has been a problem, at the very least you should install filtering software on your computer. You might even want to consider whether there is any way you can take a break from using the Web entirely, or go a while with minimal Web access (perhaps with the images turned off in your browser or with a text-only browser, like Lynx, that does not use images).

Another useful strategy is to put holy objects and pictures wherever you had the images. If it is on the Internet, put a crucifix or picture of Our Lady on top of the computer, and have a sacred image for your screen saver or computer wallpaper. You could also make the sign of the cross, or bless yourself with holy water when you feel tempted. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like holy water.”[1].

Third, find a person with whom you can be honest about your habit, and be accountable to him. A priest, family member, youth minister, or good friend should be able to help you win the battle. As the Bible says, “Two are better than one. . . . If they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. . . . And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccles. 4:9–12). The web site covenanteyes.com is helpful in this area.

It is also helpful to have this person in your life as an example of how to treat others. In the case of men, Pope John Paul II said, “Men must be taught to love, and to love in a noble way; they must be educated in depth in this truth, that is, in the fact that a woman is a person and not simply an object.”[2].

Fourth, take a look at your motivation to overcome the habit. Are you simply trying to conquer the temptations because the habit is embarrassing or because you are afraid you will be caught? Elevate your motivation so that you are working to overcome the problem for the sake of love. Do it for the love of God and to make yourself worthy of your future bride or groom.

When a person looks at pornography, on some level he or she is looking for love. It is a warped attempt to give of yourself and receive another. The fantasies may seem as if they are entirely yours, although a million other people feel the same way toward them. If a person longs for love, then he or she must strive to acquire the selflessness that will enable him or her to properly love another. Getting rid of porn should not be seen as a loss but as an opportunity to grow in that selflessness.

If you’re a young man, imagine that you found the woman of your dreams and got married. As you carry her across the threshold of your honeymoon suite, she wraps her arms around your neck, looks into your eyes, and whispers how excited she is. She tells you that she has waited all her life for this day, and to make it extra special, she has been looking at thousands of pornographic images of men on the Internet. How would you feel? You see, not only should we wait for our spouses with our bodies; we must wait for them with our minds. So for the sake of love, trash the pornographic magazines, Web sites, and videos. If you are called to the sacrament of marriage, isn’t your bride worth waiting to see, instead of filling your mind with images of other women’s bodies?

If you persevere in the battle for purity, you can and will lose the desire to look at pornography. You will not lose sexual desire, but when you see others degraded, you will be filled with pity for them instead of lust. What many people do not realize is that the virtue of purity is not supposed to annihilate your attractions. It won’t kill your sexual desires or cause you to forget the attractiveness of others. It will open your eyes to the full beauty they possess, so that you won’t want to look at them as mere body parts. In the words of C. S. Lewis, “Lust is a weak, poor, whimpering whispering thing when compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.”[3] When you trash the porn and decide to actually love, you will see that the passing satisfaction of porn was nothing but an illusion that promised you everything and gave you nothing.

Lastly, it’s helpful to identify the factors that contribute to your habit. Often, we assume it’s simply lust when there are often other causes (such as stress, loneliness, boredom, etc). Until you get to the root of these other issues and find healthy ways to handle them, then the problem of porn will be much more difficult to overcome. Click here to read an article in our blog that explains this. Also, click here and here for more help.

_______________________
[1]. St. Teresa of Avila, The Life of St. Teresa of Avila (New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2006), 240.
[2]. Karol Wojtyla, The Way to Christ (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1984), 38.
[3]. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1946).

Back