“I have an addictive personality.”
I used to say that about myself all the time. After all, the evidence was there. I had been addicted to pornography for 15 years, so clearly, my self-control was minimal at best.
Like many in my defeated, pornified state, I endeavoured to grow in self-control. It sounded noble and right but proved ineffective and void of God’s power.
Galatians 5:23 states that self-control is a fruit of God’s Spirit, so, of course, it’s a good thing to desire. Pursuing God and the power that comes from His Spirit will always produce self-control, but the irony is that when we pursue self-control on its own, we end up with less self-control than when we pursue the presence and guidance of God instead.
So, what does it look like to gain self-control through the Holy Spirit instead of through our own effort?
Let’s get practical.
About ten years ago, I stood in my kitchen and asked myself if I wanted to live for 60 more years without pornography. My truthful answer was that I didn’t. It was pleasurable, enjoyable, and the only solution to boredom I knew.
Herein lies the problem with pursuing self-control alone. In my mind, I knew of my need for more self-control and that sexual sin wasn’t healthy. But in my heart, I truly desired what porn gave me—things like pleasure, and an escape from stress.
When the heart and the mind are at odds with each other, the heart’s desires usually trump the mind’s convictions.
This is why men worldwide know porn is wrong but keep turning to it.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Everything we do originates in our hearts. Therefore, we must know what our heart’s desires are and how they can be satisfied.
For years, I tried to respond to sexual temptation with more self-control, but it never worked long-term.
Since I thought my approach was proper, the natural conclusion to my failings was that I was just had on addictive personality. Some men believe they are simply failures, inadequate, or that their high libido is the issue.
In reality, the issue is with the approach.
Everything about fighting porn changes when we recognize our heart’s desires and pursue the Lord’s satisfying presence to meet that desire.
One night last year, I was stressed and felt tension in my body. Giving myself an experience of sexual pleasure seemed like the perfect escape.
Instead of fighting the temptation with self-control alone, I asked the Lord what my heart was really desiring. The word “peace” came to mind, which made sense, considering I was stressed. Giving in to temptation would give me temporary peace, but in a very unhealthy way.
Instead, I started thanking Jesus for being my Prince of Peace and praising Him for being sufficient to satisfy my heart’s deepest longing. The next thing I experienced was waking up the next morning totally relaxed.
When I remembered the previous night’s temptation, I couldn’t even remember fighting it. In pursuing the presence of God first, self-control inevitably came next, and He won the battle for me.
If we want to grow in self-control to conquer pornography, the best way to do it is by recognizing our heart’s true desires and then turning to God so He can care for us and fulfill our desires.
One man told me in a coaching session that his fight against temptation was exhausting. He would lose hours of sleep every night trying to fight it off. At one point, he remembered fighting it consistently for an entire week. By the end of the week, he was so exhausted that he gave in to his sinful desires.
Unfortunately, this is the common result that men worldwide experience when trying to muscle up self-control rather than guarding their hearts in God’s presence.
The day this man started fighting these battles by praising God for filling his heart’s true desires, there was an instant switch. In the three months that followed, instead of turning to sexual sin 30-60 times, which was his common frequency, he turned to sexual sin only once and is continuing to grow so he can be free forever.
In learning how to align God’s truth in his head with God’s presence in his heart, this man started experiencing more effective and less exhausting battles against sexual temptation.
Each time you experience a temptation to watch pornography, instead of instantly giving in or instantly trying to resist the devil or instantly trying to muster up more self-control, remember first to seek God and submit to Him.
He will produce self-control in you as you guard your heart and praise Him for satisfying your heart’s true desires in the face of temptation.
If you or someone you know are struggling with sexual issues, we encourage you to reach out to Restored Ministries. Restored Ministries is for both men and women who wrestle with sexual addiction, betrayal, abuse and more.