Helping a Man Struggling with Pornography
Something was coming. The man was fidgety. Clearly nervous, he started and stopped speaking several times. He finally took a deep, slumped a bit as he exhaled, looked down at his lap and said, “I’m addicted to porn.”
You have probably hosted a men’s event, led a Bible study or heard a speaker talk about why using pornography is sinful. Many men feel the sting of conviction in these moments. Then comes something really awkward and challenging – what do you do when a man confesses he is battling pornography? If you are like most men’s ministry leaders, you don’t feel equipped to have this conversation. What will you do when a man brings his secret to you?
What Not To Do
- Don’t tell him he needs to pray harder; that it will be fine. He probably has been praying and is asking for a brother to bear his burden with him.
- Don’t tell him to “just stop.” If he could, he probably would have by now, and certainly wouldn’t be sharing his struggle with you.
- Don’t dismiss this as “every man’s battle” and tell him he will be ok. It is common, but it is not every man’s battle. And more to the point, he probably doesn’t care what other men are going through right now. He is asking you to care for him.
- Don’t dismiss him by giving him a book or a program and acting like it’s the silver bullet for his problem. There are great books available, but not every book and program is suitable for the circumstances of every man.
What To Do
- Thank him for trusting you enough to share this with you. Acknowledge how difficult it must be for him to talk to someone about this challenge.
- Remind him he did not get into this battle overnight, and he will not likely get out of it quickly. It will take some time. Offer to meet with him regularly (or help him connect with someone who can).
- Pray with him and for him at that moment. Pray specifically for his circumstances and his family. Pray for humility, for acceptance of forgiveness that overcomes shame. Pray for openness to what steps may need to come and courage to take them.
When You Are Mentoring Him
- Ask him to share his story. Learn everything you can about his life and when he tends to use pornography.
- Remind him of God’s grace. You will need to do this over and over again in the process. Look at Bible verses that talk about God’s forgiveness.
- Ask questions about why pornography is attractive to him. What is his heart looking for when he looks at porn? Jesus told us that sin comes from the heart. If you want to help him, you must uncover what is going on in his heart.
- Talk about how the Gospel of Jesus speaks to what he is looking for in his heart. The good news speaks to every heart issue. Help him think more and more about what is true.
- Redirect his energy. When porn is drawing his heart, it is an opportunity to redirect his energy in a more life-giving way. For example, some men look at porn because they feel lonely in their marriage. Loneliness is not as powerful as they deal with the Gospel truth that God never leaves them or forsakes them. He can then be free to redirect his energy into loving and pursuing his wife in a more significant way.
- Share some of your own struggles with him. It doesn’t matter if they are/were with pornography or not. Tell stories of temptations you have faced and how God has changed you by his grace.
- Keep praying for him. The book of James tells us that when we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, we can experience healing.
This brief list isn’t to trivialize the depth and consistency of conversation required to mentor a man battling pornography. These are foundational elements that can help you as you interact with a man struggling with pornography.
I have read many books on sexuality, but there are two that I would most highly recommend you work through with a man who is in this battle.
- Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing (Jay Stringer)
- Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Behind Sexual Struggle (John Michael Cusick)
Mentoring men who are battling pornography is a high calling. Porn is destroying men, women, and marriages. God has placed you in this man’s life for a reason. Go forward knowing God is with you and will help you.