Pornography from the mildest to the most extreme is easily available on the internet to anyone who wants to find it. It can lure anyone who feels disconnected from regular support away from their normal sources of company into an addictive activity which can spiral out of personal control.
Why do people view pornography?
- Sexual stimulation
- A frustrated desire for intimacy
- To escape pain and problems
- The adventure of doing something forbidden
- The feeling of ‘cleverness’ in not being caught
- Feelings of power over another human being
- Simple curiosity
Pornography is highly addictive. It tends to follow a common cycle:
- Like drugs or alcohol it gives the user a temporary ‘high’
- This is often followed by feelings of revulsion and disgust – a ‘low’
- Tension and desire build up again
- The person gets another temporary boost from pornography
This cycle can lead to spending more time accessing pornography and thinking about it at other times. Once this cycle has embedded then it becomes more difficult to stop. Like any addiction it can have power to take over the person’s life.
How pornography affects you and your ministry
Anyone, regardless of race, sex, profession or religious commitment can become addicted to internet pornography. Clergy who are isolated, stressed and disconnected from regular support may be particularly at risk.
In a 2000 Christianity Today survey1:
- 33% of clergy admitted to having visited a sexually explicit Web site
- Of those who had visited a pornographic site, 53% had visited such sites “a few times” in the past year, and 18% visit sexually explicit sites from a couple of times a month to more than once a week
- 51% of pastors said cyber-porn is a possible temptation
- 37% said it is a current struggle
The cycle of addictive behaviour can become a guilty secret. As clergy are involved in liturgical and pastoral work that highlights forgiveness and healing this dual life may contribute to increasing levels of inner tension and a decrease in effectiveness.
Like any addiction, increasing use of pornography can spiral out of control if not addressed sooner rather than later. This has the potential to undermine a priest’s ministry and lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression or stress. It can also affect relationships detrimentally, both within the family and beyond. Use of pornography has been cited as one of the causes of divorce.
Remember that viewing pornography on your computer with images of children, under-age minors, is a criminal offence.
If you feel the urge to do this stop yourself now. Seek help today!
If you believe you have a problem with pornography, use the following advice to help:
Talk about it
Find a friend, a colleague or some other person you trust. Be as honest as you can. The person to whom you speak may even already suspect that the problem exists.
Consider using an accountability programme on every computer you use
These will regularly send an email to people whom you name telling them all the sites you have visited. Try entering ‘internet accountability’ into your search engine and see what is on offer.
Only use public computers
As far as possible have the computers you use in fairly public places.
Find alternative activities
Many addictions continue until they are replaced by something better. Find something less problematic that you enjoy doing.
Identify the real need
Ask yourself what need you are trying to meet by using pornography. Are you wanting intimacy, fun or adventure? Think about this and discuss it with someone you trust to find alternative more healthy ways of meeting these needs.
If you feel you cannot say ‘no’ to using pornography put it off until later. Some alcoholics have remained sober for years by continually putting off the next drink for a few hours.
Use positive rewards
Reward yourself for not using pornography. Breaking any habit or addiction is not easy. If you go for a day, a week or longer without using pornography give yourself a reward. This needs to be something that you enjoy. Only you can decide what it should be!
If you find you are thinking ‘It’s OK to look at this because I have to discuss it at work’, ‘I must not appear naïve’, ‘it is not the form of pornography that I find addictive’ or something similar, STOP! Go and do something else. Remember, it is easier to stop early than late.
Don’t give up!
Most problems of an addictive nature are not resolved immediately. If you find you have accessed something inappropriate tell someone you trust, put it behind you and get on with life.
- Christianity Today, Leadership Survey, December 2001