Justifying our addictions

I’ll bet that most of us are struggling with at least one addiction, either openly or in private. You or someone you know might be addicted to alcohol, drugs, fornication, adultery, or pornography. Or even to things you might not think of as being an addiction, such as covetousness, greed, pride, anger, or bitterness.

For those of us who’ve been saved, the Holy Spirit works in us to convict us of our sins. This is the process of sanctification. But for this process to be fruitful, it requires some cooperation on our part. If we are to mature in our faith, we must choose to change our mind about our sin and turn to God. We must choose to live according to God’s will and not our own.

Jesus Is Better Than Porn

I recently had the privilege of getting to know Hugh Houston, the author of the book Jesus is Better than Porn. While the author shares his battle with and deliverance from pornography, the sound advice he provides applies to numerous other addictions.

Like Hugh, I also struggled with porn for decades. I wish I’d read his book years ago. It would have saved me a lot of guilt and wasted time. Hugh interweaves his own struggle with porn throughout the book in a conversational and easy to read way that I could relate to. I liked how it was never judgmental. Much of Hugh’s detailed story of his own struggle reminded me of exactly the kinds of issues and thought-processes that I was going through when I was wrestling with this addiction.

If you’re currently struggling with porn (or most other addictions, for that matter), I think the insights in this book will help you realize the thought processes you might not be sensitive to. Understanding these thought processes or decisions that lead up to the act of consuming porn is exactly what we need to become aware of and understand so we can take our thoughts captive in order to avoid committing the same sinful act over and over.

You might be thinking that pornography isn’t all that bad. After all, it’s not like you’re cheating on your spouse! It’s not like you’re hurting anybody, right? Wrong! Consider what Jesus said on this subject:
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28 NKJV
We need to look no further than the ten commandments to know that adultery is a sin.

The following section is from Chapter 11 Lies I Told Myself, from the book, Jesus is Better than Porn, republished here with the approval of the author, Hugh Houston. I love how Hugh brings to light the lies we tell ourselves when trying to justify our addictions just before we act on them.

Lies I Told Myself

Lies are illusions, mere fiction. 2 + 2 = 4 It’s a fact. If I think that I have the ability to jump off a building and fly, that lie could lead to my death. The law of gravity is the truth, an undeniable fact.

So what are some of the lies, the illusions which kept me trapped in the compulsive cycle of lust and porn for well over 30 years? I’ll list just a few of them here. Perhaps you can help me add to this list.

Lie #1: I’m going to quit. Just one more time and then I will give this up for good.
Truth: This went on for decades.

Lie #2: I know I will eventually give in so it might as well be now. I could fight the urge all day and waste the day or I could just act out now and move on with the rest of my day.
Truth: Urges pass. Feelings come and go. In order to develop new, healthy habits, I will need to overcome these destructive urges and move forward in purity, one hour at a time.

Lie # 3: Sex is my greatest need.
Truth: I could live a fulfilled life without sex. Many people have.

Lie #4: I have a higher sex drive than most people.
Truth: When I stop “feeding the beast” then my sex drive returns to “normal” levels. In fact, what is “normal” in the 21st century is not really normal because we are surrounded by provocative material in the media. In reality, a simple smile and a hug from my wife make me feel much better than looking at pictures of porn and masturbating. I’m tired of all these lies and pray that I will find my way to freedom.

Lie #5: Just a quick peek or a short impure thought is normal and natural. What I am doing isn’t really “pornography”. I’m just admiring the beauty of the female body – part of God’s creation.
Truth: God wants me to avoid all forms of lust and maintain a clean mind 24 hours a day. God condemns adultery committed in the heart.

Lie #6: They’re just pictures, not real people. Nobody is getting hurt. I’m not cheating. I’m not really lusting because I don’t want to be with them. I just want to look at them.
Truth: I am turning a person into an object to be used for my pleasure. My wife feels like she’s not good enough. She feels betrayed. I get so wrapped up in the addiction that I can’t think of anything else. Everyone is getting hurt. Objectifying a woman is dehumanizing and degrading, both for her and for me. Am I no more than my lusts and desires?

Lie #7: (now this contradicts #6) I want to stop and I’m going to stop but I can’t stop. This force that drives me to look is irresistible. I can’t help myself. I know I will eventually give in, so it might as well be now.
Truth: I always have a choice. Every time I looked, I made a decision to give in to my passions and cravings.

Lie #8: Masturbation makes me feel good and relieves tension. It will stop my craving for porn.
Truth: Nobody explodes or dies from lack of orgasm. Masturbation feels good for a few seconds but afterward, I feel worse than I did before. It’s a dismal cycle of destruction. Giving in to cravings only increase the cravings. It’s like an alcoholic saying “This harmless glass of beer will stop me from craving whiskey”.

Lie # 9: My wife doesn’t give me what I need. She isn’t available often enough and she puts everything else before my needs, blah, blah, blah. Therefore, I’m entitled to act out. What my wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Truth: Knowing that I had been choosing my porn girlfriends over her practically killed her.

Lie #10: Everyone does it.
Truth: Yes, millions are caught up in this perversion, but that doesn’t make it normal or good. God doesn’t grade sin on a curve. How many people are addicted to drugs or tobacco? Is that something you want for yourself or your children?

Lie # 11: I am strong enough now in my recovery that I can shift my boundaries and watch movies with nudity, mindlessly surf the net, spend hours clicking links on YouTube, etc.
Truth: All of us need to avoid even a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3). We need to establish strict, crisp boundaries to protect ourselves from sin. Complacency is often the first step to relapse.

Lie #12: Discussing my emotions with others will make me seem weak, and will cause my friends to like me less.
Truth: It takes courage to admit our mistakes. Seeking help is an act of wisdom. People respect those who are willing to be vulnerable and change.

Lie # 13: Porn makes me happy. It will satisfy me.
Truth: It is never satisfying. I always wanted to look at the next picture. Just one more. Using porn induces a hunger for more, More, MORE! Afterward, I feel degraded, guilty, ashamed, and emotionally walled off from the world. All alone. It’s like being in a personal prison.

Lie # 14: I’ll grow out of this porn habit. I’ll quit after I get married or after my next birthday.
Truth: I remained in this endless cycle for almost 40 years.

Lie #15: I can beat the addiction by myself.
Truth: I never did. See #14.

Lie #16: If I say this prayer with enough conviction I will be rid of this addiction forever.
Truth: Of course, there is power in prayer. God can do all things. But I have to want to change and take the steps necessary to seek change. Sanctification and spiritual growth require discipline and effort on my part.

Lie #17: I can live two lives. The porn life and the one I present to the world.
Truth: I am one person. Porn will bleed over into every corner of my life, rotting my soul and destroying everything that is good about life.

Applying this thought process to other addictions

I think you can see how this thought process can easily translate to other types of addictions. For example, instead of “Sex is my greatest need”, you might be thinking “drugs or alcohol is my greatest need” and so on. If you’re caught in the web of addiction, please take some time to evaluate your own thought processes that lead you to give in to the sinful urges that you so often act upon.

We can break out of the cycle of being a repeat offender when we become aware of temptation as soon as the thought enters our consciousness. Remember that God will not allow you to become tempted beyond what you are able to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Here’s some practical advice from the Bible:
  • Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak! (Matthew 26:41 NLT)
  • Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2 KJV)
  • Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 KJV)
  • Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NKJV)
May God give you the strength to overcome whatever struggles you are going through,

Related Resources

Book: Jesus Is Better Than Porn, by Hugh Houston
Hugh Houston's Blog: Jesus Is The Best
Blog post: Are the 10 Commandments still relevant?
Blog post: You can break free from a porn addiction