Porn: The panel discusses issues around pornography and addiction, as we hear from two people who have faced the consequences, but have overcome through a name that is greater than all.
J: Hey everyone. And welcome to Greater.
Joining me on the show today, we have Richard Black, Founder and Director of Mind Health an organisation focusing on empowering people to build their best lives.
We have Rita Williams, a psychiatric nurse, specialising in the mental health sector.
And we have Pastor Wes Chambers who brings to the table over 30 years of ministry experience.
My name is Josh van Berkel, I'm your host for today. Thank you so much for joining us. And well, let's just dive straight into it, today we are talking about pornography. Let's just start at a base level, Richard, what's wrong with it? Is there anything wrong with it? What's the big deal?
RB: Well, it's certainly normalised in our society. So many people are engaged in viewing porn. The problem is though the effects that it has on the person, on their perception of what relationships are supposed to be on what the other gender or on what sex is supposed to be as well as also having the same kind of addictive effects that hard substances have on the brain.
J: Wes what would you say to someone watching who says, well, I view some pornography, my spouse, my partner, views pornography, we view pornography together. It's a part of our relationship. How would you respond to that?
WC: Well, in my experience with people, I've generally found that sooner or later the issue of viewing pornography is damaging the relationship, undermines trust, brings devaluation. It brings other people into the relationship. It actually creates a crowd in the relationship and sooner or later and I've seen a number of people very deeply wounded because of the level of trust that it just strips out of a relationship. So I've seen a lot of damage.
J: Speaking of damage in your role as a psychiatric nurse, Rita, have you seen some of the after effects of people that have been caught up in pornography? What are some of those effects?
RW: Yeah, I think a lot of people with any addiction, they usually minimise small beginnings, it usually just starts off with, oh, we only do it a little bit, it's not that bad, it's okay. At least I'm not doing this, but usually it's a door open into harder worse things for people like Pastor Wes was sharing that you know, often it brings destruction to marriages. We see that often. Often one spouse is finding it hard that they're being replaced as such by the pornography being viewed and devaluation of women, of themselves, they feel a lot of shame and yeah, often people start to feel quite dirty and trapped in this addiction. Yeah, that's just some of the stuff that we see.
J: All right. Well, we've got two stories to check out today. We have got a woman called Dawn and a man called Brett. So why don't we turn our attention to the screen and we'll check out Dawn's story first of all.
Dawn: I was born again, I was spirit filled. I was prophesying, I was doing all the things that you would do as a Christian and having a good walk with God, still filled with the Holy Spirit, but I couldn't get free.
When I was a young girl, around eight or nine, I was introduced by an older girl to pornographic stories, these magazines, they were called True Confessions and they were very short stories of a person having an encounter with another person and the explicit details of sex, or sexual act. And there was also some grooming that she did of me and that kind of set the scene for love, but distorted.
Song of Songs says it's three times that you shouldn't awaken love before its time. And my brain was awakened to that, it shaped it so that the way that I chose to love romantically was distorted.
The thing for women about pornographic thoughts is it usually comes through story form and words or movies, like romantic movies, not so much the pornography as a man would do it where they have visual images. So for a woman, it's the story and the love story and then the sexual act imagined. And what we know about pornography now is you have to get larger and larger doses. And so of course it didn't just stop with the reading of sexual material. I had to have the real thing and so my life was smattered with encounters that probably replicated what was going on in the short stories and that was all the way through my life. They were actual physical encounters, before I was married, after I was married, it affected my marriage obviously. And you know, our marriage broke up.
It absolutely condemned me, because I didn't, all the time I was thinking, but I'm this person, but really I'm this person, you're still failing. You know, like you still haven't got there. You're still not the real thing. And so it was a big dilemma.
Every time I was drawn into it within like, this is a terrible thing, but one time just feeling absolutely guilty straight after the act of adultery on the bed saying, I can't do this, I have to pray right now and ask God for forgiveness and the other person was a bit shocked, but I have to ask God, 'cause I have just done the wrong thing again. How can I get rid of this? You know, how can I get to a place where I don't get sucked in by this all the time where the addiction is finished?
Then one day, I was battling this with God, and I was like, God, I don't understand, you know, like I understand that You set me free, but You're also a God of justice and You have principles that we abide by, and I don't which comes first or which conquers? Is it the fact that You love me and You forgive me or is it the fact that I do it right? And it's like, I saw things in a balance. It's like scales, He said, "Mercy trumps all." Even though I'm still struggling, Your mercy sets me free. And from that point on, I didn't have a struggle. It was like, it just clicked in my brain, reset everything and the addiction stopped being something that I couldn't control. And I was free. I didn't have the lustful thoughts. I didn't have everything going on in my head and the temptation. And that for me was just so powerful and amazing.
Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. And I feel like the Holy Spirit has been redoing my house, like inside and out. He's gone through my mind and cleansed it and got rid of the stories and the images. There's a verse in the Bible that says, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind," and my house, my temple has been renewed. And so my mind and my house is cleansed and beautiful, again, done.
Still a single woman, but I never feel alone, I never feel unloved. I never feel like I'm in a position where God doesn't see me. He absolutely sees me, He absolutely knows my needs, He absolutely comes through for me in every way. And I know He is like right here, even as I'm speaking, He's right here, just holding my hand and being able to say this journey, He is my constant source of joy and peace and my dad and my friend. The one who knows me best, the one who knows me and knows what's good for me. He's just everything. Like, even if I had nothing else in the world, He would be enough.
J: Wow. What a story. Rita, I thought I saw you tearing up at some point there. What was it that spoke to you out of Dawn's story?
RW: Oh, just the authenticity of her journey. And I think just, even from a clinical perspective, like what she was sharing was so miraculous because what addiction does is it rewires the brain, it tells you that you want more, that you have to do more. And so when somebody says that they stopped in an instant, it's like an instant rewiring of the brain essentially. And it's like, visually it's like a massive body of water suddenly being stopped by something greater. And she had a greater experience that totally transformed her life and renewed her thinking. And you want people to encounter that, you want people to have that.
J: And for her, it was that picture she had of the scales and God saying, "My mercy will always be greater than any judgment."
WC: Mercy triumphs over judgment.
J: Mercy triumphs over judgment. And that's a message that you see throughout the Bible. And throughout history.
WC: And that word from the Lord, the word from her Father, into her heart, into her mind in that moment, it seems as though that word had power to do something, and that that's a miracle right there. Miracle right there.
J: She talked about, it's a fairly graphic story, but if you're lying on the bed after the act and just going, I need to pray, what is it about addiction that puts us in a place where we are acting so contrary to how we want to be acting. It's almost like we're obeying ourselves against our own will almost.
RB: There's an internal tension that's going on, where one part of the person is going, I don't wanna do this, I can see the damaging effects, and yet there's this underlying thing that's just pushing them saying, no, no, no, you do. You want more of it. And so the person feels absolutely torn and as a result they can begin to hate themselves and loathe themselves that they're unable to control what they feel like they should be able to stop. But the compulsion of addiction is massive.
J: At the same time, we can't escape the consequences of what we're doing. I mean, she said that her marriage split up as a result. And I think you made the comment earlier in the show, Rita that sometimes we can justify the small beginnings. But it eventually will lead to much bigger things and destroy relationships and destroy lives.
RW: I think because people have shame, they don't want to talk about it or open it up. And I hear a lot of people say that I'll get through it myself or I'll try and get better before I come to God or to the cross. But I think her message is come as you are. It doesn't matter where you're at, come as you are. You don't have to try fix yourself first, come to me and I will journey with you through that restoration period. And I think that was a really key part too. So many people, they struggle alone and I think that's what the enemy wants. He wants us to be in that repetitive cycle, with those thoughts and feelings and those behaviors. But yeah, I think, yeah, He wants us to come as we are.
RB: I'll often say to people it's so important that you break the power of silence. People will stay in silence because they're going, I'm gonna be ashamed if I mention this. If I speak up about it. The wonderful thing is I find that for most people when they share what's going on with a trustworthy person... The shame doesn't expand, it deflates. It reduces, it disappears. That when you share what's going on vulnerably with someone you trust, you find that you are still loved, still accepted. And you find in fact, the shame no longer has the power that it once had.
RW: I think even just hearing what he said is our response. If somebody shares with you that they're struggling with that, it's so important that we respond to them out of love and grace, because naturally they're assuming that I'm a sinner, and I'm guilty, I'm dirty. And we'd respond to them out of that. But no, we need to have love and grace in our response, yeah.
J: Would it be fair to say that how you respond when someone comes to you with an issue will determine whether they come to you with that issue in the future?
RB: Or whether they go to anyone else. Being the first person that hears their story, their disclosure is massive. And so it's so important to respond with understanding and grace and gentleness, as well as taking it seriously and helping them find the help that they need.
WC: That's right. If we meet a situation with judgment and rejection, that'll often be the end of that. They'll just go back into the dark and the situation will often become worse for them. And so it's really important that we meet them with the mercy of the father.
J: It's a good thing to remember. Why don't we have a look at Brett's story?
Brett: God, to me was this old man with a long white beard, with a stick. And every time you did something bad, he would smack you over the head with this stick. And it was someone I didn't really want a relationship with.
One day when I was in Year 8, having my lunch and a mate turned up and sat down beside me and proceeded to show me a adult magazine. If I had to remember anything else that happened that year, I couldn't tell you. But I remember that moment that my brain was having this massive dopamine hit, that it just wasn't ready for. I wanted more of this experience that I had, even though I knew that it wasn't good.
As I moved into my teens, it became a real issue. There was a service lane behind our local shopping centre that dumped the unsold material and I would go and climb into these dumpsters to view this material.
As a young man and growing up in that Christian environment, I thought I was the only one and the enemy would sit on my shoulder and tell me, you know, that I was a sicko, that I was a loser. I was the only one looking at these at these magazines. I thought thought I was the worst person on the face of the earth. I thought I was just an absolute no-hoper that I was this sexo with this huge issue.
I thought as I got older, that this issue would pass, and it didn't. And I carried this addiction into my marriage. So porn is very much about the consumer, it is take, take, take. In a really good, healthy sexual relationship, it's completely the opposite, it's give, give, give. As a couple, this wasn't okay. We realised that porn in our marriage was not gonna happen.
I need to get rid of this, this porn thing that is affecting and influencing my whole sexual relationship with my wife. Anyway, one night in a church environment, I believe I had a vision and I was transported onto a beach. It was a beautiful beach. And with me, was this amazing being. Excuse me, it still gets me emotional.
This person I very quickly realised was Jesus, and He was amazing. He just wanted to have fun. We started throwing a ball around and we just had fun. This went on for quite a long time, probably about half an hour. And I very quickly realised that this is who I want a relationship with, this person is amazing.
Anyway, at a point He called me in and He said, "Okay, it's time to talk." And we are walking along on the hard sand. And He said, we are going to walk here on the hard sand where it's easiest. It's always easiest to walk close to the water. And He said, "At times you're gonna walk up into the dunes and at any time, come back to the water's edge and you'll very quickly realise walking here is easier right next to me."
After a period of time, I sort of came out of this experience and it's transformed me. I realised that I wanted a relationship with this person. So at that point, I proceeded down a journey of giving up this porn. And it was not easy, it was a battle.
It took years. I put a whole lot of boundaries in place. I had people I was accountable to, and I got there. I've come through. And I'm just so pleased. And after my experience on the beach, realising that Jesus was this amazing person who met me so where I was at, He met me exactly where I needed him to be.
So today, my God space is fantastic. We have this amazing friendship, where He is my best mate. Oh, look, I just don't know what I'd do without Him eh. He's so cool. He's so cool.
J: I pick up on a comment that Brett made right at the start, "I thought I was the only one." We're gonna have people from all different walks of life viewing this show, but I wanna just speak just for a moment to the men that are watching that are in church. How is it possible that the stats are telling us that half the guys in the church are struggling with this issue and yet the guys in the church think they're the only ones dealing with it? How is that possible?
WC: The whole, sin issue is deceitful. There's a deceitfulness in it. And so, then there's shame in it of course. So, the best thing to do with shame to the natural mind is let's hide it. So once it's in hiding, once it's under darkness if you like, the thing can just perpetuate. So there's cycles of condemnation, cycles of guilt. They don't wanna tell anybody, and there's this whole secrecy thing with it. So that's where the isolation is. And then also thinking that if I tell somebody they'll just reject me. So those factors together would be some of the key ones I would think.
J: What about if for example, Brett had spoken to his wife and she'd said, oh, I'm fine with it. I've had some pornography exposure earlier on in life and I've got some friends and they work it into their marriage and it spices things up a bit like, what's the big deal?
RB: Yeah, then it can become a bit more confusing. But it's the same way that if both partners are saying we both smoke, we both take drugs, we both do other things that are actually unhelpful and unhealthy. The problem there is they're now reinforcing it, they're now justifying it to each other. Whereas in fact, it's still doing the same kind of damage. They're still bringing in ideas about sex into the marriage. And it's also still messing with their mind of what they're going to need in order to feel sexually fulfilled.
J:So the similarity between Dawn's story and Brett's story, different backgrounds, different circumstances, different details, but they met the same God. And mercy was what they received. Even though they both would've said that they probably deserved something a lot different.
RB: And what happened also in the stories where they encounter the real Jesus, is that it meets a deep emotional need. That they've been longing for. I mean, with pornography there, it can be the physical stimulation that goes with it, but there's also the emotional need that they're trying to meet of acceptance and love. And when they meet the real Jesus and they discover real acceptance, real love. They realise that porn is second best. That it's just a counterfeit, it's not the real deal at all.
J: Dawn's experience, Rita, was an instantaneous I had a picture and the addiction was broken. Brett's experience was I had the picture and then I went on a journey and he said it was a difficult journey and he had to put systems in place and get support people around him. Why is it not just the same for everybody?
RW: I think God meets us on our journey. He meets us where we're at. And like we were saying before, you don't have to try be a certain way before you meet Him at the cross where you are. And I think for both, it's like, God doesn't excuse the pornography, but He doesn't condemn them for it, and I think that's really powerful.
J: Richard, he referred to the fact that he had to put a lot of systems in place and get accountability. What are some of the, for somebody watching right now, who's going, this is an area that I'm struggling with, and I'd like some helpful tools. Let's just get practical for a second. What would be two or three things you'd say, hey, start here?
RB: Well, you can get some good software. Software that prevents porn from being on your device or software that sends an accountability notice to someone who's a trusted friend. So that can be a good beginning place. Also getting a friend who you can share your journey with, of what's happening and how you are you're succeeding, and at times stumbling is also really useful. As well as going to see a counselor to help deal with some of the underlying issues of what's occurring. So I'll often say to people, you can get a lot of great software out there, but the best software, the best filter is the one between your ears and how you change your thinking and you change your understanding towards porn. So certainly, talk with people, get the software and also get some professional help.
J: Thank you very much for that, Richard. Wes, where do you see the role of prayer and sort of pastoral care fitting into somebody's addiction journey?
WC: Oh, very significantly. And the first thing is once the person's taken personal responsibility then you can genuinely begin a journey. You can't really begin a journey with somebody who's not willing to take responsibility, that's number one. But once they do, then prayer at various times will come in. The bottom line is our sexuality is also very connected to our spirituality. The sexual doorway of our life seems to be the doorway right into our inner being, and right into our identity actually, that's why rape and all those sort of things are so violating. And so I've seen some guys liberated to some quite reasonable degree through that prayer, but there will also be the renewing of the mind issues, building up a whole different conviction about the value of women or men, whatever the case may be, and also building up a greater sense of value for themselves. And, if they're married, for their spouse, especially. So it's a combination of things, but very much, the journey of pastoral care is very much involved in it.
J: And you use the word journey, which is appropriate I think 'cause it is a journey, and on that journey sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back, you're making progress and then you let yourself down in an area. And when that happens, there's that shame that comes around you. How do you combat that feeling of like, I've tried to get myself through this and it's just not working I'm just going to raise the white flag and give up on the whole thing and just surrender to this shame cycle. I guess I'm just a horrible person. How do you combat that?
RB: Well, one of the difficulties that many people find is that their journey to recovery will involve episodes. Episodes, where they relapse, episodes, where they go back and they view the porn. And one of the mistakes is that they believe, oh nothing's changed. I'm back at square one. Whereas in fact, no, no, you've been improving. You've probably gone longer without, than you ever have before. The episode is not something to beat yourself up about. The episode is something to learn from. Now what happened? How did it get in? What do I need to understand so that I can go forward? And one of the things that I would say is what transforms us is love. Condemnation never leads to transformation, and which is why God never uses it on us. And when we understand His love and when you can apply it to yourself, as you are learning, and as you are recovering, you realise you can be supportive when you have an episode, let's take it seriously, but let's learn from it. Let's not crucialize it. \
J: And again, that's the similarity between Dawn's story and Brett's story was they had an encounter with not condemnation, not judgment, but with love and mercy. And that was what set them both free in very different ways, one instantly, one on a journey, but ultimately set them both free.
Awesome. Well, I'd like to thank our panel for today. Richard Black, Rita Williams and Pastor Wes Chambers. Thank you so much for coming in. Thank you for watching as well. We trust you found today's show helpful and encouraging. If you've got any questions about today's content or you'd like to know more about Fantail Studios, just go to fantailstudios.com.