We were never meant to shut down our desires. God gave them to us for a reason and He wants us to be driven by our holy desires to accomplish great things in His name for His kingdom.

Why Porn Addiction is Not About Fulfilling Sexual Desire—Part Six: How Does This Help Me with Porn?

cover-mockupNote: This post is the conclusion of a six-part series on desire. It has been adapted from my book, 10 Lies Men Believe about Porn, available now wherever books are sold.

You can find beginning of the series here.

The more you understand the truth about what’s really fueling your desire for pornography, and the more you recognize how God wants to satisfy those desires for you fully, the less likely you will be to seek fulfillment through cheap and damaging substitutes.

If you find yourself seeking to be desired by a woman as a means to validate your masculinity, stop and consider if that’s truly what you need. Perhaps what you are experiencing isn’t the starvation of your masculinity, but the misalignment of it. Once you realign your masculinity with what God has called you to, you will find those false desires beginning to disappear.

The more you embrace the adventures God places in front of you, the more likely you will be to recognize how He uses them to strengthen you as a man. Your desire to turn toward pornography and fantasy for “safe” adventures will diminish because you will be experiencing the true and fulfilling adventures that come with a life of faith.

The next time you are drawn toward pornography because you feel alone, stop and ask yourself where your loneliness is really coming from. Is it the result of nobody in your life offering you love, or is it the result of you hiding behind a mask and not allowing your true self to receive love? If you can trust God enough to remove your mask and allow Him to love the real you, you will begin to experience true intimacy in your soul, which will free you from the need to seek it from pornography.

I encourage you to ask the Lord to reveal to you the truth behind what is driving your addiction. Chances are, it’s related to one of these three areas: your masculinity, your desire for adventure, or loneliness. Once you discover the real needs you are trying to meet through porn­ography, ask God how He wants to meet them for you in appropriate ways. Whatever His answer is, it will likely require you to trust Him in ways you have never trusted Him before. It will be worth it, though. No matter what He calls you to, it will be an adventure. But remember, you were made for adventure.

10 Lies Men Believe about Porn Preview

Why Porn Addiction is Not About Fulfilling Sexual Desire—Part Five: A Word to the Married Men

cover-mockupNote: This post is part five of a six-part series on desire. It has been adapted from my book, 10 Lies Men Believe about Porn, available now wherever books are sold.

You can find beginning of the series here.

Even if you aren’t married yet, please read this because it may save you from massive heartache in the future. Fair warning, though: You are fully accountable for what you know. You won’t be able to unlearn what you’re about to read. It may haunt you until you deal with it, but it’s all part of God’s plan to make you the man—and the husband—that He wants you to be.

Still here? Good.

If you are hiding your pornography addiction from your wife, it is more than likely causing her to feel distant from you. She probably senses that there is something wrong with your relationship but has no idea what it is. There will likely come a point where she will ask you why the two of you aren’t close (if she hasn’t already). In order to keep the truth hidden, you will need to lie.

If you claim to have no answer, she will assume the issue must be with her. This was the path I chose in my marriage, and it’s one of the greatest regrets of my life. I watched my wife’s happiness deteriorate before me as she frantically tried to figure out whatever it was she was doing wrong in our marriage. Continuing to lie and withholding my true self from her was perhaps the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. How could I approach my wife, who was hurting so deeply, and ask her to love me when I knew my sin was the true reason she was hurting? I couldn’t. So I tightened my mask and went back to porn.

But here’s the deal. You will never experience intimacy with your spouse if anything remains hidden. Anything. True intimacy requires being fully known, and you cannot be fully known if you are withholding any information about who you are. Any lie or hiding, no matter how insignificant it may seem, will destroy the intimacy in your marriage. By attempting to protect yourself and appear worthy of acceptance, you are actually creating an environment where intimacy cannot exist. The world will tell you there are secrets you take to the grave, but we are not of the world. You must confess your lies and hiding to your spouse or your marriage will never thrive.

I would encourage you to prayerfully ask God to reveal to you anything you are hiding that is standing in the way of your intimacy as a couple. There may be some extremely difficult things you will need to confess to your wife, but please trust God as He brings these things to your mind. I’d encourage you to talk over your list with your pastor or a counselor first. They can help you develop a plan, offer suggestions on how to proceed, and provide accountability so you are less likely to back out. Above all else, pray about how God wants you to handle this in order to minimize the damage as much as possible.

There will never be a “good” time to confess these things to your spouse. No matter when you do it, it will be hard. But the longer you put it off, the worse the damage will be. I would suggest mentioning to your wife that you have some difficult things you need to discuss and asking her when she would be ready to sit down and discuss them. Be prepared to do it right then if that is her preference. This will hopefully eliminate at least some of her feelings of being blindsided.

There are no guarantees of how this will go—other than it being extremely hard and painful. Make no mistake—this will be a bomb going off in your marriage. You will need the help and support of others to survive this. But the reality is, if your marriage has been built on deception, the foundation is nothing more than a Jenga tower. You can live the rest of your life taking a block from the bottom and moving it to the top, but the wall will only be getting weaker. The only way to truly fix the foundation of your marriage is to rebuild it on a firm foundation of openness and honesty. However, understand that this confession isn’t about magically fixing your marriage overnight. It will be like ripping a scab off an infected wound to let it drain and heal properly. It’s a disgusting image, but it’s unfortunately accurate.

Once the wound has been cleansed and you both begin the long and tender process of healing in a new environment of transparency, you will hopefully begin to experience the seeds of intimacy in your marriage for the first time. You will realize that any love you are receiving from your spouse is being offered to the real you. She now knows everything about you—warts and all—and is still choosing to love you. The energy you previously spent keeping your mask on is now freed up to protect, serve, and lead her—all of which will encourage you in your true masculinity. You will constantly be thankful and grateful for her forgiveness, which will pour out of you as love. To paraphrase Jesus, the more you’ve been forgiven, the more you love (Luke 7:47). These are just a few of the many reasons why marriages that survive trials such as these have the potential to become the strongest marriages.

We cannot ignore the very real possibility that your marriage may not heal from this. But the truth is, the pain that your confession will bring up is already present in your marriage—it just hasn’t been labeled yet. The damage was done when the sin was committed. Confession is what will allow you to finally accept responsibility for that pain. It will allow your wife to understand what she—and your marriage—will need to heal from. It will allow her to stop blaming herself. If, however, you choose to continue hiding things from her, you will only be causing her more pain. You will be choosing your own desire for control and safety over her happiness and emotional stability. Your marriage may remain intact, but it will never be healthy.

I wish I could say I took my mask off, confessed everything to my wife, and we lived happily ever after. However, as you know from “My Story” at the beginning of this book, it took me a long time to gain the courage to be completely honest with her about all of my lies and selfishness. Ironically, my continual lying and deception—the very things I was doing to protect myself—were ultimately major factors in what pushed her away. In the end, I don’t believe she left because of my pornography addiction or even because of my adultery. I believe she left because she couldn’t trust me. I had lied to her about who I was for far too long.

By waiting until after we were already separated to come clean about everything, I never gave her the chance to see God working in me. By the time I finally faced the full reality of the pain I’d caused her, it was too late. In her mind, our whole marriage had been a lie. The man she thought she’d married didn’t even exist. The only “truth” she knew about me was that I had been willing to sacrifice her well-being for my own protection.

I truly believe that if I had told her everything when I first felt God leading me to come clean, things would have been different. We still would have been living together in the same house at the time, and I believe she would have been more likely to witness the changes that God was working in my heart. She might not have been able to trust me, but perhaps she would have been able to trust the signs of God working within me.

But even if I knew back then what the end results of my confession would be, I still would have gone through with it. In fact, I would have done it much sooner, because confessing everything to her ended up being the single biggest turning point of my life. It was the moment that I finally trusted God and began to experience the true intimacy I had been looking for.

Don’t get me wrong here. I hate how much pain my addiction caused my wife over the years. I pray daily that God would heal the pain that I have caused in her heart and remain hopeful that someday, she may even be healed to the point where she becomes open to reconciliation. But even if she doesn’t, I know that God will provide me—and her—with all the love and intimacy our souls will ever need.

Continue on to Part Six: How Does This Help Me with Porn?

10 Lies Men Believe about Porn Preview

Why Porn Addiction is Not About Fulfilling Sexual Desire—Part Four: Your Need to Experience Intimacy

cover-mockupNote: This post is part four of a six-part series on desire. It has been adapted from my book, 10 Lies Men Believe about Porn, available now wherever books are sold.

You can find beginning of the series here.

When we hear the word “intimacy,” we often think of it confined within the box of sexuality. Yes, sexual intimacy is one of the greatest pictures of intimacy between two people, but it’s not the full definition. Intimacy is defined more completely as the result of being fully known and fully knowing another. It’s the driving force behind every friendship, relationship, marriage, and community. It’s also the very core of what we were created for:

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40).

We were created to love God and love others fully. Or, to put it another way, our souls deeply desire intimacy with God as well as intimacy with others. However, if this need for intimacy isn’t being met in your life, nothing else will matter to you. To paraphrase what Jesus said in the previous verse, everything hinges on this.

This may sound like lovey-dovey hippie stuff—it’s all about the love man…puff, puff—but this is huge. If you are anything like most men, your need for intimacy is the driving force behind your struggle with porn­ography. Once you begin to understand the truth behind this need—and how you are using pornography to try to meet it—you will begin to experience what true intimacy feels like, possibly for the first time in your life. And once you experience true intimacy, you will begin to see how empty and damaging the lie of pornography really is.

I deeply desired to be loved during the years of my addiction, but I had believed the lie that I was unlovable. I came to the conclusion that my only option to ever receive love was to lie and pretend to be someone I wasn’t. So, as we saw in the previous chapter, I created a mask—a false self—that I could hide behind and pretend to be worthy of love.

There was one serious flaw with this logic, though. By only allowing people to see my mask, the real me could never receive their love. In fact, the people I desperately wanted to be loved by couldn’t love me, not because of their lack of ability or willingness, but because my mask was deflecting their attempts. I knew deep down that any love from others was being directed toward the fake me and not the real me. By keeping my mask on and not allowing anyone to see my struggles, I never gave anyone the chance to love me in spite of those struggles.

I had convinced myself I had to hide the truth about me from my wife in order to at least appear worthy of her love. This constant hiding and dishonesty caused me to feel as if I needed to walk on eggshells around her at all times. I blamed these feelings on her, though, and believed the reason I didn’t feel love or acceptance from her was because she wasn’t giving me what I needed. I blamed our lack of relational intimacy on her inability to love me correctly, not my inability to receive her love. Of course, I couldn’t see this at the time, so I kept trying to find ways to change her behavior toward me instead of looking at what I needed to change on my end.

This same pattern played out with my relationship with God as well. I hid my sin from God and somehow convinced myself it was making me more acceptable. I put on my “Perfect Steve Mask” and volunteered in church, trying to distract God from my sin through service and self-sacrifice. I completely missed the reality that He simply wanted me to be honest about who I was so He could love the real me.

So there I was, desperate for love and acceptance—desperate to experience true intimacy—but unable to receive what was being offered to me because of the mask I was wearing. Like many men, though, I believed the lie that my loneliness was the result of no one in my life offering love and acceptance to me, so I began to seek to fulfill these needs elsewhere.

Seeking to Meet Your Need for Intimacy through Pornography

The lure of porn is more about being desired than satisfying your own sexual desires. The rush you get from porn is the same rush you get during that first kiss. We can call it butterflies, infatuation, whatever—but it all comes down to the wonderful experience of knowing you are desired. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what thoughts went through your head after a first kiss. Chances are, it was something more along the lines of I can’t believe she kissed me! rather than I can’t believe I finally got to kiss her! Maybe I’m different here, but I doubt it.

Porn gives you that same feeling of being desired, but instead of sensing that the desire is for your mask, you believe the desire is truly meant for you. These women on the screen are fully aware of your pornography addiction (after all, you’re looking at them, right?), and yet they still want to be with you. So, in a twisted way, it almost feels like they are the only ones who are loving the real you. The most sinister part of this is that you will begin to crave the affection of pornography more than the affection of real people because this deception appears to be meeting your need for intimacy better than any other relationship.

This is the lie Satan wants you to believe—that pornography will never judge you, condemn you, or push you to be a better person. It will never ask you to shave or shower before being accepted romantically. You can come in from a weeklong camping trip, covered in dirt and smelling like a moose, and the women of porn will still desire you just as you are. It doesn’t even matter what you are hiding—porn still wants you. It offers you all the benefits of a romantic relationship without the risk of being discovered as a fraud. Better yet, the women of porn couldn’t care less if you are a fraud. It doesn’t even matter to them. This apparent unconditional acceptance makes it incredibly tempting for men—especially broken, hidden, shame-filled men—to run to the arms of pornography rather than the arms of their spouse or their Creator.

But when you seek intimacy through pornography, it actually produces a very opposite effect in your life. More than likely, every time you turn to porn, you will experience shame, which will feed your feelings of insecurity, not measuring up, and wanting to hide the truth about you. This causes you to add one more memory to your list of reasons you believe no one will love you, which encourages you to tighten the strap on your mask a few more notches. The counterfeit intimacy of pornography becomes an industrial epoxy, gluing your mask—the very thing keeping you from experiencing true intimacy—to your soul even tighter. This is how porno­graphy addiction becomes a cycle that feeds itself.

Cycle of Porn Addiction

So how do you stop the downward spiral of pornography addiction and the damage it causes in your life? The answer is simple, but it’s not easy. It may very well be the hardest thing you have ever done. The only thing that can stop this cycle is to overcome the shame that is driving it. And the only way to overcome shame is to allow yourself to be fully known, and then realize you are fully loved and accepted in spite of your imperfections.

But to experience this, you must take off your mask and let the real you be known. There is no other way. Don’t lose heart, though. This will be one of the most significant and meaningful journeys of your life.

The Path to True Intimacy

I shared in the previous chapter how I never experienced unconditional love or acceptance until I was honest about my struggles with a group of trusted men. It was the first time I felt loved for who I truly was. These men actually loved the real me. I slowly began to believe that God loved and accepted the real me in the same way as well. I started to recognize that I didn’t need to hide my sin from God. This understanding allowed me to finally believe that it might be possible to live my life without wearing a mask—to let the real me be known.

I love the way Nate Larkin explains how he came to see this reality in his own life:

I always felt bad that I wasn’t a better person. I even created this false self, this “Saint Nate” that I tried to make breathe on its own. I felt bad that “Saint Nate” could only live at church. Now I know that Jesus never loved “Saint Nate” because He didn’t make “Saint Nate.” He made me. Jesus loves me! He wants a relationship with me! And that’s the only real relationship there is.

Did you catch that? Jesus loves you! Not your mask. He loves the real you! If you haven’t been experiencing His love in your life, it’s not because He isn’t offering it to you. It’s probably because you’ve been pulling an Adam and trying to hide from Him in the bushes. You’ve let your mask become a wall that blocks the real you from receiving the love of Christ. Your mask can’t receive His love because your mask isn’t real. Jesus is waiting for you to be honest with Him about your true self. Cry out to Him. Tell Him who you really are. He already knows the truth anyway. Unload your heart before God—sin and all. Claim it. Confess it. Own it. You will find that He’s been there all along, waiting for you to let Him love you in spite of all of it.

The most incredible feeling of acceptance is realizing that the Creator of the universe loves you, even at your worst. God knew you would be right where you are in this moment—pornography and all—and He still chose to send His Son to die for you. Jesus knew you would be here as well, and He still went through with it. When you begin to understand this, any feeling you have of being unlovable or unacceptable will begin to melt away. Once you experience His love and acceptance, your heart will come alive. Your deep need for intimacy will finally be satisfied.

Continue on to Part Five: A Word to Married Men

10 Lies Men Believe about Porn Preview

Why Porn Addiction is Not About Fulfilling Sexual Desire—Part Three: Your Need for Adventure


cover-mockupNote: This post is part three of a six-part series on desire. It has been adapted from my book, 10 Lies Men Believe about Porn, available now wherever books are sold.

You can find beginning of the series here.

If you ask a man what his favorite movies are, you will more than likely get a list of classics such as Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Iron Man, and other movies involving swords and explosions. Few men will add Sleepless in Seattle or The Notebook to their Netflix queue unless an attractive female wants to watch it with them. When was the last time you heard a guy say, “Hey bro, wanna grab a pizza and watch Notting Hill?” Probably never. So why is it the majority of men all seem to like the same types of movies?

Perhaps it’s because these movies awaken the deep sense of adventure that God has placed in your masculine soul.

Adventures are exciting because you are forced to figure out the answers as you go along. The outcome—and often the path—is unknown. You don’t know how it’s going to end. There may be danger involved. Failure is a possibility. Driving to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk is not an adventure. Finding the grocery store on fire and running in to rescue people is. Which scenario gets you more excited as a man? I can’t be the only one who fantasizes about things such as rescuing people from burning buildings or fighting off mountain lions on the trail. It’s written in our hearts as men.

When I was a boy, I was constantly searching for mud and dirt and doing all the typical things little boys do. I would drive my go-kart up and down the road wearing a swim mask while pretending to be an astronaut. I joined the Boy Scouts and daydreamed about building the hovercraft advertised on the back page of every issue of Boys Life magazine. As I got older, I did all the stuff teenage boys with a lack of any common sense consider to be adventure. I bombed down hills on my bike so fast I’d pass the driving cars. I found out that my 1976 AMC Pacer speedometer pegged at 90, but the car still accelerated for quite a while after that. Even today, as an adult, there is little that makes me feel more alive than hiking, climbing, or skiing in the mountains of Oregon.

I have always been aware of this desire for adventure inside me, but I misunderstood the root of it for many years. You see, adventure isn’t just about getting an adrenaline fix or doing something worthy of a YouTube video. It’s about being alive. God created men to desire adventure because the skills we learn through it—endurance, perseverance, trust, risk—are the same skills we need to experience a life fully alive to Him. After all, the greatest adventure of all—the only adventure that will fully meet this need within a man—is the adventure of living by faith.

But what happens if you ignore or reject your desire for adventure, refuse to take risks, and choose to live a “safe” life? Life will become nothing more than punching a clock, doing your daily duties, and only saying the “right” things so you don’t stir the pot. Men who accept this life become passive…jaded…bored. When these men see a burning building, they drive right past it and look for the safer grocery store. They’ve become perfectly content with just picking up the milk—even if they have to go elsewhere.

It’s here, once again, where Satan sweeps in with his own “solution.” Instead of adventure, though, he offers something much safer—something free from risk. He offers fantasy.

Accepting Fantasy as a Substitute for Adventure

Fantasy is the opposite of adventure. Instead of awakening life within you, it encourages you to hide from life. It promises an escape from the pain and disappointment in your real world that you are too afraid to face. Instead of embracing the risk of addressing these things and entering into the adventure of faith that God has called you to, you check out. You turn to the TV, to video games, or often to the computer as a means of distracting yourself from the hard realities of real life. But these distractions are not real. They are merely fantasies.

The power of pornography thrives within this fantasy world. After all, every man feels like Brad Pitt on the Internet. The women are willing and eager to do whatever you want, whenever you want. They won’t ask you how your day went at work or how things are going at home. They will never bring up the painful stuff. They won’t ask you about your insecurities or fears. There is no risk of them rejecting you. You can find a retreat from the imperfect reality of your life, sweep your pain under the rug, and run away with the girl of your dreams to live happily ever after. Or so the lie goes.

There is no way around the fact that life will be hard at times. Bosses can yell at you. Your wife may pull away from you. People you don’t even know might attack you for your faith. After all, Jesus warned us the world would hate us. He was raising people from the dead and healing the sick, and the world still murdered Him. Why would we assume it will go any better for us? The reality is, we live in a fallen, broken, hurting world full of pain and suffering.

But as men, God has called us to stand firm in our faith and trust in Him, no matter how hard life gets. He wants you to fight for what is good and right, even in your own life. So please, my brother, stop running away from the adventure and hiding in your “safe” fantasy world. There is no life there. Be honest with yourself and ask what makes your heart come alive more: Fighting for your family at all cost, or sitting in front of a computer with your pants around your ankles? It’s like asking if you’d rather watch Return of the King or Sex in the City, isn’t it?

The real world needs your strength. Your family needs your strength. And the only way to start believing you have it is to trust God when He calls you to run toward the burning building. Yes, you may get singed in places, but it’s worth it.

Continue on to Part Four: Your Need to Experience Intimacy

10 Lies Men Believe about Porn Preview

Why Porn Addiction is Not About Fulfilling Sexual Desire—Part Two: Your Need to be Validated as a Man

cover-mockupNote: This post is part two of a six-part series on desire. It has been adapted from my book, 10 Lies Men Believe about Porn, available now wherever books are sold.

You can find beginning of the series here.

I’ve noticed a growing interest in “manly” things in the past few years. First, it was just “Mustache March.” But now we have “No Shave November” and “Beardtober” as well. Here in the northwest, hipsters dress like urban lumberjacks and listen to bands with names like Grizzly Bear and Blitzen Trapper. We are told Chuck Norris can cut through a hot knife with butter, swim through land, and cure cancer with his tears (if he ever cried). As if that isn’t ridiculous enough, you can now buy beer bottled inside of a taxidermy squirrel. Manliness is apparently making quite a comeback.

I must confess, I love manly stuff as much as the next guy. I have a beard, I’ve been known to wear flannel, and I consider red meat to be the base of the food pyramid. But I have also learned that manly things do not make you a man. If that were the case, any woman who loves bacon, beer, and a good action movie would also qualify as a man. (I’d say if anything, she qualifies as a keeper.) So what is it that truly makes you a man?

The thing that makes you a man is your masculinity—specifically, biblical masculinity. As John Piper explains in his book Recovering Biblical Masculinity, you must understand that being a man is accepting God’s call to live your life walking in “Benevolent Responsibility.”

A Biblical Man Offers Benevolence…

Benevolence is the sacrificial giving of yourself, your strength, and your abilities to others. We see this theme repeated all throughout the Scriptures. God calls husbands to love their wives in the same way Christ loves the church, to the point of laying down their lives for them (Ephesians 5:25–27). Isaiah rebukes the leaders of Sodom and Gomorrah for not helping the oppressed, defending orphans, or fighting for the rights of widows (Isaiah 1:17). In other words, not using their masculine strength to help those who are weak.

How often do we see Jesus, our example of true masculinity, modeling benevolence in His interactions with the outcasts of society? Jesus didn’t need to touch the leper physically in order to heal Him (He healed others with words alone), but He chose to give up His rights to cleanliness and sanitation in order to give the man something he needed more than physical healing. He offered this man love and acceptance (Luke 5:12–16).

Or what about the woman at the well? The town surely knew her reputation as an immoral woman, yet Jesus still spoke with her one on one, fully aware of the inevitable gossip. On top of that, it was against the cultural norm for a Jew to interact with a Samaritan, yet Jesus ignored that custom as well. He was willing to risk rumors and judgment against Him in order to give this woman what she desperately needed—hope, salvation, and Him (John 4:1–26). This is true benevolence.

A Biblical Man Accepts Responsibility…

God will never burden you with a responsibility that is too great for you. He will, however, give you responsibilities that will challenge you to grow as a man. This is one of the main purposes of responsibility, and it’s why we see God entrusting men with responsibilities from the very beginning:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15).

The Hebrew words used here for “work” and “keep” are translated elsewhere in the Bible as “serve” and “guard.” God placed the entire garden under Adam’s authority, trusting him with the responsibility to serve it and guard it. If God had never given Adam a job to do and left him to play fetch with the dingoes all day, he would never have had a reason to grow or mature.

In the same way, God will place things under your authority and ask you to serve and guard them as well. Not because He wants to fill your time with meaningless tasks, but because He wants you to be challenged in ways that will lead to true masculinity.

One obvious example of this, for many men, is their family. Men are called to serve their families by providing for them (1 Timothy 5:8), and to guard their families by leading them spiritually and setting appropriate boundaries for their protection. This same responsibility to serve and to guard may pertain to your job, your ministry, or anything else God has entrusted you with as well.

But Men Are Afraid They Won’t Be Able to Answer the Call

Many men have an underlying fear that they won’t be able measure up to what is being asked of them. Whether it is a call for their strength and goodness (benevolence), or their service and protection (responsibility), many men fear they won’t have what it takes. You might fail. You may let people down. You could offend someone. Unfortunately, when men fear failure, they tend to avoid even showing up in the first place. They hide from conflict, run away from risk, and watch their true masculinity die a slow death within them.

If this becomes the pattern of your life, you will always feel a need to “prove yourself” as a man. The death of your masculinity will leave a void within you. Sometimes men will try to fill this void and prove their masculinity through sports or other manly hobbies. Frequently, it’s by climbing higher up the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, it’s often sought through the pursuit of a woman, which commonly manifests as an affair. Either way, you will forever be seeking external validation, because the true validation of your masculinity that you desire will remain unmet.

It’s here, in this moment, where pornography becomes the attractive answer—or at least it seems like the answer.

The less a man feels like a real man, the more vulnerable he is to the lure of pornography

One of the foundational lies behind porn is that you will never be asked to prove your worth or give anything of yourself to be seen as a man. The world of porn is full of beautiful women who seem to be saying, “Hey Stud…I desire you just as you are. You’re masculine enough for me.” In this way, porn offers you the same validation as an affair, but without the same risk. Which is why men turn to pornography to experience the rush of endorphins, the sense of untamed strength that comes with an erection, and the validation of being desired by a woman—all without taking the necessary risks of true, biblical masculinity.

It’s yet another way Satan replaces God’s solution with a cheap counterfeit that will never satisfy.

The worst part of this, is pornography doesn’t just deceives you, it actually pulls you further away from the only thing that will satisfy your need for masculine validation in your life, which is to live as the man God has called you to be. Or to put it another way, pornography keeps you from living in biblical masculinity.

Porn never asks you to give of yourself out of benevolence. In fact, it does exactly the opposite. Porn makes you selfish because the sole focus is on your needs, your wants, and your pleasure—even at the risk of causing pain to others. Furthermore, instead of offering your strength to protect others, you are participating in the exploitation of women. If you are married, you aren’t selflessly protecting your wife; you are selfishly hurting her heart. I am not trying to guilt you here. I am just pointing out the ugly truth behind Satan’s apparent “solution” to this need for validation within you.

It doesn’t matter how many belching contests you win, how thick your facial hair grows in, or how many flesh-colored pixels on a computer monitor appear to desire you—you will still need to come back to these things repeatedly to attempt to receive validation as a man. If, however, you are willing to risk yourself for the good of others and accept responsibility for what God has placed under your authority, then you will begin to experience lasting validation as the man He created you to be.

The best part is, God has already made you the man He wants you to be. You don’t need to make yourself into someone new or become stronger than you already are. You can trust that you are man enough simply because God says you are man enough.

Continue on to Part Three: Your Need for Adventure

10 Lies Men Believe about Porn Preview

Why Porn Addiction is Not About Fulfilling Sexual Desire—Part One: The Deepest Needs of Your Heart


cover-mockupNote: This post is part one of a six-part series on desire. It has been adapted from my book, 10 Lies Men Believe about Porn, available now wherever books are sold.

I graduated high school in 1997 at the wise age of 17. My sole criteria for selecting a college was that it not be in my hometown, mainly so I would have an excuse to move out of my parents’ house and live on my own. I was accepted to Oregon State University and soon found myself living out in the real world before I was even old enough to buy cigarettes.

My life really began to separate into two personas during my college years. On the surface, I was “Steve the church guy,” going to Bible studies and maintaining a facade of moralistic perfection. Under the surface, though, I was a completely different person. I had an entirely different group of friends who I would party with on weekends, often driving up I-5 to all-night raves in Portland where we would fry our brains with a cocktail of illegal drugs. I embraced the freedom of no longer having a curfew (or any house rules), and reacted like a dog being released from his cage. The lack of boundaries in my life fueled more than just my party lifestyle. It fueled the flames of my pornography addiction as well, causing it to grow into a raging inferno.

The Internet was still a novelty in the ’90s. Prior to college, I had only experienced it at friends’ houses. But now I had 24/7 access and a room with a lock on the door. This was not a good combination. Actually, that is an understatement. It was more like pouring gasoline on the fire of my addiction. I would lock my door each night once my roommate went to bed, plant myself in front of the computer, and surf porn sites until I couldn’t stay awake any longer. What used to take 10 minutes to download now took 10 seconds. Instead of seeing two or three images a night, I was suddenly able to view thousands. I felt as if I had won the pornography lottery. But no matter how long I looked, I could never get enough. I was always searching for the elusive “perfect image” that would fully satisfy me.

I always knew in my heart that this lifestyle was wrong. I begged God to take my sex drive away until marriage. I made promises to Him. I installed an Internet filter. I tried everything to stop, but nothing worked.

It wasn’t long before I lost any hope of finding freedom from pornography. I began to believe that I had a sex drive that was significantly more intense than other guys and there wasn’t anything I could do to control it. God had apparently created me to require a release multiple times a day, and at least porn was a better option than sleeping around. My best chance at freedom, in my mind, was to get married. I believed that once I was married I would be permitted to have sex with my wife whenever I wanted and would therefore no longer need pornography.

These thoughts were all lies.

As men, we tend to believe our struggles with pornography are purely about sexual desire. If this were the case, though, my addiction would have gone away once I was married. So why is it my addiction actually became worse within marriage? Why did I repeatedly choose to reject the advances of my beautiful, attractive, and loving wife in order to get my sexual needs met through pornography?

The only answer that makes sense is that porno­graphy addiction isn’t actually the result of an overzealous libido. It’s also not about an underattentive spouse, a lack of willpower, or even sexual desire. Pornography addiction is the result of being too afraid to risk anything in the process of trying to meet the deepest needs of your soul.

The problem with porn, though, is it can never make good on its promise. In fact, it will pull you away from the very things that truly can meet those deepest needs.


TRUTH: Pornography addiction is an attempt to meet the deepest needs of your soul without being required to risk anything in the process.


What are Your Deepest Needs?

God has placed within the heart of every man the need to be validated as a man, the need for adventure in his life, and the need to experience intimacy with others. These needs are not sinful in and of themselves, but we often attempt to satisfy them in sinful ways—such as through pornography.

In order to meet these needs effectively, you will be required to take risks. And risk, by its very nature, carries the potential for failure.

Because of this reality, Satan will try to deceive you into finding an easier way to meet these needs. He wants you to believe that you can be fulfilled in these areas without having to put yourself on the line. Lasting and effective solutions will only be found in the truth, though, which is why it is so important to understand each of these needs within you and recognize how porno­graphy will never be able to truly fulfill any of them.

Continue on to Part Two: Your Need to Be Validated as a Man

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Reader Q/A: Do Men Who Deal with Their Pain in a Healthy Way No Longer Need Porn?

Question: In April you wrote an article on the site about internet filters. You said “Porn addiction is not the result of easy access to porn. Porn addiction is the result of trying to medicate deep wounds in your heart (rejection, abandonment, shame, fear of intimacy).” I’ve heard this idea elsewhere, and it has a ring of truth. However, I can’t think of anything in the Bible to support this, and I’m not sure what other reliable research/philosophy would support it, either. It sounds like psychoanalysis, the cliché “I never felt my mother loved me” sort of thing, and I mistrust that. Do you have anything to back up your claim? In your experience, do men who deal with their pain in a healthy way no longer need porn? I’m not trying to be a smart-alec, I’m just wanting someone to substantiate this for me.

Reader Q/A

Do Men Who Deal with Their Pain in a Healthy Way No Longer Need Porn?

Absolutely. My personal experience has validated this in my own life, as well as walking with many other men who have struggled and found freedom.

As long as I was focusing on porn as the issue and trying to overcome that, it never worked. In fact, the repeated failures only dumped gasoline on the fires of my shame. The issue with me, was deep down I felt like a failure and that I wasn’t worthy to be loved because of that. I didn’t think my wife would love me, and I surely didn’t think God could love me. At least not as I was.

Once God began to show me that porn wasn’t my biggest issue, but that my feelings of shame and misunderstandings of His unconditional love for me were my issues, that’s when I began to find freedom. Once I started to understand how God loved me even in my broken and messed up state, that’s when my heart began to be satisfied for the first time. The longing to be loved and accepted that I was trying to satisfy through the lie of porn went away, because they were being satisfied by God’s love instead.

It’s the same thing we see with the woman at the well in the John 4. She clearly had a “thirst” for intimacy that she was trying to meet through multiple relationships with men. Jesus used the analogy of her thirst for water to help her see that she was drawing from the wrong well. And what did he say was the solution? Did He tell her to stop sleeping around? No, He told her that He was the water of life that would satisfy her thirst permanently. He focused on finding a lasting solution to what was driving her desire, not the desire itself. He knew that was the only thing that would lead to lasting behavior change in this woman.

John Piper does a great job explaining this concept this short video: The Passions that Prevent Adultery

I appreciate your questioning and think it’s a healthy thing to test any claim you hear against Scripture. I do encourage you, however, to also be willing to ask yourself if you’re truly seeking clarification, or if you’re only looking for an excuse to not allow God into the deepest hurts in your life? I only ask because that was exactly what I was doing for quite some time. I knew God wanted to meet me in my deepest shame so that He could heal those places in me, but I kept looking for “Biblical” excuses not to go there.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any additional questions.


Ask me a question

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5 Things Pixar’s “Inside Out” Taught Me about Addiction


NOTE: This article includes spoilers. Let’s be honest though, you’ve probably already seen the movie anyway.

Last weekend my wife, my daughter, and I went to see Pixar’s new movie “Inside Out.” Needless to say, it lived up to the standard Pixar hype and has instantly become one of my favorite movies.

For the two or three of you who may not be familiar with the premise of the movie, it follows the adventures of a young girl, Riley, as well as her emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—who are personified characters living inside of her brain. Their job is to run her control panel, help retrieve and archive memories, and deliver ideas into her mind.

There’s something different about “Inside Out” that sets it apart from other kids movies though. Yes, it is a cute story about imaginary creatures living in a world of daydreams, but it’s also a powerful illustration that I believe will help an entire generation of kids (and the parents who watch the movie with them) learn how to identify their different emotions and better understand the role each of those emotions play in their lives.

As one whose calling involves helping others uncover what’s going on in their hearts and minds in order to find freedom from addiction, I couldn’t help but notice the following five truths that “Inside Out” illustrates wonderfully:

1. If you ignore your emotions, you will eventually lose touch with all of them.

7a8f302d0e85d196aa135587064dad93Early in the movie, Joy discovers that Sadness keeps “infecting” Riley’s happy memories (the yellow ones) and turning them blue (sad memories). Joy has never understood why Sadness is even around, so she believes the best solution is to keep Sadness occupied elsewhere so she can’t interfere. Joy draws a circle on the ground, proclaims it the “Circle of Sadness,” and instructs Sadness not to leave the circle.

During my addiction, I attempted to handle my emotions in the same way. Any time I began to feel what I would call a “risky” emotion (sadness, fear, compassion, empathy), I would draw a circle in the back of my mind and force it to stay there. I was afraid that if I allowed those emotions to effect me, it could expose the true pain in my heart and my cover would be blown.

The longer I lived this way though, the more my true emotions atrophied. As much as it pains me to admit, I eventually reached a point where I could watch my wife cry herself to sleep each night—knowing that it was my sin causing her pain—yet feel zero emotional response to her pain. In the same way the emotional control panel in Riley’s brain had shut down, my emotions shut down as well.

This is the sad truth of what can happen if you hide, ignore, or force your emotions away in order to protect your outward appearance of having your life “together.”

2. Core memories are powerful…and vitally important to who you are.

Whenever something important or monumental happened in Riley’s life, that memory would go to a special area of “Core Memories.” These were the memories that powered the different aspects of her personality.

Inside Out Pixar Post 2One thing the movie didn’t address directly though, is what happens to you if you develop a core memory that isn’t happy? What if you have a core memory that involves abuse, abandonment, or rejection? Unfortunately, those core memories will have an equally powerful effect on your personality as the happy ones.

One of my core memories growing up was not a happy one, but one filled with shame, embarrassment, and rejection. There was a girl whom I really liked in the 5th grade, but she was clearly out of my league. Somehow though, word got around that I had a crush on her. One day during recess, one of the popular kids tied me to a tether ball pole with my sweatshirt and pantsed me right in front of her. To make matters worse, one of her friends then came up and loudly informed me that this girl would never date a loser such as me.

That experience was immediately filed away as a “core memory” for me, and I allowed it to define me for years. That memory told me that I was a loser, girls would always reject me, and I would never be man enough to protect myself. All of these beliefs helped push me deeper and deeper into my addiction with pornography.

My situation is not unique though, as we all have painful memories that can push us into destructive behaviors if we don’t learn how to handle them in healthy ways.

Luckily, the third point offers us a solution of how to move forward.

3. Shedding new light on an old memory can lead to tremendous healing.

Inside-Out-MemoryOne of Riley’s core memories was of the time her entire hockey team hoisted her on their shoulders to cheer for her. She had always remembered that moment as a joyous time in her life—and it was—but it wasn’t until she looked back at it years later that she remembered it correctly.

Immediately before that moment, she had been sitting alone and crying because she missed what would have been the game-winning goal in the championship hockey game. She believed the team lost because of her mistake. When the team came to let her know they still loved her, it became one of her happiest core memories.

In the same way, looking back at the context of your core memories—especially the painful ones—can help you gain a perspective that will lead to tremendous healing. It’s important though, to make sure you invite the Healer to look back with you if you wish to gain a true perspective.

When I finally looked back at that traumatic day on the playground and invited Jesus into the memory with me, I was amazed at how it my memory of the event. I saw Jesus standing there in front of me, shielding me from the jeering looks and taunts of the other kids. He was looking me in the eyes telling me what my heart needed to hear: “You are loved. I will never reject you. I have made you in my image. I am man enough, so you are man enough.”

In that time of reflection, my core memory changed from blue to yellow. I no longer look back to that event with shame and sadness, but I see it as one of the earliest moments in my life where Jesus began affirming me.

In the same way, I encourage you to invite Jesus into your most painful core memories to give you His perspective. He won’t change what happened to you in the past, but He can bring your heart tremendous healing by revealing to you how He can heal the scars you received from it.

4. The only way to move forward is to let someone in.

riley-inside-out-trailer-2-pixarBy the end of the movie, it finally becomes clear why Sadness is around. Joy looks back through Riley’s memories and recognizes how Sadness is often what allows others to recognize Riley’s need for help. By trying to force Sadness to stay in her circle and not allowing her to influence Riley’s emotions, Riley had become a wall. She shut down, hid her emotions, and wouldn’t let anyone even know she needed help—let alone help her.

Once Joy allowed Sadness to do what she needed to do though, breakthrough came. Riley broke down and shared with her parents how much she was hurting. She was honest with them about her emotions—even the “bad” ones. And once she did that, they were finally able to help her.

When I look back at my addiction, my main regret is that I didn’t trust anyone to come beside me sooner. I tried for years to fix things on my own—all the while fighting in isolation as I hid my true emotions.

Once I joined a recovery group and began trusting others with the real me, that’s when I first began to see changes take place.


5. If someone in your life starts acting differently, there’s always a reason why.

Perhaps the most important thing we can learn from “Inside Out” though, is that people don’t change overnight without a legitimate underlying reason.

Riley appeared to go from a sweet, fun-loving girl to an angry, sullen, emotionless shell in a matter of weeks. Her parent’s knew something had changed in her, but they didn’t know what.

As tempting as it is to just “ride it out” or wait for it to blow over when we encounter these types of changes in our loved ones, I encourage you to actively pursue their hearts with love.

As a parent, I’ve seen a few of these seasons in my own daughter. It’s been hard learning how to help her feel comfortable, capable, and willing enough to communicate with me what’s going on in her heart, but I can tell you it’s been worth the effort. Even if she doesn’t open up, she at least knows I’ll be there for her whenever she’s ready.

In the end, that’s all we can do for those in our lives who are hurting—to let them know we’re concerned for them and willing to listen whenever they’re ready to open up. After all, that’s much better than “putting our foot down” and lashing out in anger.


I’m convinced that “Inside Out” is more than just a cartoon—it’s one of the more important movies of our day. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s still worth the few bucks it will cost to get in the door.

I suggest you bring some tissues though, as you will likely discover a few new things about your own emotions before the credits start rolling.

10 Steps to Go a Year Free of Porn and Masturbation

10-Steps-to-go-a-year-free-of-porn-and-Masturbation-blogpostA few days ago, published an article titled: 10 Steps to Go a Year Free of Porn and Masturbation. They asked each of us contributors to submit our top-2 pieces of advice on quitting porn, and then narrowed it down to the top-10.

You can read the whole post on their site, but I thought I would share with you my two suggestions today:

  1. Learn to trust God’s unconditional love for you—even in the midst of your struggles. The truth is, no matter how badly you’ve messed up, or how far down the path into porn addiction you’ve wandered, God will always be right beside you waiting to help you back up. It’s tempting to believe He wants you to fix your junk before you come to Him, but in reality He wants you to come to Him with your junk so He can fix it for you. After all, if “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8),” why would He turn away from you now?
  2. Find at least one person who you can trust with everything. It feels so natural to hide our struggles in order to appear like we have it all together. As long as your junk stays hidden though, it will fester. It will continue to control and torment you until you deal with it. Luckily, God has given us His plan for how to bring our junk into the light: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16).” It’s a simple plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Be courageous though. Find at least one person who you can share your junk with so that nothing in your life remains hidden. Dig it up, talk about it, pray about it, and bless one another as you share your victories together.

These are the two pieces of wisdom that have helped me the most on my journey towards freedom. I trust they will help you as well.

So here’s to a new year, and a new opportunity to trust God, and to trust others, to come alongside you on your journey.

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What I Wish I Could Say to Morrissey

Morrissey I have forgiven JesusEvery now and then a song comes up on my iPod and it completely wrecks me.

Typically, it’s a worship song that reminds me of God’s love, making His presence seem even more intense in that moment.

Often, it’s my favorite Johnny Cash song, reminding me of the broken and pain-filled past Jesus has rescued me from.

Sometimes though, it’s a song that breaks my heart not out of happiness, but out of sadness.

Morrissey’s “I Have Forgiven Jesus” is one of these songs.

I’ve been hooked on Morrissey since my roommate introduced me to his music back in college. As much as I love his music though, the emotional honesty he puts into his lyrics makes it hard for me to listen at times. I can’t help but hurt for him when I hear him sing about the pain and rejection that has defined his life.

The sad part though, is some of that pain doesn’t need to be there. I don’t say this to minimize anything that may have happened to him in the past (after all, I do not actually know the man or what he has been through). What I do mean, is that some of Morrissey’s pain comes from a misunderstanding of how Jesus views him. If He came to know the truth in this area, his pain would be replaced by the freedom, joy, and peace that everyone is longing for.

I doubt I will ever get a chance to talk about these things with Morrissey, but if I did, I would want to share with him these three life-changing truths:

1. Jesus never has, and never will, desert you.

Forgive me any pain I may have brung to you
With God’s help I know I’ll always be near to you
But Jesus hurt me when He deserted me.
—I Have Forgiven Jesus—

Yes, we all make mistakes in life, and many of these mistakes will cause pain to others—even to Jesus. But as Jesus hung on the cross in agonizing emotional and physical pain, what did He say to God regarding the men who were causing Him pain in that moment? 

He offered them forgiveness. Not only that, He continued to go through with the plan to rescue these very men, even though it would cost Him His own life to do so.

If Jesus was willing to forgive these men and stick with them even as they were torturing and mocking Him, I’m pretty sure you can trust Him to stick with you no matter what sort of pain you may have caused Him.

37 Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them (John 6:37).

2. Jesus loves you, and He made you to be a lover as well.

Why did you give me so much desire
When there is nowhere I can go to offload this desire?
And why did you give me so much love in a loveless world
When there’s no one I can turn to to unlock all this love?
—I Have Forgiven Jesus—

I could be wrong, but when I read these lyrics as one who has struggled with sexual addiction, I hear the same question I wrestled with for years: Why did God give me such a strong desire for love and intimacy and then tell me not to have sex until I was married? What a jerk move.

Unfortunately, these thoughts were actually pulling me away from the only thing that ever could truly satisfy the desires that consumed me.

If you believe that love, sex, and intimacy are all the same thing, you will inevitably begin to question God’s goodness. You will view Him as a cruel and controlling master, much like a man holding a carrot just beyond the reach of a donkey. It will seem as if God has put these desires in you and then forbids you to satisfy them.

The truth though, is God made you to be a lover, which is why you have this strong desire to love and to be loved. This love isn’t sexual though, it’s sacrificial. True love is always about what you can do for others, not what others can do for you. (Tweet this!)

This type of love isn’t something you can produce on our own. It’s something that is only unlocked when you trust Jesus to produce it though you.

19 We love each other because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).

If you can come to trust God’s unconditional love for you, your ability to love (and to be loved) will suddenly come alive.

3. Jesus doesn’t hate you.

And why did you stick me in self-deprecating bones and skin?
Jesus, do you hate me? Do you hate me? Do you hate me?
—I Have Forgiven Jesus—

You are correct in looking at your flesh and wondering why it controls you as it does. In fact, the Apostle Paul made the same observation about his own flesh:

15 What I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate… 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Romans 7:15,18).

Yes, nothing good can come from your flesh. No matter how hard any of us try, none of us can overcome the sinful desires within our bodies. But before we get too down on that reality, we need to also look at what Paul says next:

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

The truth is, Jesus doesn’t stick you in self-deprecating bones and sin—He wants to free you from them! He came to rescue you from your flesh, not condemn you for it. (Tweet this!)

In fact, the very next verse reminds us that “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

How can Jesus hate you if He doesn’t even condemn you? The truth is, He can’t.

And why would He purchase your freedom from sin and death with His own life only to turn around and resent you? He won’t.

No matter what you have done, it will never separate you from the love of Jesus.

Nothing will ever cause Jesus to hate you. That’s the beauty of His undying love for you.


You have given all of us a gift, Morrissey, with your music and honesty. For that I thank you.

If you’re ever passing though Oregon, let me know. I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee.

Don’t worry, I won’t talk about Jesus the whole time. But I will remind you that Jesus doesn’t hate you, He hasn’t rejected you, and He loves you more than you know.

And I believe I can speak for all of your fans when I say we do as well.

Wherever you are…Don’t lose faith.
—I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday—

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