Sometimes love isn’t really love. Sometimes, it gets messed up and it’s just dirty.
I knew when I wanted to write a month of blogs about love, it wouldn’t all be lovely. It’d be some good things, along with messy, confusing, dirty things. And I thought to myself, “Who deals with more messy, confusing, dirty things than anyone?”
So I got on the phone and called Steven Luff in Los Angeles. You may not know him, but you’ve probably heard of the church he works with. Steven leads recovery workshops with XXXChurch. That’s the “porn church.” No, it’s not an actual church. But it’s a big network of people working together to fight a huge problem. Just last weekend, over three-hundred (actual) churches nationwide participated in XXX’s big new thing, “Porn Sunday.” I’m really glad to feature Steven today, and what he shares is really helpful, not just to deal with porn, but for everyone.
Oh, and for the first time ever, we are having a giveaway today that literally everyone wins. All you have to do is keep reading.
First of all, how did you, of all things, become involved in XXXChurch?
XXX was started about ten years ago by Craig Gross. A few years ago, I started a recovery program at Oasis Church in Los Angeles. At the same time I was starting seminary, and those early experiences coalesced into Pure Eyes, which I wrote with Craig. Getting involved with XXX was just one of those God things where everything came into place all at once. Now I take care of the recovery side of things at XXX. We have two main recovery groups in L.A. and Hollywood, and in March we’re launching an intensive weekend recovery seminar.
Can you give us an idea of just how big a problem porn is? Some people probably think it’s just gross teenage boys looking at Playboys.
Craig went out to a church recently and had about 150 men fill out cards anonymously, telling what they’re struggling with, and the majority of them listed pornography. I’ve seen statistics as high as 70% of men and 30% of women are caught in porn on some level.
70% and 30%? Wow. Add that up, and it’s 100%!
Or not, but it’s still a lot. So, how do your workshops and ministries work?
Our recovery groups take a hard look at what is really happening in the physiology and psychology of the brain, what feelings, emotions and triggers are causing people to act out with addictive behaviors. It’s not just the devil tempting you. Your brain has a very real “reward” center that causes people to binge on all kinds of pleasurable addictions, and addictions change the brain in very real ways. Once people can see their addiction for what it is, they can be free, and obliterate the myth of “compulsive” behavior.
We don’t like to say that recovery ever ends. Once you’re in recovery, you’re always in recovery. But we are all on some level in recovery. We all put something before God. By grace, we’re forgiven, but we always have to find ways to be complete in God rather than the substitutes.
What’s the most important first step people can take in walking away from porn?
People need to find someone they can trust to talk to. The cure to any addiction is unconditional love. The cause for so many addictions is conditional love; people or culture saying I will not love you unless you look like and act a certain way. When you show all your darkness to a loved one or an accountability partner, it’s a dangerous moment. If you pick the wrong person, someone who loves you conditionally, it can be damaging.
On the other hand, we don’t encourage dishonesty with spouses. Every week, everyone has to confess a lie or secret they’re keeping from their spouse. Lies and secrets carry shame, and I encourage guys to be honest with their wives when they’re ready to be. You can’t just deal with physiological causes of addiction. If you’re not finding real ways to be loved in your real relationships, no attempts at behavioral change will be successful.
Is it possible to keep kids away from porn? Is porn so ubiquitous that kids are going to be exposed to it one way or another?
Whatever you need to do to keep your kids away from any kind of substance abuse, do it. Be as vigilant as possible. Parents need to talk about it with kids, keep filters on their computers, and not keep computers in kids’ bedrooms, no matter how much it may keep them placated. The correlation between every substance addiction and behavioral addiction is that reward center in the brain, and it doesn’t stop developing until adulthood. If it gets messed with, the brain gets hardwired toward an addiction.
How do you feel about the attention or response the church is giving to porn? How can churches be effective at addressing this issue?
It’s a touchy subject that no one wants to talk about, but so many people struggle with. Many pastors aren’t equipped to deal with it, or are afraid of losing their members over making this a focus. It’s really easy for the church to banish the sex addicts to the sidelines, even though churches will sponsor any other addiction recovery group. But to me, a recovery group is no different from a Bible study. It’s a place to share struggles and find God’s love.
So much healing can take place when it’s just talked about, not in a voice of condemnation, but just an acknowledgement that it’s out there, and people may be in a very dark place with it.
Okay, I told you that you already won something just by being here, so here’s the giveaway. Exclusive to my readers, you can get any of XXX’s 30 day online recovery workshops for $20 bucks off. Follow this link, and use promo code: TCONP. If you’re struggling, this is the perfect chance to stop putting off helping yourself.
Seriously, I want to help get this resource to as many people as possible. Even if you can’t use a workshop, please tell people about it – tweet it, Facebook it, tell your friends, church group, pastor about it and point them to the promo code. (I’d love it if you pointed them here to get the promo code, but whatever.)
If you’ve got a success story (of you or a friend) who walked away from an addiction of any kind, I’d love to hear about it.