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Porn: Why I’m the D-Bag in the Gym

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I like to lift weights in the evening. It’s a more subdued atmosphere with a unique energy to it. Tonight I was at 24 Hour Fitness going through chest day when a cute girl caught my eye. I watched as she walked over to two guys on the bench press, one was evidently her boyfriend. I was about to return to my exercise when I noticed in the mirror that he was yelling at her.

I paused the music banging through my headphones.

From where I was, I could hear: “Get the fuck away from me! Leave me alone!” He then returned to spotting his buddy on the bench press, as if she was a nuisance who had finally buzzed away.

I continued lifting and the exact same thing repeated itself several more times. She quietly approached him to ask a question or show him something on her phone, only to be met with, “No! Leave us alone! Get out of here!” She sunk her head and retreated.

Anger welled up inside of me, and I silently calculated how hard I could throw a  punch in the middle of chest day (fellow lifters will understand).

As she returned again to her boyfriend, only to be met with anger and the feeling that she was bothering him, I began praying for the opportunity to interject. I didn’t want to fight anyone, I just wanted to tell her that she deserved better. That there are men out there who don’t treat women like mosquitoes. I was furious.

How could a man treat a woman so expendably? How could he steal all the benefits of a girlfriend, yet tell her to f*** off when he didn’t want her? How could he objectify her in such a pragmatic way?

It was in the midst of my anger in the gym that a silent voice spoke to me. He said, “Ethan, you do the same thing.”

I resisted this thought. The thought that perhaps, when no one is looking, when the door is closed, I am the same as him. But the Lord persisted.

I am a porn addict.

I employ the language common to many substance users: That I am presently in the throes of battle with my poison of choice (Regardless of how long I’ve been free of it), rather than assuming a triumphalist attitude that I have somehow beaten my addiction and now live free of it.

There in the gym, I was humbled as Bible verses sunk in in the most piercing way.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

I realized that in the dark of my room, I too have taken women when I wanted, and left them when I was finished, shooing them away like fruit flies from a melon. I too have objectified and used these digital mistresses for my own pragmatic gain. My sins are more secretive though, allowing me to polish a chromed veneer to the public while I crumble behind closed doors.

There in the gym, my resistance slowed and I humbly understood what the Lord was saying. If I condemn this boy for his actions, yet do the same thing when eyes are turned away, what right do I have to judge him?

If he is condemned then I am as well.

The Lord knows my sins, yet for some ridiculous reason, has removed them from me. He has washed me spotless of my iniquities. He loves this dude in the gym too, and understanding this is the root of showing grace.

I’ve been reading Philip Yancey’s latest book, Vanishing Grace, and have been simultaneously broken and amped up at realizing the depths of the love God has for us. For me.

But tonight, this concept of grace put skin on and abused his girlfriend in the gym. Tonight I was forced to look into a mirror and extend grace to someone who does not deserve it, just as it has been extended to me.

If I am to compare myself to someone, it should be Christ—the image of perfection and love. Outside of Him, the ground is level before the cross and I am no better than the abusive boyfriend, the rapist, or even the murderer.

Tonight I joined in the chorus with the Apostle Paul as we bellowed, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all.”

Tonight I am once more grateful for the gospel of grace.

Tonight I am grateful for Jesus: That He died for abusive boyfriends and porn users alike, and that He walked out of His grave, so that we someday may do the same.

e

35 comments on “Porn: Why I’m the D-Bag in the Gym

  1. Ethan, Writing this shows courage. Your transparency will be part of your healing. You are free. Thanks for your words.

  2. She still deserves better. ; )

  3. Many thanks for this, Ethan. 🙂

  4. Thank you for your honestly and deep self reflection. It’s too bad their aren’t more people who are willing to look at themselves like you do.

    I see your heart and I absolutely believe we ought to look at ourselves before we look at others when it comes to sin. But what do you think of this? I think that as believers, we are supposed to judge, but with an acute awareness of our own sin so that we come to the person we are correcting with a humble spirit. After the verse in Matthew you quoted comes, “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

    Basically, we are supposed to be actively working on ourselves so that we understand how flawed we are and don’t get a “big head” about other people’s sin, and in that process encourage others to do the same. I honestly feel that your anger for that girl was righteous. You saw an injustice and understood what was wrong with their relationship. That is wisdom and knowledge from the Holy Spirit.

  5. Hi, Ethan. I happened upon your blog because my Facebook friend Jessie Cat. liked your post. I just wanted you to know that you’re not along and transparency takes huge courage. The truth will set people free, but a lot of people aren’t willing to go there. I’m a new Word Press blogger. Although my issue is different, it’s a lot the same. I had to turn myself in to CPS for “losing it” on my kids several times. I found out I have some deeper issue w/ mental health. I’ve been married 12 yrs. I just want to encourage you to find someone to talk to and find help so this doesn’t effect your marriage (hypothetically, someday, assuming you’re not married). Don’t want to let the devil steal more than he has. My sister in law works for Covenant Eyes (an accountability software). It’s really amazing how God spoke truth to you, how he does to anyone at all. Keep up the good writing!

  6. …I stumbled upon your blog after I saw you on the news lol…In all seriousness…God has anointed you and given you influence. Thank you for using it for his glory. I am blessed by reading this.

  7. Wow this was amazing! I felt like I seen your whole heart. You clearly know they you are Wonderfully and perfectly made in the image of Christ. But the fact that you see a problem and stop and think and ask God for wisdom that just blew my mind. I think that was great and I wish there were more guys out there like that. I don’t care that I seen you on Wgn, I’m not trying to objectify you in no means. When you said you had a blog I was a bit intrigued because I know when I write I pour out my heart, and that’s exactly what you did. Keep up the writing!!

  8. Have you any idea how rare it is to find such humility and honesty online? I have been affected by the type of exploitation you speak of. I wanted to thank you for speaking out and giving me faith that there is hope. I have all but given up on finding a man who doesn’t hide his addictions but faces them head on. I sense so many men living in shame, taking it out on the world around them, in one way or another. Or worse, taking it out on themselves.

    Thank you for this read. It really has made a difference in my day.

  9. Every so often, the viral media launches an individual into the spotlight. As consumers, we are suddenly dropped into another person’s world.
    It’s rare that I stumble across someone who I feel it’s better that I’ve found him/her. Usually, viral (a word closely related to sickness) is of little consequence in a few days’ time.

    You’re a different story. I think God gave “Ethan the shirtless Wonder” his fifteen seconds of fame so the masses would land here.
    Your message, your story, is one that should be heard. It resonates with the hearts of so many (whether they face addictions, have family with addictions, or struggle with the same hypocrisy you mentioned).
    Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being open and honest-for not continuing to hide your sin away; for not hiding your faith for the sake of popular opinion.

    I hope this is how people end up remembering you, that they stumble upon your words and discover your heart-not just your shirtless jog through Chicago. You’re a true example of #swanitude, and I’m so glad people will get to see it.

  10. I saw your shirtless wonder post on Facebook and stumbled across your blog. I have to be honest and say that I am pleasantly surprised to find that you are a believer (just because it’s always wonderful to know there is one more follow of Christ in the world). And even more so that your writing is so honest and enlightened. Keep on pressing on. God bless

  11. Hi there,

    I am taken aback by your candid honesty and vulnerability. I, too, am quick to judge another person before noticing my own mistakes and shortfallings.

    However, there was one part I disagreed with- the choice to remain a bystander. Although I’m happy you quickly recognized your own judgment, stopping abusive behavior as it’s happening is vital. When my emotionally abusive ex reprimanded me in public, I always secretly hoped a bystander would stand up for me. Abusive men respect other men far more than they do women, and are likely to back down once another man intervenes. Even though we women know- deep down- that the anger, insults, verbal jabs, and abrasive sarcasm are all signs of abuse, it takes an outsider standing up for us to give us the courage to escape the relationship. Next time this happens, I’d sincerely encourage you to say something from afar. This throws the abuser off, draws other peoples’ attention, and keeps you at a safe distance.

    If you have any thoughts, let me know!

    Best,

    L

    • I agree with you Lara. It’s important to realize our own faults and failings but it’s also important to speak up for those who can’t speak up for or defend themselves. You said nothing more Ethan on whether or not you intervened on behalf of the young lady – you could have done both.

  12. Joanne cobar

    I am not going to lie, I saw the wgn clip And haven’t decided to get out of bed yet so I looked up your blog. I read this post and I want to say thank you. I have been struggling recently with my faith and grace.

    I am a sex addict.

    I have tried to stop completely but failed miserably and recently just felt like such a disappointment to the Lord and jesus. Your post made me feel a little better and I am eternally grateful to you for it.

    Good luck on your journey!

  13. I’m going to have to admit that I found this by that news video thing. I saw it on fb and found it amusing enough to want to send to a friend, but not if you ended up being a creep. That would just make the amusing story a bum story. When I first saw the title of the first post that showed up I was like nope. Deleting amusing article, then I read it and the following ones. I don’t struggle with porn. I did go through a period of time where I struggled with a conviction about my subscription to cosmopolitan, but that’s probably not a good comparison. However, reading this article, I saw me. My reactions and my behaviors in various situations. I recognized all that I am working on, and all that He is trying to work in me, while I’m trying to run away. I don’t know you, I’m never going to meet you. You’re just an amusing news story. But I’m assuming you write out of your faith and perhaps out of obedience. And somehow this is what has been used to trip up my running. Your basically the whale in the story of Jonah. Or at least your writing is. Also in my story, I’m not really pulling a Jonah. I’m totally running towards God, I’m just trying to do it my way, telling God where he needs to be so I can run to him there. Except now there’s a whale in my way and I’m turned in the right direction.

  14. Thank you for openly exposing yourself. As Christians we are to bear one another’s burdens. Perhaps if others felt they could do this we’d see more people drawn to the real Jesus instead of away from Him.

  15. Ethan,
    I know I do not know you personally and probably never will but this speaks to me in so many ways. I have a similar addiction and have never spoken out about it because of how ashamed I am. In reading this you remind me that I am not alone in my sin and that God has chosen to love and forgive me, me of all people. Thank you for being so forth coming and providing His word to give me spiritual strength. May God Bless You. – Korey Kristine

  16. Janie Simmons

    So refreshing to see a Man who knows that he needs to be more like Jesus – don’t see many with a goal like that – I am a recovering addict & it took a few years to renew my relationship with Christ – you are an inspiration & I suspect God is using you to speak to many

  17. So….I appeared here after your new found internet fame. Speaking of your internet fame, you might not ever see this comment. But regardless I wanted to commend you on the bravery of being transparent in regards to your struggle with pornography. Encouraged by your understanding of grace. Would also suggest you find Mike Erre’s sermon series he did at EV Free Fullerton on sexuality. Its good. Anyways, way to be good looking. Encouraged by you – keep running the race.

  18. As a stranger who happened to randomly stumble across your blog – I wanted to encourage you tonight. There is incredible courage in vulnerability. Thank you for showing courage in your struggle and bringing others into your journey. One particular sentence I wanted to bring attention to – “I am a porn addict.” You may struggle with an addiction to porn, but that is not who you are. Because of what Jesus did for you, your sin is not your identity. Who you are is a son of the Most High King, that is your truest identity, and that my friend, makes you very valuable to the world. Who you are – and who I am – is much more than any pile our sin amounts to. Hallelujah, that is His Great Grace. He is already victorious and therefore in the Spirit you are already victorious. You are free to struggle – you do not have to struggle to be free. Feel the weight lift from your shoulders as He takes it. His yolk is easy and burden light.

  19. ezerkenegdo2

    This is so incredibly refreshing to hear. Just voicing your struggles and not sugar coating it or hiding it with any other words. I applaud and thank you for your boldness!

  20. Fern McBee

    You are bravely talking about the number killer of intimacy in relationships from the perspective of an addict. I thank you and praise the Lord for what He’s doing in your life.

  21. Hi, Ethan!

    Thanks for sharing this! We are ALL addicts of something; we just chose to label ‘it’ differently to make it sound….better?…..

    Thank you for reminding your readers (including me) that we are all sinners. No one is perfect. Everyone struggles with a sin….and multiple sins.

    Be blessed!
    -Cat

  22. Thanks Ethan!
    So many of us struggle with the guilt of our own addictions and short comings that have kept us walking with our heads in shame. I needed to be reminded that God’s grace is bigger than my sin and that I am not the only one out here in this world being pinned down by it. We are constantly bombarded with pressures of sin all around us all day. Unfortunately as human flesh we choose sometimes to make unhealthy decisions . The apostle Paul said I reiterate for myself: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all.”
    Thanks for the reminder!

  23. I am still wondering why did you not approach the girl and told her that you think she is precious. We all do things that we think are not ”proper” using your terminology sins but acting better should be always a must.

  24. ChiChi042576

    My brother has let porn become his obsession and has turned him evil. He has completely lost his mind. He has wasted almost $100,000 on women at strip clubs and porn sites. It makes me ill to see such a talented person turn into a demon. I do pray for him but I dont think there is any turning back for him. He is past the point of no return and has resorted to lying and drug abuse as well as putting his wife of 12 years through a mess. He was someone that I looked up to and now I have to say I look down and wonder if he’ll ever be the same again. So I understand what you are saying here, but he will bever be the same.

    • Hi ChiChi, I am really sorry to hear about your brother. That sounds incredibly painful. Just remember that we have a “God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” (Romans 4:17) Don’t lose hope!

  25. Angelique D.

    Thank you for your post. I can relate. In a world where people around us try to make us feel like porn is the norm, it can be hard to fight the temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ” Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.”

  26. Kristina Johnson

    So refreshing to come across such authenticity in faith and humility. God bless you.

    If you haven’t already I encourage you to check out Matt Fradd. He has a great testimony and now does so much to bring awareness of the bad fruit of porn. https://www.facebook.com/mattfradd/

  27. Eric Mazonson

    Like everyone else, I hadn’t heard of you until yesterday. Re. this blog entry, I suspect you didn’t speak up because you truly didn’t feel you were any better than the guy who was verbally abusing his girlfriend. I also realize this humility is literally an “article of faith” for you. I’m Jewish, so I have a different perspective. IMO, you are NOT as bad as the other guy in the gym because you weren’t actively mistreating a woman in real life. Don’t let your view of yourself as being just as sinful as everyone else stop you from actively intervening in the future should similar situations arise.

    Re. the porn addiction, I’m a fellow sufferer. You might want to think of the following questions, and this absolutely does NOT constitute suggestion or advice (just how damned presumptuous and arrogant would it be for me to offer advice to someone I don’t know?)–truly just things to think about: might it be less “sinful” for you to have loving communicative sex within an exclusive relationship with a woman even if you’re not married to her than to feed an addiction? Does your resolve to refrain from sex until marriage perhaps worsen the addiction? Might it impair your ability to have fulfilling sex within marriage if you become too habituated to it? Since none of us is or will ever be morally perfect, we might wonder (or at least _I_ might wonder) in the case of the ever-present necessity to make moral compromises if it’s more of a sin to achieve momentary release fixated on a computer screen or to share yourself lovingly with another human being whether married or not.

    The fact that I’m _not_ Christian and have very different views about the nature of human beings (I don’t think we’re fundamentally sinful or in need of redemption from God–that’s simply not part of my conception of who/what God is), and view emotionally intimate sex as a positive good no matter the genders involved or the marital status influences my opinions. You sound like a principled, honest, self-aware and very decent guy (in Yiddish, you’d be called a “Mensch”), and you need to act in accordance with your own principles.

    I hope none of this was out of line, and I apologize if any of it was. Shalom (Peace)!

  28. Until you see your sin as something that offends a Holy God, nothing will change. It’s not just about the women you demoralize, it’s about a sin for which Christ hung on a cross and died for.

    Matt. 5:27-28
    1 John 2:16-17
    Romans 13:14
    Galatians 5:16-17

  29. Amen. The right words exactly when I needed to hear them.

  30. Thanks so much for sharing man! I pray that you get to influence more people to get to know Christ. God bless you.

  31. My accountability partner told me about your blog and I’ve been following you since. You inspired me to start blogging about my own porn addiction a few weeks ago. Okay, that’s a half truth. Both my accountability partner and God had to really push me. I didn’t want to do it but I’m glad I did. Being able to talk about it openly has helped me greatly.

    I’m glad you decided to share. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

  32. Sometimes I pity men who
    treat women this way (like a fly on a melon), and I pray for them. To me, this tells me that this man watched his mother, sisters, friends who are women, being treated this way. He watched a man treat someone he loved like they were nothing. Most likely, he was also treated this way. This is how he learned what love looked like, and felt like. He learned to value himself, and the women he loves as nothing. He was never been show how to control being frustrated or annoyed by someone they “love”. He has never been shown that love is patient and kind. And now that woman has her own journey to self-love and self-respect to walk. She has to find her real savior.

    Sincerely,

    Someone who has been the mosquito, someone who has watched her mother, sister, her female friends be mosquitos. Someone who gained her self-love and self-respect back after being abused. Someone who found someone who defined her as something more. Someone who found her Savior.

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