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How renouncing porn binds you to it

He who renounces something is eternally bound to it.

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I can’t remember exactly where I heard this proverb, but it’s something like this: He who renounces something is eternally bound to it.

After all, what is it to renounce something other than to eternally be apart from it — intentionally? The same way marrying someone bonds you to them for good, so renouncing something (supposedly) separates you from it for good.

I was talking with a friend recently about these two things, and what the alternative is, and related my upbringing as an example. When I was younger, I went to multiple purity retreats and sexual education weekends. The truth is, I’m grateful for these things. They solidified my resolve to be a virgin until marriage and gave me plenty of reasons to remain so, more than just “sex is bad, don’t do it.”

On the flip side, however, my parents never gave much weight to drugs, alcohol or smoking. Whenever my parents would have wine with dinner, they would let my brother and I take sips. They would let us take a drag of my dad’s occasional cigar, both of which led to us coughing and trying to get the taste out of our mouth.

Looking at their approach to sex versus their approach to substances seems to reflect a lot on how I see both as an adult. I have struggled for over a decade with a porn addiction, though I still remain a virgin. I have never, however, been drunk, high, or addicted to any type of substance, and none of those things even appeal to me. I simply don’t care about them.

Do you see the difference? To speak of something (sex) with some sort of ethereal mystique gives it a strong allure, even if all intentions are to keep someone away from it until the appropriate times. Because sex was hammered into me repeatedly as something to avoid until marriage also served to elevate it in my mind to some sort of ecstatic utopia that I was dying to achieve.

However, to mention things (substances) casually keeps them in their appropriate place. I didn’t — nor do I now — care much about alcohol or cigarettes or weed, probably because they were not emphasized much in either direction in my upbringing.

Another problem arises though, because I imagine being a parent someday and I simply cannot picture myself casually shrugging about sexual conversations with my children. I think it’s such an important topic on which they need to be educated in order to combat the world’s laissez-faire way of approaching it. How do we do this in a way that doesn’t also elevate sex to a source-of-all-satisfaction type of mystery?

I don’t have many answers, but one thought I have is this: The model of gross/god/gift.

Some people see sex as ‘gross.’ Think Puritans or fundamentalists who try to scare their kids away from sex for life. This accomplishes exactly what I am talking about — try so hard to drive someone away from something that they’ll eternally be drawn to it.

Others see sex as ‘god.’ It is the end of all ends. It is the source of all happiness and everything must lead to sex. This lines up with a lot of the world’s teaching about sex, as this is the way it’s presented in nearly every commercial, ad, show and film. This too will leave people empty at the end of the day because it forces sex to carry a burden it was never meant to bear.

The Biblical view sees sex as ‘gift.’ It is a good thing, given in the appropriate time and season to the right person. After all, a gift given to the wrong person or at the wrong time can be harmful. However at its core, if sex is a gift then it is a good thing. Not just to bring new life into the world, it is also something to be enjoyed and to increase intimacy.

The problem I keep encountering is that I am always trying to escape pornography — to renounce it — and actually cut it out of my life. I want to not care about it; I want my allure to it to simply die. But I wrestle with renunciation without being bound to the object.

If sex is good, how do I maintain that attitude without slipping too much toward the ‘god’ or the ‘gross’ side?

To put it another way, I believe pornography is harmful, toxic, destructive, and objectifying of human beings. I have dedicated a lot of time and energy to fighting against it. Yet now I can’t help but think that in some weird way, this all has bound me to it more than if I just let it drift away into the ether and disappear from my thoughts.

This is in line with what all good teaching on quitting says: Don’t try to fight your addiction; replace it. Think less about it and turn your focus toward things that are beneficial and fulfilling. If you remove porn, you create a void. That void needs to be filled with something or you will eventually turn back to your vice.

So may we be people who learn how to renounce well. May we learn how to leave worthless things behind and embrace the things which give life.

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4 comments on “How renouncing porn binds you to it

  1. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability! I believe as you’ve chosen a stand of purity it is the area the enemy will most attack you. So when you battle the porn, you’re actually being engaged with the enemy which keeps you focused on him and distracted. In a sense, maybe that is what you are describing by “renouncing” and feeling more bound. I don’t have all the answers, but perhaps instead of fighting it, if you ask God into it, he will battle for you as you seek his presence. Maybe you have already been doing this. I believe that you are victorious and NO weapon, even porn, formed against you will prosper. Praying for you and others in the same situation.

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  2. Lambert Dolphin

    Excellent as always. In my lifetime a huge paradigm shift has occurred. It shows up as a disconnect between my generation and yours which I am seeking to better understand. Gender confusion is one symptom (extreme). God is helping me understand the disconnect. I have two friends living with me (25 and 25), guys raised in the church but never discovering Jesus there. http://ldolphin.org/gender.html

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  3. Lambert Dolphin

    Hello Ethan,

    You are wonderfully transparent my brother.

    You are correct about porn. It’s addictive and ugly and largely irresistible. I can’t avoid it without help from Jesus. Romans 7 is a big help to me:

    “…I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?“ (Romans 7:21-24)

    Do you still masturbate? M Is universally believed to be innocuous, but I disagree! A friend showed me how when I was 13 and just coming into puberty. At the time I thought I had been given the secret of the universe. My sex education took place in the boys’ locker room in junior high. My parents were only nominal Christians. I had no clue about who Jesus is until I was 30.

    My friends under 30 are usually sexually active, thinking nothing about it. One of my close friends, 26, not yet a Christian, said he had had sex with at least a hundred women in high school. He is now not fornicating but still masturbates a few times a week. I think he is on his way to knowing Jesus.

    Thanks for listening, Lambert

    >>

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  4. “Don’t try to fight your addiction; replace it” – great words for addiction recovery. God bless you more Ethan!

    Liked by 1 person

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