One of the joys of my priesthood has been witnessing how God’s grace is stronger than any vice or addiction.
Given the large number of people struggling today with Internet porn, I thought it would be helpful to offer some of the tips I often give as a spiritual director to help people overcome it.
This is by no means meant to be a thorough treatment of the subject; it’s only a guide to get started.
Step #1: humble yourself.
Recognizing a problem is the first step to overcoming it, but that’s not the kind of humility I’m thinking of here. Most people who struggle with viewing pornography know they have a problem. The humility I’m thinking of is to ask someone you respect and love for help. Once the problem is brought into the light it is much easier to overcome.
Step #2: have someone hold you accountable in your Internet use.
There are two excellent software services—Covenant Eyes and X3watch—that help monitor how the Internet is used and send a report to an accountability partner you have previously selected, such as a friend, parent, or mentor. Knowing someone sees your internet history minimizes the strength of temptation significantly.
Step #3: fill the gap with something praiseworthy.
After you give something up you need to replace it with something better. Philippians 4:8 can be applied as a useful guide here:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
A good question to ask is, “What honorable, just, praiseworthy thing will I do instead?”
Step #4: undertake real spiritual combat
Pornography is demonic, the twisting of God’s gift of sex and sexuality. Continuous use of it is an open window through which demons can enter one’s life. If this has happened the steps listed above are simply not enough to overcome it. Spiritual combat is also necessary.
“Spiritual combat” is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which (we) engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in (our) hearts. (John Paul II, 25 May 2002)
I recommend keeping Holy Water near the computer, having recourse to the St Michael the Archangel prayer, and above all asking a priest to say a prayer of deliverance over you. To our modern world this may sound superstitious, but I have personally witnessed its effectiveness, and am convinced many struggles against pornography fall short because this has not been done.
Steps five and six are necessary parts of spiritual combat too.
Step #5 the Sacrament of Reconciliation
In Confession not only do we receive God’s forgiveness but also strength to continue on in the battle. Find a good priest who is both kind and demanding and go as frequently as needed. Don’t get discouraged if you continue to fall; our Lord gave us this Sacrament precisely because he knows we are weak.
Anyone who prays the Rosary daily will begin to make significant progress in the fight for purity and in their own prayer life too.
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