Early in 2016, Barna Research Group published The Porn Phenomenon, a study designed to obtain current statistics of and attitudes about pornography usage in our country. One key finding that stood out to the team at Prodigals International/Restoring Hearts was that 79% of teens and young adults said they had no one in their lives helping them avoid pornography. Apparently, the topic is seldom addressed.
79% of teens and young adults said they had no one in their lives helping them avoid pornography.
However, numbers only tell part of the story. The truth of porn’s impact on today’s youth is found in the real stories of teens who are coming of age in a hyper-sexual culture, where the availability of pornography is only a click away on any digital device. Our team was contacted this year by a mom who wanted to share her family’s personal journey with this issue, as a means to raise the conversation to make more parents aware of pornography’s potentially addictive impact on our kids.
‘It was a Sunday morning before church and I was coloring my hair and rinsing it in the kitchen sink. My 18-year-old son came to me and said, “Mom, I need to talk to you. “
“Sure, Jacob, what’s up?”
“I need to talk to you privately.”
“Just tell me.”
“No, I need to talk to you alone.”
I quickly finished and wrapped a towel around my head, gathering my bathrobe closely around me and we walked into the guest room. Once we sat down on the bed, he looked at me and said, “Mom, I’ve been doing pornography for five years.”
He went on to explain that it wasn’t hard to avoid drugs and alcohol, but “everyone has a libido.”
The news left me stunned, numb and fighting back tears in the following days. How could this be? How did I miss this? What kind of mom was I? Hadn’t I made sure that the TV had those channels blocked when the installers came to our house? Didn’t we have those websites blocked on our computers? (I thought we did; but the last time we changed internet providers I somehow overlooked that in my busyness.) How did I not think of the phone?
“…it wasn’t hard to avoid drugs and alcohol, but “everyone has a libido.”
When our pastor had resigned a year and a half earlier because of this very issue, I remember sitting on our front porch and asking Jacob, “Do you do this?”
“If you do, please tell me. We can get you help.” I believed him when he said he didn’t (and I wanted to believe him!), but now I recall that he looked a little unsettled by the question. I didn’t press the issue.
Besides, he wasn’t the type of boy who would do porn. He had become a Christian as a child and had grown up in church, raised on Veggie Tales, Sunday School, VBS and family devotions. He was a good student who took honors and AP classes; played in symphonic band; participated in varsity sports; with a circle of good, close friends; and a part-time job. He even volunteered in the community. He was such a good kid!
Now, having confessed, he admitted to me that when he saw what happened to our pastor, losing his job over porn, he wondered what would happen to him if he confessed. And that kept him from coming forward for a long time.
Besides, he wasn’t the type of boy who would do porn. He had accepted Christ as his Savior as a child and had grown up in church, raised on Veggie Tales, Sunday School, VBS and family devotions. He was a good student who took honors and AP classes; played in symphonic band; participated in varsity sports; with a circle of good, close friends; and a part-time job. He even volunteered in the community.
But he couldn’t shake the feeling that God wanted him to tell us, his parents. Instead he had first gone to a friend from school that also struggled with porn, and told him. They agreed to hold each other accountable. But in his spirit he knew it wasn’t enough. Earlier that morning, before he told me, he had negotiated with God while taking a shower. He prayed: “I told my friend. Is that enough?” He felt God say, “That’s good, but it’s not enough. You need to tell your parents.”
Now at 18, he was consumed with shame at what he had seen, and would call me at work with more and more confession – “Mom, I saw this. I saw that” – needing reassurance that he wasn’t an awful person and that he was forgiven. And I told him he was forgiven, that his identity was “child of God,” and that God gives us grace.
So he had confessed to me, and I kept trying to understand. What made him do this? He explained that in junior high he had felt left out, and it all started with looking at girls in bikinis on his phone. From there it progressed.
Now at 18, he was consumed with shame at what he had seen, and would call me at work with more and more confession – “Mom, I saw this. I saw that” – needing reassurance that he wasn’t an awful person and that he was forgiven. And I told him he was forgiven, that his identity was “child of God,” and that God gives us grace. I also reminded him about all the other positive parts of his identity and how this did not define him, and shared music (How Can It Be by Lauren Daigle) and scriptures with him:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV)
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103: 12, NIV)
I even encouraged him to do something fun, like reading a good novel, to take his mind off of it in order to cope with the overwhelming guilt, and not sink into depression.
Accountability and Recovery
Immediately after Jacob told me, we called our former pastor and asked for help. That very evening we (the pastor, his wife, Jacob, my husband and I), all sat in a noisy section of Red Robin to share our story.
Our former pastor recommended three key actions:
- Get R|Tribe and Covenant Eyes to be held accountable. R|Tribe is a phone app that allows a man to reach out at any time to his accountability partners to ask for help in time of temptation and get support. Covenant Eyes is a filtering software that would send us (his parents) a report of what Jacob was watching.
- Turn over his phone and computer to us every night.
- Get into counseling.
And that’s what we did – all of it.
Today, eight months later, Jacob is clean. He hasn’t touched porn since. He is attending the Honors program at an out-of-state university and is busy with school, making new friends and taking up a new sport. He has also found a church and Christian college group to attend. He has told his roommate and asked him to be willing to take his phone if he ever feels temptation, and has reached out to friends who struggle and offered to help them.
One thing I wish I could tell all young men or women who struggle with porn: Don’t be afraid to tell your parents. It won’t be the end of the world. They can get you help. Jacob found that once he confessed, the hold that porn had on him was released.
What really motivated him to change was something his youth pastor’s wife told their youth group several years ago: “When you start dating, your girlfriend may ask you if you do porn. You should be able to say no.” Jacob knew he couldn’t say no, but he did want to date when he got to college, so he knew he had to come clean.
Now, with a clear conscience, he feels ready to someday meet a girl and honestly say, “No, I don’t do porn.”
If you’re a mom looking for tools and support to raise the conversation with your teens and pre-teens about the dangers and negative impacts of pornography, the 2017 Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference will feature an all-new 2-session tract specifically for concerned moms:
In its 9th year, the Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference is a unique event that provides a safe and encouraging gathering for women who have been impacted by sexual betrayal (pornography and/or infidelity). The one-day conference is Saturday, April 29th at Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, and features both inspiring keynote general sessions as well as more than 15 in-depth breakout sessions by counselors and experienced mentors in betrayal recovery. Tickets and info: http://restoringheartsconference.org