I read a page on Facebook, of all places, that actually drew my attention to something wrong and something good. I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject. The subject is pornography.
The page on Facebook correctly said that porn kills love. It becomes an addiction that can destroy human relationships. This is true. To this must be added what this “new drug” does to our spiritual life.
Anything that becomes an obsession, porn, gambling, drinking or other disordered forms of pleasure and “recreation,” will create a wall between God and us. It is not God who builds the wall. On the contrary – God wants nothing more than to save us. He has spent eternity tearing down the walls that man builds to keep Him out.
We believe that God made us in His image and likeness. However, the porn industry tells us that we are created to take pleasure from each other. Nowhere in the industry do we find the word, love. Sex is completely divorced from love. It is for pleasure and for profit.
Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are made to love. God brought us into existence, not because he needs us, but because he loves us. Out of love, he gives us knowledge, free will, the capacity to love, the ability to transcend from our world into eternity, and an immortal soul. These are attributes that God shares with us. Hence we are truly created in His image and likeness.
When someone caves in to porn or any other addictive and disturbing behavior, he or she starts down the path of slavery, because this becomes an obsession. Gradually, our brain’s hardwiring is altered to the point that we no longer make a free choice regarding love, sex and interpersonal relationships. We are driven by a hunger for something else; in this case it’s porn.
Here is the problem. When man becomes driven by his obsessions, this drive erodes his free will to the point that the obsession becomes an addiction and that gift of free will that God gave us is forgotten. We no longer choose to love. On the contrary, in the case of this type of addiction, one is trapped in mythological love. Myth is not real. Therefore, what we see on the screen is not real love, but fantasy. Since it is not real, it never fully satisfies our need to give and receive love. When one’s need is not satisfied, one tends to seek a higher dosage and more frequent dosage of whatever drug one believes will “fix us”, hence the term, “a fix”.
Not all is lost. On the contrary, there is hope and salvation from our addictions and disordered sexual drives. The most powerful medicines are found in the sacraments. Eucharist and confession are not magical solutions to life’s problems. God is not a magician. Eucharist and confession are acts of love. Christ shares his life with us. He restores us to health because he loves us.
Having said this, God builds on nature. He does not change it. There are some things that we have to do and that we can do to overcome our addictions and sexual obsessions. We begin by examining how we view men and women. A heterosexual male may see women as subordinate to men and see other men as antagonists. He has to compete with other males or he has to refrain from seeing the good and the beautiful in other males, because it’s not the “manly” thing to do. He has to prove to women that he is powerful. None of this is helpful thinking.
We must recover God’s vision of men and women. We must remind ourselves that men and women are our brothers and sisters. They are equally beautiful and equally worth our attention and love. Both sexes have much to offer through friendship, marriage, camaraderie, collegiality and other healthy relationships.
This must be followed by concrete action. One must decide to change one’s behavior. One of the best programs for people with addictions is the 12-Step program. It works one day at a time. Just as no one gets addicted to porn in 30 seconds or less, no one gets off it in 30 seconds or less either. It’s a daily task. The good thing is that God does not ask us to live more than one day at a time. For all we know, today may be our last day on earth. We must plan for today and as Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow.” When tomorrow becomes today, we plan for that day. Each day, we plan to live that day free of our addiction.
We must not forget the importance and the power of prayer. Contrary to what some may believe, prayers are answered. We may not always like the answer, but we receive an answer nonetheless. The most powerful advocate and mentor in our struggle to live free of addictions and obsessions is the Immaculate. She can stand as a barrier between us and that which can hurt us. She soothes bruises that are often the product of our behavior. Mary is the mother who reminds us that if we “do whatever he tells you” everything will be alright.
I’d like to add the importance of community. One need not join a community such as the Franciscans of Life to experience the common life. But every man and woman must engage in relationships with other men and women. These relationships must be productive; meaning that the relationship does well for the other person and for us. We have to take the risk of friendship, real love, and openness to others.
It is true that human relationships are risky, because we can get hurt. However, the hurt that we may experience in a human relationship is much easier to overcome than an addiction. This hurt is the product of love. We hurt because we first loved. Had we not loved, we would not hurt. Addiction is not the product of love, nor does it lead to love. It’s not even self-serving.
When we remember that Christ is the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, we begin to heal as we view men and women through the eyes of Christ . . . as family, not prepackaged satisfaction.