Did you know that unforgiveness could be stopping you from overcoming pornography?

I’ve worked with a lot of men over the years to help them get free of porn. I’ve worked with young and old, rich and poor, students, doctors, and everything in between. And I’m always amazed at how no one has taught them how to forgive properly.

In Matthew 6:14-16, Jesus said: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

I always assumed the forgiveness that Chris afforded us was unconditional. A done deal. This scripture suggests otherwise. There is one stipulation to experience God’s forgiveness: You and I must forgive those who offend us.

While most men don’t realize it when they first start my program, by the time we’re about halfway through, it suddenly becomes clear that there is significant unforgiveness at play in their struggle with pornography.

How could that be?

Unforgiveness callouses the heart.

A calloused heart is like a plant covered in plastic wrap. No matter how much you water it, eventually, it will die. You can live in a loving environment and serve at church, but God’s love (and the love of those around you) will never touch the areas where your heart is calloused.

And that leads to unmet needs. The needs do not go away when the heart is calloused. They just can’t be dealt with because of the unforgiveness. It might seem insignificant, but in reality, unmet needs are the primary driving force of all pornography-related issues. Porn is not tempting when your needs are fully met.

So you and I must ruthlessly guard against unforgiveness if we want to obtain and maintain freedom. Period.

Joyce Meyer famously said that unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and expecting the other person to drop dead. We are the ones who suffer when we harbor bitterness and resentment, even when there’s good reason to do so.

Before I explain how to forgive correctly (because most methods taught today are incomplete), let me clarify that forgiving someone is a self-serving (not selfish) act. It does not justify what the other person has done. It’s not letting them off the hook or saying what they did is okay.

Forgiveness is letting yourself off the hook. It is a conscious decision to move forward with your life and not make what happened in the past to hold you back anymore.

If you need to forgive someone today, here are four steps to ensure you do it properly:

1. Identify

You have to identify the people involved. It seems obvious, but you must name them. There are three basic categories of people you may need to forgive in any given situation: Others, Yourself, and God. 

Wait a minute… God?

Yes. Sometimes we need to forgive God. Remember that unforgiveness is not based on whether someone behaved rightly or wrongly. Unforgiveness is when we refuse to release someone for the pain they’ve caused us. 

God is perfect; He makes no mistakes. But sometimes His actions (or lack thereof) cause us offense. And when this is the case, we need to forgive Him, not for His sake, but ours. 

Forgiveness always starts by identifying the people involved. 

Once you’ve done that, move to step 2. 

2. Specify

We’re often taught as kids that when someone hurts you, you have to say the words “I forgive you.” I know some parents who make their child look their sibling or friend in the eye and say, “I forgive you.” And then they can go and play again. 

This kind of forgiveness lacks specificity, and that’s a problem. We want to be clear and equally specific when we are forgiving. Vague forgiveness is like throwing money at a credit card bill hoping that it covers everything, but not knowing the amount owed.

We want to clearly articulate the pain and offense caused so that we can completely release it without any loose ends. 

It’s one thing to acknowledge that you need to forgive your Dad for not being there when you were young. That’s a good start. But the more specific you can get, the better. 

Two specific examples that will make the forgiveness process more meaningful are forgiving your Dad for not loving you unconditionally or being emotionally present. 

3. Release

Most people start at this step as it is the actual act of forgiveness, but trust me; this aspect goes a lot smoother when you do Step 1 & 2 first.

There are two keys to releasing properly:

  1. Saying the words “I forgive you <Name from Step 1> for <Acts from Step 2>
  2. Saying something to the effect of “I release you now, you owe me nothing.”

You must say out loud, “You owe me nothing.” That is the essence of forgiveness. It is clearing the debts, balancing the books, and cleaning the slate—an absolute must.

Usually, at this step, I pause and let it sink in. I don’t want to just say the words; I want to ensure the work goes deep into my heart. 

4. Restore

The purpose of forgiveness is restoration. At the very least, it is the restoration of the forgiver. And at the most, it could be the restoration of a relationship. The latter is harder to determine, but when I forgive someone, I always ensure that, in the end, I declare scripture-based words over them.

“You are caring, loving, and compassionate. I pray that you will prosper body, soul, and spirit”… that sort of thing. You can modify this as you please, but I find it useful to wrap everything up.

If you string all four steps together, you get an excellent forgiveness script that looks like this:

I forgive you <NAME> for <CAUSE OF OFFENSE>

I release you, and you owe me absolutely nothing.

You are worthy of love, and I pray that you prosper: body, soul, and spirit.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful gifts you can give yourself and the loved ones. I’ve seen grown men break down as they go through this little three-line prayer and forgive people for wounds that they’ve been carrying for years. When you apply this and put your heart into it, you will be amazed at what happens. 

If you’re struggling with porn, there is an excellent chance that unforgiveness is playing a role. To get entirely free, find someone who can help you work through these areas of your life with a proven system. It takes a bit of work, but it’s worth every single step.

Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.