The heart is hungry. And we will fill it with something.
We are starved for connection. Our appetite for relating – for knowing and being known– is real and strong. When we turn to porn to fill the empty space we settle for a pseudo relationship – someone on a page or a screen allows us into very intimate space by stripping for us. Yet this is not someone we either know or are known by (which is kind of the definition of a relationship). But this cheap imitation of a “relationship” is safe in that it is rejection free. The woman taking off her cloths for me will not demand that I take out the garbage, inquire as to why I still have not repaired the leaky faucet in the kitchen, or express disappointment over my job loss, parenting skills, or appearance. As I once said at a men’s conference: “It’s erection without rejection”.
And the hunger persists… we gorge ourselves and remain famished- malnourished. Meanwhile, we are distracted from people in our lives with whom we have the real opportunity and responsibility of connecting with. Hours devoted to porn siphon off energy that should be directed toward real people in a real world. Friends, spouses, kids.
What this means is that breaking away from pornography is not just moving away from something but moving toward something. Simply leaving porn will leave a gaping hole in your life, because the hunger for connecting is still there. We are passionate people- and we will be passionate about something. Effectively turning from an addiction will not mean suffocating passion but re-directing passion. The call is not simply to leave porn but to become passionate about our wives and husbands. To passionately follow the voice of Christ and walk with him. To learn what it means to be a friend and to have friends. To engage deeply with real, risky people in imperfect relationships.
It does not surprise me that often a breakthrough comes when a man or woman confesses to a person or group that they are hopelessly trapped in a pornographic habit. I suspect that in that awful moment of coming clean- in that fearful moment of vulnerability- is the beginning of the relationship we have been craving. As we open our lives to a brother- we become more fully known. And we receive a taste of what it means to really connect with an other human being. The taste leaves us longing for more, and imitation intimacy is exposed for what it is—a cheap substitute which will not satisfy our real hunger.