New Year, Old Sins Popping Up?

Hey guys, (and I’m assuming guys are reading this post as it will be about PORN; but ladies, if your husband is struggling with PORN then feel free to read on and pass it on to them).

I know the trap all too well, you make a promise to yourself and to God saying;  “This is the year!  I will not look at PORN again.”  Yet, how’s it going for you so far?  I found this article today about your New Year’s Resolution to Quit Porn will Fail and what you CAN DO to fix it.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the article.

Why Your Resolution to Quit Porn Will Fail Miserably

Written by Luke Gilkerson

About 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and 88% of all resolutions end in failure. Your resolution this year might be to “lose weight” or “get organized” or “quit smoking,” but regardless, there are good psychological reasons why most New Year’s resolutions fail. And when you’re resolved to stop something as pleasurable as watching porn, the deck is most certainly stacked against you.

So, how do you set a resolution that sticks? What does behavioral science say, and more importantly, how does the Bible shed light on quitting porn?

New Year's Resolution to Quit Porn

1. Start with small, measurable goals

“What a mistake—the whole idea around New Year’s resolutions. People aren’t picking specific behaviors, they’re picking abstractions,” says B.J. Fogg, founder of Tiny Habits.

Dr. Coral Arvon, director of behavioral health and wellness at Pritikin Longevity Center, agrees. She says there is a big difference between making resolutions and changing habits. Setting “small, short-term goals are the most effective and taking resolutions one step at a time is the best way to succeed,” Dr. Arvon says.

Dr. Richard Wiseman tracked 5,000 individuals in their New Year’s resolutions. Only 10% achieved their goals. One of the key things the 10% did to succeed was break their overall goal into a series of steps, focusing on sub-goals that were concretemeasurable, and time-based.

The Bible is replete with such wisdom. Jesus says those who finish well as disciples are those who anticipate the measurable steps along the way. He said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30). The book of Proverbs also recognizes the wisdom of knowing the day-to-day steps and logical ordering it takes to achieve a goal. “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house” (Proverbs 24:27).

So, how do you turn “Stop looking at porn” into smaller goals? Isn’t it an all-or-nothing kind of thing? Yes and no. Yes, one of our sub-goals should not be to merely “cut back” our porn viewing or reduce it to some manageable frequency. Merely drinking less deadly poison compared to yesterday is not an admirable goal.

But we can—and should—break our goal down into day-by-day, moment-by-moment steps. More often than not, freedom from pornography is not about being “delivered” from sin in a moment; it is about saying no in the day-to-day choices. The miracle of healing is a process.

  • Write down the places and situations where the temptation to view porn is the strongest and plan an “exit strategy” to flee from those tempting situations over the next three weeks. Plan how you will avoid those situations. Write it down. Plan how you will exit those situations when they arise. Write it down. Why three weeks? Because it’s easier than saying “for the rest of my life.” After three weeks, set a new goal.
  • Write down a list of SUDs—Seemingly Unimportant Decisions—that typically bring you one step closer to viewing porn. Certain activities look benign, but often there is a hidden motive. Is it getting online at night all by yourself? Not going to bed on time? Watching certain channels on TV? Listening to a certain kind of music? Shutting the door to your office or room? Write these activities down and choose that for the next three weeks, you will not do these things.
  • Pick a “fighter verse” that you will memorize and choose to speak aloud the moment a tempting thought enters your mind. Pick a Bible verse (or part of one) that packs a punch for you, one that reminds you of your overall goal, one that reminds you what is at stake, one that reminds you of your commitment. There are many popular ones (Job 31:1; Psalm 101:3; Psalm 119:9-10, 37; Proverbs 7:25-27; Matthew 5:28-29; Romans 6:12; Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:11-13; 1 Peter 2:11). Don’t be ambitious and memorize all of them. Choose just one. Speak it to yourself throughout the day and the moments you notice your thoughts heading the wrong direction. (And if you are thinking this baby-step is somehow beneath you, it is probably a good indication that you need to do it.)

2. Focus on the rewards

According to Peter Kinderman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool, one of the biggest problems with New Year’s resolutions is that people are using a rather arbitrary event—the beginning of a new calendar year—to motivate themselves to be different. “The very fact that we’re using the New Year to spur us to action might indicate that we’re not really able to do the hard work of changing,” he says.

Dr. Wiseman notes that the top 10% who actually achieve their resolutions are those who regularly remind themselves about the benefits. He recommends people create a checklist of how life will be better once they achieve their aim. What will be the reward?

Again, the Bible is filled with the language of reward. How did Moses, who grew up in the palace of Pharaoh with the fleeting pleasures of sin at his fingertips, say no to those pleasures? The book of Hebrews says, “he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26). Indeed, this is the very nature of real faith. Faith “is the assurance of things hoped for” (11:1)—the anticipation that the life we are promised is real.

When it comes to saying no to lust and pornography, there are tailor-made promises in the Scriptures that hold out to us the blessings of having a sexually pure mind and body. The apostle Peter writes that we can become more like God Himself through His “precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:3).

  • If you are pure in heart, God promises you will see Him someday (Matthew 5:8).
  • If you are sexually pure, your mind will no longer be foggy, your heart will be teachable, and you will be filled with the life of God (Ephesians 4:17-19).
  • If you fill your mind with that which is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy, then God’s peaceful presence will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).
  • If you are sexually pure, your heart will not be enslaved to the worship of sex, which means you can wholeheartedly devote yourself to the true and living God (1 Kings 11:4).
  • If you are sexually pure, you will see and treat men as brothers and women as sisters and not as objects to be used for lust (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
  • If you are not enslaved to your lusts, you will be freer to serve others in love (Galatians 5:13).
  • If you are sexually pure, you will be more prepared to be a great lover and to enjoy sexual intimacy with your spouse or future spouse (Proverbs 5:18-19).
  • If you are sexually pure, you will keep your marriage bed undefiled (Hebrews 13:4).
  • If you are sexually pure, you will no longer waste time but instead make the most of it (Ephesians 5:16).
  • If you are sexually pure, your life will be fruitful, and that fruit will be full of goodness, rightness, and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9).
  • If you are sexually pure, you will be an honorable person (1 Thessalonians 4:4).
  • If you are a sexually pure, person you will not be enslaved to your passions (1 Corinthians 6:12).
  • If you are pure, you will be more like the glorious, risen Christ (1 John 3:1-3).
  • If you are sexually pure, you will be living in the will of God for your life (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

If you want to be rid of porn, a sure-fire way to fail is to get caught in the trap of obsessing over what you are losing—not having your temporary “fix” anymore. Instead, focus on what you are gaining. Each day, prayerfully remind yourself: This is the kind of person I want to become.

3. Establish built-in reminders

Dr. Arvon suggests something simple like, “Set your smartphone calendar to give you positive messages or reminders about your goals a few times per day.” Dr. Wiseman says those who live up to their resolutions tangibly map out their progress, writing down their smaller goals and the benefits they desire.

This is also biblical. Moses established a yearly calendar and scheduled set times for the priests to blow trumpets as reminders to the people (Leviticus 23:24). Joshua had the twelve men from Israel carry stones from the Jordan River to build a memorial as a reminder of crossing the river on dry ground (Joshua 4). Jesus Himself instituted the Lord’s Supper to serve as a visible reminder to the church of His death (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

It isn’t “unspiritual” to manipulate your physical environment so you can be reminded of your commitments. Do what works for you. Stick Post-It® Notes everywhere. Wear a ring or bracelet. Set alarms or alerts in your phone or on your computer calendar. Or do like what Jason George does:record your voice speaking aloud the promises and blessings listed above in your iPod and listen to it every morning for the next three weeks—and then make the same commitment three weeks later.

4. Be accountable for your goals

Dr. Wiseman says that all those who achieve their resolutions had something else in common: They told their friends and family about their goals. This accomplished two things: it increased the fear of failure and created a network of support.

The same is true in cases of porn addiction. A study from Fuller Theological Seminary found that those who combined both Christian counseling and using Covenant Eyes Accountability software on their computers experienced a 66% drop in relapses, and many participants said they never relapsed.

Accountability is also something the Bible speaks a great deal about.James teaches his readers to confess their sins to one another and pray for each other so they can find healing for their distresses (James 5:16). All throughout the New Testament, the phrase “one another” is repeated over and over, giving the church a picture of the kind of relationships we are meant to have: relationships of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 4:18), bearing each others’ burdens (Galatians 6:2), admonishment (Romans 15:14), and love (Romans 13:8).

Accountability also brings with it the fear of failure or disgrace before others. The Bible also speaks to this:

Another motivator God has given us to keep us from sin is the threat of potential disgrace or shame before other people (Luke 14:9; Romans 1:24-26; 6:21; 1 Corinthians 11:6,14; 14:35). We ought to be aware of how our sins impact other people and our relationships. Paul’s term for this is “walking properly” (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 14:40; 1 Thessalonians 4:12). It means living in a manner of decency, and having the awareness that our actions impact those around us.

We do not sin in a vacuum. Our sin impacts our families, friends, and communities, and thus it impacts our place in those relationships. (Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability)

This is why accountability is critical for success, and when it comes to Internet pornography, accountability software is a proven tool.

5. Have the right attitude about slips

It is easy to fall prey to the I-might-as-well attitude. If we slip and start watching a little pornography, often we say, “Well, I’ve already sinned. I might as well sin big.” Dr. Wiseman counsels those who are making New Year’s resolutions: “Expect to revert to your old habits from time to time. Treat any failure as a temporary setback rather than a reason to give up altogether.”

This is most certainly true in the area of pornography. In their groundbreakingConquer Series, Jeremy and Tiana Wiles teach those in sexual bondage: “A relapse does not stop the healing process, but it will have consequences.”This balance is critical. Relapses into sexual sin are genuine setbacks, but neither should they defeat us.

Dr. Mark Laaser writes, “Slip is an acronym for ‘Short Lapse In Progress.’” Yes, it feels good to say that it’s been 88 days since you’ve seen pornography, but when you slip on Day 89 you are not back at square one. Genuine progress was made. Change happened. Don’t let it defeat you. At the same time, Dr. Laaser says, it remains a short lapse “only if the person learns from it, repents, and grows in understanding as a result” (L.I.F.E. Guide for Men, 45).

6. Fight from a new identity

Psychology professor Peter Herman has coined the term “false hope syndrome.” When someone makes a resolution that is completely out of alignment with what they really believe is possible or how they view themselves, this not only leads to failure but a great despondency.

Researchers Anirban Mukhopadhyay and Gita Johar have found that when people believe self-control is something unlimited and dynamic (i.e. “I canstop looking at porn if I put my mind to it”), they are far more likely to stick to their goals. But those who believe self-control is limited (“I can’t help it that I look at porn. I have an addictive personality”) do worse on their resolution goals.

While it is true that the Bible speaks to human limitations because of sin, the Bible also speaks a strong message of God’s power to do the impossible despite our limitations. As Christians we must fight against porn with faith: we must believe we are children of the living God.

Christian counselor Brad Hambrick says that with every struggle in our lives—be it overcoming sinful habits or getting through times of incredible pain—we are always simultaneous sinnerssufferers, and saints.

  • Sinner: Sin is part of our very nature.
  • Sufferer: Our sinful world has caused us harm.
  • Saint: We are children of God.

Yes, as sinners and sufferers we are, in fact, limited in our ability to change. But as saints, we are united to a God who knows no limits, who is not intimidated by our sin or our lack of faith. God’s grace does not just overcome the guilt of sin; it overcomes the grip of sin.

In His grace, God unites us to the Spirit of the risen Christ. His resurrection power now flows in our veins. Knowing this, Paul says: “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). He does not tell us to die to sin (a command), nor does he tell us we are dying to sin (a process), but he says we are dead to sin (a fact). This statement strikes at the heart of who we are. We are no longer defined by our sinful past, our present struggles with sin, our guilt, our shame, or our relationship to this sinful world. We belong to the sinless age to come. This is who we truly are.

If we make a resolution to stop looking at porn, we must do so standing firm in our identity as saints. Each time the temptation comes along, we should resist it, saying to ourselves, “This is not who I am. I am dead to sin. I have been given a spirit of power, love, and self-control. I am united to a Deliverer who is able to do far more abundantly than all I can ask or imagine.”

Pure Minds Online | Issue 40 | More in this Issue: Turning Your Values into Online Values | What if My Child is Addicted to Porn? | Join the Fight

Image credit: deapeajay

About

Luke Gilkerson is the general editor and primary author of the Covenant Eyes blog. Luke has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Bowling Green State University and is working on an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. Luke and his wife Trisha are the proud parents of four sons. Luke and Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com.