Guide Confidential: Especially for Guys

Story: Just One Look

As told to Lisa Freeman

I had to do a project for science class on the human body. It was late. Everyone was in bed but me. Sitting alone in my room at my computer and munching on some potato chips, I typed in the word "body." All of a sudden bad images began popping up on the screen.

The more I tried to close them out, the worse they got. Pretty soon all kinds of sexual scenes were showing on my monitor. At first I was embarrassed and wanted them gone. But then something inside me caused me to be curious. Besides, what's just one look? I figured I could take a quick look and go back to my studies. So I clicked on one of the images. Before I knew it, I was engrossed in an X-rated movie.

I'd never experienced this kind of excitement before. But I also never got my schoolwork done. And when I tried to go to sleep that night, I couldn't get those pictures or that video out of my head. I felt guilty and horrible. Oh, God, what have I done? But then I started thinking. It wasn't like I tried to go to those sites. It was an accident, right? That's when I made up my mind I wouldn't do it again.

My alarm clock went off at 6:00 a.m. as usual. I groggily reached over and shut it off. Next thing I knew, Mom was grabbing my shoulder.

"Drew, you're gonna be late for school! C'mon, get up."

I forced my eyes open and glanced at the clock. 7:30?

"You must have been up late studying." She walked toward my computer. "You left your computer on."

What? I sprang to my feet and ran ahead of her. "Y-yeah, I was up really late. I'll shut it down now. Sorry."

"OK," she said, giving me a strange look. "Are you feeling all right?"

"Y-yeah, I-I'm just tired."

"Well, you look a little pale." Mom reached over and felt my forehead. "You don't have a fever."

All those sexual pictures from the night before flashed before my eyes. Guilt pricked at my conscience. My heart ticked like a bomb.

Mom could always see right through me. It was like she had X-ray vision or something. I tried to clear the lump from my throat. As she stood there staring at me, my face burned.

"Now you're getting your color back," she said. "Good, I'll see you in the car."

I let out a huge breath of relief. Whew! That was close. I shut my door, pressed in the lock, and turned on the monitor. Those images were still there!

Click . . . click, click . . . They wouldn't close-more windows kept popping up.

The car horn blared outside.

My fingers shook as I thought about what to do. I couldn't leave the computer like this. What if Mom or Dad come in and turn on the screen? What if my younger brother or sister sees this? No, I couldn't risk it. I had to get rid of it once and for all.

So I did the only thing I could. Something Dad told me never to do. I shut the computer down manually. There! That should work. Now no one will ever have to know.

Just then my little brother Jimmy pounded on my door. "Mom says we're gonna be late! Hurry up!"

"OK, I'm coming."

All day, even at school, my mind would flash to those bad images. I kept closing my eyes and trying really hard to focus. Everyone in class was reading their essays aloud today. I normally liked sixth-hour English.

"Drew, it's your turn," Miss Brower said.

"Uh, I'm sorry," I said. "I'm not ready. May I read mine tomorrow?"

"This was the last day for your paper to be turned in," she said. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to take a zero."

It was about the same in every class that day. I couldn't get those pictures out of my mind. I also couldn't stop thinking about what would happen if someone logged on to my computer. Mom and Dad checked it all the time for viruses and stuff. And I forgot one little thing. I didn't erase the history. I knew I'd be history if they ever found out.

As soon as I got home from school, I ran to my room. When I turned to shut and lock the door, I saw Dad standing there.

"Good, you're home," he said. "We need to talk."

I had a funny feeling he already knew everything. As we sat down on my bed, I thought of a way to squirm out of this mess I had gotten myself into.

"It's about your computer," he said. "I was coming in to do some updates, and some things popped up on the screen that shouldn't be there."

"Really?" I tried to act all innocent. Inside I was crumbling, shaking in my shoes.

"I understand those things can pop up sometimes," Dad said. "Is there anything you need to tell me?"

I sighed. "Yeah. I was working on a project for school and I typed the word "body" in and all this stuff popped up, and I couldn't get rid of it. So I hid it from you guys and shut the computer down manually."

"It's OK, son," Dad said. "As long as you didn't intentionally do this."

"No, Dad, I didn't."

"Son, you know the Bible says that just looking at a woman lustfully is adultery. Internet pornography is huge. It can trap you if you let it. I'm just glad you were smart enough to shut the computer down before that stuff got into your head."

"Yeah, I know."

Before he left, he offered to pray with me. But I had too much shame. I couldn't let him know the whole truth. I didn't even like what I had done; how could I tell him?

That night in bed those images haunted me. On the one hand, I didn't ever want to look at that stuff again. But on the other hand, I craved it. It seemed like an addiction, and I had to have it. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I jumped out of bed, locked my door, and turned on my computer. It was like I had to have a fix. But after watching a few videos, I felt even worse.

This time I made sure I cleared all the history and shut down the computer. All those images were erased from the computer's memory, but not mine.

I knew God must hate me. My parents too. I wanted to tell the truth and get out of this, but I just couldn't. Something deeper inside had a hold on me and wouldn't let go.

Day after day I hid my secret. But my grades were slipping. Assignments were late or never turned in, and I rarely slept. Nighttime was when I got my fix. I always prayed when I was done, asking God to forgive me and deliver me. Still, the guilt never went away.

One night just as I logged on, my door opened. Dad stepped in. There was nothing I could do.

Yeah, I got busted. I got grounded, too. But I also got the help and
accountability I needed to get better. We moved the computer out of my bedroom into an open area. Things are slowly getting better. Now I don't think about those images all the time. My grades are picking up, and I'm able to sleep at night without feeling all that guilt and shame.

I sometimes hear people say it's OK to look as long as you don't touch. That's garbage. I know from experience that just one look can
lead a person into a horrible nightmare. Each day I ask God to protect my eyes and keep them focused on him. 

Help for Overcoming the Masturbation Habit

For many young men, looking at pornography leads to masturbation, a habit of self-stimulation that can seem almost impossible to break. One reason for this is because dopamine-a "feel good" brain chemical-plays a powerful role in most addictions.

Your desire to stop or avoid this practice is entirely in harmony with what the Bible says about sexuality: "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen" (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

Let's face it, breaking this habit is going to take some doing--and a lot of prayer. But it can be done! No, Jesus didn't have to battle TV or the Internet. But He was a man, and He knows what the battle can be like.

Some might ask, is this habit really such a bad thing? Well, here are a few reasons it can become a problem.

First, this habit can sap your daily energy. You may even have a difficult time making it through the day without wanting to take a nap.

Second, it can interfere with your "someday marriage" relationship. You could end up asking, "Why isn't my partner like that woman in those pictures I looked at?

Third, it may leave you feeling trapped, just as if you had an addiction to cigarettes or heroin. That's not a happy place to be.

Last, you may feel guilty a lot because of your habit, which can lead to serious depression.

There are more reasons that this habit is worth avoiding. Here are a couple of important questions to ask yourself about those times when you find yourself caught up in this behavior.

  • Who is receiving most of your devotion during this time--an unknown woman in a pornographic magazine? Yourself? One thing is for certain: it's probably not God!
  • Who is in control of your mind and emotions during the experience? You're probably thinking sinful thoughts instead of thoughts that would please God.

What You Can Do Right Now to Start Breaking the Masturbation Habit

Marriage is heaven's design for sex. But what can you do until then? Here are some tips for helping you to avoid and/or break the masturbation habit.

1. Stop watching or listening to media that puts you at risk. If you know a certain TV show, movie, or radio station is bound to have sexually charged content, don't even turn it on. Stick with programming and media that is more likely to not put you at risk. Why light the fires of sensuality when there is no extinguisher available? Honestly, this could mean avoiding most media in general. If that's what it takes, do it.

2. The moment you get the urge, go do something else! Go shoot your basketball, take a cool or cold shower (seriously), make a special treat to eat--whatever. Just move and make it more physically difficult for you to keep going down the road of temptation.

3. Wear loose clothing if possible. This will help to avoid unwelcome stimulation.

4. Each day, invite God to help you put this habit behind you. Ask that He will regularly bring to mind the value of breaking the chains that have you bound. See the spiritual armor graphic above.)

4. Find at least one trusted person to help you fight the battle. This is key. Arrange to report to each other at least one time each week on how the struggle is going. From time to time, state a new goal that you want to reach and go for it.

5. When you fail, realize that you can start over--as many times as necessary. There is no need to hate yourself for falling, especially when the Bible doesn't seem to talk about this habit specifically. (True, lusting and much else associated with it is clearly wrong!) God doesn't reject you when you fail. Ask Him to help you get back on track.

6. Reward yourself for progress. Maybe set aside a little money every day and make a deal with yourself that you'll spend it when you reach a certain goal. When you reach the goal, set a higher one and do the same thing. Who knows--maybe you will be buying a motorcycle when it's all over!

How to Deal With Pornography

By Randy Fishell, Guide editor

Guys, understand that being attracted to the female body is what God intended for you! The problem sets in when we're overly attracted to female bodies that are put out there as nothing more than something to drool over. That takes things out of the intimate relationship of marriage and turns bodies into nothing more than "toys." This pleases Satan and is an insult to God's purposes for sexuality within the boundaries of marriage. Yes, sex is supposed to be fun, but with your partner of the opposite sex for a lifetime.

Pornography is one of the most powerful tools that Satan uses to get young men to stumble and sin. That's become especially true since the arrival of modern media, including the printing press, TV, and the Internet. Guys wanting to look at girls' bodies is nothing new, but lustful material is getting more and more difficult to avoid.

Now, my personal guess is that guys and girls used to get married at an earlier age. The hormone testosterone kicks in at higher levels during the early teen years and that's related to the desire to have sex. That may have worked out OK if marriage was in the picture at the same time! It seems to me that God would not have given people a strong sex drive and then said, "Oh, by the way, you can't do anything about those feelings for another 15 years." No, sin has somehow twisted things up, leaving you in a difficult spot, and that can lead to something called masturbation, or "self-stimulation." This habit can be extremely difficult to break.

Besides feeling trapped, there are several other down sides to a sexual addiction. For example, you may feel tired all the time, both mentally and physically. Your spiritual life is probably not going to be terribly healthy. But perhaps worst is the sometimes unbearable burden of guilt and feeling disgusted with yourself that result from these activities.

Sexual addiction involves a cost.

OK, you probably agree with most of what I've said. Certainly viewing pornography in any form, which almost always leads to a masturbation addiction, is not what God intended. So what can you do about it? I am going to give you some ideas, although I don't know of any one perfect solution to the problem.

1. Understand the brain chemicals involved. Pornography is pretty much like any other addiction: it brings a flood of chemicals to your brain that make you feel good. Probably the most important of these chemicals is the "pleasure chemical" dopamine. Dopamine is a good and necessary thing, of course--except when it's the result of an addiction. Here's why I'm mentioning this: It's very unlikely that you'll break your habit through sheer willpower alone. The chemical reaction involved needs to be dealt with too. That means finding ways to experience pleasure in healthy ways. So my first tip is this: When you feel the urge to look at pornography, make a choice right then to go do something healthier that will make you feel good. This is not rocket science, but it is absolutely critical: you need to replace the addictive behavior with a more positive activity that produces good feelings. You must have a plan of action ready to act on when you get the urge to look at a dirty magazine or something similar. Go running, play basketball, lift weights, play an appropriate computer game, work on your favorite hobby--whatever. No, it may not provide the same rush as seeing a woman's body, but you will be breaking the links in the chain of addiction. Nobody likes being a slave.

2. Realize that you live in a spiritual war zone. Planet Earth is Satan's home turf, and you are in for the fight of your life. Sex is such a powerful gift from God that it's one of the first places Satan goes to lead you in the wrong direction. And don't think the sexual trash that Hollywood or YouTube or other media call entertainment is normal or healthy. Most of it is just plain sinful.

3. Accept the truth about what you're seeing. Sorry to break the news, but whether on-screen or in print, the models that pose in pornographic situations are not posing for you. They're doing it for money, and many of them need that money to feed addictions of their own. Some are willing to trade away their sexuality for fame. Many of them carry diseases that you can't see, and none of them are women you would want to marry. Yes, God wants them to turn their lives in His direction. But you are kidding yourself if you think these women know your name or care about you. Most of them are unhappy doing what they're doing but feel that they don't have any better options.

4. Be accountable to a friend or trusted adult. Look, you're not going to win this battle overnight. But if you and a friend or someone else makes a deal to be honest with each other on a regular basis about how you're doing, that is a good thing. When you fail, encourage one another to put the safeguards back in place and keep going.

5. Ask God every day for the power you need to fight lust. We don't often think about Jesus being attracted to women. I am sure He was, but He also had a strong connection to heaven that helped Him stay pure. Ask in prayer for God to help you think more and more like Jesus in every aspect of your life. Be specific and pray simple prayers such as "Please send your Holy Spirit to help me say no to temptation for the next 24 hours." Your next prayer may involve a 48-hour time period, and so forth. You may also claim Bible promises such as Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

6. Take specific steps to avoid and/or minimize temptation. Set your Internet filter to high. Never have a TV or computer in your bedroom. Stop watching most TV and dvds. (I am serious.) Don't pick up magazines that have even a remote possibility of including sexually charged photos or articles. Get really involved in a healthy recreational activity. Try to not stay at home alone any more than necessary. Go on errands with family--whatever is available at the time. This will help minimize the opportunities to give in to temptation. Keep track of those times when temptation is strongest and take steps to avoid those situations or mindsets as much as possible.

7. Invest large amounts of time in serving others. Helping to ease others' burdens takes the focus off you. Who knows--you might even find God calling you to a lifelong ministry! But the important thing for now is that you find a reason to focus on others rather than allowing your mind the free time to wander in the wrong direction.

8. Ask God to help you deal with the situation. In some ways, helping you deal with this problem is a challenge for God. He gave you a healthy sexual drive, so the solution isn't to remove it! But because sin has complicated the issue, that same sexual drive is a problem at the moment. Ask God to help you face each day--and this particular challenge--with His power as a spiritual resource in your fight. A daily dose of heavenly wisdom and discernment can only help.

9. Read and memorize key Bible passages related to this subject. Start with these two:

"Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immortality and debauchery, . . . Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desire of the sinful nature" (Romans 13:13, 14, NIV).

"Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Galatians 5:16, NIV).

10. Don't focus too much on overcoming your problem/addiction. This sounds strange, but here's what I mean. While you do want to take the matter seriously, after you've done what you can to face the day with power and commitment, leave it in God's hands. You can't avoid looking at every billboard and seeing attractive girls pass you in the school hallway. God knows what you're fighting. Do your part but trust more and more that His power is becoming a part of your life in ways that will take you in the direction He wants you to go. Which leads me to the next point . . .

11. Forgive yourself and start over when you fail. The good news about following Jesus is that He understands what it's like to live on this planet. When you don't make the best choice, ask Him to forgive you and to help you make better choices next time. But don't expect everything to go perfectly right away. You may need His forgiveness pretty regularly as you fight this battle.

12. Get professional help when you think you need it. A physician or counselor has expertise in helping people overcome a wide variety of addictions. No, you're probably not hooked on heroin, so don't think I am comparing pornography with that addiction. Still, both make a person feel trapped. If it makes you feel too uncomfortable telling a parent what you want to see a doctor or counselor, just say something such as, "It's kind of personal. Can you just make an appointment for me?"

Finally, don't forget that God has built into you a way to make sure you don't explode from built-up sexual tension! This is called "nocturnal emission" and you can learn more about this natural response here:

Websites for Guys

A good choice for website help on overcoming a pornography addition is Take their FREE (to anyone under age 21) video course to help you win the battle. Click on the Get Help button and sign up for the Fortify program. Don't wait to deal with your problem!

"How Do I Escape Pornography?"

Book for Guys

Every Young Man's Battle

If you are embarrassed to have the book arrive at your house, or if you don't have a way to pay for the book, you could ask a trusted adult such as a youth pastor or teacher to get the book for you. Or you may find it at your school or public library.

An Few More Helpful Resources

A free online course to help you overcome an addiction to pornography: The Way of Purity

Six Actionable Steps for Overcoming Pornography