7 Steps to Beat Pornography and Masturbation

The goal is a pure heart: chastity is positive actions not just avoiding evil.

The biggest curse among men in the Church today is masturbation and pornography. We live in a “pornified culture” where sex is considered the goal of life; bikinis, twerking, and Photoshopped babes are everywhere; an average beer commercial today would have been considered porn only 50 years ago. The majority of men – and a decent percent of women – views pornography regularly. What makes this epidemic worse is that everyone pretends it doesn’t exist.

I don’t intend to discuss the deeper meaning of human love – read Theology of the Body – or modesty – read Wendy Shallit. I just want to offer concrete steps to end these self-destructive activities.

  1. Keep in Shape

Justin Fatica has made the prayer workout. It’s intense! But if you ask Justin where it all started, he talks about how he was addicted to masturbation and a priest told him he needed to work out instead. If you can control your body’s urges in one thing, you’ll be more likely to control them in another. As well, being in shape helps regulate your sleep patterns in a healthy way which reduces temptations while in bed but not yet asleep.

  1. Go to Confession ASAP

This is the simplest: once you fall, go to confession at the next opportunity. First of all, there’s the sacramental grace that removes the previous sin. Beyond that, confession helps guys who are not strong enough to break this habit cold turkey. Often these guys will find that if they go to confession and make a sincere intention not to do view pornography or masturbate again they’ll last 2 weeks but once they’ve fallen the first time, if they don’t go to confession, they can fall again in days. Returning to confession will make falls further and further apart till hopefully they’re non-existent.

  1. Put Filters on EVERY Device

If you have ever intentionally viewed porn online, you need filters on every device, period. Even if you haven’t, put them on to be safe so you don’t accidentally view it. You might know you can get around it, still do it so you have your conscience bothering you for 5 minutes before you view pornography rather than the 10 seconds.

As a side note to parents: if you don’t have a filter on any device your son has access to, he WILL see pornography. It is no longer might. Pornography-promoters try to get kids addicted; even if your kid doesn’t want o see it, there’s a scummy businessman trying to make your son view it to increase his bottom line.

  1. 7 Steps to Beat Pornography and Masturbation

    Maybe say “YES” too

    Don’t Say “No,” Say “Yes” to Something Else

This is a little counter-intuitive. What we usually think we need to do when we have a temptation is to say “no, No, NO, NO!!!” However, it works much better to say “yes” to something else. This can be something positive like saying a prayer or doing something nice for a friend or it can be neutral like watching a DVR version of last night’s SportsCenter or reading an adventure novel you like. This is better for 4 reasons: First, it gets your mind focused on the other thing rather than the temptation. Second, a “yes” gets stronger every time you say it but a “no” generally gets weaker. Third, we as humans can only say “no” to something well after we’ve said yes to something more important or better. Fourth, trying to make your mind blank makes it easy for temptations to return.

  1. Be accountable to a Friend

This is the toughest one: find a friend, maybe a spouse parent or brother and tell them you have this problem. Some can beat this addiction without this step but if it’s taking you more than a few months to overcome it, you need a friend to be accountable to. Then you need to ask them 2 things which re-enforce steps 3 and 4. First, you need to get a kind of web filter called accountability software where your friend gets e-mailed a list of every website you view with a green (Disney), yellow (bikinis) and red (porn) color-coding system. They have the password so you can’t uninstall it. Second, you need to ask them to be available to talk when you’re tempted. You don’t want them to talk about porn or anything like that. You want them to tell you interesting stories or talk about a theme that interests you – this is saying “yes” to something else by asking them to talk to you about it.

  1. Know your triggers

If you always view porn when you’re searching the internet randomly between midnight and 3am, do NOT go online then. The toughest thing is that you need to find a calm moment and analyze what causes you to fall. Often times there will be things you can’t avoid such as the temptation to masturbate as soon as you wake up or something like that; but, even in those cases, you need to figure out a way to beat the temptation a few times then repeat what worked. Oftentimes, previous steps such as staying in shape and saying “yes” can be a big help.

Sometimes, this can be harsh as pornography is often an escape. In such cases the trigger is a deeper rooted wound from the past that we need to deal with to be able to conquer pornography and masturbation. How to deal with wounds depends on the wound, and goes beyond my scope here.

  1. Pray!

Ultimately, we would never be strong enough to beat these temptations alone. We need God’s grace. And for that, we need to pray, to ask him for it. I would particularly recommend asking Mary to protect your purity since she is the most pure.

[Thanks to my friend, Fr Juan José Hernández, LC who suggested step 6 which I missed in my first draft.]

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