When I decided to stop looking at pornography, I was pretty successful at throwing away all of my stuff. But as I was aging, technology was getting better—the Internet was born and gaining popularity—and cable television, which I had never had growing up, came into my life. So even though I threw out many of the things that had hooked me, the lure of sexually explicit materials came from other directions that had not been a problem before. I was struggling because of mainstream media.
While I did not struggle with the Internet, I found that television and movies caused me lots in problems in the battle for my mind. I had never considered being careful about the movies or television shows that I watched. But suddenly, I realized the content of mainstream media had shifted; the public was much more accepting of sexually explicit materials on prime-time television, and cable was even worse. When I finally went into recovery, I realized I had to take drastic measures to lessen the media’s influence on me and my porn/lust issues. Here are four things I did:
- Take inventory. The media is not going to look out for you. When I realized that I had to look out for myself, I took action. Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” But it’s not just about your eyes: the music you listen to can trigger thoughts and emotions as well, and being a musician who loves music, I still struggle with boundaries in this area. But I know that media is a slippery slope, and I must constantly test whether I am watching and listening to things that are good for me and pleasing to God. You must know your own limits as well—they may not be as strict as mine, but it is important to set them in advance and take account.
- Use filters. Just because I restrict myself, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy movies and media—but I do use filters as boundaries. For example, I use the website Plugged In, which reviews movies, television shows, and music. Plugged In is a Focus on the Family website, so they count every curse word and detail every bit of violence and sex in media. I may not always agree with their assessment, but checking out Plugged In before I go to the movies has saved me from falling into lust again. In addition, I have a filter on my phone—honestly, you never know when you’re going to click on a website that may contain unsuitable images.
- Unplug. If you’re inside watching TV or on your computer, you are most likely not interacting with people. So unplug! Leave your phone at home or at least put it down for a few hours. Step away from the computer or television. Get with other people and form community. Be vulnerable and honest with them. Form intimate bonds with them, not with images on a screen. Real relationships are difficult and a lot of work: but they are worth the struggle and better for your soul. The more time I spent with others, the less time I have to devote to meaningless media.
- Get in the Word. God’s Word is the best replacement for media, whether it is through prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship with others, or listening to uplifting Christian music. The illicit images in your head need to be replaced with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and/or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Find things that fit this description and begin filling your mind with these things. As you do, you will find the desire for mainstream media decreases as your desire for God increases. That’s been my experience!
People laugh when I tell them that I only watch Disney Channel and sports. They believe that I am missing out on the coolest shows, the best songs, and Oscar-winning movies. But what I am really missing out on is the explicit sexual content that causes me to struggle with sexual purity and pornographic thoughts. And quite honestly, I don’t miss that at all. Neither will you!
What are some ways you recognize mainstream media has influenced your thought life?