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Monday, April 17, 2017

Overcoming Pornography - 5 Virtues That Will Help You Beat It

I left a review on the Porn Harms page on facebook in March 2017 that said "Don't listen to all the naysayers who dismiss the dangers of pornography. They're the ones who are too afraid to admit they are addicted to it and that it's ruining their lives. This agency is helping to save people's lives and repair torn families. I have seen first hand the damage pornography does to marriages and families. It rewires the brain to completely ignore feelings of love, empathy, respect and trust.
Thanks NCOSE for all the hard work you do."

Of course I expected people to comment with things like "Oh, it's not as bad as you're making it out to be" or "Stop trying to tell people how to live."

On the contrary, to my surprise, I had people saying things like "k tell me first move", "I like it too... I need to stop" and "I watch it almost everyday... [Please] I want to stop this what can i do"

I have struggled myself with this plague off and on for over 15 years and I know exactly what works and what doesn't when it comes to overcoming that kind of addiction.  Below I have explained 6 different virtues that will help you overcome it.

1. Accountability.  As Neal A. Maxwell said, "Ever wonder why the sensual scene so often features flashing but fading lights? Or why all the reinforcing glitz? Or why all the loudness masquerading as music? Because, fearful of the dawn, evil cannot stand the steady scrutiny of bright truth, nor can it endure the quiet reflections of soul-searching!"  If you want bad behavior or sinful habits out of your life, expose it.  I guarantee you there are few things that will make you overcome the impulse to indulge in pornography more than making it known.  No matter how hyper-sexualized society has become, people in general usually look down on those who they label "perverts".

This doesn't mean you have to spew out on facebook something like "I am addicted to pornography and I watch it every day!"  Embarrasing, much?  However, do find someone (or more than one if you can) who you love and trust and ask them to be a "confession board" for you.  It needs to be someone who can appreciate and support you in your recovery and will treat your addiction seriously enough to help talk you out of consuming pornography when the urge strikes.  Whoever you choose, they must be firm enough in their resolve to help you that they will never say or do anything that even accidentally makes you think you can indulge or that it's "not as bad as you think."  You should feel guilty about it!  But guilt is not shame.  Shame is based on "I am bad."  Guilt is based on "I did something bad."  The worth of your soul is based on your eternal identity as a child of God, not on what you have done.  Make sure your "confession board" person is aware of that and is firm enough to be clear that consuming pornography in any form and to any degree is wrong, but loving enough to make it clear that you can make better choices, you can beat it and you can train your brain to think differently.  When you've found that person (or people), be relentless and even painfully open and honest about the details of your addiction, it's frequency, when your weak times of the day are, what your triggers are, etc. Only use your computer in public places if don't live alone so others can see what you are doing if you are afraid to start with verbal accountability.  Get to that point by making it harder for yourself to "get away with it."  But do find someone who you can talk to.  I promise you will not be able to beat the addiction without help from someone else.

2. Honesty.  Speaking of being open and honest.  You need to be willing to not mince words, sugar coat or in any way attempt to "sneak" around direct, detailed acknowledgement of the nature of your addiction.  I understand how scary that can be.  It's hard to say things like "The first thing I impulsively think of and the first place my eyes go when I see a woman is her breasts/vagina" or "I often fantasize about what it would be like to touch her/him in [private place] or have them [sexual act] to me" or "I saw a person in tight jeans today and all of the sudden I had a powerful urge to [insert response here]."  When you say things like that to your "confession board" person it's going to make you feel awkward and probably dirty or sleezy.  That's okay!  It should make you feel like that!  Godly sorrow - meaning guilt, not shame - is an effective catalyst for change.  You also need to clearly and precisely talk about what you use as rationalizations.  Perhaps you think "So many people do it, what's the difference with just one more person does it?" or "It's a bikini. It's not like their naked" or "It's just a pose, they have all their clothes on.  They're just comfortable in their own body" or "It's just art.  It's meant to focus on the beauty of the body" or "Wow they're hot!  I'll just search for their name and focus on the pictures with clothes on. I just want to see how truly beautiful they are or how their reached their goal weight."

Stop it.  Stop it now.  You're lying to yourself.  These rationalizations and all others are lies.  If you are truly honest with yourself, you know that the mind of an addict will look desperately, even subconsciously, for reasons that look innocent enough to justify "just one search" or "just one click".  The health, weight loss, fitness, clothing, sports, entertainment, food, and even mental health industries use, more often then not, devious means to sneak little "hints" of sexual ideas into everything they sell.  I saw an advertisement the other day on facebook from Screenrant that said something like "Photos the cast of Harry Potter never wanted to get out" with a picture of Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) facing her boyfriend, both of them in swimsuits having an intimate moment.  Wow are those people ever sly.  Using social drama to put crap like that out there.  And that's not the only means they'll use.

Pay attention to your thought patterns and be ridiculously honest about them.

3. Vigilance.  The process of over coming sexual addictions take time and keeping your guard up for the many triggers that I'm sure you know so easily get to you.  As you work harder at it, you may find yourself staying further away from whatever it is your addiction involves and feeling like "you got this.  You're good now.  You've beat it."  Whether you're talking about pornography or masturbation or something worse, you cannot let your guard down like that.  Just because you've stopped your addiction for a time doesn't mean those connections you formed in your brain by indulging for all that time will go away that fast.  You can't just detox from pornography.  It's not something you can just "clean out of your body."  You can't just unsee what you have seen.  Your subconscious remembers everything.  All your subconscious needs is the smallest of triggers when your guard is down and, slam! You're on your way back into the addiction. Our minds as humans are easily programmed but very hard to reprogram.  We are naturally creatures of habit.

My addiction started when I was... 7? 8? 9?  Somewhere in there.  Some cousins of mine were over for a family reunion and they had parked their trailer out in the front of our house.  I was curious one day about the trailer and went to explore it with permission because I had never traveled with one before.  Glamour Magazine was in the trailer and while there were no naked women in there or any suggestive poses, etc. The swimsuits, some of them, didn't leave much to the imagination.  My initial response was "This is bad! These women need more clothes on!" and said something to that effect to my cousin.  All he said back was "Oh it's just swimsuits.  It's not that bad."  That was all it took.  I was scared to talk about it with my parents and it kept festering in my mind for years until I found myself fully immersed in an addiction to pornography and masturbation.  You. can. not. be. too. careful. This doesn't mean you can never go to a mall again or walk by a magazine rack in a store.  It just means you need to be on guard everywhere you go and, as mentioned above, stay completely accountable about every detail.  You will probably notice quickly how often you find yourself thinking "Dang! These triggers are coming up way more often than I thought.  This is the 5th time today where I've be triggered/indulged and it's not even 5 o'clock!".  Vigilance will help that decrease and the person you use as a "confession board" will notice the decrease as well as you improve.

4.  Patience.  Speaking of improving, remember what I said about connections in the brain?  It's true.  I've been a pianist for more than 20 years.  I know what it takes to form and strengthen new connections in the brain and replace bad ones with good ones.  It takes years of repetition of a good habit to permanently break strong negative impulses.  It will be difficult at first.  I can almost guarantee you will have relapses.  You will slip.  You will come to points where you are just so sure that you've got it kicked and then fall back into it one random day when you least expect it.  Things like that are typical in addiction recovery.  If that doesn't happen to you that way, great!  Fantastic!  Well done!  But please, do not make the mistake of abstaining for months or even years at a time and use that fact to think "I did it!  I beat it!  I'm done!"  Maybe you are one of those kinds of people who I have heard actually did kick it cold turkey and never went back.  If so, I commend you profusely for this extraordinary achievement.  But please don't count on it.  This kind of thing is HARD.  REALLY HARD to break out of.

I know better than anyone else I know personally that you can go 5 years or more without it and still have just one time where the situation is just right for the devil to work, to tease you with something so subtle that he convinces you that you are "still in control", that "you already beat this, you're fine."  The next thing you know you can't believe you've fallen right back into your old habits.  You need to couple vigilance with patience.  I promise you will have days where you yell and scream at yourself, maybe even throw or break something and say "THAT'S IT!!  I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN! EVER!!! I'm so sick of feeling dirty and sleazy!" and then break down and cry and cry and cry.  And then you'll find yourself sometime afterwards doing it again.  And get how horrible that feels.  It hurts like nothing else you've ever felt before.  Words do not do it justice.  You don't feel worthy to live.  Perhaps you may get suicidal.  I really have been there.  I've been to that horrible, dark, seemingly endless and inescapable abyss.  I know how hard it is to beat something like this.  But patience and faith in yourself and vigilance and accountability and honesty will get you a long ways.  But as my next point illustrates it won't get you all the way there.  You'll need just one more thing.

5. Faith.  Specifically, faith in Jesus Christ.  You need Him.  He already overcame all the temptations, guilt, hurt, shame, weakness and sin you have or ever will commit.  He has done so flawlessly.  He knows what you need to beat it.  He knows that you're efforts and even the help of those around you, who He puts in your path, will only get you so far.  The boost you need to permanently conquer sexual addiction, heal from it and heal those you hurt in your addiction as well can only come by the enabling power of His grace, made available to you because of His atoning sacrifice, His payment for your soul.  Even if you are not religious or an atheist or agnostic or whatever you are, I promise you from my own personal experience, the only thing that will bring you to conquer your problem forever is turning to Jesus Christ, having faith in Him sufficient to follow Him and center your life on Him.

He knows your needs better than anyone else.  Whatever it was that sparked your addiction, a bad breakup with a boyfriend/girlfriend, the pain of divorce, pressure from friends of family, bullying, abuse of any kind at home, stress with work or home responsibilities or whatever else, He understands that perfectly.  He knows how to break that cycle to heal the hurt and harmful effects of it all, both in your heart and cognitively.  No one can transform you like He can.  I know I said earlier that sexual addiction is really hard to beat, but if you are looking for the easiest way out of it, Jesus Christ, The Son of God, is the easiest and the only way out no matter what anyone else tells you.  Just because it's the easiest way out doesn't mean it's just easy, period.  Christ asks us to repent and the pain that sometimes accompanies that is far better than suffering in the chains of addiction.  Repentance comes from the Greek "metanoia", which, literally translated, means "to think differently after" signifying a change of mind and heart, a permanently new and ever improving view of ourselves, God and the world.  It's still hard, but centering your life on Him is better than waiting until the pain of the problem gets worse than the pain of the solution.

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Before I wrap this up, I'd also recommend utilizing the LDS Addiction Recovery Program.

I've said it probably a hundred times before and I'll say it again.  If there's one thing you can do for yourself that will help in these 5 ways and even help you to come up with more ways to help you beat this or any other kind of addiction, it is this: Stop asking "How good do I have to be?" and start asking "How good can I be?"  In the moments where I was backed up to my wall of faith - staring my weaknesses and sins in the face as they mercilessly, attractively and viciously taunt me - and I actually came out victorious, that is the attitude that made all the difference for me, especially when I do it with faith in Christ.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Easter - The Bunny or the Beloved Son?

What's the most celebrated holiday?  Christmas, right?  Well, not in all parts of the world or in all cultures, of course, but generally speaking.  Everyone sees or catches in some way the Spirit of Christmas that time of year, or, more accurately the Spirit of Christ.  It's a wonderful time of year that often brings out the best in people.

But there's another holiday that gets much less attention than it should.  I believe it should get as much, if not more attention, than Christmas.  That holiday is Easter.

Why is there not more hype about it?  This is something that has bothered me more every year.  It's the day the full force of His Atonement became complete, the day we were all granted eventual immortality, and it's His real birthday (And don't go there, yes it is.  You seriously don't believe that shepherds would be out feeding their sheep on green grass in the middle of winter do you?).  I have asked my wife every year if I can please keep some of the Christmas decorations up until April for that reason and the last few years she has been gracious enough to let me keep the mini tree up on our piano as well as (this year) our nativities.  This year we are also putting up (permanently) next to our front door a framed copy of The Living Christ alongside The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

For satan to have things his way, what a better way to distract from the supernal wonder of the Resurrected Lord than to give plenty of distractions to draw people's attention away from Him?  I'm not saying the Easter bunny is a bad thing.  I just think that if we take an honest look at where our focus is and where we are putting our families and children's focus the result will be a realization that we are not centering our families and homes on Him enough.

How would you feel if you had given all your heart and soul to provide someone the most sacred and everlasting gift that could be offered and they brushed it aside or split their attention between it and something totally irrelevant?  The answer to this question I believe can be illustrated by something President Nelson wrote in his book Accomplishing the Impossible, "Many years ago, two colleagues of mine-a nurse and her doctor husband-asked me why I lived the way I did.  I answered, 'Because I know the Book of Mormon is true.'  I let them borrow a copy of the book, inviting them to read it.  A week later they returned my book with a polite 'thanks a lot.' I responded, 'What do you mean, thanks  a lot? That's a totally inappropriate response for one who has read this book.  You didn't read it, did you?  Please take it back and read it; then I would like my book back.'"  The result from his experience with was two people returning the book with tear filled eyes, saying "We know it's true! We'd like to know more."

This is how I feel when Jesus Christ and/or His atoning sacrifice for us, including His victory over death, is brushed aside or given a few brief moments of thought followed by an "okay, moving on now." It's so saddening.  As Tad R. Callister said, "One does not speak lightly of the Atonement or casually express appreciation.  It is the most sacred and sublime event in eternity.  It deserves our most intense thoughts, our most profound feelings, and our noblest deeds.  One speaks of it in reverential tones; one contemplates it in awe; one learns of it in solemnity.  This event stands alone, now and throughout eternity."

How can we possibly claim to be true Christians if we're taking the greatest and most miraculous of all the achievements in human history - the conquering of death, sin, weakness, etc. - while in any degree allowing ourselves to get distracted from the One who beat them for us?  The answer is simple.  You can't.

A true disciple of Christ will view Him and His example, sufferings, death and resurrection as a reason to center Easter - and, really, your whole life, heart and soul - on Him.

As the hymn says:
"He is risen! He is risen! Tell it out with joyful voice.
He has burst his three days' prison; Let the whole wide earth rejoice.
Death is conquered; man is free.
Christ has won the victory."

It reminds of the beginning of the first Harry Potter book when Vernon was met by wizards out in broad daylight and was even told by one of them "Don't be sorry, my dear sir, for nothing could upset me today!  Rejoice for You-Know-Who has gone at last!  Even Muggles like yourself should be celebrating, this happy, happy day!"

When I see Easter "decorations" all over the stores and public areas based on a bunny and eggs (which doesn't even make sense, since bunnies don't lay eggs), I feel disappointed at how successful the devil is at keeping people's attention away from Christ during a time of year where our attention should be on Him more than ever.  I think it would be awesome if it was a hunt for an empty tomb and folded sheets instead of for eggs.  We have plenty of Christmas pageants and nativities done for kids during Christmas time, so why not more portrayal the scene at the cross and 3 days later of Mary Magdalene at the Garden Tomb being greeted by the risen Lord?

I know He lives today.  I know His life, His example, His church, His gospel, and most importantly His atoning sacrifice for us are just as efficacious today as they always been.  I have seen and heard things throughout my life that don't leave any room for doubt about Him.  I know for certain He has personally stood with me, helped me, wept for me and sent angels from both sides of the veil to lift, strengthen, correct and console me in my weakness and my burdens.  He is real.  He is our perfect, glorified, immortal Redeemer and Son of God.  I know this from my own personal experience and you can too if you but follow Him by striving to live how He did and following the counsel of His prophets today.

My testimony of Him echoes that of modern prophets, certifying "the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice."  I stand with them in their declaration that "none other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth."

The Prince of Peace lives!
#princeofpeace