Why LDS Men Suffer So

Much Shame from Porn Use

Porn addiction impacts men and their families all over the world. I've worked with men in more than 90 countries from many different backgrounds, cultures, economic conditions and religions. All had at least three things in common—they were sons of God; were straining under the relentless, heavy burden of pornography addiction; and desired desperately to break free! 

Yet, in all my counseling and mentoring experience, one group that I find especially burdened and impacted by porn use is LDS men. I'm in this group and I know from the decades of my own addiction experience what it's like to be active or semi-active in the LDS faith while simultaneously struggling with a "secret" porn addiction. I always felt like I was "outside Christ's circle, trying to earn my way back in." If I could just stay sober long enough, THEN I could prove myself to Him and be "one of the good ones"—one of the truly "worthy" priesthood holders. 

LDS Men Who Use Porn—a "Walking Paradox"

In this article I use some excerpts from the book I wrote with Steve Moore—The Pornography Paradox—Why LDS Men Are Too Often Trapped in Pornography and Sexual Addiction—And How to Break Free. In the book we get raw and real about what it's like to be an LDS man AND a porn addict. Here's how one of my LDS clients expressed it—

 

"Mark, I despise myself for looking at porn and masturbating. It goes against everything I hold dear, everyone that matters to me, but I just keep doing it! I get so frustrated and confused by my choices that I want to scream until my lungs explode! I hate myself so deeply there are times when I just want to end it all. God must be so fed up and disgusted with me. It's amazing He hasn't taken me out by now."

Mingled with sobs, these heart-rending words came gushing forth from the tear-stained face of a big, strong LDS man as he slumped down broken and hopeless in my counseling office. Those who knew him -- his family, work colleagues and ward members—would not have recognized him. From his everyday outside appearance, he seemed to have it all together—successful businessman, "ideal" marriage and family, trim and fit, active in ward callings, popular and well liked. But in the hidden chambers of his mind and heart, in the stealthy behaviors of his secret addiction, lived an entirely different man. The constant Jekyll and Hyde-like battle, the ever-present contrast, conflict and duplicity, left him worn and battle-weary.

Porn Use Triggers Immense Shame for LDS Men

All of us who have struggled with unwanted sexual behaviors and addiction know this man's story all-too-well. Some of us continue living our double lives, going to every length to maintain our masks, facades and secrecy. Others have been discovered or have come forward voluntarily, often making some progress, only to relapse or remain trapped in porn addiction. All the while, we are living contradictions—feeling intensely attracted and allured by that which also brings overwhelming feelings of deep regret, self-loathing, disgust and self-hatred.  

Living a double life brings us to the place where we suffer from what is perhaps the most toxic emotion on earth—shame. When an emotionally and spiritually healthy individual makes a poor choice, they feel a sense of guilt, which creates discomfort and sends the clear message, "I made a mistake; I recognize it, admit it, make amends if needed, learn from it, make some adjustments and move forward." This is God's loving gift of a conscience, the light of Christ within each of us, designed to help us recognize when we're off the path of love, peace and happiness. It prompts and motivates us to learn from our mistakes and use them as stepping-stones to move forward.

Shame is an entirely different beast. While healthy guilt gently and firmly reveals, "I made a mistake," shame emphatically shouts, "I am a mistake! I am inherently bad, flawed and broken. I am unworthy of love, acceptance or belonging." Feelings of guilt through Christ's light illuminate our experiences and help us see more clearly the lessons to be learned and the path forward. Shame, at the opposite extreme, is an emotion first introduced by Satan himself and easily conjured up by the fallen brain. It is a darkness that obscures the truth and blocks the way ahead.

We See a "Vengeful Old–Testament God"!

Unfortunately, there are certain aspects of our religious "culture" that tend to cultivate and amplify shame. When LDS men fall prey to the insidious trap of pornography, masturbation and other unwanted sexual behaviors, this creates within us a deep sense of shame, unworthiness and self-loathing. Many of us were raised in a family/religious culture where, for a host of different reasons and influences, we developed the perception of a stern, rigid, unforgiving and even vengeful Old Testament God anxious to punish us for our disobedience and shameful acts. Some of us felt this harsh attitude from our own fathers, mothers or other authority figures in our lives. One of my clients voiced it this way:

 

"I always knew that God was up there just waiting for me to mess up one-too-many-times and then Whamo! Here comes lightning from heaven to turn me into a pile of ash!"

Standing Outside Christ's Circle

Over the decades of my own struggles with porn addiction, I remember desperately trying to implement the solutions I believed I was hearing from my church leaders: "Pray, read your scriptures, be active, give service, etc." I interpreted these messages to mean that if I did these things consistently, God would deliver me from my addiction. I tried to comply with the counsel as best I could, and while I did make some temporary improvements, I always ended up slipping back into old, stubborn behaviors. At times, it seemed the harder I tried, the deeper I sank into my addiction.

 

This caused me to seriously doubt my standing before God: to question His love, whether I had any real worth, and any hope of ever living free, let alone eventually making it to that highest degree of glory reserved for men far better than me. A close LDS friend described his similar journey this way:

 

"During my decades of addiction I was told that all I had to do was sincerely turn to Christ and through His Atonement I would be able to break free. For endless years I tried to turn to Him the best I knew how—prayer, scripture reading, attending all my meetings and activities, serving others, attending the temple—but nothing gave me lasting freedom. I always slipped back into porn, masturbation and other sexual outlets. What church leaders were telling me to do didn't work for me!"

 

"After what must have been a thousand failed attempts to break free, I finally came to the conclusion that I must somehow be outside Christ's circle of grace and help. The formula my church leaders were preaching must work for other addicts or why would they keep giving the same advice? If Jesus had the power to rescue me, why didn't He? I was obviously so far gone and perverted in my addiction, and Jesus so disappointed in me, that He was leaving me to be punished through endless struggle and failure. I realized that I was truly alone and on my own. I was permanently outside that blessed circle where Christ helped all the other addicts. Every relapse I had proved this to be true. I knew I would never be free."  

A Real and Tangible Hope in Christ

If you can relate to the feeling of being "outside Christ's circle," don't despair. All of us in long-term, successful recovery were once where you are now. We didn't understand the all-important differences between religious culture and true eternal doctrines.

 

We believed that if we could muster sufficient willpower and sheer grit to remain free from sexually acting out long enough, we could then "earn" our way back into Christ's circle, His love and above all, His acceptance. We had committed to memory the often cited and well-worn scripture passage: 

 

"For we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all that we can do."

While we could give impressive lessons and sacrament meeting talks about the Atonement, we had almost no understanding of the true enabling power and infinite reach of grace. We couldn't see that our real addiction was not to pornography and sex, but at the deepest level it was an addiction to our shame. We had isolated ourselves from others, from God and from our true, magnificent, Eternal Selves.

 

In our recovery, we learned that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but rather "connection" and "oneness" with our true selves, others and God. We came to understand and know of a surety that we could never "earn" our way back into Christ's circle, for we were never outside it in the first place. He was always there, reaching out, loving and accepting us without condition, no matter what!

And we came to understand that the counsel we were receiving from our Church leaders was not wrong or inadequate—we were simply missing the most important key component—learning exactly HOW to call upon and use the enabling power of Christ's atonement in-the-moment of urge and temptation. We did not yet have the specific daily recovery tools that over time bring lasting sobriety and freedom.  

The Next Move is Up to You

If I were in your shoes, I would probably be hopeful and at the same time skeptical. I get that. But, only you can decide if it's worth taking the next step—communicating with me. If you're ready to leave your porn habit behind and move forward on the path to a porn-free life, then reach out to me and let's get started. Click on the link below and text me, email me, or set up a phone conversation with me. I'll answer your questions, give you raw and honest feedback about your situation, and help you move forward on the path of freedom!