50 Shades of Shame

Shades of ShameMany Americans are willing to rack up an expensive grocery bill each week in order to purchase the freshest and purest foods. We look at ingredients in make-up, shampoo and sunscreen to make sure we are applying only the purest of products to our skin. And we are making efforts to keep the air we breathe cleaner by trading in our gas guzzlers for more eco-friendly cars.

We are working harder to keep toxins out of our bodies. But are we working hard enough to keep our minds pure as well? Many would agree that this is not an easy task when we are living in a sexually saturated society.
Just take a drive on the highway and look at the billboards advertising local strip clubs. Or pick up a newspaper or magazine and you will see no shortage of men and women half-dressed, posing seductively. Can’t sleep at night? Just one flip through the shows in your TV provider’s listings will reveal plenty of readily-available porn. And, of course, don’t forget about most pervasive and insidious source of all things sex in today’s society: the Internet.

Boys will be boys?
Pornography is an addiction that affects many people. And while one might assume that only men are addicted, women struggle with porn as well. According to a recent survey conducted on the world’s most visited Christian website, ChristiaNet.com, 20 percent of all Christian women struggle with pornography on an ongoing basis. This can include internet searches, watching pornographic movies or reading erotic novels.

So why are more and more women becoming addicted to pornography? One might think female viewers are bored housewives trying to add excitement to their lives. Still others might argue that women are trying to fill a void in their relationship with their husbands.

A visual generation
A major reason for the increase in the numbers of women viewing pornography is that “we are a generation that’s been raised on the Internet. And we are becoming more visual,” says Brent Barrowcliff, the Executive Director of Freedom Begins Here, an organization which provides video resources for individuals, small groups, youth groups and counselors who need help finding freedom from porn addiction and other sexual sin.

Dr. Bill Stepp, Founder of Bill Stepp-New Beginnings Consulting and Coaching, believes that another reason could be that “too many families are living on the fast track. Too many men are driven by the demands and responsibilities of their jobs and are being consumed by them.”

“These pornographic sites hold up the false promise that wild or unbridled sexuality is the key to dealing with loneliness and the sense of being abandoned by the people who should be there for you,” Stepp continues.

A relationship killer
While some women may not view their addiction to pornography as a problem, the truth is that it can be very damaging to relationships. Statistics show that women, more so than men, are likely to act out pornographic behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex or affairs.

Stepp, who has been a senior pastor for close to 30 years and who currently pastors Faith Presbyterian Church in Palm Springs, warns couples preparing for marriage about the damage porn can cause. He says, “In God’s creation of a man and woman, God intended that an inner beauty would shine through the physical creation of our sexuality to create an attractive, sensitive, confident, intelligent, highly-valued and treasured person who would be able to live at their best, enjoy life, and find fulfillment.”

“But to have these qualities,” Stepp continues, “there must be respect, thoughtfulness, considerateness, trust, and devotion.”

Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization providing relevant Christian advice on marriage, parenting and other topics, knows first-hand that pornography addictions can lead to problems at home. Of the 10,000 calls, emails and letters they receive daily, their number one request for help is with an addiction to pornography.

Bring it to light
But not all women are asking for help. Many are embarrassed by their addiction and try to keep it a secret.

It’s important, however, that women find the courage to take the first step in addressing the issue by sharing their story with another person.
James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.’

“It is a very key verse that we use,” says Barrowcliff. “Confession to one another is the only way to feel freedom.”

Once a woman shares her story with someone else, she must then start her journey to become closer to Christ. There is a transformation in the brain when people look at pornography. When trying to help the addiction, the brain must be reprogrammed. “If you don’t know Christ,” Barrowcliff says, “getting off pornography is a very difficult thing to do.”

And that path to know and follow him will be easier when a woman surrounds herself with wholesome friendships. “Cultivate clean, wholesome friendships with people who genuinely care about God and you,” says Stepp.  “Most likely the place to discover these friends and build these friendships is with a church family where you are loved and valued.”

And finally, women who are struggling with an addiction to pornography can find support through organizations like Transparent Ministries (transparentministries.org), Freedom Begins Here (freedombeginshere.org) and Dirty Girls Ministries (dirtygirlsministries.com), all of whom can help a woman control her addiction.

“I John 2:16-17 tells us that ambition and passion are good, but when we burn with passions and ambitions that are out of control, we become hurtful, sick and toxic,” concludes Stepp. It’s time that we strive for a purer environment and purer lives.

Chrissie Ferguson is the Director of Children’s Ministries at the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach and the mother of three young boys. Read her blog at soundoflittlefeet.blogspot.com.

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