Therapy and Theology

Show Notes

Welcome to a new series of Therapy & Theology: "Let's Stop Avoiding This Conversation: 6 Topics Women Have Big Questions About."
 
Parental warning: Some of the topics in the video may not be appropriate for children. Please watch and listen with caution.
 
Join Lysa TerKeurst; her licensed professional counselor, Jim Cress; and Proverbs 31 Ministries' Director of Theological Research, Dr. Joel Muddamalle, for a conversation about therapy and theology.
 
In Episode 4, we discuss the problems and effects of our world's "porn-demic" and the hope for healing. 
 
Related Resources: 
  • Want more wisdom as you navigate hard relationship dynamics? Find practical next steps, powerful scriptures and timely guidance on how to set realistic, healthy boundaries in Lysa TerKeurst's new book, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes. In the pages of this book, Lysa's personal counselor, Jim Cress, also provides therapeutic insight surrounding the topic of boundaries, helping you confidently apply what you read. Order here.
  • Ready to take a personal next step in finding a Christian counselor? The American Association of Christian Counselors is a great place to find the right fit for you and your circumstances.
  • Has the Therapy & Theology podcast helped you personally gain a fresh, biblical perspective for what you’re facing? Tell us about it by leaving a review.
  • Want to dig deeper? Dr. Joel Muddamalle put together additional biblical context for this episode. Click here to download now.
  • Click here to view the transcript for this episode.

What is Therapy and Theology?

Have you ever looked at a situation you’re facing in utter disbelief and thought, "How will I ever get over this?" Lysa TerKeurst understands. After years of heartbreak and emotional trauma, she realized it’s not about just getting over hard circumstances but learning how to work through what she has walked through. Now, she wants to help you do the same. That’s why Lysa teamed up with her personal, licensed professional counselor, Jim Cress, alongside the Director of Theological Research at Proverbs 31 Ministries, Dr. Joel Muddamalle, to bring you "Therapy & Theology." While Lysa, Jim and Joel do tackle some really hard topics, you’ll soon find they're just three friends having a great conversation and learning from each other along the way.

Lysa:
OK. So today's topic, we're just going to jump right in. Welcome to Therapy & Theology with Dr. Joel Muddamalle and Jim Cress. I'm Lysa TerKeurst, and the topic today is pornography and we're calling this show the Porn-demic. Now, as we get into this topic, I just want to acknowledge what we've had to acknowledge in our study days on this, and that’s that pornography is tough. And people are going to enter into this conversation with several different reactions or preconceived notions as you hear the word pornography. So I'm going to share where I'm at in this, and that is when I hear the word pornography, I get an instant feeling inside of me. Two things: One, I don't get it, and two, it is attached to hurt. Now, I want to be incredibly sensitive because I know there are many people who absolutely do get it. And so let me read a couple other reactions that we recorded when we were studying this.

Maybe your reaction is, “I've been so deeply hurt by this, just the word pornography makes me cringe or cry.” And I get that. Or, “I struggle with pornography myself.” Maybe some people are saying that. Or, “I have a lot of questions around this topic. Or I've been wanting to have conversations around this topic but have never known how to have the conversations or have never felt comfortable enough to have conversations. Who do you talk to about this with?” So I recognize that all different people are having several different reactions to hearing the word pornography. I want to acknowledge that. And I want to say right off the bat, no matter where you come from, we're not going to shame you. We're not going to shame you if you don't get it. We're not going to shame you if hearing the word makes you cringe or cry, just the word pornography.

Jim:
That's right.

Lysa:
We're not going to shame you for any of these reactions, and we're especially not going to shame you if you yourself are struggling with pornography. And that can be both men and women. Men struggle with pornography, and the statistics are showing that it's on the rise for women to struggle with pornography. So we want to go there. I think there are five main questions that I want to tackle today. And the first question is, what's really going on here? What's really going on here with pornography? I know Jim, in our conversations about it, you've really helped me depersonalize this. In other words, as a woman, you've helped me see that there's some neurochemistry going on inside of the brain of the person who is struggling with pornography, which when you educated me on this, it really helped me to see that if I love someone and they're struggling with pornography, that it's not so much an issue that I should personalize, but rather I just need to be informed by it. So help us understand what's really going on here with pornography.

Jim:
Well, thank you Lysa. The stats to me, if we move into statistics for a moment, they're important until they're kind of not important anymore. I always say from the Apollo program with NASA, Houston, we have a problem. And so with that, what's going on, especially during that pandemic, you remember the COVID pandemic? Remember that y'all? Is the stats through porn hub and other things were just astronomically high. Well yeah, we're sitting around. Boredom's the number one trigger I see with men in porn is, think about the brain just being beep, just nothing going on. And then boom, I hit a spike by thinking about going to porn and then actually going and looking as it hits that nucleus accumbens the pleasure center in the brain. So it really makes sense that it's about medicating and numbing out and escaping reality. And probably from Barna research and from some others, our friends at Covenant Eyes is for sure at least about 50% of evangelical men.

And that stat, it did not discriminate against pastors. It includes pastors. Really probably 68 to maybe 74% of men will under report. And that means men who just casually might use it or watch through social media or something else, they're looking at what I call sexually stimulating material, it may not be dubbed as porn. So the stats are very soberingly high, and as you've alluded to, the stats for women are rising higher more and more these days. So we've got a real problem with this. And of course on the other side of that problem is, where are we addressing this and providing, as I say, we have more help and hope than you have problems, but where are we addressing it?

Lysa:
Talking about addressing it. And I guess where we've had some interesting conversations ...

Jim:
Boy, haven't we off-mic. We should have recorded those.

Lysa:
I mean it's a strange dynamic because I'm a woman who I say, I don't get this. There's no relational connection there. So for me, I'm like, on the one level, I can logically understand what porn is doing neurochemically, I can get there. But relationally, I don't get it. Before we move on, what's really going on here? I just want two dudes to comment about this.

Joel:
Yeah, I mean we were talking about this earlier and I can say this is my thought behind pornography, is it's a place to exercise control. There's an underlying sense that anytime there's instability in our lives, the first thing that we want to do is grasp for some means of control to gain power or authority or to make sense of this. And so we're going to get into some of the theological conversation as well, but the basic impulse of sexuality biblically is a good thing, and we'll talk about that. But what's happened with pornography, I think for a lot of men and then as we mentioned, the stats are incredibly rising for women as well, it's the presence of instability and the lack of control and going to an illegitimate source that promises us an imaginative source of control and power and the ability to make my own story.

Jim:
And on demand, right? I can have it whenever I want.

Joel:
And on demand, when I want it, how I want it, in the frequency that I want it. And at the end of it, we get the cocaine shot, for an example. And I know that you actually have a very legitimate,
Jim, connection between what's happening biochemically in our bodies and the impact of even drugs like cocaine. We get that hit and it reinforces that, hey, I just was able to control something that felt really good, which then sets in place a pattern of behavior that actually imprisons us.

Lysa:
So OK, we recognize that women also can struggle with pornography, but because I'm a female and I'm talking to a guy, I'm just going to ask as if it's a guy's problem. But we recognize it goes both ways.

Jim:
Yeah, sure. All right.

Lysa:
Is it a connection? Because that's the part that I don't get. I hear everything you're saying and I really liked what you said about that it's a way to be in control of the experience. So
Jim, I know you have a list of A's that really help describe what this is and why it's become such a porn-demic.

Jim:
And these A’s came out with a guy named Dr. Cooper a long time ago, and I've added more to them. And the reason it's so important now is because of the porn-demic and all that's gone on in the global pandemic that it is now more palatable than ever or more powerful than ever of these A's, I've added two more to them. So pornography is accessible. You can get to it easily, it's in your pocket, there's the phone. It's anonymous so you think, but often it is, I can be whoever I want to be with whoever I want to be. It's accessible, it's anonymous, it's affordable. Most people don't pay for porn these days. It's just out there all over the place. It's also airbrushed. And that's an old pornography term that what you're looking at, that person's not even real. I mean it's almost like its own avatar but you can find anybody however they do that on screens.

Lysa:
Well, they are real but they're playing a part.

Jim:
They're playing a part, but they can make that person up so much and the filter and 4K. People do that on Instagram all the time and so I can say the ultimate filter. And then it's accelerated. We're seeing people with hardly any... Fellows especially, hardly any big trauma story back. That's what we always looked for before. Now they come in, that's that. You can do two lines of cocaine and not be addicted but smoke one crack pipe, that's that accelerated piece. And guys go, man, I am accelerated and got hooked so fast. And then the pastor who said to me at one point, he said, "Jim, I woke up and I was outside the teenage girl in my church's house about to peer in a window and woke up." And he said, "I was just back looking at porn thinking it would never progress to that." We talked about that the other day, Joel. It is so progressive and degenerative people say, I never thought I'd go this far, accelerated.

Joel:
And I want to go a little bit further. Has anybody ever heard the phrase friends with benefits?

Lysa:
Yes.

Jim:
Of course.

Joel:
OK. Right. So what is the appeal of the friends with benefits? I get the security and the safety of maintaining a type of relationship that doesn't come with any type of contractual requirements, but I get the sexual benefits of being able to be intimate with that person with none of the baggage that comes along with it.

Jim:
One quick caveat, we've done this on this podcast before. It appears that way, and you're right. But when that relationship goes on, whether it's woo woo love addiction or sex addiction or hooking up or whatever, we know that one person in those two that are connecting sexually through whatever app or whatever, one person usually does feel more connected than the other.

Joel:
Yeah, my friends, my younger friends now they call it catching feelings. Have you caught feelings?

Jim:
Yeah, OK.

Joel:
But to the connection point.

Lysa:
Well, I don't get that either. So ...

Joel:
Right. Well, but to the connection point, I think ...

Lysa:
Maybe because I'm old and I've been a Christian for a long time, so I hear that and I cringe.

Jim:
Let me speak to that real quick because you're ...

Lysa:
And I'm like, what?

Jim:
Well, you're not naive and everybody at the table knows that. And you ought to see the conversations we have when we're not on the set. So you're not naive around it. And even this morning, what'd we do two hours in there in the other room?

Joel:
Oh, easy.

Jim:
It was a wonderful conversation. And here's the deal, all I took away from that was you're not going to be able, in your brilliant brain that you have, be able to rationalize, which is a term in addiction, and say this makes sense to me. For anyone else listening, don't try to understand it because you're probably not going to, but you can accept it. Which is why we often talk about a pornography addiction and go, “Boy, I don't understand it in me, but I can understand there's something going on there. Is it really a connection?” Change connection for a moment to attachment. And once I attach and my body... Nobody's thinking it in their prefrontal cortex, command central, the brain. They're thinking and feeling in their body that I feel there's an attachment that's going on, and it's a place, I say for men I work with, it does not require me to show up as a man. I have to show up or get to show up as some developmentally between ages four to 14 like a kid in a candy store and I rule my own kingdom. That pornography addiction is a disorder of worship. That’s too deep, too far?

Lysa:
No, I think that's really helpful. And you're right, I'm not naive. I know what you're talking about, and it's not just me. I get so many comments and messages that come my direction of women that are in a marriage or they have a boyfriend, and this is the elephant in the room. And it does something to a woman when her husband is also dabbling in or maybe addicted to porn. And I think you're right. I keep trying to rationalize this. I keep trying to make sense of it. And I think what it is, I just need to get the facts around it, and just say it is what it is.

Jim:
There you go.

Lysa:
OK, so what does it do neurochemically? That's my second question, to a man. What is this that's happening?

Jim:
Well, that's a very good question and it's very important because if you're a cocaine addict, if you are an alcoholic, if you're a gambling addict, you have to go out and find things. Where's the drug dealer? Maybe down the street in a very bad part of town. For someone who's a pornography struggler or a pornography addict, where's the drug dealer live? Inside his body. So you have these neurotransmitters, you'll hear it once. You don't have to go Google this, folks. Dopamine, take the word amine off, dope. I'm a dope addict. So every porn addict is a drug addict. Here's what goes on with neurochemically.

Lysa:
That's a strong statement.

Jim:
It's because it's empirically proven in the research. If you look at it, dopamine fires serotonin, that feel good chemical, right? Catecholamines, you don't need to know what that is. But that's a very powerful neurotransmitter. You also have adrenaline and norepinephrine firing like crazy, and PEA. PEA is that sexual tension, wow, wow, wow is rising. Any human that's been sexual knows that. And then you have this big missing thing like here on my thumb, you don't have oxytocin because oxytocin bonds you with the other person divinely made by the trinity. And when someone's acting out to porn by him or herself, they can't bond with themselves. So there's an abyss that is just there. Those neurochemicals rise up as a person's acting out whether it's sexual with a person or in porn. And then they plummet when the person's done with the sexual act, and they're left with just despair. So all those major drugs are going on. That's why we say it absolutely meets criteria for drug addiction.

Joel:
So you said … so what you just described sounds like a cocktail, like an alcohol cocktail.

Jim:
Very much, a powerful one.

Joel:
And a very powerful one. So I don't think this has ever happened on the set of Therapy & Theology, right. But you said something, and I'm just going to say it. I want to dig into this. You said it's not possible to bond with yourself, right?

Jim:
Well, I thought I knew where you're going.

Joel:
He knows where I'm going with this.

Jim:
But what kind of a bond is that?

Joel:
OK, this is where I want to get to theologically, because what you just described biochemically, this is where I think it's so important for us to see that the theological premises of who we are as human beings are affirmed often, almost exclusively every time biochemically by what you described. So let me read to us Genesis Chapter 2 verses 24 through 25 because what you described biochemically is actually an affirmation of a theological statement that God makes to Adam and Eve prior to the fall. This is what the text says, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and ...”(NIV) What's this word? Bonds with his wife.

The connection of that Hebrew word, bonds, is sexual absolutely. And here's why we know this. And they become one flesh. Well, how do a man and woman become one flesh? This isn't a nod to sexual intimacy. And then verse 25, both the man and his wife were naked and yet felt no shame. So the very first presence of sexuality in the biblical text is a posture and position of purity and of sexual bliss and intimacy within the confines of something that is safe. What you just described, Jim...

Lysa:
And in the confines of there's no shame

Joel:
And there's no shame.

Lysa:
And I often say I love that verse so much because it gives me this feeling that Adam and Eve were able to stand there not just physically vulnerable, but vulnerable in every way. They were naked, physically, emotionally, spiritually. They were able to stand in that vulnerable before God and with each other because they had no other opinions to contend with but the absolute love of God Himself, and a pure acceptance of one another.

Joel:
That's so good, Lysa. And I go back, Jim, to your question, “What kind of bond is this when we break the God ordained bond that is supposed to take place?” And here's what it is: It's a selfish bond. And so the theologian Martin Luther describes actually what's taking place in Genesis 3. And he makes this observation. He says that, “the human heart is a love pump, and that pump is pouring out love onto the object of affection which is God himself.” Now at the fall, the pump doesn't cease to pump. What happens is it gets knocked off kilter. And when it gets knocked off kilter, this is the Latin phrase he uses, homo incurvatus in se. He says, “humanity becomes curved in upon themselves,” right? So what's happening in pornography? What's happening? What is the biochemical evidence? What is the theological evidence? What is taking place? I think it's, and you mentioned this before, Jim, disordered worship. We're becoming curved in on ourselves. And instead of God being the object of our worship, we actually act out illegitimate worship by serving and worshiping ourselves through illegitimate means, which is pornography.

Lysa:
So is it worshiping ourselves or is it worshiping pleasure that we want?

Jim:
Great question.

Joel:
Yeah, that's a great ... What do you think?

Jim:
I vote for pleasure. But I think by default I will turn to CS Lewis, he has a great quote. It's too long to bring in here about what he wrote in a letter. It's in one of his books. I've used it in my teaching for years where he says, when a guy is, he talked about lust so it fits. It turns him back into what he calls the prison of himself, where these shadowy brides are there and no woman can ever compare to the fantasy images. And it puts him in a prison that he's hardly ever going to get out of. So I think it is about passion or lust or it's worshiping this or worshiping an idea. But in the end, Lewis said in this quote that, “all those women adore him.” This is exact wording. They adore this man, and he feels adored. So whether he thinks it, he will feel worship and think about worship as worth ship. I am finally worthy of … And that's both anecdotally and I think with research proven time and time again.

Lysa:
But the women are not really adoring him.

Jim:
See this is back to your logical rational brain. And that's OK.

Lysa:
I know.

Joel:
See for the guy, it doesn't matter.

Jim:
It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter.

Joel:
Let's just be honest.

Lysa:
It's imagination.

Joel:
It's imagination. And it's back to control. See, this is relationships that are healthy, we care about what other people think. My actions have consequences on other people. In this situation, there ain't none of that.

Jim:
Well, think about what ...

Lysa:
There is that, but they're in his...

Joel:
But it's only about me.

Lysa:
OK.

Jim:
Again for you to rationalize it, think about, he talks about it. I don't do this. I love football. We're in that season. What does he do? What type of football is he kind of very engaged in? Starts with F.

Joel:
Fantasy football.

Jim:
Fantasy football.

Joel:
Which I had a great pickup today on the way.

Jim:
He's getting neurochemically excited. But it really ties into this … I'm not calling it porn, don't worry. But people are like, oh … And my sons, I'm like, “Can we just watch the game?” “No, the stats on this player.” “But that player's on 10 different teams.” Is that right?

Joel:
It's worse for me. I watch RedZone. All the games happening all at the same time.

Jim:
Oh, man. Don't get me on RedZone.

Joel:
It's bad.

Jim:
But listen, even RedZone neurochemically.

Joel:
Exactly.

Jim:
So that's an area that a lot of people, men are in fantasy football. But that's not real. You don't know Tom Brady. You can pick him on a team ...

Joel:
But I'm very emotionally invested in how well they play.

Jim:
Very much. It's a great metaphor.

Lysa:
But it is a fantasy.

Joel:
It's a fantasy.

Jim:
It's called fantasy football.

Joel:
That's why it's called fantasy football.

Lysa:
OK, so let's park. So that's what's happening with men. Now what is this doing to women? Because that's the third question that I want us to put on the table. And again, it could be that the woman is addicted.

Joel:
That's right.

Lysa:
Or watching porn and it's going to bother her husband. It can go both ways. I want to again say that.

Jim:
May I tell you this real quick? Joel will back me, I guarantee. I'm not even going to look at him. I've asked that question, I'll bet thousands of times to men. If you walked in, Christian men, and found your wife looking at pornography, what would be your thought? And a hundred percent of the time, I don't think I've ever had it said differently, “It would be a turn on.”

Lysa:
OK. Well, see that's just where, again ...

Jim:
If you can imagine guys saying that. So I'm not endorsing that and saying this is healthy. But I'm saying I think what we're after on this podcast is let's talk about what we call partners or wives whose husbands have been in it because the logic ...

Joel:
But even for the guy, Jim, I mean we're going to go there. Even for the guy, why is it a turn on? There's already a sense of control and imagination that's taking place. It actually is about selfish needs. They get to participate in something that I want. Now if we're going to go really deep into it and it's a dark hole of pornography, on the types of pornography, what is your search habits, all of this other stuff, there's going to become an issue even that happens there. Because what if she's into something that you're not? And so this imagination gets disrupted.

Jim:
Or someone, like she wants to look at pornography and that guy looks different than him. You get what I mean?

Joel:
Yeah.

Jim:
And that does happen, like what? Because we guys compare. So I think we're talking about the PTSD factor to me is the big one. Whether you take the D out, post-traumatic stress.

Lysa:
So what I'm saying is when a wife, I don't know if we say, catches her husband?

Jim:
It's either discovery or disclosure. There's not a third option.

Joel:
I think they kind of probably know. I mean they kind of know what's happening.

Jim:
Don't smoke, don't know where the fire is.

Joel:
Yeah, just naming it.

Lysa:
Well, sometimes they can feel like they know something's off but not know the specifics of what is off. So through discovery or disclosure a wife finds out that her husband is watching porn all the way to addicted to porn or whatever. What's happening to her?

Jim:
Survey says number one thing, period, she will feel compared. I can never … if that's what you're watching, she stumbles across it. Or many have gone and said, I'm going to go back to the history trail. That's what you're watching, I'm never going to participate in that. That's what she's wearing, that's the act she's doing, I'm never going to participate in that. So she'll feel compared, thinking I cannot ever be his greatest fantasy. She might see what he's typed in the search engine. That's what he's looking for. It's called an arousal template. That's a whole deeper show. That's what he wants to look at. I can never be that, she's going to feel that. She's going to think, whether she is cognizant of it or not, where else in her life did a boyfriend, her own father, someone else sexually betray her. Did a pastor?

We've discovered he was into porn or had an affair and that's that time collapses. She'll revise the history back fast in trauma and say, wow, if it's hysterical, it's historical. I can't prove that in every case. But it'll be like saying ... And the shattered dream part is, I never thought my husband would ever do that. As we talked, remember back there when we were having our two hour delightful conversation offset. And sometimes women will say, “Well, I don't know about these other jokers or whatever, but my husband will never look at porn.”

Joel:
And I think what maybe she's experiencing, and Lysa, what you've described and
Jim, what you've described is actually a theological impulse for her. Which is right and true. And I think I need to say this, is that it is a dishonoring of the image of God that she bears.

Jim:
Yeah. Wow.

Joel:
It's a dishonoring of the image of God that she bears.

Jim:
And their covenant.

Joel:
And their covenant. I mean all of it.

Jim:
Hebrews 13:4. It's like, whoa.

Joel:
Yeah, it is serious because when God says that He makes man and woman in His likeness, in His image, it's Hebrew language for children of the king. It has weight to it. And to be dishonored and discredited and kind of thrown aside in that sense, there's a reason why you're feeling that. It's actually, I think, wired into the being of who you are and how God wired you. It's a true tragedy and we should say that. And I think for men, we got to be aware of that. This is what these actions are resulting in.

Jim:
Some people ought to one day write a book. Dead serious. I'm going to give you a cool title. And this is what that woman's going to feel. Here's a really cool title. Think about it, It's Not Supposed To Be This Way.

Lysa:
Thank you, Jim.

Jim:
True. She's going to say this is not fair. It's not supposed to, I didn't sign up for this. And go, I get it. And then she revises the history back. It's not supposed to be this way. Revises the history back saying, I call it the Russian spy is, who is this person? And do I dare ask him? Well, the porn's been there since we were dating. I saw a sign, but he said, called gas lighting, no, I'm not looking at porn. Well, I thought I saw. No. And she revises that history back and that is trauma upon trauma for her.

Joel:
Just in case anybody's wondering, Lysa did write that book. So there you go.

Jim:
And thank you for it.

Lysa:
Yeah, thank you. Well, and it's not a fantasy for the wife. It's also not a fantasy for the woman on the other side of the screen because there's a lot of sex trafficking that is happening. And while it may be imagination for him, there is also the potential and the likelihood of a lot of trauma that could be happening to the people on the other side of the screen as well. So this is not all fun and games at all. And I think that it's important to understand all of this.

Joel:
And there's some powerful plays happening behind the scenes statistically as well. Why does this continually run rampant? One of the stats that I read recently based off of a Forbes article and an NBC article, this was a couple years ago, but the stat was 97 billion worldwide in monetary revenue that's coming from the pornographic industry.

Jim:
That's crazy.

Joel:
And 10 to 12 of that coming from the United States itself.

Lysa:
So that leads me right to question number four: What do I do about this? What does the wife do about this if she suspects or definitely knows that her husband is watching porn? It feels so impossible to confront it because then it makes it real. And if he denies it, then the trauma goes even deeper. And if he discloses it, then this is so outside of my world, I don't know what to do about this. And I certainly don't feel comfortable going and talking to my pastor about this. I don't feel comfortable going and talking to my friends about this. So what do I do?

Jim:
Well, who's left? Often that may be … I might be comfortable. And it's weird, isn't it? This is weird. I don't want to have this conversation, not at our podcast table here. But as a, I don't want to have this conversation and yet we say, “we stay as sick as our secrets,” including in our marriage. And the idea there is saying that who can I talk to? It might be a good friend. It might be a therapist to go to. And I tell people, “come in is easier said than done.” Come in curious with your husband if you think he's in porn, not furious. And say, look, I've seen some things here and I want to know. And remember, narcissistic or not, he's a wash in shame. S-H-A-M-E, self-hatred at my expense. Sort of come in, seek first understand, and say help me.
“I fear that you're in pornography, and these are one or two check engine lights that I've seen. Would you be willing to? I'm not going to condemn you. I want to know because these men are in bondage.” And if he lies or says no, I'm not in and all that, trust but verify. Then that's where you say, “Well then, here's what I do believe …” Would you be willing, even invite him. “Could we go into a therapist?” He may turn you down. My thought there just is a very simple point. I want her to keep herself safe because that idea then if she thinks he's looking at porn and then he wants to be sexual with her, that's a mess. And so trust your heart. Kind of trust but verify but get some outside help.

Lysa:
But first she should talk to her husband about this.

Jim:
But notice I said not coming with a hammer, not coming in shame and saying, “I've seen this, I've had this.” Most of the women I've ever talked with know in their gut there's something wrong here. I've smelled smoke. I think the fire's there. They know something's wrong. May I use this example?

Lysa:
Yes.

Jim:
That you won't mind?

Lysa:
Yeah.

Jim:
We never do it. We never stop tape on this podcast, do we?

Joel:
No, never.

Jim:
Live to tape. We had to stop a moment ago because people were moving furniture around upstairs, right? We did, right. She's hearing furniture move around, and we even sent someone out to go check and say what's going on? Instead of saying come in. I know you've done it. No, be curious and say look, I've seen these things. I've found a history trail or something else. Or I came down and you were just watching on HBO or something, and I saw you sitting there watching it. I come and say I want to talk with you about this. And then see what it is. Because guys, their biggest day is D-day, disclosure or discovery that I've been found out. I think she can come and ask, but check out if the furniture's being moved and what's going on. If he denies it, you don't deny it. And say that I'm going to go get some help myself and talk about it because I don't know how to deal with this.

Lysa:
OK, I love your advice. But the natural inclination is not to be that calm. I mean it's shocking to some wives, and it is traumatizing. So I love that you're encouraging that kind of ...

Jim:
That's an option. Remember, G is for her not to grovel, I think you're looking at porn, I don't know. Don't grandstand, say I'm coming in with a hammer, but be grounded. It is hard. That's why she might interrupt and go talk to a friend or she might talk to a counselor, talk to
Lysa, whoever. People will talk to you.

Lysa:
And get prepared.

Jim:
And say, I want to prepare myself to come in so I'm not coming with a hammer because that will be counterproductive. And say, look … But I've had women come in and say, “Jim, sorry, but I got pages and screenshots where I went in and found he's doing it.” That's a little bit different with the fire smoke, the furniture moving, everything's right there. But to go ahead and say, because these men, no excuses, but they are trapped and have been trapped many of them since age 12. And as Berné Brown says this way, “don't fight shame with shame. It is counterproductive.” You want something, you'd want him to be free if you love him. Coming in with a hammer's not going to work. So she has to prepare herself to go, “What do I got to do? So I can come in and just have the conversation.”

Lysa:
OK, question number five, where is the hope in all of this? I mean the statistics are staggering. The reality is, there's going to be shame, there's going to be devastation, there's hurt, there's misunderstandings. And I've heard some people say like, “Well, what's the big deal? All guys do this,” or whatever. And when I hear that I’m like, “No, that makes it a bigger deal. And not all guys do this.”

Jim:
And it's a lie because you're not going to interview all guys.

Joel:
Well, and I would just say again, why is it a big deal? Because some women might be just wondering, and even after all of this, they're just wondering, is it even that big of a deal? And I would say, yes, it's a big deal. And here's why: Because when we participate in actions that are lust driven, what's actually happening is it's dehumanizing us. It is stripping us of our humanity. And God created us in order to be humans that reflect His goodness and His greatness and His kindness and to enjoy relationships in order and in safety. And so pornography is an active dehumanization. Now you ask this question,
Lysa, it's like, where's the hope? Well the hope is one, and I don't mean to say this in a trite way, and I know it can come across this way, but I think it's important that I do say it, is that there is a man, His name is Jesus.

And Jesus came onto Earth in the incarnation, and the text says that He became fully man. He didn't lose His divinity, but He became fully man and in that He lived a sinless life. And what Jesus does is He invites you and I to participate into His life. And at this point, everybody's yelling and screaming, “Joel, that's impossible. I am not the Son of God. I cannot do this.” Well, we know this, and this is why Jesus said it was necessary for the Holy Spirit to come and to dwell in us and to give us all things needed for life and godliness in order to work out our sanctification. And so if pornography is an act of dehumanization …

Jim:
It is.

Joel:
… sanctification is an act enabled by the Holy Spirit, which we have to fight sexual lust with supernatural warfare, right? And the supernatural warfare starts with the Holy Spirit, with prayer, with the church, with the context of accountability. And that is a regaining of our humanity and joining in the life of Christ. And so is there hope? Absolutely. And why should we be anchored into that hope? Because the hope is to be the thing that God always intended for us. It's a return to the identic state of living and looking at our spouse or women in general and saying, “What a beautiful sister in Christ, what a beautiful woman that God has given me to cherish and love as my wife.” And that should be the hope that anchors us forward.

Jim:
Can I give two hopes real quick?

Lysa:
Absolutely.

Jim:
Jim Cress is sitting here on this set with you all. And it's true, it's public. It's not a hidden secret coming out later. But I'm 17 years sober and healthy and detoxed from a pornography addiction. And my wife is the wife that many of you are out there today where she experienced betrayals. I'm in Dallas Seminary and hosting, calling national Christian talk shows. I never felt like a fraud. I just was like, I can't get out of here. And I really realized the trauma and the bonding around that. So there's some hope that I've walked this journey knowing that I could fall at any moment. I don't believe I will. So we have more help and hope than you have problems. Secondly, I hold in my hand the Word of God. And I always encourage men I work with, “Do you want to end your life like David who sinned big,” but he had Psalm 51, he repented big.
I look for broken and contrite heart and spirit with men. And then 1 Corinthians 10:13, God is faithful with every, how many? Every temptation, somebody knocks at the door. The Holy Spirit says there's a way of escape with every temptation. So I could list a whole lot more, if it’s five more podcasts, but in the Word of God. And that's just a couple of key points. Taking every thought captive. We've talked about them many times here and maker be into Christ. But I'm living and I walk among a lot of men who had whole ministries who are sober, and they're healthy. And their days of being a Saul that Saul, they are now living as a Paul. And it works. And now back to the brain quickly, neuro pathways, neurogenesis, neuroplasticity that we get literally new brain pathways laid down and we also, brother, are transformed and sister, by the renewing of our minds.

Folks, this is a very easy, when the day is done, path of healing and recovery. Someone has said the Christian life. Let's say this about recovery from porn. Recovery often has not been tried, and found difficult. The fact is recovery has been found difficult and left untried, AA says half measures avail us nothing. So you've got to go all in. You were all in in your compulsion to porn. Go all in in the recovery. Join the club. There's many of us who are saying there is freedom that awaits. It does take time. It's usually a two to five year plan to really get more solid. But let's get after it.

Joel:
Jim, when we talked about this in a study day, you actually gave a statistic, which I thought was incredibly helpful. And the statistic was, there's actually, I don't want to misquote you, but 100% success story.

Jim:
Dr. Patrick Carnes, who's kind of the founder, if you Google his name that many of us are certified and trained under, said if men do certain things, he found about two years of regular counseling, weekly, two years of some type of group therapy, which I've led groups for many years. Men being there with men doing therapy work and maybe two years of celebrate recovery or a 12 step group where people are sharing, we call it their experience, strength and hope. Over a five year period of time, he has the research and survey of men nearing a 100% success rate that they don't go back to this.

Lysa:
That's very hopeful. But I have to push back a little bit.

Jim:
Please.

Lysa:
It doesn't sound easy. When you say this is easy, I'm like, whoa, that does not sound easy.

Jim:
Up front, it won't. Can I share this?

Lysa:
I think that's really important.

Jim:
I wish I could draw. I know we can't put the iPad out and show a screen here, and some people are just on audio. But let me show you something. Here's a four quadrant thing that I think is simple, but it is a game changer. Here's what I mean by easy, and I've lived it and that is this. And you've lived it in some way, the trauma you've been through. You've lived it in your life,
Joel. And all of you listening and watching, you've lived it. The first with this four quadrants, very easy if you want to write it down, is there is an unconscious incompetency. I am incompetent, and I don't even know it. You get into counseling, you get disclosed, discovered, whatever, and you say, “Houston, we've got a problem. You surrender. I want to do the work.” It moves from quadrant one, from unconscious incompetency to competency to conscious incompetency.

I now am aware I'm a mess. I am now aware and now I'm doing the therapy work. The third quadrant, very simple, draw it anywhere you want. Foursquare, put that on the screen, right? And that is this … And that is now moved from a conscious incompetency to a conscious competency. I realize I am working the dog on program. I'm doing what I need. It's progressive sanctification. I am now consciously choosing every day how I will live my life. Now you're ready. Here it comes. I wept one night by myself watching TV when it goes to the fourth quadrant, which is unconscious competency. When I was watching a show, pretty sure it was American Idol, wife had gone to bed, I'm deep in recovery. Here came a Victoria Secret commercial on, which was a big trigger for me in days passed. And I had the remote in my hand because in recovery I'm always got the remote.

And I went boom, boom, boom. You know how that works on a DVR. But I turned my head, I did not think a second. I turned my head and went bump, boom, boom. And I froze. Tears came down, and I said, Lord, it really works.

Lysa:
That's amazing.

Jim:
And I clicked back and it had passed through Victoria Secret. That was unconscious competency where it gets easier as we go. We go, every day I'm not just over here feeling like I'm going to look at porn. I know I could, but I go, that's what I mean by easy. Upfront, very difficult, right? Very difficult. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled, put it this way, “life is difficult,” period. Once you embrace the fact that life is really difficult, then life is no longer difficult because you've embraced the fact that life is difficult. Of course it is, it's hard. And now because of that, it's not so hard.

Lysa:
I think a good way to end today would be to give that same kind of hope to a woman and maybe a wife who is listening to this, and she's crying because maybe her husband is not willing to walk through recovery.

Jim:
That's hard.

Lysa:
And she feels stuck. Not only stuck in not knowing what to do, but stuck because she doesn't feel safe enough to go and tell someone. And maybe she doesn't want to tell anyone or even get help herself because she feels like in some way that her telling someone else is a betrayal of her husband.

Jim:
She who is being betrayed will feel like she's betraying. Isn't that powerful?

Lysa:
And so I think it would be so helpful for Joel, you as a theologian and Jim, you as a therapist, but mostly just as a gentle man's voice to speak to her.

Jim:
Can I pass the theological softball to you? It's real, it's not just a softball. When I see in Romans 2, it's the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. It doesn't seem, while God's kindness is leading everybody to repentance, that everybody repents. And so wives can do all they're doing, and yeah, he may not change. There's many of you listening right now knowing, but I did all the ... I read the books and he didn't change. It's kind of how it is theologically, isn't it?

Joel:
Yeah. I think there's a burden that you may be feeling today to be the conductor of the change.

Jim:
Wow. That's a big word.

Joel:
Yeah. I mean, it's just what conductors do, right? They're organizing, they're conducting, they're trying to move all the different pieces. But the problem is you can only conduct for so long without the other person seeing the benefit, the need, and their own desire and longing for the beautiful symphony that happens when the conductor brings all the pieces together. And so what you just said, Jim, is so important that at the end of the day you are not the conductor, but you are a part of the symphony. And God is the conductor, and you just have to be obedient for which you can be obedient for. I don't have articulate words for this, but I do have a couple verses. And I want to give one verse to the gal and one verse to the guy. And here's Romans 12:9 through 12. Here's the hope I think that you have and this is how you persevere.

Paul says, "Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another." (CSB) And then all you gals, "Do not lack diligence in zeal; but be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord." And then this, I think in our hopeful words, "Rejoice in hope; be patient in afflictions; and be persistent in prayer." (CBS) And then for the guy or whoever's struggling with pornography or sexual sin, whatever it might be, this is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6: 19. This is weighty. "Don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, CSB)

Lysa:
Thank you, Joel. Jim?

Jim:
Yeah. What a foundation, thank you Joel. For me to build on with that is there are a lot of women listening right now to the women who I think trust our dear friend, Lysa TerKeurst impeccably. They listen to your voice. They've read two books and now three that talk about a path forward through yes, and forward. So I thank you for that, you who have lived through. So women get it. I see it on social media. They know you get it. You may not understand the rationalization of porn, fine, but you understand their pain. So dear woman, you're not alone today. I want you to believe yourself and you believe what you see. And to be able to reach out for help and know that even if that man tries to make it about you, please hear this: It is never about you.

And my dear listening friend, you can never be an external solution to his internal problem. It can't work, much as you'd like it to be. And so inside, think of agape love seeking even his highest good and say, “if I speak the truth in love and do what I do, then the rest is up to God.” What do I need to say? Because some of these men, one of the greatest gifts they've had, not all but some, is a wife who said, “I'm going to speak to this like the Hebrew, the Ezer Kenegdo strong, suitable helper.” And get people around you again so that you're not walking through this alone. And then conclusion is where you are and all the pain and trauma that you have. And if it ties back to your life story where maybe no one knows this, but you've been abused in your past or somewhere else or been betrayed before, please go somewhere safe, open your story up, and do your trauma work there.

Lysa:
Thank you, Jim. And I'll end by just encouraging you not to invite the weight of public opinion into this very private matter. However, don't get caught in the trap of saying, “I can't betray my husband by telling a therapist or by telling a trusted friend his deep, dark secrets.” I want you to flip that script and I want you to say, “I don't want to be married to someone who has deep, dark secrets that go unaddressed.” You're not doing him any favors for that. And don't emphasize like I don't want to be married. We're talking, take steps here, not leaps. I'm not saying like, I want to divorce this person because they're watching pornography.

Jim:
One step at a time.

Lysa:
One step at a time. But I want to say you do need to give yourself permission to get the help that you need. And you getting the help that you need may be the first step to eventually him getting the help that he needs, and he does need help.

Jim:
Amen.

Lysa:
So I hope today has been informative. I do want to just remind everyone we have been descriptive in this podcast, not prescriptive. In other words, we don't know all the nuances of your situation, whether you're the one struggling or whether you're the wife that is hurting or the husband that is hurting. We are providing for you very good, helpful information so you can take your next step. That's descriptive. We're not being prescriptive in saying, this is what you should do. I'm going to trust that the Holy Spirit will lead you to know your next step. But take steps, not leaps.