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Do I Need a Filter to Overcome Porn?

People trying to overcome habitual porn use sometimes resist using an internet filter on their devices. They have varying—and some fairly solid—reasons.

  • I’m afraid it will block things I need access to for work.
  • It will slow down my device too much.
  • I’m a tech guy and know how to get around every filter out there.
  • I want to trust Jesus to deliver me, not a filter.
  • I’m not after behavior management, I want heart transformation.
  • Is it really a true victory if it was my filter that stopped me from watching porn?

So, do you need a filter to overcome a pornography problem?

No.

But you do need space, and it is difficult to get that space when pornography is still readily accessible on your devices.

Time for Your Brain to Recalibrate
Porn use changes your brain, rewiring it to make neural connections between pain, screens, and sexual arousal. God designed your brain to make new neural connections when you have significant and/or repeated experiences. This is why you hardly need to glance at the light switch to turn on the lights when you enter your bathroom. You’ve repeated it enough that your brain has created a neural pathway that remembers and repeats. So when you cross the threshold of the room, without needing to consciously think about it, your brain automatically sends signals through your body’s central nervous system to lift your right hand to a specific height at a specific spot using a specific amount of force to flick on the light. (This is also why, when you visit a friend whose bathroom light switch is on the opposite wall, you still reach to find it where it normally would be if you were at home.)

Something similar happens when you use porn, except only more powerfully, because it’s not just a brighter bathroom your brain remembers, it’s also the intense sexual pleasure and the very real feelings of connection (even though no real connection is being made, the feelings are still very real). This is why sometimes you turn to your screen to work, shop, study, check the weather, watch a show, and without needing to think about it consciously, your brain sends signals through your central nervous system to push you closer and closer to sexually explicit content.

A filter that blocks pornography can give your brain time to make new neural connections. The old ones may not go away entirely, but the longer you go without porn, they become more and more like old jungle paths that get grown over, less visible, and less accessible.

Space to Tune into Your Heart
As I alluded to above, people don’t go to pornography primarily because it feels good. The cost is too high for just a few minutes or hours of pleasure. Men and women who are addicted to pornography have experienced loss because of porn. They’ve hurt their productivity at work or school, lost sleep because they stayed up late into the night, shattered a spouse’s trust, warped the way they see people in normal life, and come to feel out of control and disconnected from the person they most want to be.

People go to pornography for other, deeper reasons. When we use it, we’re taking legitimate needs, wants, questions, and wounds to an illegitimate source. Put differently, there are places inside that are trying to tell you something, and pornography won’t let you hear. Imagine a pair of robbers are trying to break into your house to steal something valuable. One of them is on your porch working on picking the lock on your front door, and the other is standing out on the sidewalk keeping watch. When you pull into your driveway, the lookout walks up from the sidewalk, trying to do whatever he can to distract you from the guy on the porch. Porn is like that. Something valuable is going on inside of you, and porn is trying to get you to look the other way. As long as you keep allowing it is capturing your attention, you will never discover what the thief is trying to break in and steal.

A good filter can help create space, so that even while you’re still habituated and prone to pursuing pornography compulsively, a filter can help you create moments of space—keeping the second robber out on the curb so you can give time and attention to attune to what’s happening inside. A filter doesn’t automatically mean you’ll do this, but it can help create space pornography was taking from you before so you have better opportunity to hear where your heart has been crying out for and what it needs from you now. I think sometimes Jesus is standing at the door and knocking because He knows there is something important going on inside where we need Him desperately.

So Do I Need a Filter?

Paul’s words to the Christians in 1st century Corinth (who were no strangers to sexual temptation) can give us guidance. In essence, Paul acknowledged that the Corinthians were free to make their own choices, but that their decisions needed to be weighed: not everything they could choose would be beneficial, helpful, or edifying, and some things they might choose could end up mastering them (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23).

So here’s the bottom line: You don’t need to use a filter to find freedom from a porn habit, but you do need space and filters are one helpful option. If you have other ways to get space and abstinence, go for it. Many people who have gone before you—including people like me who resisted filters at first—eventually found they were actually incredibly helpful and did help provide more space away from porn.

A filter can’t break a pornography addiction on its own, but it can help you with abstinence while you begin tending to the deeper matters where the addiction took root and continues to hold you. By the way, two of my favorite filters are NetNanny and Canopy.

Questions for you: Do you use or have you used an internet filter?

For you,
Josh

Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; Getting Practical About Recovery

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