So you’ve closed your browser, rubbed your eyes, and wondered—will you ever be able to quit porn? We get it—we’ve been there. In fact, you’ll hear a very personal story about this at the end. 

Whether this is your first or your thousandth time wanting to know how to stop watching porn, you can experience freedom. If you’ve tried quitting porn and failed, maybe it’s because you’ve done what many of us do—“try harder to be better.” But you can’t rely on willpower alone. Instead, you need to understand the role porn plays in your life, and how your sexuality is a good, God-designed part of you, no matter what your life looks like. 

There’s no exact formula for quitting porn. These steps aren’t “hacks,” but super practical ways to invite God into the deepest parts of your heart, mind, and body, so he can work tenderly with you, redeem what’s broken, and form you into someone who’s fully surrendered to him. The first three steps will help you dive into the weeds of your relationship with porn, and will likely bring your particular story to light. The last three steps will help you allow God to redeem and reclaim your sexuality, and change your lifestyle so you can not only avoid sin, but live freely in Christ. 

You’ve got to be brave to go on this journey, so our prayers are with you as you dive beneath the surface and let God into this struggle in a deeper way.

 

1. Explore your why

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Romans 7:21-23).

When it comes to why you watch porn, there are two important factors to explore: motivation and function. You might think your motivation is obvious—you’re turned on, and it feels good. But to really make progress in fighting back, you have to dig deeper than that. What’s your emotional state when you find yourself searching for porn? And what spatial (time and place) factors are at play? Is it usually when you’re discouraged after a long day at work? When you’re exhausted and about to go to bed? When you’re finally alone after lots of activity? When you’re feeling like a failure? Rejected? Directionless? (If you’re a guy, studies show that the extent to which you feel directionless in life is strongly correlated to how much or how little you’ll use porn). 

Noticing these things helps to paint the picture of the role porn plays in your life. Which brings us to the second part of your “why”: the function. Ask the question, “While I’m watching porn, I feel ___.” It might be that you feel seen, desired, powerful, in control, or taken care of. Now, here’s a secret: these are good feelings! You should experience them—but porn will never let you experience them in real and healthy ways.

 

Once you’ve identified your motivation and your function, you’ve started to unravel a story. “When I’m feeling like a failure, porn makes me feel capable.” “When I’m feeling rejected, porn makes me feel desired.” “When I’m feeling bored and directionless, porn makes me feel like I have something to do.” This is a vital first step in rewriting your story because now you’ve decoupled the good desire you have from the destructive and fruitless way of pursuing it.

 

2. Analyze your what

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23).

Now that you’ve uncovered what makes you go to porn, it’s time to analyze what specifically you tend to view. It might feel dirty or wrong to bring this to mind—but the intent is not to dwell on particular scenes or images. Instead, you’re becoming aware of what you have typed into your browser, whether consciously or unconsciously. 

  • Do you find yourself lusting after people who look a certain way? If so, is that tied to someone in your actual life, from your past or present? 
  • Are you looking for a particular setting or kind of relationship? Why might that be significant? 
  • Is there a particular emotional or relational dynamic you’re drawn to, like mutual desire, power and control, or innocence? 
  • Are you trying to relive an experience, positive or negative, you had? 
  • Are you fantasizing about an experience, feeling, or power you’re worried you may never have? Why is that significant to you? 

After asking these questions you may uncover a deeper element to your story: maybe you’re trying to go back to a better time, feel in control, or cope with something in your past. Again, these are inherently good things—but porn will never allow you to do them.

 

3. Release your shame

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

After diving into the specifics of your relationship with porn, you may be feeling ashamed. While that might seem natural, or even “right” to be ashamed, shame can actually keep you in cycles of porn use. In his book Unwanted psychologist and author, Jay Stringer, cited research that revealed that men “were nearly 300 times more likely to pursue pornography for each unit of shame they felt about their behavior, and women were 546 times more likely.” He concludes: “Shame, not pleasure, drives porn use… Shame convinces us that we are unwanted, and we pursue behavior that confirms it.”

If you grew up in an environment that placed a high value on sexual purity, chances are this is particularly relevant to you. In his book With, pastor Skye Jethani writes, “[College students] often gauged the quality of their faith on one measure alone— how well they controlled their sexual desires.” With all this weight placed on sexual behavior, it can be very natural to assume that your struggle “rules you out” of having an intimate relationship with God or a consistent prayer life. But this is exactly what the enemy wants you to believe. Our advice: don’t let this struggle affect your normal rhythm with God. Even moments after you give into temptation and feel distant from God, get up and spend time with him in scripture and prayer. He still delights in you, loves you, forgives you, and he longs for you to come home.

Some great places to start would be the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), Romans chapter 8, and The Message’s paraphrase of Galatians 5:13-26. These passages will help you internalize the expansiveness of God’s love and delight in you, and give you a hopeful vision for the life of the Spirit that God invites you into.

And remember, releasing shame isn’t acting like nothing happened and continuing on like normal. It’s living into the fact that there is “no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus.” It’s letting the truth of who you are in Christ take root in your heart and soul, even though the enemy, or sometimes even our own behaviors, try to convince us otherwise. 

 

4. Build your community

“…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27).

Building your community is a crucial step in releasing shame, as it frees you from carrying this burden alone. Often, to fully internalize God’s love for us, we need to feel it embodied by those around us. So, find people you can be 100% honest with, where your honesty does not threaten the relationship. If there’s a large part of you that you refuse to bring into the light for fear of rejection, you will never fully experience healing. So, a counselor or spiritual director trained in trauma and addiction would be an excellent place to start. If you can, open up about your struggle with a trusted small group or friend who you already share ordinary life with.  Make sure they’re in your life for the long haul, and mature enough to give you space to be vulnerable in a safe and secure environment. In a really beautiful way, you might notice that these relationships will begin to fulfill you in ways that you hoped porn would.

 

5. Change your routines

“Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).

Think really specifically about the triggers (time of day, physical place, emotional states) that can drive you towards porn. You may want to go back to the first bullet point (explore your why) and make a plan for what you can do differently in response to each of these triggers and motivations. If you normally look at porn before going to sleep, change your bedtime routine to include something you delight in (like ice cream and your favorite show) as a replacement. If you typically see risqué posts on social media and then go to porn from there, take the app off your phone. If you find yourself watching porn as a reaction against a feeling like rejection or directionlessness, make a plan to call a friend each time you start to feel the emotion well up. You could also revisit some of our prayers for each of these emotions:

A Prayer for Loneliness

A Prayer for Anger Control

A Prayer for Feeling Lost in Life

A Prayer for Hard Days

Also, you might want to consider some of these very practical boundaries:

  • Use your phone’s native content filtering settings and let a friend set the passcode
  • Use your phone’s screen time or digital wellbeing settings to block certain apps at a certain time of day
  • Take regular social media fasts, or choose to only access social media from your computer

In a lecture, author J.R. Briggs once asked, “What do you do when you’re ‘BLASTED:’ Bored, Lonely, Anxious/Angry/Afraid, Stressed, Tired, Envious, or Depressed? That’s your spirituality.”

For many of us who’ve struggled with porn, we have to recognize that inasmuch as we use porn to “solve” these emotional pains, porn has become our spirituality: our messianic figure that we look to for salvation. If that’s you, we’re not here to shame you. Actually, we want to say we’re sorry. 

We’re sorry that you’ve gone to something to try to heal the hurt, and found out that it’s just hurting you more. 

The good news is that God extends his invitation to you in the middle of your boredom, loneliness, anger, depression, and the rest. Only he can be for you what you so desperately need, and he can be if you learn to turn to him and his people when you feel these emotions rise up.

 

6. Reimagine your sexual story

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6).

You can be free to imagine and pursue a new sexual story—one that actually empowers you to live with joy, hope, and fulfillment. First, it can be helpful to understand your current sexual story, beyond porn use. Getting in touch with how you were exposed to, taught about, or how you’ve experienced sexuality throughout your life. This is an excellent thing to do with a counselor, especially if your story includes abuse or neglect. To quote Jay Stringer again, “The formative experiences of our childhood (loneliness, pain, sexual arousal, secrecy, and relational ambivalence) are all being repeated in our unwanted sexual behavior as adults.” Getting to know what experiences you may be repeating can help you break the cycle and go in a new direction.

Next, you must internalize this truth: whether you are single, dating, or married, you can be a sexual person and honor God with your sexuality. Your body and your sex drive are not threats to God’s kingdom or your Christlikeness. You can learn to see all of yourself as part of God’s good world. Now, this might sound like a relief or it might sound crazy, but hear us out. In his book The Holy Longing, author Ronald Rolheiser distinguishes between “sexuality” and “genitality.” Sexuality is the part of you that embodies passion, creates connection, and moves with energy and love. “Genitality” is simply what you do with your genitals. God gave you this gift of your sexuality, whatever stage of life you’re in. Jesus did not subdue this part of his humanity, even though he was not sexually intimate with anyone. Our culture has told us a lie that there’s nothing more to sexuality than genitality, and therefore you can’t be a sexual person without watching porn, hooking up, or sleeping with your partner. But we think that’s selling God’s genius design for our sexuality woefully short.

What’s the answer then? Here’s a start: it’s not safeguarding yourself from pleasure and attraction but embodying a bigger and more beautiful reality with your body. Notice God’s invitations to a sensual life—the fragrant smell of garlic and herbs as you cook, the chocolatey goodness of a brownie, the satisfied soreness you feel after a workout, the bass in your chest at a concert, your voice feeling scratchy after singing too loud with friends, the coolness of water on your skin, your arms around someone you love, tears on your cheeks as you try to stop laughing. All of these things are sensual gifts, things that Jesus himself enjoyed (except for maybe the brownie)—and they’re all part of a vibrant and integrated sexuality.

If you’re realizing that your sexuality has been limited to trying to avoid sin, we’ve got something for you. It’s called the Spiritual Habit of Embodiment: one of the 12 Spiritual Habits we recognize as important practices in the life of Christians. Check out some ideas for practicing Embodiment in your everyday life, and allow God to meet you in all of your senses.

Whether this is your first time trying to get past porn addiction or your thousandth time, we hope and pray that this is the beginning of a journey into freedom. If you want a picture of what that looks like, allow one of our teammates to briefly summarize his personal journey with porn, and what happened when he went through these steps. It went something like this:

“I watched porn when I was feeling disappointed in myself, usually at the end of a long day. I only wanted to see scenes that were similar to experiences I had in real relationships, and doing this made me feel (very temporarily) like I was capable and desired. Once I realized that deep down, I just wanted to feel proud of myself and be connected to others, I was able to look to God for affirmation and intimacy, and build better friendships that were mutually life-giving. What helped me leave it behind was changing my evening routine, finding friends and a therapist I could be 100% honest with without risking the relationship, and letting God lead me into a new and more beautiful understanding of how my sexuality had a role in his larger work of redemption. Finding freedom was less about struggling against an impossible evil, and more about letting God transform my story into an adventure. His invitation to me was not simply to avoid sin, but to live as a companion of Christ and to become like him, and that was so much more exciting.” 

If personal testimonies are helpful in your struggle, we’d recommend checking out this podcast episode from our friends over at Anxious Faith.

Lastly, here’s our Prayer for Fighting Porn Addiction. We’d highly encourage you to bookmark the page to come back to with regularity as you fight the good fight.