Loneliness: Winter in the Heart

Roger Parks

The experience of loneliness has been very familiar to me although I wasn’t aware of its impact on me until later in life. Having grown up as only child in a rural setting, I spent a great deal of my youth alone. At the time, I considered it quite normal to play by myself since I was very shy and didn’t have the desire or confidence to cultivate any friendships. My active imagination enabled me to entertain myself by creating various scenarios of baseball games in my mind and then acting them out on the field next to our home. Needless to say, it’s very challenging to enact an entire baseball game when you have only one player!

During the years from age 12 through adolescence I never consciously perceived myself to be lonely. Having no close friends and lacking a strong connection with my parents, I immersed myself in watching sports, reading, and studying, all of which kept me busy and assuaged any sense of boredom. Then at age 13, I distinctly recall viewing my first photograph of a naked woman, not in Playboy or Penthouse, but in Life magazine, a mainstream family-oriented publication! It was a small picture of Marilyn Monroe lying on a blanket. Even though it wasn’t sexually explicit (we’d call it soft porn today), it was enough to stimulate my adolescent hormones and introduce me to the exciting world of sexual fantasy and its close companion masturbation.

I remember feeling guilty and yet very excited that I had found a new ‘hobby’ to entertain myself whenever I wanted. At that juncture in my life, I had not yet been exposed to pornography but that absence didn’t prevent me from generating my own images. Remember, I have an active imagination! Combining these self-generating images with those elicited from seeing actual girls at my high school served as a powerful source to fuel my masturbation habit which eventually developed into a daily practice, i.e., addiction.

During my early adult years I viewed pornographic magazines on a very sporadic basis as my embarrassment usually kept me from entering stores to buy them. The masturbation continued unabated and by that point I didn’t give much thought to the habit since it had become such a routine part of my life. There were occasional episodes of guilt, especially after becoming a Christian during college, but I never seriously considered eliminating the habit altogether. I compartmentalized it and assumed the rest of my life could function as normal. Then came the Internet which introduced me to the intoxicating world of cyberporn. Viewing countless images generated a sexual obsession and intensified the masturbation. Of course, like any addiction, one builds up a tolerance such that greater amounts of the substance are needed to produce the desired effect. Without realizing it at the time, I had found a way to address painful feelings of loneliness by comforting (self-medicating) myself through viewing Internet porn and masturbating to these images. This led to a self-perpetuating vicious cycle of loneliness ‘ distress ‘ self-medication ‘ guilt ‘ and more loneliness.

This cycle generated an intense conflict between my desire to please and honor God through maintaining sexual purity and my actual addictive behavior.

Feeling disconnected from God and powerless to overcome this addiction through my own efforts, I sought help from a group of men who have struggled with the same addiction. Among the several valuable lessons I’ve learned in my quest for sexual purity, the importance of accountability within the context of a caring community is critical. I firmly believe that as Christians, God calls us to bear each other’s burdens and struggles in truth and love so that the body of Christ truly does become a healing community for all those afflicted with sin and addictions.

Can you relate? You don’t have to go this alone. Please see Every Man’s Battle for help on this subject.

Safeguarding Your Heart

David Mackey

It was 1998. I had just begun a counseling practice with New Life Ministries. I had finally bought a new computer that worked rather then a hand-me-down computer that really didn’t.

More good news, geographically, my New Life Clinic office was closer to one of my best college friends. I didn’t know what an ‘accountability partner’ was then, but he was the guy I first confessed to regarding my struggle with pornographic magazines. Our regular talks and prayer times were a big tool toward my finding victory over the use of porn.

So I called my friend to exchange my office and email addresses and to catch up after many months of being too busy to pick up the phone.

One of my friends first questions was ‘Hey Dave, did you get a filter for your computer?’ ‘What’s a filter?’ I asked, as I tried to imagine how a coffee filter could possibly be used with my computer. Tim went on to explain how late one night when he was just starting to figure out his computer, he came across sites that were beyond his imagination. He wasn’t looking for them, they easily found him. After 25 years one of this guys first inclination when talking to me was concern for how I was doing in the Battle. How cool is that!?!

Internet porn may be the biggest issue for those in the Battle. Pornography has been around for a long time. Sexual temptations have been around even longer. But it was the advent of the Internet which really awakened the world to a need for EMB Workshops. Indeed many of the men who come to EMB Workshops found the use of Internet porn to be THE slippery slope that finally brought them down. Most men’s story is that they started looking at magazines at the ages of 10 to 13. Most men report that they continued looking at magazines throughout their life. Most, often secretly, men carried this secret passion right into adulthood, even throughout their marriages. Other sexually impure behaviors often came into play including actual affairs and connection with real women but the pornographic magazines never really left UNTIL the Internet.

For with the Internet comes way more freedom and access than most men can handle. Indeed we are bombarded with seductive ads constantly. Even pictures can pop-up without our request. Sometimes just the subject line in an unsolicited email can be a powerful trigger. I personally learned this the hard way.

This article is to provide some practical tips on using the Internet on your computer. Let’s look at 3 levels of protection: Our Personal Tools, Passive Tools and Proactive tools to assist in our internet use.

Personal Tools involve some work in our heart and mind. Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Let me encourage you to renew your mind with truth that ‘The Internet Can Be Dangerous.’ Know that in your head. Know that in your heart. Believe this truth so you can approach it appropriately. If you have any love for guns you know that they can bring much enjoyment and good times. But they are dangerous and any gun owner worth his salt, knows in his head, knows in his heart and believes the truth that guns are dangerous. So when they use them they do so with safety constantly on their mind. Treat the Internet the same way! Too often the way we got in this mess was because we treated the Internet as a toy’ it’s not!

Passive Tools involve setting up your Internet and computer services in such a way that access to pornography on the Internet is difficult. Unfortunately one can’t say access is impossible. There is always a way that our devious hearts and minds seem to figure it out.

The first and I believe best Passive Tool is to get a Filtered Internet Service Provider (ISP). Very likely you have ‘aol’ or ‘msn’ as your ISP because they come with computers and/or offer lots of freetime. However, what you need is an ISP which filters porn before it even gets to your computer. I personally have used Integrity-On-Line, Cleanweb, and Safe-eyes. They are very effective and I didn’t even have the titles of porn sites come up when I searched for something else. Do a search for Filtered ISP’s you should find many to choose from.

However, when receiving emails I did receive solicitations. The subject line itself would be pornographic, and I don’t even need to read that. I also found out that if your email account is set up to preview your emails, it opens some of them up and you could be hit with a picture.
To fight this you do 2 things:
1) turn off your preview option on your email account and
2) purchase spam blocker software.
I have used software called ‘Mail wiper’ which worked well for me. This software will automatically send a message to a sender asking if they know ‘you’ the receiver. If they respond then they will be added to your mailing list. If they don’t respond they will be added to your delete list. Your own personal mailing list will not be blocked. McAfee also has a ‘spam killer.’

Proactive Tools involve setting up software which monitors every move you make on the computer. I have heard the Net Accountability, Covenant Eyes and X3Watch are all helpful. Each week an email is sent to the person you designate, perhaps an accountability partner so they will know what you have been doing. This not only protects you from wandering/searching for a way around the filters but also will show what time is wasted playing solitaire. Time stewardship is another problem we who struggle with Sexual Purity seem to have.

To be sure this is not an exhaustive list of that which can be done to safeguard your heart while on the internet. However, these are effective tools. Of course, if your heart continues to pursue Internet porn even after these tools are in place, the best plan is to get rid of the Internet all together. After all we did survive before the 1990’s.

See Every Home Protected Internet Filter.

Visual Stimulation and Sexual Integrity

Joe Dallas

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– from First Things First by Steven Covey

Visual stimulation is a common struggle’so common, in fact, that I’d say it’s almost universal. If you’re a man serious about sexual purity, your inner man is going to be attacked by two formidable challengers: erotic images and memories of past sexual encounters. Both of these are powerful opponents; both can be faced and conquered.

Erotic images pose a challenge. I dare you to try to escape them. There was a time you could do so pretty easily just by avoiding pornographic magazines, but those days are long gone. Take a drive and you’ll see some model flashing her wares on a billboard. Thumb through a magazine’a regular magazine, mind you’and you’ll get hit with clothing ads that show more flesh than clothes. Watch television and you won’t get away from sexual themes no matter what channel you turn to. Try as you may, you can’t get away from erotic images without going into hibernation. In our modern cult of physical beauty, the gods and goddesses of the Perfect Physique demand your attention wherever you are.

Exercise the Emotional Muscles of
SELF-RESTRAINT and MENTAL DISCIPLINE!
The Payoffs are Incredible!!

You probably respond to erotic images according to cycle: visual contact, stimulation, sexual arousal. You notice, or ‘flash on,’ a picture that got your attention, whether or not you wanted it to. There’s a quick charge of stimulation, a recognition of the kind of image or person that excites you. You feel pulled into the image, prone to linger over it and consume it. Sexual arousal follows, with a drive to unite with the image in a mental sexual encounter.

You can abort this cycle through, again, simple decision-making. Integrity is a process of daily decisions to remain consistent with your beliefs. Nine times out of ten, you don’t decide to flash onto the magazine picture, billboard, or attractive woman walking down the street: she’s simply there. But at the moment of recognition (‘Wow, that’s just my type’), you can decide to move on. The earlier you decide, the easier it is not to be obsessed with the image.

Your responsibility is not to keep beautiful women out of your field of vision (an impossibility) or to force yourself not to be attracted by them. Rather, you’re responsible to keep moving, not letting yourself dwell on what you are seeing. You grow considerably each time you do this, because you exercise the emotional muscles of self-restraint and mental discipline. The payoffs are incredible.

Remember, it is no sin to be tempted. It only becomes a sin when you act upon or deliberately feed temptation. It is up to God, not you, to diffuse the power of sexual attractions, so don’t take responsibility for what you cannot control. As a man who’s committed to fighting Every Man’s Battle, you’ve got enough to contend with as it is.

For more help see, Every Man’s Battle.