What (and What Not) to Say to Someone Struggling with Pornography

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This article was originally published in LDS Living by Jenny Spencer. Below is an excerpt.

Pornography runs rampant throughout our world, and although we are all encouraged by our Church leaders to avoid it, it’s still a snare that can entrap anyone. But for those who do become ensnared in pornography, it’s much easier to break free with the help of loved ones and family. Here are a few things to say (and not say) when someone you love tells you they’re struggling with pornography.

What Not to Say

“You know it’s wrong, right?” Yes, they know. And yes, they already feel bad about it. Saying something along these lines will only make them feel more ashamed of their weakness. G. Sheldon Martin, author of Helping Others Avoid and Overcome Pornography, says, “If individuals are going to make it through this challenge, they cannot bear the weight of constant shame. People do not improve when they feel there is nothing to fight for. For true repentance to occur, people must feel godly sorrow. We need to allow that sorrow to happen so the Lord can work within them. Don’t kick them while they’re down.”

“You could get over it if you prayed (or read your scriptures, attended meetings, or simply tried) more.” This statement mistakenly equates a loved one’s difficulty of overcoming their addiction with a lack of faith. Even the most faithful people can struggle with pornography. And trust me, they have prayed about it—hard. Their struggles are not due to a lack of faith. Sexual thoughts are some of the strongest our minds create, so the adversary knows that if he can turn these thoughts against us, real addiction can happen. And pornography can become a severe addiction—has strong as drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. “Praying harder” is not a sure-fire way to overcome this problem.

“It’s ok—lots of members struggle with it.” As much as this sentiment is given with the right motive to help and encourage, it only makes the person feel like they are lumped into a giant group called “sinners.” Simply because so many people struggle with it doesn’t make the struggle any less personal. Each battle is extremely personal, so focus on your loved one and their individual battle instead of trying to comfort them with generalizations.

To read the rest of the article, go to LDS Living.

Bridget is a newsroom writer at LDS.net. She graduated in April 2015 from Brigham Young University in communications with an emphasis of public relations. She served a Spanish speaking LDS mission in McAllen, Texas. She is a skilled pianist and an expert baker of chocolate chip cookies.