Article

How to lead a child’s heart away from porn

A 10-point discussion guide

May 13, 2019

I am utterly saddened over the pandemic of pornography in our society. It can’t be overstated. Porn is on Instagram, Pinterest, and on Facebook (via shared “gifts” in the messenger app). On WhatsApp, kids are texting each other gifs and links. In addition, web browsers are attached to most apps and video gaming equipment.

Children have access to it everywhere, and it is coming to them whether they seek it or not. We are at a point in time where we must deliberately avoid pornography rather than deliberately seek it out. As parents, we cannot be too vigilant in protecting our kids. We are sticklers about our children sleeping on their backs, and wearing seatbelts and helmets. We ensure they avoid stranger danger, processed food and soda, and even sunburns. We must tack porn onto that list.

But that one’s hard. To fully protect them, we’d have to micromanage every click and image that passes their eyes. It’s not possible. Screens are here to stay; our kids will see porn. It's our responsibility to eliminate every possible source of it. And that's not enough. We have to talk to our kids about what they are going to see without shaming them. What do we say beside, "Hey guys, don’t look at porn, it’s bad for you?"

After doing a bit of research, it's clear that victory comes down to a common denominator: it’s a heart issue. They'll exchange their healthy hearts for fleshly, lurid temptations, or they will rightly turn away from worthless things. It dawned on me recently that we might actually have to teach them the qualities of a healthy heart.  My middle-schoolers, bobbing around in their deep blue sea of emotions, probably have no idea what their heart should be feeling.

As parents, we can lead children to recognize exactly what they should be feeling when they come across pornography. So, here are 10 points, or "heart ambitions" that we explained to our middle-schoolers, both of whom have already been in contact with pornography (my heart hurts just typing that).

1. The cornerstone of protection is prayer.

I pray for my children’s heart purity as often as I think of it, and I have taught them they must pray it for themselves. Nothing long—just a one-sentence aspiration as often as they brush their teeth: “Lord, please strengthen me to stand up to the temptation of pornography.” It doesn’t have to be a lengthy epistle for God to hear. It’s a penny in the jar—and over time, this adds up to a substantial volume of prayer equity. Prayer is the bedrock, and God will strengthen those who seek rightly-ordered hearts (Isa. 41:10).

2. Heart ambition: sympathy

With every click, we told our children, you are virtually voting “yes” to victimizing the individuals in these images/videos. The people shown in these media are victims, even if they seemingly chose to participate. If you had a conversation with a performer, you would find that they abhor their role, that they feel trapped there. Viewing these images/gifs/videos is parallel to giving a standing ovation to their victimization. We don’t want you to vote yes to victimizing. Your heart should feel tremendous sympathy for the situation of these victims.

3.  Heart ambition: righteous indignation

When you click that link, you contribute to the human-trafficking industry as a whole. Generally, porn use is a risk to yourself; however, in this respect you are effectively putting others at risk. The more clicks a site receives, the more money they make. What do they do with that money? Get rich on exploiting and selling women and girls. (side note: How can this be happening in a feminist culture?)

Porn is kerosene on society’s forest fire of sexual assault, abuse, and slavery. Human trafficking is tremendously lucrative because its clientele have no brakes on their disoriented urges. Lust-fuelled porn users compulsively click to engage and ultimately act on human prey.

Porn is a propellant for modern slave trade. Your heart should feel outraged that this is the fuel that enslaves thousands.

4. Heart ambition: tenderheartedness

After continual use of explicit material, you will see the actors as nothing more than a collection of body parts. If they are just a collection of body parts, they are not human to you. Think about the qualities that make someone human. These are people with hopes and dreams. They have souls and crave love. History has shown that the worst human atrocities happen when one party sees the other party as not human. Taking it a step further, over time, your own compassion for humanity in general will deplete. I want your heart to remain soft toward them. Porn desensitizes the user and dehumanizes the actors. Your heart should feel tender compassion toward all humankind.

5.  Heart ambition: grateful appreciation

It feels awful now, but, it is a grace to get caught. We care very much about defending you from harmful, addictive behaviors. There really is no such thing as getting away with anything, anyway. God sees it all. Getting caught means we can lovingly show you how to get back on the right track before anything gets out of hand. Our home is a soft place to practice walking among the hazards of the world. We create boundaries for you now, but in few short years, our boundaries will be removed. At that point, you’re expected to uphold your own boundaries. Our margins are for your good, the joy of others, and God’s glory. You should feel thankful to be cushioned with loving boundaries meant to protect you from addiction. These margins also pad your world with truth, beauty, and goodness.

6.  Heart ambition: self-assurance

When looking at sexual material, the feelings of curiosity and pleasure mean that you are wired properly. Don’t be overwhelmed or overthink your sexual desires. They are normal. Those feelings are meant to be freely expressed with your future spouse in a lifelong marriage. Even though they are quite strong, don’t be afraid of them; they are healthy and have a purpose. You should feel assured in your feelings of sexual desire.

7.  Heart ambition: noble excellence

Excellence in your sexuality is central to your enjoyment of adulthood. So many people experience unrelenting torment and agony when it’s been misused, or worse, used as a weapon. Sex is supremely beautiful and sacred. The only safe way to handle its sanctity is within the promises of marriage. Only after making those covenant promises should you share the most holy portion of yourself. It displays nobility to revere sexuality as consecrated and sacred. You get to feel valorous and heroic by defending the holiness of your (and your future spouse’s) sexuality.

8.  Heart ambition: empowerment

The more you stand against the temptation of pornography, the stronger you will stand in the face of all the other temptations of life. Childhood is the ideal arena to perfect the life-skill of denying your wayward temptations. We need to be good at it before beginning adulthood, where all the temptations will burgeon exponentially. Saying no is spiritual bodybuilding; it cultivates spiritual muscle memory. This is another proverbial penny jar—bit by bit you build proficiency. It gets easier to see the lure coming, and you’ll be sturdy enough to avoid it without a lot of fuss. You should feel empowered: your cumulative “no’s” will breed a stronger mind and heart.

9.  Heart ambition: personal triumph

Be willing to gouge out an eye if it causes you to fail (Matt. 18). This means you should cut off any source of addiction. This metaphor implies pain, and truthfully, it will be an uncomfortable reality at first. An unpleasant part of parenting is that we have to do the gouging and the cutting off out of love and concern for your wellbeing.

Think through what might need to be gouged out. This might mean cutting out the smart phone and using a dumb phone, or cutting off the “right hand” of Instagram, Pinterest, or social media. Whatever the source, discard it. Take action, now. Don’t just cross your fingers hoping not to do it again. Eliminate it, or make it extremely difficult for yourself to get access to that thing. There is no hope for longterm victory without eliminating the source. Look to feel a sense of personal accomplishment in crafting a strategy for longterm success.

10. Heart ambition: freedom

I know the real you. The real you loves to laugh, be outside, enjoy friendship, conversations, games, and sports. You love drawing and animals and football. That is the real you. When you are engaging in porn, however, it is like pouring vinegar on soda—the images, feelings, urges, the guilt— it sizzles away at the real you. The addictive nature of porn will change your affections.

Rather than having increasingly corrupted interests overtake what you really love, focus on your first loves. The real you wants to be fully known and find pure joy in life’s truest pleasures. Enjoy feeling absolute freedom in having nothing to hide from anyone. Experience true liberty in pursuing what makes you authentically happy.

There is never an auto-pilot. None of us will ever get away from the assault of pornography. The resolve to turn away must be deliberate and continual. But, be encouraged! We don't wake up having to face an entire lifetime of temptation every morning. We only need to be ready for today’s temptation. The 10 points above can help us guide and direct our children toward victory over pornography. And we can rest and trust in the Lord, knowing we’re doing everything in our power to set the conditions for our children’s mental, physical, and spiritual health.

Additional resources:

Leigh Gust

Leigh Gust is a graduate of Grove City College, a veteran, an Army spouse, and home-educates her five children, ages 2-13.  She spends her free time CrossFitting with her husband, blogging at The Prime Pursuit, and schlepping her family of... Read More