I have a question for you guys—well, it’s actually more like a question that leads to a lot more questions. As I was reading When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, this pesky question was swarming around my thoughts and I couldn’t swat it away. I don’t really have an answer, so I want to hear your thoughts on the matter. It has to do with the word addiction as it relates to sex and pornography.
When does a struggle with pornography and sex become an addiction?
I’ve heard people claim this label as soon as their sin is revealed. And then they are off to special programs, groups, and counseling for sexual addiction. Suddenly, they are speaking as a victim more than as a sinner. While I certainly don’t want to make light of the very real battle highlighted in the word addiction, and the physiological changes that occur in the brain when persistently involved in sin, I’m not willing to say that sexual addiction is a medical condition.
Doesn’t every sin carry this addictive seduction? Jesus tells us that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Sin enslaves us—isn’t that the picture of addiction? But we never hear someone say they are addicted to gossip or greed.
So I asked my husband. In one sense it is “every man’s battle” to be on guard against the proclivity of sexual sin. I would be devastated to find my husband indulging in one pornographic image. And I’m sure if he did that, it would tempt him to move on to another. That is the nature of sin—it never satisfies.
A person with an alcohol addiction knows they should never have one drink. But two fingers and three cubes are not going to hurl me off the wagon (are non-alcoholics on a wagon?). While drunkenness is clearly a sin, it isn’t necessarily a sin for me to have a drink to unwind tonight (although there are circumstances where it would be). Likewise, sex is certainly to be celebrated and enjoyed in the biblical context of marriage. But can a sex addict partake in one drink (and just to be clear, I’m not talking about alcohol anymore), even in marriage? What does that do to an addict?
So my next question is, given the power of lust and the enslavement of sin, is everyone who indulges in porn or has an affair addicted? And, how is this word helpful?
And that leads me to another question, which could easily be a whole article or more. Many of the women who I have talked to whose husbands are “addicted” to pornography/sex become very discouraged and convinced that all men have this problem. They begin to think that men are incapable of controlling their sexual impulses. Naturally, the feelings of betrayal and inadequacy that they have to deal with from their husbands’ affairs make them suspicious when their husband is around attractive women. While I don’t want my husband to be thinking impure thoughts, I think it’s perfectly fine for him to notice that someone is beautiful. But suffering wives hurt by their husband’s sin doubt whether that’s even possible. Can a man admire a beautiful woman without sexually fantasizing about her?
I think this is part of the addiction equation. If we label sexual sin patterns an addiction, what are we saying the cure is? Removing all temptations of beauty, or properly defining beauty? All sin seeks good from some other source than God. And we are all completely dependent on our Redeemer for righteousness. He is the only One who could propitiate God’s wrath for our sin, and he is the only one who can make us holy. He is not only the creator of all beauty, but is himself the beatific vision. We must look to him to transform our desires. Without Christ there is no hope for a cure to our enslavement to sin—there is no outside antidote to addiction.
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18).
So what are your thoughts? I know that some of you might think that I’m over-simplifying and some of you may think I’m over-complicating. Either way, these are some questions that need to be wrestled with.