Modern technology has brought many graces into our lives. GPS on our phones gets us to places we have never been before without needing a compass and detailed directions. Streaming services bring us world-class entertainment whenever we want, anywhere on earth. Video conferencing allows us to see the smiles of our loved ones at a moment’s notice.
The flip side of our technology-filled world built for immediate access to any piece of information has been the rise of temptation accessible at our fingertips.
Communicating via keyboard has eroded our ability to have face-to-face conversations. Social media has increased our tendency toward envy while lessening our capacity for compassion. Free online pornography on our phones has made fueling the fan of lust much easier.
Saint Pope John Paul II once famously said that “In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”
It reduces sexuality to an on-demand source of self-serving pleasure rather than a covenantal gift that, within the martial context, mirrors the life-giving, creative force that is the love of God.
We should not, however, throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater when it comes to technology in our lives. Not using smartphones just because they are one way to access pornography would be a bit like saying you wouldn’t go to the gym because sometimes you pass a donut shop on your way there.
Actually, it’s more like saying you won’t drive a car because although the car is what allows you to get to the gym, you sometimes find yourself at a donut shop.
The car, just like our mobile technology, is a tool that enables us to achieve whatever goals we are aiming for. Getting from point A to point B more quickly by using a car versus walking is the same as being able to Google the weather versus manually tracking the temperature, humidity, wind velocity, and cloud coverage.
The key is to avoid the near occasion of sin—those times where we consciously put ourselves in situations where we know that we will not be able to resist temptation.
Just as a recovering alcoholic can restructure the contents of their refrigerator (or cabinets) to avoid succumbing to the urge to drink, those struggling with pornography can restructure the contents of their phones to help orient their technology use away from vice and toward virtue.
Here are 3 ways that having a prayer app on your phone can help you resist pornography.
1. It’s easier to resist chocolate when there are cherries nearby.
One of the hardest parts of trying to start eating a healthier diet is the inevitable cravings for the unhealthy foods that you miss the most. As a proud Italian-American, bread is a major weakness of mine, especially in the morning with eggs, butter, or Nutella.
Other than simply not buying bread, which leaves my wife frustrated and hungry, the best strategy I’ve found to avoid the temptation of overloading on carbs first thing in the morning is to make sure that we have fresh fruit and Greek yogurt stocked in the refrigerator.
The key reasons why this works are that (A) I love the taste of berries in yogurt, (B) I keep the yogurt right next to the bread, and (C) making the fruit + yogurt mixture is just as easy as toasting and spreading bread. When I’m hungry, I have minimal willpower, but easy access and a tasty meal make a breadless breakfast alternative viable.
The same thing is possible when it comes to spiritually unhealthy desires. Putting a prayer app right next to whatever app you use to access porn puts access to grace right in front of your face when you need it most.
When you reach for porn, click on the prayer app instead!
2. The colder it is, the more you appreciate a warm fire.
I grew up in central Pennsylvania where July and August often bring multi-week stretches in the 90s with humidity levels consistently above 80%. When you get out of a swimming pool, you are dry within 5 minutes, and within 10, you are wet again with sweat.
If you were to ask me whether I want to sit around a hot fire on a July afternoon, I would kindly decline. With minor practical exceptions for barbeque and smores, you wouldn’t catch me within 20 yards of any heat source in the summer.
In the fall and winter though, one of my favorite things to do is to go into my backyard with some friends and build a large fire. Despite being outside in just a t-shirt while temperatures are in the 50s, life is comfortable while cozying up in front of the warm flames. And once I’m by the fire, it’s hard to get me to leave.
Grace is the warm embrace of God’s love, and we are never more in need of it than we are struggling with the cold solitude that sin brings.
Having prayer on the mobile devices we use to watch porn is like having the kindling, lighter fluid, and logs for a fire all set up as the temperature outside starts to drop. All you have to do is strike a match and you are back in the warmth of God’s presence that is painful to leave.
3. Running a red light is harder with an audience.
It’s late at night and you are at a four-way intersection with a red light. You look both to your right and to your left. You look in front of you and you look behind you. There is no one visible for miles in any direction. The light is still red. What do you do?
What if you are extremely tired after a long day at work and are hungry after having missed dinner? What if the light stays red for 10 minutes?
Now imagine the same situation, but it’s in the middle of the day and there are cars coming from every direction.
Even if you are late for an important meeting, I doubt you would even think twice about blatantly running the light.
Having a prayer app on your phone next to the app that you use to access pornography is like adding those other cars to the intersection.
Praying is having a conversation with God. The more we talk to him, the more we realize that he is always there, wanting to be in conversation with us. The more we realize that he is always there wanting to talk to us, the less likely we are to ignore him and distance ourselves from him when we are struggling with temptation.
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