These days we rely on the internet and various apps for almost every aspect of our lives.
Hungry? Order some takeout via your favorite restaurant’s app. Need a ride? You can request a driver who is willing to take you anywhere with just the press of a button. Looking for a new outfit? Select a stylish ensemble from any one of the millions of online retailers you have available at your fingertips.
Are you lonely and looking to connect with someone? There are a variety of apps and websites for that too, but not all are created equal!
The internet is amazing at connecting individuals. In fact, I would argue that there has never been a better time to be single! In a matter of seconds, anyone can create an online dating profile on any number of dating websites. Online dating makes it easier than ever before to connect with other singles who share your values and interests! With online dating’s various algorithms, preferences, and profile options, any single can easily be matched with someone who may end up being Mr. or Mrs. Right. Online dating is quickly becoming the new norm for singles to connect with one another as more and more couples credit their relationships to it.
But, unfortunately, these days, men and women often turn to the temptation of pornography online instead of, or along with, searching for their future spouse. This is tragic for a number of reasons (all of which could easily be covered in their own blog posts), but there’s an interesting parallel between online dating and the widespread use of pornography.
A Need for Connection
People turn to porn for some of the same reasons others turn to online dating: they feel lonely, they’re hungry for a connection, and there is a desire to be romantically connected with someone else.
But, these two items could not be more different. Online dating is a wholesome activity used by singles to find their future spouse whom they can build a future with and will love unconditionally for the rest of their lives.
Pornography, on the other hand, allows for the use and degradation of another human being and is without love of any kind. It destroys instead of creates.
Given this, I pose the question to all singles who find themselves struggling with pornography: what are you really looking for? If you, like many other singles, are craving a relationship with someone you can build a future with, I urge you to quit viewing pornography right now. Stop filling your heart, mind, and soul, with these misrepresentations of human love.
The contrast between the culture of online dating and pornography could not be more different. In the online dating culture, at least in Christian circles, there is an emphasis on finding respectful and purposeful dating relationships. To speak generally, if someone is willing to create an in-depth profile or maybe even pay for an online dating account, it is a great indicator that this person is invested in finding their future spouse. Unlike the culture of pornography, online dating can offer users the ability to create meaningful relationships that may last a lifetime.
The inspiring C.S. Lewis tells us in his popular work, The Great Divorce, that
“Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.”
Consider this passage thoughtfully. Lust, though as tempting as it may seem, is actually holding you back from the very thing you desire. It is a “whimpering whispering thing” in contrast to the true love and connection with another being which is a “richness and energy of desire”!
Given the contrast between these two things, I think your choice should be obvious. But, that doesn’t mean the follow-through will be easy. Most of us, when posed with the question, “Which would you prefer, a real relationship or a lifetime of porn?”, would pick the relationship, but again, it’s the follow-through that’s difficult.
So, if you’re a single Catholic struggling with an addiction to pornography, what are you to do? While there’s no right answer for everyone, there certainly are steps you can take to get to where you want to be.
1. Find forgiveness.
First from God and then from yourself. Spend some time in quiet prayer, ask God to make your sins clear to you, and then make an honest and thorough Confession. You might be surprised by how freeing this will feel. Once you have set yourself right with God, set yourself right with yourself. An important part of Confession is having the resolve to never sin again. Be adamant about this with yourself.
2. Take action.
Once you have the resolve to never turn to pornography again, take steps to ensure it doesn’t. Put accountability software on your devices. Find someone who can hold you accountable, whether that’s a friend or spiritual advisor. And, don’t forget to bring your temptations to prayer. Give yourself a list of actions you can take when you feel tempted, whether that’s going for a run, calling a friend, or offering up a quick prayer, find some items that work and train yourself to turn to them in times of difficulty.
This will look different for everyone, but it’s an important step. What was it that made you turn to pornography in the first place? What are the things in your life that trigger you to turn to it? Chances are, there are probably a few things in your life you need to work on. Whether it’s building your confidence, self-control, or integrity, figure out what areas of your life could use growth and improvement.
4. Seek healthy relationships.
This is the last step for a reason. Only once you’ve gotten your addiction under control and you are actively working to improve yourself, only then would I recommend seeking a relationship. Until you have gotten the help and healing you need, you are unable to fully give of yourself in a relationship. But, once you are, healthy relationships can be a great way to support your growth and move on from your past!
Once you’re ready for a relationship, don’t be afraid to turn to the internet and give online dating a try! But, I say this with a word of caution. Don’t turn to just any online dating website as many secular options will provide you with a series of temptations. Instead, turn to a form of faith-focused online dating. Seek singles who share your values and will support you as your journey away from the struggles of your past. As you form new relationships, be honest about your weaknesses and ask for their continued support.
As I mentioned earlier, there has never been a better time to be single, as online dating is a great tool to help you connect with other singles that you may be compatible with. This means that the odds are in your favor for finding someone who won’t just accept your past but will be able to help you overcome it. Perhaps, you will be able to connect with other singles who have had their own pasts to overcome, unlike the in-person dating scene, where you are limited to the singles you already know from church, work, or extended friends. While these can all be excellent places to meet your future spouse, as you embrace your new life free from porn, you may enjoy getting a fresh start in the dating world via online dating!
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