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Pride Goes Before Porn

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A decade ago I worked at a church as a summer intern, and one Sunday night I was all set to lead youth group. After eating some obligatory pizza, I made my way to the restroom to wash my greasy hands. But as soon as I entered the church bathroom I noticed a problem: toilet water covered the floor.

I thought, Hmm . . . I wonder whose job it is to clean that? I had the idea to put a sign on the door that said, “Do not use. Out of order.” Pleased with my solution, I posted the sign and left.

As the night continued, I started thinking that perhaps I should make it my job to clean the mess; after all, I was the intern. So when the kids left, I found the mop and started to clean. I noticed my reflection in the mirror wringing out the mop. That’s when a sinful thought popped into my head: Is this what I went to graduate school for—cleaning bathrooms?

A toilet had overflowed, but so had my prideful heart.

Porn Pampers Your Pride

Before that moment of (literal) self-reflection, I had no idea how much pride sloshed around in my heart. I was above certain jobs—so I thought.

This is often the case, isn’t it? We don’t see the connection between our pride and our actions . . . until the ugliness spills out. This is true of sexual sin, particularly pornography.

Whether you’ve thought about it this way or not, porn often medicates insecurities—just touch the right buttons on your phone, and you have an IV drip straight to your ego. No courtship, no competition, no rejection. Even when Sports Illustrated runs their famous swimsuit issue, the cover whispers to your pride. You’re powerful, and she’s ready for you to come get her.

The wise father in Proverbs describes a man led to the slaughter by sexual temptation. Note the words the wayward woman speaks: “So now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you” (Prov. 7:15). It’s nice to be wanted and appreciated, to be noticed and needed. It soothes our pride like warm honey gliding down a sore throat (cf. Prov. 5:3).

In the book Pornified, Pamela Paul shares an exposé of the damage pornography inflicts on relationships and families. She writes

The porn star is always responsive; she would never complain. . . . The women in pornography are undiscriminating—it doesn’t matter what you look like, if you’ve got bad breath or can’t keep an erection. She certainly doesn’t care about occupation, reputation, or history.

That’s a little crude, but it’s similar to something C. S. Lewis wrote many decades ago:

For the harem [in a man’s mind] is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.

Pride Propels Lust

Think of the arrogance it takes to believe you have the right to look at and mentally touch another woman’s private parts. In Song of Solomon, the husband refers to his wife as a locked garden (4:12) that one sees only inside the covenant of marriage (4:16–5:1).

There’s an anatomical aspect to a woman’s virginity that makes her “locked,” but there’s also a social and spiritual aspect to being locked. God intends for a woman to be sealed off from everyone except her husband. It requires arrogance to kick down the door to a locked garden.

Some might say there’s a sense in which men and women involved in producing pornography consent to voyeurism, but from a Christian worldview, discussions of consent often miss the point. Consent can’t be reduced to human-to-human permission. Ultimately, permission comes from God. He locked the garden, regardless of whether the woman on the screen seems to welcome your lust. As Jesus said, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).

Yet when God does give consent in the context of marriage, it’s ringing endorsement: “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (Song of Solomon 5:1b). This self-giving, covenant-protected, God-blessed sexual intimacy described is nothing like the pride-fueled consumption of porn.

Humility Breaks the Cycle

It’s dangerously possible, James wrote, to look intently into a mirror and notice the sinful reflection staring back at us, but to walk away neglecting repentance (James 1:22–25). God hasn’t let me forget that moment years ago when I saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror—which opened a fissure in my heart for pride to spew to the surface. I think about it often, especially when I need to clean a toilet or pick up trash. I’m a lead pastor now, not an intern, which means I must be even more vigilant to curb ministry pride.

There are many practical tactics to fight the allure of pornography, such as internet filters and accountability relationships. But a critical aspect of winning the war involves cultivating humility and excising pride. True accountability requires brutal honesty, which can only exist alongside humility. Humility breaks the vicious cycle.

Your pride, in all its manifestations, is incompatible with purity. Porn envisions a world in which you’re worshiped. Your pride loves this worship, keeping you from asking for help. As the psalmist writes, “In the pride of his face, the wicked does not seek [God]” (Ps. 10:4).

The proud man won’t wave the white flag. If you see the connection between porn and pride, don’t walk away from the mirror until you’ve sought grace to repent. For those who embrace humility before the Lord, there’s a better and brighter future than we could ever shape for ourselves (James 4:10). “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus promised, “for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).


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