Dear brothers in Christ, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that you are bombarded every single day with images that truly shouldn’t exist. Images of girls showing parts of their bodies that only their husband should see. I’m so sorry that this is such an enormous avenue that Satan uses to warp your mind and rewire your brain to objectify women. While I can’t speak for all girls, I can and will speak for myself: I understand and feel compassion for you in this fight.

Studies continue to find that well over 70 percent of young men these days view pornography on a weekly basis. Articles that were published 20 years ago are still just as relevant today: Porn teaches men that women are less than human and provides a false sense of intimacy. 

I used to tell myself that I could never be in a relationship with or marry a guy who struggles with porn. “How could I love and be loved by a guy who looks at other women like that?” I thought. As I’ve given this more thought and done my own research, I’ve begun to realize something: In Christian communities, young people are told that sex before marriage is wrong, which it is, and in some ways encouraged to avoid the opposite sex until it’s time for marriage. Does this mean that we aren’t sexual beings until we are ready for marriage? Of course not. We are created to be sexual beings. Guys, it is normal for you to have those feelings. I don’t think Christians acknowledge that enough.

“Avoid each other until you’re ready for marriage” was the message I received from different Christian dating books and conferences, which shall remain unnamed. In my experience, many Christian communities want to pretend like young Christians can not only abstain from sexual experiences, but abstain even from sexual feelings until the wedding night. It seems like young men in particular (though the number of young women who are struggling with porn is growing) feel that they don’t know what to do with these sexual urges and therefore, porn gives them an outlet that they can justify by telling themselves it isn’t hurting anyone and is allowing them to leave Christian girls alone so they can remain pure.

Understanding the struggle of pornography in this way, it made more sense to me why Christian guys view it. And it filled me with compassion. Porn can be as addicting as drugs, and guys get a “hit” from it just like you would if you partook of a basic street drug. Our overly sexualized culture says that porn is exciting, smartphones make it way too easy to access it, and Satan is constantly lying to us by saying that it doesn’t hurt anybody. For guys, being the visual creatures that God created you to be, the bombardment of these lies makes it seemingly impossible to resist the urge that so easily creeps up in everyday life. But it IS possible to resist, if you’re willing to fight.

We, as Christians especially, need to remember that God created sex and that within marriage, it’s beautiful. Young Christians need to hear that these sexual feelings are not evil, but are God-given and are best fulfilled in marriage. They need to be guided towards preparing for and finding a spouse much earlier than the current national average of nearly 30 years old. Flirting, holding hands, hugging, and even kissing before you get married aren’t sins. Every couple is different and can set their own standards within biblical parameters, but we should stop fearing that anything beyond a side hug is going to make us lose control.

So to my sisters, let’s pray for our brothers in Christ that we can have an understanding approach. And guys, let us help you fight. Please know that when you view porn, whether you realize it or not, you’re comparing real life girls with the porn stars. Porn stars are digitally enhanced women who are often abused and in very unhealthy situations during the production of porn. These girls are someone’s sister or daughter. It’s not right for you to think that you can only be attracted to girls who look this way just because that’s what you’re viewing on your screen. Porn makes you value unrealistic outward appearances, not a girl’s personality and character.

If God puts a girl in your life who is chasing after Him, loves others, and who you just have fun with, pursue that girl and don’t let her go! Am I saying you should marry a girl you’re not physically attracted to? Nope. I’m saying you’ll be surprised at how physically attractive she is when you start valuing the right things. Don’t let porn make it more difficult for you to physically and emotionally connect with a real girl. That’s unhealthy for you and will honestly ruin your life. After long-term exposure to porn, you will find yourself turning to it when you are under stress, lonely, sad, struggling, or just plain bored. It becomes a coping strategy when problems arise.

One of the keys to overcoming porn addiction is developing strong relationships with real people. You must begin by being truthful with yourself. As you search inside yourself and pray for God to open your eyes, it is vital to recognize how pornography has influenced your life. How has it affected your overall happiness and well-being? How has it changed the quality of your relationships? How has it affected your spiritual life and your relationship with God? Through honest evaluation, you will see things you want to change. This desire for change is a good, God-honoring point in your life. Take advantage of the resources out there to hold you accountable. You can overcome this. It will be well worth it for you, your future wife, your future children, and society as a whole.

Cassidy Rich formerly served at FRC. She grew up in a large homeschooled family, loves kids, and ministers in her church’s childcare program. After living in Washington, D.C. for almost three years, she moved back home to Arizona to be closer to her awesome family.