I didn’t want to write this article. It’s not an easy subject to discuss.
I’m going to be uncomfortably transparent today as I share about the internet, pornography, and five silent, toxic myths about accountability. It’s hard to talk about, but I see and hear of so many who struggle as I did and can’t bring themselves to take the steps they know they need to take.
When you finish reading, I trust you’ll be able to see through these five myths and take the first steps toward the freedom that comes from having trusted accountability partners.
Myth 1: Temptation Is Stronger For Me Than For Most Men
We just don’t talk about “those weaknesses” in Christian conversations, so we don’t know what other men face. For years, I thought I was strange – too easily tempted by impure thoughts and inappropriate internet sites. I blamed the failures of my thought life on what I believed to be a “freakishly high” libido. I was surprised to learn that most men think the same thing about their own desire for sex. Paul Byerly from The Generous Husband reports that most men believe their sex drive is higher than average. (link)
Think about it, though. It’s impossible for the majority to be higher than average!
For most of us, this belief is simply a lie. The myth is pretty strong, and it’s time to take it down.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…”
1 Corinthians 10:13
Brother, you are not unique in your temptation. It can be overcome. Accountability to other men can be part of the “way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Myth 2: Only Perverts Or Addicts Need Accountability
This one is a corollary to Myth 1. If I don’t hear anyone else sharing their need for accountability, I assume they’re strong enough to resist sexual temptation. I’m just sure that if I open up and share my weakness, I’ll be seen as a pervert or a sex addict. I may still believe Myth 1 – that my temptation is stronger than yours – but I’m not about to identify as a pervert or an addict, and I certainly don’t want you to see me that way!
So I stay weakly silent.
I suppose this myth – this fear of being misunderstood – is responsible for more continued weakness than any of the others. Accountability is not just for perverts or addicts. Accountability is for every man who wants his mind to stay pure.
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed….”
Those “faults” can be either wilful transgressions, or unintentional slips. We need to be willing to share those weaknesses with others. Their prayer for us (and ours for them) can be a powerful force to combat sin.
Myth 3: My Wife Will Never Understand
Because we believe Myth 2 so strongly, those of us who are married expect our wives to believe it, too. I wish I could say that every wife will be completely understanding and grateful for your boldness to set up internet accountability. I’m not that naive.
I still call this one a myth for two reasons.
- Your fear of her reaction is probably worse than her actual reaction will be.
- For men who truly want to do right, the benefit from accountability over time will more than make up for even a painful discussion with your wife.
Is it possible to set up accountability relationships without your wife’s knowledge? It might be, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, I’d encourage you to include your wife as one of your accountability partners, along with godly men whom you trust. When she sees your accountability reports consistently clean over time, you will emphasize to her your commitment to keep yourself “only unto her as long as you both shall live.”
I Don’t Know How To Bring It Up
My wife Lana recently wrote about what our conversation was like, how she felt at the time, and what things are like now. She writes to wives whose husbands are just now coming to them with a need for accountability. Consider scheduling a talk with your wife, and ask her to read Lana’s article.
But What If My Accountability Report Won’t Stay Clean?
Good question. If you already know that you won’t be able to keep a clean accountability record, then someone more qualified than I am will need to help you walk through the specifics of your situation. Please speak with your pastor or have him recommend a godly, Biblical, Christian counselor who can help you conquer your temptation. Keep reading to overcome the rest of these myths, then enlist your pastor or counselor to be one of your accountability partners.
Myth 4: I Just Need A Better Internet Filter
For most of my marriage, I believed this myth. Somehow, I counted on intelligent technology to create an environment in which it was impossible for me to access pornography. But we all know that technology can’t be perfect. It can’t prevent a determined, deceitful heart from sinning.
Technology won’t solve a heart problem.
I ignored my personal responsibility. When I fell, I’d confess to God and to my wife. Then, I’d try to fix the “broken” internet content filter that “let” me past it. That was my problem. I was looking for a technical solution to a heart problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the value of a good filter. We still have one in our home. But I no longer count on that to keep me from sin. Here are several reasons:
- Filters block good sites. For this reason, they come with an override function for parents. Some men will give the override password only to their wife or an accountability partner. Others whose day-to-day jobs depend on quick access to internet sites may end up trying to trust themselves to use that override password only when needed.
- Filters can’t block every problem site. When my love for sin exceeds my love for God, I can still find that sin even with a filter.
- Filters have limited reach. I can’t filter the whole internet – only the part that reaches my own home or device. I can’t enforce filtering for my smartphone or tablet using my employer’s network or a public wifi hotspot.
There is no fool-proof filter. I cannot delegate my responsibility to technology. I must own my own actions.
Knowing a friend is watching you can be enough to stop your first step down that slippery road of ever darker sites. If you already want to do right, accountability programs like Accountable2You and Covenant Eyes can share your activity with people you trust. They can report that activity from your Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, or Android device. If you choose godly men to be your accountability partners – men who understand your struggles, you can build on each others’ strengths.
Myth 5: My Church Will Never Understand
I’m convinced this myth stands only because we believe Myth 1. Because I think my temptations are unique, I fear the reactions of others who can’t possibly understand what I face.
Don’t believe it, though. Internet temptations are common. Pastors and evangelists are seeing the results of widespread pornography use. You can find respect in making yourself accountable to others. Be proactive and reach out to godly men you trust. Most likely, they’ll be honored that you chose them.
If you’re not sure how to ask someone to partner with you, consider a message something like this:
For a long time, I’ve known about the many temptations on the internet. I’ve always thought I’ve done okay, generally speaking, but like anyone else, I can’t claim to be perfect. I want to be sure that all of my internet activity pleases God, so I’m taking a bold step and choosing to become accountable to some godly men that I trust. I’ll be installing accountability software to monitor my computer and mobile devices, and send out regular reports of what I do on the internet. My accountability partners will receive those reports.
Because I respect you and trust you as a godly friend, I want you to be able to ask me about how I’m using the internet. Would you please let me know if you’re willing to be one of my accountability partners?
P.S. If you’re interested in the full article I was reading, you can see it at http://edifyhub.com/accountability/5myths.
But I Am The Pastor!
These myths take pastors, too. According to a 2000 survey conducted by Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal, “[h]alf of the pastors (51%) say Internet pornography is a possible temptation for them, while 37 percent admit it is a current struggle.”
“What do leaders do? Leaders lead.”
That same survey found that 75% of pastors did not, at that time, have any external accountability at all for their internet use. And of those that did, most were not accountable to another man. Two-thirds of those that had accountability programs shared only with their wives.
It’s easy to admit in a generic sense that we’re not perfect. Sharing a specific weakness is much harder, and we’re all subject to the fears that come from believing these myths.
But let me share with you something my pastor likes to say. “What do leaders do? Leaders lead.”
Think of your staff member, a fellow pastor, a member of your church. Someone is afraid to reach out for accountability because they believe one or more of these five myths. As a pastor, you have the power both to shatter these myths and to protect yourself by setting the example and volunteering to become accountable to others with your use of the internet.
“As much as people look at software like this as restraining and limiting, I can’t help but thank the Lord that the purity of heart and mind that comes with this choice actually provides a freedom to live as God desires me to do so for Him.”
Accountability Partner (emphasis added)