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You probably remember the Flint water crisis when, in early 2014, local officials in Flint wanted to cut costs for the city so they transferred the drinking water supply from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the less costly, Flint River. This decision quickly turned disastrous. 

 The new water system was highly corrosive. Lead from outdated water pipes leaked into homes of unsuspecting families. Many in Flint complained about dirty, smelly, contaminated water that led to hair loss, skin rashes, sickness and more. The situation escalated when officials initially refused to fix the problem. Over 9,000 children were exposed to contaminated water. (1) It took a loud public outcry to move officials to finally act.

 Lead is toxic. Humans require clean drinking water for good health. Just as we do not want contaminated drinking water, another crisis is showing up in our homes and that is pornography. Porn is poisoning the minds and hearts of our families. Porn is shifting the landscape how humans think, behave and interact. The question is not if porn will make us sick when we consume it; the issue is how relationally impaired will we become once we ingest it. 

 Unfortunately, porn is profitable. The porn industry rakes in billions of dollars while 1 in 5 mobile searches are for pornography and $3,075.64 is spent on porn every second on the internet. (2) Access to porn is now more prevalent than ever as 9 out of 10 boys, and 6 out of 10 girls will be exposed to pornography before they reach the age of 18. (3) The effects of porn continue to exact a costly toll on marriages, families and the minds of our young people. Our churches are not exempt from the effects of porn. Some of the latest statistics tell us 1 in 5 youth pastors and 1 in 7 senior pastors use porn on a regular basis. Porn is traumatizing our families as 70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with PTSD. (4) Porn rewires the brain and is linked with sex trafficking, which is now a 3+ billion industry in the US. (5)

 People stuck in the quagmire of porn do not need stones of shame and condemnation thrown their way. At its core, porn use is a counterfeit solution for dealing with loneliness, low-joy and pain. Porn is a faulty attempt to fix unregulated feelings and resolve unprocessed pain. The more we love Jesus and value Jesus-like character, the greater shame we feel when we indulge in what we may think is an innocent snack. When we pursue porn, we think we are grabbing an appetizing treat. In reality, we are swallowing a fish hook that ensnares us into a vicious cycle that, thanks to dopamine and the brain’s reward center, feels fun to start and becomes painful to stop. (6)

 Porn distorts the lens we rely on to view the world, ourselves and the people around us. Porn use creates sexual objectification, where people become “objects” for one’s personal pleasure. Porn destroys marriages by damaging trust and porn disfigures the face of human sexuality. People caught in the web of porn are operating in the non-relational part of their brain that focuses on performance, problem-solving and pleasure-seeking behaviors. This means they pursue result and relief-driven experiences instead of relationships, mutual satisfaction and glad-to-be-together joy. Porn is a substitute for meaningful, genuine, joyful relationships. 

Once bonds are sexualized in the brain, there is simply no backspace or delete button to undo and remove the association of bonding equals sex. This means we get close to other people then our brain wants to be sexual instead of simply enjoying others as God’s gifts and treasures. (7) While we can learn to override this unhelpful, ingrained association and shift back into relational mode, at the end of the day, porn robs people from enjoying one another as God’s creation, the apple of His eye. 

 After helping individuals and families with severe trauma and addictions now for over 21 years, I have found relational skills to be central to find freedom from the effects of pornography and sexual addiction. Recovery is no small task. Creating new pathways in the brain requires great effort, much practice and plenty of interaction. And, because the brain’s bonding center is the engine that drives our emotional control center which runs our behavior, guides our emotions, fuels our motivations and creates our reality, we must turn to Immanuel to meet us in the broken places and fill the painful voids. 

 Practice with relational joy develops emotional capacity to suffer well so we withstand the surge of strong cravings that come our way. Cravings will inevitably crash against the banks of our brain’s capacity, so we not only increase joy, we must learn to quiet and calm our body. We will certainly need healing to disarm the attachment pain landmines that propel porn-seeking behavior. Learning to return to joy from negative emotions will help us face the feelings we have been avoiding and masking with porn. Inevitably, trying to stop frequent surfing into sexually charged materials will create withdrawal symptoms similar to refraining from tobacco, drugs and alcohol, so we must empower the “Captain” in the brain to override our brain’s survival circuit and learn to feel then quiet big feelings. (8) All of this can only be done in the context of community. Recovering from porn addiction is not a solo flight. 

Parents, we can raise our children to resist the allurement of porn and become much more “porn-proof” by training important skills to control impulses, quiet cravings and return to joy when things go wrong. Spouses, when porn has wrecked your marriage, learning to care for yourself is crucial. Finding resources and working on your own healing while you learn to return to joy from the inevitable distressing moments you will encounter provides necessary stability. While there is much more to this complex puzzle, excellent resources are available to learn more about prevention and correction. (9) 

Start today by learning about relational skills and consider how you can best practice relational skills. THRIVEtoday offers materials, events, opportunities and resources to learn the 19 skills that make relationships work. 


  1. nrdc.org/flint
  2. Covenant Eyes, covenanteyes.com 
  3. everaccountable.com
  4. These statistics and more can be found at the Covenant Eyes website, covenanteyes.com. 
  5. conquerseries.com
  6. Learn more with the video What Makes Sexual Sin Look Like A Tasty Snack by Dr. Jim Wilder.  
  7. Learn more by the work of Dr. Jim Wilder in the THRIVE-at-Home courses as well as the work of Ed Khouri in Restarting of the Connexus program. Excellent teachings by Dr. Jim Wilder on sexual addiction are available in the Life Model Works JOYStreams library here
  8. Learn more about Level 4 of the control center with the THRIVE-at-Home courses and Transforming Fellowship here and RARE Leadership here
  9. Practice joy with The 4 Habits Of Joy-Filled Marriages book, read Dr. Marcus Warner’s Slaying the Monster book and pursue the specialized ministry and resources of Pastor Darrel Brazell here


Wanted: Joyful givers looking to increase their joy and bless others. THRIVEtoday is a non-profit ministry. Like all non-profit organizations, we are dependent on the generosity from year-end giving to continue bringing you great content and practice opportunities for relational skills. If you have been blessed by my blog and/or other resources from THRIVEtoday, would you consider making a year-end donation to the THRIVEtoday ministry?

Posted in Skill Thoughts

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  1. Gret Machlan

    Thank you for this timely article… I will see a client later today for whom this will be greatly beneficial! I admire your writing style and the passion that comes through the reading. Blessings!

    • Chris Coursey

      Glad to; thank you! This is a topic we need to be talking about, especially the effects of porn on young, developing minds that are “glued” to porn and being rewired and robbed of joy.

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