This is a guest post by Ezekiel of the Virtue and Faith Blog. I’ve long been a fan of Ezekiel’s work and so I’ve asked him to write this specially for those of you who are young men, struggling to live a virtuous life in a degenerate age. Here’s what he wrote:
There’s an interesting idea floating around in our culture nowadays; a notion that men are fundamentally controlled by sexual impulse. It claims that men always think about sex.
That men have to watch porn.
That men can’t help leering at hot chicks.
In short, men can’t control themselves.
Many young guys are perfectly happy with this idea. After all, why would they want to control and stifle their desires anyway? There’s no fun in that!
But even in our modern, hedonistic culture, there’s a type of man who finds this idea unnerving. He doesn’t believe a man’s life should be controlled by hormones. He doesn’t want to sit around, jacking off to strangers or characters on a screen. And—if he’s in a relationship—he wants to be emotionally, physically, and even mentally faithful to the woman he’s with.
That’s all well and good, but can it actually be done? Can a man keep his heart pure?
How Can a Man Keep His Heart Pure?
That’s a question I wrestled with for years. Like many young guys, I found that I was a pretty close match for society’s caricature of a man who can’t control himself. I did think about sex a lot—and in a way that was contrary to my values.
My eyes went where they pleased.
I got addicted to porn as a teenager and unsuccessfully tried to quit for years.
I began to wonder whether my efforts to live according to nobler principles were hopeless. Perhaps men really are just slaves to sex. Maybe that’s just way it works.
One day, in August of 2014, I came across an online group of guys who had a novel idea: no porn for a month. It seemed impossible; I had never gone that long without porn since I first started watching the stuff.
Even so, I decided to march alongside these strange internet people and try yet again to get control of myself.
That was only the start of a long journey for me. I began to make real progress, and over time, I finally broke free of my porn addiction. I even tamed my eyes and got my thoughts cleaned up.
In short, I learned that men really can control themselves. A young man can absolutely keep his heart and mind pure.
Surveys have shown that, even among Christian men, porn use is dishearteningly pervasive.
Living a Life of Personal Purity
I could talk for hours about the lessons and methods I’ve learned over the last few years (in fact, I have). But right now, I’ll just touch on a few key points that will form a strong foundation for any man’s efforts in this area:
1. You always have a choice.
The first point is that you always have the choice of what to do. Whatever behavior you’re trying to remove from your life is already a decision that you make every day.
So take full responsibility for your actions, even if it feels like you were out of control. If you fail, remind yourself that you could have acted differently, and that you already have the option to do better next time. Remove phrases like, “I couldn’t help it,” from your mind.
This is so important because if you don’t believe you’re in control, you won’t take control. You’ll always feel helpless in the face of temptation, and you’ll always be waiting for some event or epiphany which will finally “allow” you to do the right thing.
What I am telling you is that you are already allowed to do the right thing. Even as of right now, you don’t have to watch porn, stare at your buddy’s wife, or have sex with some skank ever again.
2. Live a Life of Discipline
The second point is discipline. It’s great to get motivated to change. It’s great to persuade yourself that you don’t really want to live immorally. It’s great to set your life up so that the right decisions are easier and the wrong decisions are harder.
But ultimately, you will need discipline to win this war. There will be times when your motivation runs out, your self-persuasion falls short, and your lifestyle choices aren’t enough. Some days, you will face temptations that are so powerful that nothing else seems to matter. You will have to use raw discipline to win on days like this.
Cultivating discipline is not easy, but it is very simple. Discipline is a lot like a muscle—it grows stronger over time as you use it and push it to its limits. And there are plenty of ways you can start doing that.
For you, that may or may not mean getting up early, or working out every day, or cutting out junk food. For some people, these tasks are easy or comfortable and don’t require discipline. When picking ways to grow in discipline, skip over the things you already feel like doing.
Don’t introduce any form of instant-gratification either, as that removes the element of discipline. Discipline is not a tougher-sounding word for self-improvement, and it is not cultivated simply by being healthier or more productive.
Discipline is the outright denial of your desires. The times when you want to take a break, or cut yourself some slack, or have a cheat day, but you keep going instead—those are the times when you really cultivate discipline.
Growing in discipline affects all areas of your life. Find ways to start arming yourself with discipline, and you will be better prepared for the toughest battles in your efforts to stay pure. When that day comes when all your other strategies fail and your sexual impulses are stronger than any other desire, you’ll know what you have to do.
3. Be a Lifelong Learner
The third point is to always be learning. If you fail, figure out how it happened. Analyze the events and circumstances leading up to failure, and look at the chain of actions you took:
Were you overconfident?
Were you curious?
Did you deceive yourself somehow?
What was the first step down the path to failure, and why did you take it?
What lesson or principle did the battle teach you or remind you of?
A good military leader learns from every battle to see how he can do better next time. To figure out what worked and what didn’t. To understand what tactics his enemy is using, and how to counter them in the future
You must do the same.
If you learn from every battle, you will always be moving forwards and not backwards, even when you fail.
4. Refuse to be a Quitter
The fourth and final point is that you must refuse to give up, no matter what. Repeated failures can leave you feeling hopeless. You must reject that hopelessness.
Hopelessness isn’t just a feeling, it is one of your greatest enemies. It tries to convince you to stop fighting, and that there’s no point in trying to be better. If you listen to it, you lose.
Simple as that.
If you’re feeling hopeless, pull yourself together, learn something from the last battle, and prepare for the next one. Remember that victory is already within reach. You just have to choose to take it.
Culture and the people around you may also discourage you and try to convince you to give up. Coworkers might think you’re weird for being so restrained. A pretty woman might think you’re gay for refusing to have sex with her. Media might make you feel like you’re fighting for a lost cause.
Ignore all of that. You’re a man. Do what is right, not what is popular. Remain steadfast.
These are the principles that formed the core of my strategy for getting free of my addictions and keeping my heart pure. If you’re a young man struggling in this area, I’m confident that they will help you too.
I’m grateful to Ezekiel for taking the time to write this. I’ve experienced (and continue to experience) many of the same struggles. If you can identify with what you’ve read today, know that you can live a better life, one free from pornography and degeneracy. Hundreds of us have done it. Is it your turn? – Neil
Bio: Ezekiel is a Christian vlogger and writer from the southeast United States. His content primarily focuses on godly masculinity and on how to break free from porn addiction. You can find more of his work on his website and social media accounts: