I recently heard an old 80’s song “I Go Blind” by ‘Hootie and the Blowfish’. The lyrics of this song go:
“Every time I look at you, I go blind.
Every time I look at you, I go blind.
In the mornin’ I get up, and I try to
Feel alive, but I can’t.
Every time I look at you, I go blind.
I don’t know what it is.
Something in me just won’t give me a chance.
I think it’s that I feel more confused.”
Being a counselor working with relationship and sexual issues, this song has always made me think of the effects of pornography. Human beings hunger for attention and acceptance. We are social creatures with a genuine need for help from others to maintain a clear understanding that our life has meaning and purpose. Pope Benedict XVI explained in his encyclical “God is Love” how we are each called to gaze into the soul of other people, knowing I can give them the look of love which they crave.
Looking at pornography blinds us to the presence of God in human beings. It trains us to focus on their body parts, dehumanizing them. We soon become slaves to our sexual appetite. Our freedom to desire what is truly good for us gets more and more limited as our sinful choice first turns into a habit and then over time becomes a compulsive obsession out of our control.
We select people in the pornographic pictures for our personal slaves. We do not think of their hunger nor their wounds nor their need for our genuine love and concern.
We use them for personal pleasure and to escape the pain of our own loneliness and hunger for love. This slaveholder attitude creeps into our relationship skills. Soon our family and friends notice the change in us as we lose a sense of our own personal value and dignity.
We go blind to the goodness within us, believing we are bad and unlovable.
Brain research scientists testified at the U.S. Senate Commission on Pornography that pornography is potent, addictive and permanently implanted in the brain. They explained that looking at pornography for only three-tenths of a second causes the brain to change in a way that can be measured by technology. Scientists refer to these physical and chemical changes as “damage to the brain”. They testified that there are no studies nor any data to prove that there is any benefit from using pornography.
One expert said, “If pornography made us healthy, we would be healthy by now.”
What is most troubling is the neuroscience evidence overwhelming proves that pornography is just as addictive for men and for women as alcohol or narcotics. Recent science research has shown this is because the same neurotransmitter chemicals and hormones that are released when using drugs are also released when viewing porn.
Our popular culture’s “spin” (driven by the multi-million-dollar profit making porn industry) is that couples viewing porn will gain deeper intimacy in their relationships, but instead the interest in Online Pornography causes more than half of all divorces according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The breakdown of the family and the harmful effect of divorce on our children is well documented. As Catholics, we know stable, healthy families are at the heart of strong societies but porn is causing an epidemic of unhealthy family environments for our children.
The Internet (and IPhones) offers adults and children the greatest access to pornography. A research survey of several hundred college students revealed exposure to pornography on the Internet among adolescents between the ages of 13 to 18 can be described as a “normative experience”. Over 70% disclosed to owning pornographic magazines and videos and over 80% admitted to viewing porn websites.
I remember when I had done a series of talks at St. Louis University High School (a Catholic Prep School) right before the season of Lent had started and, at one of the talks, I invited the students to give up pornography for Lent. Some of students questioned whether sexual addiction is real. I told them that Lent is the perfect opportunity to prove that you have not lost self-control.
You don’t need to wait for the next season of Lent to try this yourself. You can start a “Lenten” fast at any time. Give up any attachment for 6 weeks — such as pornography, alcohol, drugs, gossip (many times framed as prayer requests and also now spread faster than ever before thanks to social media), chat rooms, shopping, video gaming, TV, social media, Internet, and (Yes!) using the IPhone.
By the end of the 6 weeks, you will know if you have an addiction, because if you do, you will be full of resentment.
Pope St. John Paul II taught us that resentment is spiritual laziness – “a sadness that the good is difficult.” Yes, it is difficult to be good people and to do good things. We cling to our hurts because it is such a bummer to go through the very hard work of making a commitment to change our behavior and letting go of our pride and ask God for His forgiveness and His mercy to help us to change. In his book, Love and Responsibility, Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “resentment outlaws chastity from the soul, the will and the heart.”
Resentment blocks us from pure and chaste friendship that can satisfy our heart’s true desire for human connection.
Because of the addictive nature of viewing porn for both men and women, some people may need the help of a Catholic therapist to be set free from the effects of pornography. Healing can begin to see ourselves in the forgiveness, mercy and love of God and then begin to see those around us in the same way so we can have true human connection.
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