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Boys vs The Porn Apocalypse (Pt 3): Your First Contact To His First Contact.

MB PostsMost of us as parents will need to get comfortable with the fact that our boys first contact with porn will be much sooner than we would care to admit, particularly if we fail to provide safeguards far in advance. And typically the way most patents find out is not through a proactive confession or a yelp of shock in the adjacent room. No, most parents find out by stumbling upon an already established habit. It typically comes when you walk in on a flushed and deflecting boy or you decide to open a browsing history on his device of choice only to find a list of titles that make you flushed like a caught boy. In these instances a vast array of emotions can crush into your gut: shock, worry, anger, disappointment or disgust. All of these are understandable; it’s your first contact to his first contact. Yet before you decide to react from the circus in your gut, slow down so you can wisely respond to the real problem – his heart. His heart sin (manifest as porn viewing) is an opportunity for you to reinforce the sin conquering grace of the Gospel. With that in mind here are some responses to consider:

If you find out – don’t avoid, but engage.

Occasionally there are parents who would prefer to jam their heads in the sand and just pretend like they didn’t see. Or worse, there are parents who avoid it because they don’t believe such habits are really that wrong since “boys will be boys” (and because the parents themselves have the same habits). To be clear, both make for poor parenting (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, Ephesians 6:4 & Proverbs 6:15-23). Let me help us all out right now, if pornography is a part of your diet either individually or as an additive to your marriage “take out the log of porn that is in your own eye so you can deal with the speck of porn that is in your son’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5). Either resolve to remove it or seek out a safe confidant who can help you begin to overcome it. Whatever you do don’t leave it unaddressed, in your own life or his.

If you find out – don’t freak out, but draw out.

For some parents this is hard. Especially since some of the things you find may be uniquely graphic and disturbing. Keep in mind that when it comes to pre/early teen boys and pornography you have an unequipped mind crashing into an unregulated world that can lead to a remarkable display of discriminant viewing. For a parent the result can be such a high level of shock that they react with the blunt force of shame and guilt. Unfortunately shame is a powerful tool of the Devil to drive sin underground in the lives of people. If we shame our sons in this context it can inadvertently create an environment by which their heart is never addressed and so they simply learn how to better hide their habits.

Keep the big idea always before you – his heart. You want him to turn away from sin not merely for fear of getting caught by you, but because he has a fear of the Lord than cause him to hate sin (Proverbs 8:13). You want to recall the wisdom of Proverbs 20:5 Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out.” You are the parent of understanding who can help draw out in your son what he knows deep down is God’s best. Therefore you want to ask questions more than make statements. Monologuing is easy for parents, but boys only hear about 1/5 of what is said in a “corrective” lecture. Because of this you’re better off to hit your intended target by opening a dialogue by which you can begin to deposit wisdom through conversation.

Now at this point many of you may be asking, “How do I open the duologue ?” I get it. For most parents dealing with sons and porn is a rookie situation. All those “What To Expect When Your Expecting” books didn’t prepare you for this. With that in mind I want to help us identify some Gospel oriented questions to ask our boys. To do this however I want to start with some less than ideal questions many parents ask and then move to the useful stuff.

Questions You Don’t Want To Bother Asking:

Why are you looking at these things?

It’s a redundant question that may inadvertently fuel a shaming tone. He’s looking because he’s curious, aroused and sinful. You know the answer better than he does. Besides the answer itself contributes nothing to the solution. Leverage good Gospel questions, not filler questions.

Do you think this is acceptable?

Obviously he doesn’t. If he did he would do it openly in the living room during family time. He hides it because he knows its wrong. This, like the previous question, is redundant. More importantly it is a misdirected question. The filter we always want to use in regard to sin is not “What do you think?“ but “What does Jesus think?” In Psalm 51:4 David says to God, Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” In viewing pornography a boy is harming himself and grieving his parents, but he is sinning only against Jesus who died and suffered wrath for his porn viewing. Thus it only matters what Jesus thinks.

What would your __________ (sister, mother, grandmother, friends, etc.) think of this?

The question hints that you may in fact broadcast his sin to Nanna. This may not be your plan, but it will make him wonder. Aside from that it works much like the previous question. The issue is not about what others think; it’s about what Jesus thinks. This is especially important since it is easy to find large pockets of people who affirm  sinful practices as good and commendable. As soon as we make humans the primary consideration we are at the mercy of whatever they consider to be sinful.

Do you know how exploited these women are in pornography?

If your son is under 16 years of age he really has no idea – even if you tell him. Abstract thinking hasn’t fully developed and so a sense of empathy toward people they do not know, and who “appear” to be willing participants, is of limited value in dealing with adolescent temptations. This isn’t to say that this question isn’t an important one to address, but if we try to use it as a tool to repulse them away from pornography it will not be effective.

Talking With Our Boys – A Gospel Starter:

Parenting is sinners raising sinners. Therefore we should engage the conversation as a fellow sinner who realizes the need for and power of the Gospel. That is the tone that sets the opener statement, “I want you to know that I understand where you’re at right now. I want us to talk about it. Would you like to talk now or in about an hour?”

This seems trivial I know, but it shows this is bigger than a fifteen minute chat. What you’re saying is you’re prepared to take time to work this through; therefore you’re prepared to give him some time to think this through before you talk. It also reinforces the tone of a dialogue verses the “were talking about this now mister” approach that all but guarantees he will not open up to you.

Once sitting down to talk (in a quiet, non-public, uninterrupted space) here are some “drawing out” questions:

  • When did you first start looking at these kinds of things?
  • What kinds of things have you looked at?
  • How often have you been looking?
  • What do you believe Jesus thinks of what you’ve been looking at?
  • Do you know Jesus has given us what we need to overcome our sins? (notice the solidarity of “us” and “we”)
  • How can I help you out on this?
  • What are some ways we can guard against this happening in the future?
  • Is it cool if you and I pray together every night about this for a while?
  • I’m going to ask you every few days how it’s going. Will you be open with me if I promise not to freak out toward you?

Now trust me when I tell you that the questions above are far easier to list than ask. And take my word for it; you’ll be lucky to get 20 words from him in the entire encounter. Yet it’s less about getting answers and far more about creating an open environment for you and your son to acknowledge  sin and seek grace. He must know you have empathy and understanding more than you have judgment. This doesn’t mean you lack concern or disappointment in the conversation, but you need to have a tone by which he knows you really do understand where he is at and you want to help him along the process. And that is a key word for you to lock in – process. His temptations will not end with one heart felt conversation. The longer he has had to feed the habit the harder it will be to overcome. You are beginning a journey with your son that will consist of many conversations like this (and a few failures too). Therefore the biggest most powerful way to help him is to every time point him to what Jesus has done and can do.

Coming Up Wednesday: Pt.4 “Jesus Died For Porn”

Boys vs The Porn Apocalypse (Pt. 2): Discipling Your Son’s Heart, Not Just His Internet Connection

MB PostsDisclaimer: Of all the posts in this series this one has made me most nervous. Not for it’s content, but for its reception. With a topic like boys and porn its easy to think very “here and now” about it. How to fix, filter or fight against. I’m not opposed to those things, but this whole topic – and solution – runs deeper. Therefore my concern that some will read this and say, “Yadda, yadda, yadda… get on to some more interesting statistics or real tools that I can use.” If you find yourself in that place by the end of this post I recommend you skip the next few and pick it back up at (Pt. 5) – and with that be prepared for those measures to fail you catastrophically.

As I shared in the previous post, none of the human measures we undertake to guard our sons from pornography are foolproof unless we help our sons to avoid being fools. That is why it’s my conviction that the real “secret” in dealing with boys and porn (or men/dads and porn) is less about engaging the porn problem and more about focusing on the Jesus solution. That is the real heart of the following post. Ok enough disclaimers – on to our topic.

Discipling Your Son’s Heart, Not Just His Internet Connection

Often as Christian parents we believe our chief goal is to protect our kids. Let me break it to us, protecting the youth of America is not our chief calling. At best it’s to be an element in our parenting, but it’s not the goal. The goal is to raise godly adults. What this means for all of us in the child-raising gig is to own that our mission is actually adult-rearing. Here is why I say this, unless you plan to monitor your son’s electronic pantheon for the rest of his natural born life you will want to help him learn how to filter his own life more than you filter it for him. And when I say help him learn what I’m really talking about is you will want to help him want to filter his own life. Catch that? Want to; not need to, ought to or got to. Our core aspiration for boys and men is that pornography would be unthinkable, not merely unavailable. Therefore it’s not enough to just give him a diversion, distraction, filter or formula. We can’t make our big idea periodic anti-porn speeches or have him watch a documentary on sex trafficking in the hopes that he will be so repulsed he’s cured of his temptations. He must have a bigger reason and a deeper strength to counter the rushing torrent of biology and nature. The reason is because what our sons are up against is far more daunting than just an unfiltered media paired to a cauldron of testosterone. They are up against their fallen selves. Therefore, before we can get into confronting the topic of boys and the porn culture we must proactively address boys and their internal culture.

The Real Cultural Epidemic

As parents we can have a tendency to think that everything around us works against us. I get it. I feel that way too. But that is how I feel. When I stop and think I see that the real problem isn’t “out there” in our world. Nor is the problem strictly how out there is paid monthly to proactively come “in here” to my home through varied electronic mediums. The problem is deeper. Jesus said, “18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15). It is my heart, my son’s heart and my culture’s heart that is the epidemic. Therefore the only thing that will make a long-term difference is an enduring focus on the culture of our heart.

Jesus Beats Heart

Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock, but only Jesus beats heart (Romans 6:6). Because of this helping our boys stand against the pull of porn begins by directing their hearts to Jesus everyday in every way we know how. For us as parents – particularly dads – this means modeling an emphasis on what godly men are called to. I say this because it’s easy to focus on lessor things with greater emphasis. We make much of career, college, grades, sports, hobbies, general values, the latest blockbuster, the newest gadget or a funny video on, but we struggle to make more of Jesus. Thus we should never be shocked when our boys grow into men who care more about lessor things.

In Titus 2 we are given useful direction on what matters most when it says, Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness… Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Much of this list sounds very “moral,” but nestled in both the calling for the older and the younger man is the need to know sound faith and teaching. Knowing Jesus starts with knowing about Jesus. Then in knowing Him you desire to live like Him and for Him in self-control, integrity and sober-mindedness. Only a genuine relationship with Jesus is enough to shape the will and want of our boys. This means that Jesus can’t merely be the poster-child of our personal morality or spiritual sub-culture. He can’t be the God of “when it’s convenient” and still have powerful influence over our daily habits. He must be sought in such a way that He is real, involved, consulted, sensed and wanted in the fabric of life. Our prayers should be those of a passion to see and sense the power of God in our lives so that our boys will know the realness of Jesus. Don’t give them rules, expectations or demands – give them Jesus dynamic and living so that rules are desires and expectations are wisdom in action.

I don’t pretend to assume this is easy. A spiritually dynamic home is not rooted in a formula, but rather it’s a biblically informed quest. But that is the point, it’s a quest to sense and see Jesus active and living in our lives. It’s a daily pursuit to lay hold of the One who has laid hold of us so that by His grace our hearts are more conformed to His. This more than anything else is the core of porn proofing our boys; when Jesus is just better than porn.

Tips for parents (especially dads and grandpas):

  • Pray daily that an “awe” of God’s presence would be in the life of your son. That Jesus would be real to them.
  • Pray regularly with your son.
  • Talk consistently about Jesus with your son.
  • Repeatedly do things that display you care more about his spiritual health than his material achievement.
  • Share with him about how you personally connect with God.
  • Share with him that you understand the struggles he faces because you do too.
  • Encourage spiritual outlets first and foremost such as youth group, church, ministry serving and quiet times/bible reading.
  • Let him see you with your Bible or on your knees. It will only be good enough for him if he sees its good enough for you.
  • Have regular Bible discussions with your son or perhaps do a book read or discipleship program with him. Proverbs is a great place because the insights are short and clear.
  • Take him to Christian men events or have him just hang out with other men you respect.
  • Point out great examples for him to emulate. One of the things I do with my son is point out the elders of our church and tell him, “If you live your life like they do you will do well.”

Boys vs The Porn Apocalypse (Pt.1)

MB PostsWe live in a world of “E.” E-commerce, e-trade, e-file, e-news and e-vite, but we also live in the world of e-rotic. The online world is a realm unavoidably erotic. In 2007 it was estimated that 12 percent of all Web sites were dedicated to porn. Twenty-five percent of all search engine requests were porn related and 35 percent of all Internet downloads were pornographic. At that time 28,258 Internet users were viewing porn sites every second.

However that was 2007 when, believe it or not, the Internet was still young. Since that time online technology has moved into adolescents and with it the hyperinflation of mobile devices, social media, perpetual Wi-Fi and cooperative “big data” projects that have exponentially multiplied our capacity to produce and transmit information. In those 7 years since statics were last estimated, all the data ever generated by the human race has doubled 3.5 times. It’s not just that the Internet doubled in size 3.5 times; all human data ever produced since the dawn of time has doubled 3.5 times; the bulk of which is available with just a few taps of the finger, including the black hole of pornography.  No one knows the precise numbers at this point, but currently porn related sites generate more web-traffic per day than Amazon, Netflix and Twitter combined. The top online video porn site streams 6 times more data per day than its non-pornographic competitor Hulu. As all human data has more than quadrupled in the last 7 years, so too has pornography, both in its scope and gratuitousness.

Now why does this matter to me? Because 7 years ago – when the stats were merely alarming and not apocalyptic – my son was 6 and thought girls had cooties. Today he is 13 and has a mobile phone, notebook computer, wireless enabled gaming device and a Wi-Fi connection to the open waters of the Internet. Add to this that he lives in one of the most sexually charged, confused and careless times our culture has seen in its recent history. Sexuality has risen to a civil right and thus biblical boundaries and validations have become suspect for younger evangelicals. In some of the most recent studies we see that evangelical Millennials (approximately ages 10-35) are more likely to engage in pre-marital sex, embrace co-habitation before marriage and endorse same sex relationships/marriage. Some of this fluctuating standard comes from general shifts in culture, some from the softening messages embedded in youth focused media and some comes from the desensitizing agent of pornography.

The most general data shows that 70% of viewers of pornography are male (which means 30% are female – thus while this is an article regarding boys, many of these principles need to be considered for our girls as well). Increasingly girls are viewing porn as a tool to discover what boys want or to explore their own sexuality, creating both confusion and identify conflict, but when looking at Millennial males the data jumps well above 90%. In a recent interview regarding an attempted research project measuring the impact of pornography on sexuality and male/female relationships Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal said, “We started our research seeking men in their twenties who had never consumed pornography, but we couldn’t find any.” In short, the research was impossible because Professor Lajeunesse could not find a control group to measure the experimental group against; all were experimenting with porn and had been since the age 10 on average.

What is my penultimate point in all of this? If you have a boy and an Internet connection, you have a porn problem. Porn may not yet be his problem (and prayerfully will never be), but it is a problem you must seriously factor in when it comes to raising boys into godly men. And godly men are the ultimate point. Because of this I have not buegn this 5 part series with how to filter and monitor his Internet activity. I will close this series (Technology Sucks! Pt. 5) with a set of ways to aid in this, but they will not be foolproof. Yet that’s the point. The only way to make anything foolproof is to help a person not be a fool (Proverbs 14:16). Thus I go back to the reality that “The End – A Godly Man” matters more than “The Means – Keeping Porn Out.” Therefore the real intent of this series is not porn proofing your son’s devices, but Jesus centering his heart.