There’s a short little saying that’s been around as long as I’ve been alive. A saying that’s popular among many gym rats and has been emblazoned on way too many cheesy T-shirts and the like.
No pain. No gain.
Cliché or not, the amount of wisdom and truth found in these four short words can’t be understated. And it’s something that we should always remember when approaching the way we talk about sex, porn, and masturbation.
Because more often than not (and especially in the church world) we opt for easy rather than difficult in our efforts to avoid short-term pain and discomfort. The problem with this tendency is that in our efforts to avoid the painful and uncomfortable moments that immediately present themselves, we welcome long-term repercussions that are far more painful and damaging than we ever imagined.
Again, we get this concept when it comes to health and fitness.
A little muscle soreness, a little dietary restraint, and a little exhaustion now leads to a host of health benefits down the road.
A few donuts, a few trips through the fast food drive-in, and a few too many mornings sitting on the couch rather than getting up and being active leads to nowhere but the doctor’s office and maybe the local weight loss clinic.
But, when it comes to talking about difficult, and yes, even painful topics like sex, sexuality, porn, masturbation and sexual integrity, we consistently opt for what’s easy rather than what’s the most beneficial.
When discussing the problem of prevalent porn use, many still prefer to focus on things like the need for more self-control, more prayer and Bible reading, and the “sure-fired” solution of locking down internet access rather than diving into the real and messy world of trauma, emotional pain, and identity issues.
Likewise, rather than wrestling with the legitimate differences between attraction, desire, and lust, it’s much easier to write all of that stuff off as the same thing and insist that men just need to “bounce their eyes” from the source of sexual temptation that stands in front of them (often a real human being) to maintain their sexual integrity.
Similarly, many parents neglect having honest and admittedly sticky conversations with their kids for far too long about sex, porn, and masturbation because of the awkwardness they feel and the fear that they may inadvertently turn their kids on to the very stuff they want their children staying away from?
But what happens as a result of all this short-term pain prevention?
Those dealing with real pain and trauma add a tremendous amount of shame to their plate and spend the majority of their life trying but failing to white-knuckle their way to better sexual health rather than dealing with the roots of their unwanted sexual behavior.
Men (and women) feel shameful and guilty about any sense of desire they may detect towards the opposite sex and focus all their effort on avoidance strategies, further dehumanizing the objects of their attraction in the process.
Kids end up learning “everything” about sex, porn, and masturbation on their own but from their friends, popular culture, and yes… porn leaving their parents outside looking in with little to no input on the matter.
Worse yet, we continue the cycle of shame, pain and suppression by passing our apathetic and fearful tendencies on to the next generation.
This is why we need to embrace short-term pain for long-term gain.
This is why I wrote the book When Shame Gets Real: A new way to talk about sex, porn and masturbation.
Because our words matter and how we choose to approach these conversations matters.
Whether it’s talking about the road to freedom from sexual addiction, or the real definition of sexual integrity and what that truly entails, or having honest conversations about sex and porn with our kids; we need to be ever mindful that these occasions provide teachable growth moments that benefit both parties and should be pursued rather than avoided.
The funny thing is that in my book I talk about a “new” way to talk about sex, porn, and masturbation. But spoiler alert… “new” isn’t really new.
It’s just honest, inviting, and at times, even messy.
Yet it’s what we need more of in our lives, our families, and our churches if we want to experience long-term growth and health.
And if you need some help starting these conversations without being held back by sexual shame, check out my new book When Shame Gets Real: A new way to talk about sex, porn and masturbation. In fact, you can download the first chapter for free by clicking here.