The Porn-Addicted Pastor

Overcoming pornography addiction isn’t easy for any of us. There are feelings of shame and stigma associated with out-of-control sexual behavior that we all must deal with. Some men have a harder time with this, though, because of their occupation. The men I’m thinking about today are pastors, ministers, or any man involved in a clergy position.

The porn-addicted pastor faces a greater challenge than many of us. He’s in a position that’s held to a higher standard than most other men are held to. Pastors battling pornography addiction deal with an even deeper level of shame and guilt than most of us can imagine.

Though I’m not a religious person, I do have a lot of respect for religion. I also have a lot of clients who are religious men. I truly believe that their faith is one of the main things that helped them overcome their porn addiction. 

I’m interested in talking about pastors because I actually work with a lot of them. Many religious leaders from different faiths come to me for help with quitting their pornography addiction. These men are in a position of influence and are often seen as father figures. They’re viewed as special because they possess a sort of expertise that others don’t have access to. As a result, they’re held in higher esteem or even placed on a pedestal. 

A lot of the religious men I work with come to me because I’m not religious. They know I’m not going to judge them for their behaviors because I understand exactly what they’re going through. They trust that I’ll help them end their addiction without the risk of being exposed. They’ll be able to return to their congregation with newfound control over their behaviors.

How do pastors end up in this position in the first place, though?

Clerical Work Alone Can’t End Pornography Addiction

Many pastors and religious leaders experienced what they refer to as a calling. They responded to a strong urge to serve, a seed that was planted in them that you could say is divine.  They know their purpose is to minister to others, to help others, to lead others, to break down their religious beliefs for others. These men have a talent for spreading the word for particular religious faith. 

The one thing about a calling, though, is that it requires a certain level of self-awareness and emotional maturity. In my nine years of working with religious leaders, I’ve noticed that many of them accepted this quality before they were able to develop that awareness and maturity. It’s one of the biggest reasons they struggle as time goes on.

Eventually, some pastors develop a secret pornography addiction. They believe their vocation or vows they take will help them eventually end their out-of-control behavior. I’ve noticed while working with these men that they think clerical work can keep them from acting out in their addiction. There’s something much deeper at play here, though, and clerical work alone can’t end it. Oftentimes it only makes the problem more difficult to overcome.

Understanding Shame vs. Guilt

A lot of pastors who struggle with pornography find it very hard to differentiate between shame and guilt. The distinction between these two things is crucial, though, and I’ve spoken about this before. 

Guilt arises when you tell yourself that you’ve done a bad thing. You feel guilty for doing a bad thing or making a mistake. Shame, on the other hand, happens when you identify with the thing you did. You tell yourself that you’re a bad person as a whole, not simply a person who did a bad thing.

This confusion usually leads to a tremendous amount of shame over time. Built-up shame often leads people to feel a need to care for others more than they care for themselves. Religious leaders who struggle with pornography experience a lot of shame. They don’t know how to deal with it so they turn to help others instead and then base their self-worth on this.

He tries to help others overcome their issues. He counsels them, helps fix their problems, tries to bring clarity to their lives. He aims to make them feel happier which he tries to use as a way to make him feel like a better person. It never works, though, because he’s already identified himself as the mistake he made. He’s already told himself he’s a bad person.

Pornography Addiction that Results From Abuse

Another thing I’ve noticed is that many porn-addicted pastors come from a history of abuse. Many of them were physically abused, often hit by a father, an uncle, or a guardian of some sort. They build up a lot of repressed anger but mask it behind their gentle, pacifist personality and demeanor.

Oftentimes some religious men experience some form of sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted adult. Others experienced abandonment in their past. At some point in their lives, though, most of these porn-addicted men experienced abandonment or abuse, often during the foundational years of their life. 

Those with abuse or abandonment issues tend to prefer spending more time on their own. They get used to being alone then eventually can justify it with their vocation. They can explain it as using the time to pray, to be in communion with God, to meditate, reflect, or study their holy book. Many are indeed doing these things but they’re also continuing the pattern that started early on.

Eventually, they find solace in viewing pornography while by themselves. They use it to medicate the deeper-seated issues of abuse and abandonment from their past. Because of their profession, though, they hesitate to ask for help. This creates a vicious cycle of pornography addiction that is difficult to escape.

The Influence of Religious Trauma

The porn-addicted pastors I work with all share another common bond: religious trauma. This isn’t meant to be a blanket statement or an assumption about all religious experiences. The men I work with, though, are usually raised in a strictly religious household that hammers home the idea of being inherently sinful which breeds feelings of inferiority.

Those around him used religion as a tool to correct behavior but with little to no explanation. They learned they shouldn’t do certain things because they would go to hell but rarely learned the moral reasonings behind not doing these things. These men were scared into compliance whether or not they understood the meaning behind it.

This becomes compounded when they develop a pornography addiction later on. They know they shouldn’t be acting out on their behaviors but have little to no control over them. Many fall into the false belief their pornography addiction is a moral problem. It deepens their feelings of shame and inferiority, driving them further into isolation which makes their addiction worse. 

Porn Reboot Works for Pastors Too

These are some of the main ways I’ve noticed that the porn-addicted pastor comes to be. Although it can feel more challenging to overcome pornography addiction as a pastor, Porn Reboots work for pastors, too. Rebooting your mind isn’t always easy but it’s worth every ounce of effort you put into it. 
Porn-addicted pastors can recover from their struggles. You can escape your addiction if you’re a pastor dealing with out-of-control behavior. I’ll dive deeper into this in another post later on. For now, you can start by reading through some of my previous posts or watching a few of the videos on the Porn Reboot YouTube channel!

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