Perhaps you’ve seen the trend of choosing a word for the new year. Instead of resolutions to lose weight or learn a new skill, people choose a word they hope will define their year.
Here’s what December 31 can look like for a porn addict.
Man! I really screwed up this year. I couldn’t make it two weeks without watching porn. I’m such a failure. But not anymore! No! This is it. This year is going to be the year. Starting January 1, I’m done. No more pornography.
It sounds great on paper. Practice is a different story.
Every December 31, you go to bed with the newfound determination that next year will be different. Everything changes when you wake up. The one and only resolution you have is to stop watching pornography, stop masturbating, stop being boy-crazy, or girl-crazy, whatever struggle has plagued your life for years. That’s all you want.
Then, when January 2 rolls around and the stress of the holidays is too much and you fall just trying to cope, you make the mistake of throwing away the remaining 363 days. As if freedom HAS to start at the beginning of the year.
Dramatic? Absolutely, but that’s exactly how some of us frame our freedom. We want years, months, seasons to be defined by freedom. Freedom isn’t seen as a moment-by-moment walk and we don’t know how to celebrate progress.
We want perfection.
We want to walk into the gym January 1, work out, feel better and have toned abs when we leave. When we get out of the shower and still see the ever-faithful muffin top, we throw in the literal towel.
That’s not how this works.
Nothing in life works like that. Nothing. Relationships don’t work like that. Health doesn’t work like that. Learning doesn’t work like that. The only thing that works like that are things we get addicted to, and that’s only because they lie to us.
Freedom is not a one-and-done thing. You don’t achieve freedom and then ignore it. It has to be maintained. Treat it like a cluster of moments. Freedom affects more in your life than whatever you think you are trying to break free from.
Never make “getting free from porn” your one and only goal for a year. “Stop watching porn” is a half-goal.
Choosing a word can give your focus a little more substance because “never watching porn” is a new year’s resolution that will be hard for you to keep if you’re still watching porn now.
It took me nearly two years to feel like I had broken free from pornography. Even after I would say I was free, it still took years of falling, and repenting, and falling again before I finally had a breakthrough. And that breakthrough was hard.
So, I would tell you I’ve been free for over ten years now. The last time I watched pornography? Probably three years ago.
Yes. I don’t say that casually. I say that to be real.
Freedom takes effort.
Guarding freedom takes diligence. Walking in freedom takes intention. If we don’t nurture our freedom, if we don’t guard it, we will lose it. So, for the last couple years, I have chosen a word to help me be intentional in growth.
This year’s was ‘invest’ and I have. I have invested in relationships, in my writing, in my 401K. It was the year where I needed to start putting feet to my dreams, and I did. This coming year is going to be focused on healing.
Healing happens in layers, and as you grow and mature, you find new areas of your life that need growth, healing, and attention. This past year of “investing” has exposed deeper areas where healing could be helpful.
Keeping it real, I struggle with self-image issues. I talk about this in my book, but I have issues with feeling like I’m not ‘enough.’ (Good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, fit enough, eloquent enough, strong enough… any adjective enough)
Nothing will rip those open like standing on a stage twice a month having people pick you apart. This past year, I have stood on many stages around the world, sat in front of cameras, been questioned by rooms full of counselors and psychologists, and spent hours giving podcast interviews.
And it laid my soul bare.
I distinctly remember walking back into my hotel room one night in New Zealand, in the middle of an amazing tour. I was empty. I had nothing left, and I cried myself to sleep. “I can’t do this anymore. I’m such a failure.”
I can speak the harshest, darkest untruths to myself sometimes.
I came back from New Zealand broken and completely spent. Depressed even. Things that should have given me joy were empty. Things that should have encouraged me fell flat. For months, I was in that place of turmoil and pain, trying to figure out what was next, wondering why I was struggling so much.
As God would have it, through a series of events, I ended up at a writer’s retreat in late October. There, nestled in the mountains of Switzerland, I realized how broken I was. How something that once brought joy was slowly sucking my soul dry.
The last day there, we all spent time praying for each other intentionally. The group would gather around one person and take turns praying for that person. We prayed whatever God laid on our hearts. Many of the prayers prayed over me were that I would find healing, true healing, and stop living as if God’s calling was a punishment.
I knew then I still had healing to do. As we always do. In the weeks since, God has been faithful to point out areas in need of healing, and even to start the work of healing others.
He’s not waiting until next year to start His work, and you don’t need to either.
If you’re struggling, feeling like this year was a failure because you didn’t achieve 365 days free from whatever struggle ensnares you, let me encourage you to think deeper than freedom for the coming year. Yes, of course, we want freedom. Of course we want life without our vices, but equally as important is being able to live without them.
If the only purpose of your existence for one solid year is “not watch porn” you will have a miserable year.
Give yourself a different focus. Even if you’re not into picking a word, give your year some sort of direction. Give it a vision greater than losing 15 pounds or finishing 24 books.
If you do want to pick a word, pick a word as if you are already free.
Step into next year believing that God’s heart for you includes not only freedom, but also healing, growth, and restoration. You’ve already been set free; determine to walk in that freedom. Whatever struggle you have is only part of your identity, don’t build a year around it.