REFLECTION: Purity of Heart and Internet Pornography
By Albert S. Rossi, PhD.
The current plague ravaging our culture, the fastest growing addiction in the US, is internet pornography. Our best defense is a potent offense. Our Lord said, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” The converse is implied, namely, those who are not pure of heart may not see God. That would be tragic because those who donít know God donít know themselves. We are made in God’s image and likeness. That is the template for knowing ourselves. Our potent offense is purity of heart, a gift from God that we cooperate in receiving. So, our challenge is to retain, sustain and cultivate “purity of heart.” The question is where do we start. Well, we pray and ask for guidance. We ask for strength and to be guarded. The current operational definition of guarding the heart is support. That means surrendering to the Lord and to another human being inside of, and outside of, confession. The key word is “and.” We need other humans to walk with us in our pursuit of “purity of heart.” We need to be accountable to the Lord and to other humans. We need to allow others to support us by prudently disclosing our inner and outer activities.
Purity and Isolation
There is good reason to take the topic seriously. For starters, 87% of male youth and about 30% of female youth admit to looking at internet pornography regularly. Our youth are getting their sex education through internet pornography. This can destroy the possibility of healthy boy-girl friendships. More than that, family life in the future is jeopardized. The future of our Church rests on stable, faith-filled and loving marriages, the foundation of loving families. For internet pornography, the great enemy is isolation. Isolation leads to despondency that leads to despair. Those persons who watch pornography usually do so in private, often thinking that no one knows and no one is hurt. Of course, this is a lie but the secrecy blinds the person to the Truth. We all need someone to know the summary of our outer and inner lives, our spiritual father and a trusted friend or two. Perhaps the greatest suggestion in this little article is that each of us has the humility to disclose, on a very regular basis, the deepest, darkest secrets in our hearts, inside of and outside of, confession. We need a “soul friend,” a person inside and outside confession who can listen to us non-judgmentally and thereby lighten our burden. We also need to become such a person for others.
If we are looking for real support to keep us from internet pornography on the computer, one of the best helps is a software called Covenant Eyes. With Covenant Eyes, a person subscribes and adds an email address or two of persons who are willing to be “accountability partners.” Covenant Eyes also supplies a service to cover hand held smart-phones. The person who subscribes to Covenant Eyes simply supplies the email addresses of the others. The subscriber’s computer is then monitored and a weekly summary is sent to the email addresses the subscriber supplied. The accountability partners receive a weekly summary of everything the person viewed on the computer that week. The summary is neatly categorized into clumps of acceptable and unacceptable sites. The accountability partner, upon finding unacceptable sites visited, might send an email saying something like, “Is there something we need to talk about?” The process is safe and can be exceedingly helpful.
There is a cost for a Covenant Eyes subscription. The regular cost is $8.99 a month. But, it is possible to attach to an existing group for $2 a month. For more information about this please contact Dr Rossi at firstname.lastname@example.org. If a person attaches to an existing group for $2 a month, the only thing the group’s sponsor knows is the mere fact that the person is now a member of the group. The sponsoring person does not know who the accountability partners are. The sponsoring person does not know any of the internet activity of the person who joins. The setup is clean and non-invasive. Some persons are literally addicted to internet pornography. For those persons, the suggestion is to find a local Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) meeting by going to www.sa.org. SA has many members who have never acted out with another human. Their reason for attending meetings is to stop viewing internet pornography. SA meetings are closed meetings, unlike AA that has occasional open meetings where non-addicts can attend. SA is for lust or sex addicts and those who think they may be lust or sex addicts.
We can only continue our life as a person who is “pure in heart” if we are walking this walk with others. Simply put, we can’t do it alone. The John Wayne approach, that is, rugged individualism, doesn’t work. We need to talk about our behaviors and our temptations to trusted friends. Married persons can only say so much of this with their spouse, especially temptations about purity. Yes, it is possible to over-communicate about these issues. In today’s lingo it is called TMI, too much information. The wife can’t hear that her husband was sorely tempted by a relative at a dinner party. TMI. But, the husband does need to tell that to a trusted friend, soon thereafter. We might call that trusted friend an “accountability partner.” All this is so countercultural. Our culture is highly verbal and filled with Reality TV but the culture does not encourage a person to own and share with the Lord and another human being the temptations of the heart in order to arrive at “purity of heart.” Generally, the culture encourages a disclosure of faults as a catharsis, a dumping to feel better. Orthodoxy is about doing the Lord’s will, not feeling better. Purity of heart comes to those who really, really want it. And that means being humble enough to include the support of others in our pursuit of virtue.
[Recommended reading: The Drug of the New Millennium by Mark B Kastleman.]
Dr. Rossi teaches courses in pastoral theology at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. He is a member of the SCOBA Commission on Contemporary Social and Moral Issues. He has written numerous articles on psychology and religion and published a book through Paulist Press entitled, Can I Make a Difference: Christian Family Life Today. After teaching at Pace University for 24 years, he retired as Associate Professor of Psychology. He is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York.
| 2770 North Chestnut Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80907 • Email Us • 719.473.9238
Holy Theophany Orthodox Church is a parish of The Orthodox Church in America