I can still remember the excitement I felt when I installed my first internet filter more than 10 years ago. I was sure I’d found the solution to my struggles with pornography. I had blocked porn at its source so now, even if I wanted to find it, I wouldn’t be able to. I was finally going to be free.
The filter worked perfectly… for a day or two. Until I realized how easily I could find ways to get around it. I’d always patch these holes as soon as I regained clarity of mind, thinking I would become free once again. But then I just would find another loophole… or buy a magazine… or go to a preview booth…
Clearly the filter was not my answer to freedom. (Tweet This!)
Over the years that I’ve been in recovery ministry, I’ve noticed how most people think of internet filters much like fences. They believe (as I did) that installing one on their computer or phone will create a boundary that not only keeps the bad stuff out, but ideally keeps them (or whomever they are trying to protect) safely contained from wandering into areas they don’t want to go.
The problem with that view though, is any fence you put up around your devices will inevitably have the potential for holes. And—as I knew full well from my own struggles with porn—if an addict wants to find one of these loopholes badly enough, he will find one.
This insatiable drive within an addict to get around the filter illustrates the reason why a filter alone can never set you free. You see porn addiction is not the result of easy access to porn. (Tweet This!) Porn addiction is the result of trying to medicate deep wounds in your heart (rejection, abandonment, shame, fear of intimacy) in ways that can never actually heal them. Porn promises to remove the pain of these wounds, but it’s a lie—a cruel fantasy that will never provide lasting relief.
That’s why looking to a filter set you free from pornography without first addressing the wounds in your heart is the equivalent of attempting to build a fence around a raging bull. Each time you nail up another board, the beast will have broken through the section of fence you just finished. It’s much more effective—if not mandatory—to deal with the bull first.
Now, compare this “fence” view of filters to what the Apostle Paul had to say in a letter to the Corinthians. Paul could have followed his charge to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18) by telling people to build a wall and protect themselves from all sources of outside temptation, but that’s not the direction he recommends. Paul knew his audience had already trusted Jesus with their lives, and he knew that, as their hearts continued to be healed, their desires would naturally move away from sexual immorality. So instead of telling them to block their access, Paul simply reminds them of the truth (see 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
They weren’t being immoral because they were bad people, weak-willed, or not “fenced-in” well enough. They were being immoral because they had forgotten the truth about who they had become when they trusted Jesus: sons and daughters of God. They didn’t need to increase their protection; they only needed to shift their perspective.
Now, I’m not saying filters are useless. I still use one and probably always will. I appreciate the way it blocks inappropriate content from finding its way to my devices. But I don’t look at my filter as a fence to protect me; I see it more as a speed bump. (Tweet This!) If I do click somewhere my flesh wants to go but my heart knows I shouldn’t, the block screen forces me to pause and consider if this is truly where I want to go. It gives me the time I need to regain my senses and remember that this is not who I am anymore. I no longer need pornography to satisfy my heart’s desires because I have been adopted as God’s beloved son. Using a filter this way helps keep my mind focused on Jesus.
So, with all that being said, will using a filter set you free? No, but it can slow you down long enough to remember Who has.
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