I’ve had the great opportunity of helping counsel numerous young men on overcoming their porn addictions recently. Over the course of our discussions, the inevitable question arises of what action they should be taken. There are multiple courses of action that can be taken, naturally, but I’d like to dive deeper into some presuppositions underlying this question.
There are two schools of thought related to action that relate to growth:
- Gradual, incremental change
- Radical, dramatic action
I’ve seen spirited debate on social media, self-improvement forums, and blogs about which one is “more correct” for growth, either in general or specific scenarios. The easy, yet complex answer is that they can both be correct in different circumstances.
The current self-improvement school of thought likes to favor the first sort of action. There is a lot to admire about it. Incrementalism is slow and steady change, but it leads to more consistent and repeatable results. In most scenarios, I believe this is the most prudent course of action.
Prudence is ultimately the great dictator of this determination though. Not every roadblock in life will follow the textbook example you read about online or, if you were lucky, were taught about by your father or other men. Developing this precious virtue of applied wisdom is critical to actually beginning to set yourself on a path for change.
The latter path of broad drastic action is, undoubtedly, something not to be applied in every situation. The alcoholic or drug addict cannot do this, lest he suffer the consequences of withdrawal. The man in a dead-end job may not be able to immediately leave for the harm it would do to his wife and children.
Yet sometimes this path is the prudent trail to walk. There are times that we are at a low point in our lives, where we find ourselves in the pits of despair that the only thing that can save us is great, heroic action. A porn addiction is one of these places most of the time.
Dramatic and radical action often puts you in a place of distress. You will be doing something that puts you out of your comfort zone, you will be forgoing something that was previously a source of happiness or safety. You find yourself entering into the unknown with only your conviction and hope driving you. In the case of the porn addict, he may need to get rid of his cell phone, his laptop, or greatly change his use of them to help prevent his fall into lewd imagery. He may need to do a complete 180 degree turn with regard to exercise, diet, and sleep in order to regulate his body and overcome the urges that assault him.
The key point you must identify that determines whether fast action must be taken is the severity of the harm that is being caused as well as the potential results of a switch – both positive and negative. There is no hard and fast rule that can be applied to every single situation. But we must have the insight into ourselves to know when we must run over walking, or even sprint over running, to a better life.
Real harm can be done if we take things too slowly if more urgent action is required. Be prudent and work on discerning when you need to be slow and steady and when you need to be hard and fast.