7 Truths & Actions for Overcoming Pornography

Truths:

  1. You are not aloneSo many people struggle with the temptation to use pornography, both men and women. You’re not the only one, not by a long shot.
  2. You are not evil. You are a good person. You’re just mistaken in the moment. When you feel tired or lonely or weak or depressed, you may think viewing pornography will help you feel better. It does for a moment, but the feeling doesn’t last. Making that mistake (even if you do it over and over) doesn’t make you evil or a bad person, it just makes you human.
  3. You can still be worthy. Worthiness is more about your heart than your actions. If you’re trying to do good and moving in the right direction, however slowly, you are worthy.

Actions:

  1. Communicate. Pornography thrives in the dark, so bring it to the light. If you do, it will start to die. Talk to a loved one. Talk to someone you trust. Talk to your bishop.
  2. Make little changes. Go on walks. Listen to more wholesome music. Read more, especially scripture, and especially The Book of Mormon. Pray and meditate. Get more sleep. Do wholesome things that make you happy.
  3. Don’t try to erase — replace. Be proactive. What things can you do in order to make yourself less susceptible to temptation? What can you do instead of viewing pornography?
  4. Be patient with and love yourself. Remember that you are a child of God. He gave us this life to struggle and learn. There’s a reason why we are given many years of life. We need time to learn and change. Overcoming pornography is a long-term pursuit, so be patient. With God’s help, you will overcome.

Focus

Just do what you know you should. Do the little things every day. Pray, read the scriptures, exercise, get enough sleep, work hard, write — live a focused life. When you’re praying — pray. When you’re reading the scriptures — read them. When you’re exercising — exercise. You don’t need to listen to music or a podcast while you exercise. Just exercise. Focus on one thing at a time and you will be happy.

When you’re not sure what to do, don’t just default to whatever is easiest. Be deliberate. Think about what you really, truly want to do, deep down inside of you. You will find that time-wasting activities will not be so appealing to you, for what is their purpose? Why would you want to waste your time?

If there is something that weighs on your conscious mind, take whatever steps you need to take to resolve it. Repent. Do it as soon as possible. God will forgive you. He wants to forgive you, and He will do so as soon as you are willing to repent, and no later. He won’t waste a second, for He is waiting and ready, eager to forgive and help you move forward. He has no desire to keep you stuck where you are. He wants to give you everything He has. You are His child, and He wants to give you everything He has. So let Him.

Free yourself from bondage. Jesus Christ paid the price for your freedom. Do you believe that? The freedom is yours for the taking. All it requires is that you believe in Jesus Christ and that you believe Jesus Christ. He says that you will be forgiven if you repent. Do you believe Him? If you repent you will be free. 

God just wants you to turn away from evil and follow the path of freedom. His commandments are the path of freedom. They are not a list of arbitrary rules of a dictator who desires an army of slaves who blindly and compulsively follow him — God’s commandments are the guideposts of a benevolent Father who knows the path to happiness and freedom. He wants His children — you and me — to follow those guideposts that lead us home, back to Him — to enjoy the same eternal joy that He enjoys, together with our families. There, we will be free to pursue the fullness of joy that comes from eternal increase — bearing spirit children and giving them the same opportunity that our Father gave us — the opportunity to achieve eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.

Like Mike: Creating Your David

There’s something different about the way Michael Jordan inspires me. It’s been this way ever since I was a little kid. I was a toddler when the Bulls started winning championships in the 90s, and I grew up idolizing MJ and wanting to be a professional basketball player. In elementary school, when we were asked about our heroes, I would say mine was Michael Jordan. His greatness made me want to be great. His greatness made me believe I could be great.

When I was studying English at BYU, I had a professor who told us about a trip she took to Europe when she was younger. She went to see Michelangelo’s David in Florence, Italy.

david

She said that when she saw it, she was awestruck. She had never experienced anything like it up to that point in her life. That sculpture — that work of art — was the closest thing to perfection she had ever seen, and it was made by a human. In that moment, she came to understand the potential that human beings have. We can create things — and we can achieve levels of skill — that approach perfection.

I think that’s what Michael Jordan’s greatness — his near perfection in his craft — helps me to realize. It’s the feeling I get deep down in my soul. There’s something sleeping down there that gets nudged every once in a while, but it hasn’t fully awakened. It’s an idea that is just waiting to come to life, and I think it exists in all of us. It’s the idea that we can be great, that we can master our craft, whatever it may be. It’s the idea that we can approach perfection.

So how do we do it? How do we fully awaken that dormant potential within ourselves? What’s stopping us from unleashing it?

Think about it, and the answer will come. I think the answer is a little bit different for each of us, but there’s something holding us back. Once we identify it, we can work toward overcoming it.

It’s exciting to think about the potential that resides in each one of us. Each of us has our own David to create. Michael Jordan’s version was on the basketball court. J.R.R. Tolkien’s was with the written word. For others, it’s music or painting. And there are a million other possibilities — marketing, teaching, dance, editing, finance — the list goes on.

The ultimate truth this leads us to is that we are created in God’s image. We are children of God. And children usually grow up to be like their parents. God is the greatest Creator. So what can we do with the creative power that we’ve inherited from our Heavenly Parents?

What’s your David?

The Chosen

My wife and I finished season 1 of The Chosen tonight. It’s a show produced by VidAngel Studios that depicts the stories found in the four Gospels of the New Testament, and it does it in a way that I’ve never seen before. It’s more accessible for today’s viewers, depicting the stories in a way that allows us to relate more easily to what’s going on.

You meet characters such as Mary Magdalene, Peter and Andrew, Matthew the tax collector, and Nicodemus the Pharisee. The acting and writing is wonderful. And when you meet Jesus, it’s powerful. But you also soon recognize that He’s a real person with real emotions. He interacts with friends and others in “normal” ways, such as sitting down to a meal with a group, playing with children, joking around with friends, and dancing at a wedding.

It can be difficult to imagine what Jesus Christ was really like when you read the stories in the New Testament. We don’t have much to go on, and what we do have is written in scriptural language that can be difficult to understand. We also have two thousand years of translations and adjustments made by fallible people to account for, not to mention the fact that Jesus lived on the earth in a time and in a culture that is foreign to us. The Chosen helps to bridge those gaps.

The show takes liberties with dialogue and context. The characters don’t recite scripture. They say things that you may recognize as having been adapted from scripture, but it’s done in a way that you can easily understand. It sounds more like the way people might say things today, but it doesn’t sound weird or awkward, and it’s done in a reverent manner. It doesn’t feel inappropriate to me at all. On the contrary — the way they say things can feel even more powerful than it does when you read what it says in The Bible. The principles and lessons are the same, but the words are a little bit different, so it hits you in a different way. The fresh phrasing helps the principles and truths sink a little bit deeper.

Really, in the end, the magic of The Chosen is in its depiction of Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God who came to earth to live as a man. He did the will of His Father. If you were to ask me what I think Jesus would be like if we saw Him living on earth today, I would refer you to this show.

You can start watching here. Happy Easter, everyone.

 

Onward

(There may be some spoilers ahead, so be warned, but I tried not to reveal anything too important).

My wife and I watched Onward last night on Disney+ and loved it. Yes, it made us cry. It will probably make you cry, too, if you haven’t already watched it.

It’s a really cool movie. I’ve been thinking lately that there hasn’t been enough mainstream content that has the element of Lord of the Rings/Dungeons & Dragons-type wizards with staffs and cool spells. This movie helped fill that lack in an original way.

The movie also plays with the cool and thought-provoking idea that the world used to have a lot more magic in it, but with the advances humans have made in science and technology, “magic” has become somewhat “normal” to us. What I mean is that it’s perfectly normal for us to be able to speak to someone in an instant who literally lives on the other side of the globe. Besides that, think of everyday things like running water and gas stoves and lawn mowers. How amazing is it that we can “conjure” water or fire in an instant, and that we have a machine that we can drive around with blades that automatically spin and cut grass at a uniform length?

The more thought-provoking and fun aspect of this idea, though (at least to me), is to consider the type of “magic” — or miracles — that we read about in the scriptures, like the Bible. Moses created running water by tapping on a rock with a staff. Do we believe that actually happened? Elijah called down fireballs from heaven. Do we believe that? Jesus came back to life after being dead for three days. Did that really happen?

There’s a great scene in the movie where the main character essentially has to exercise faith — he has to believe in himself and in the magic — in order to perform a spell that will allow him to walk across a chasm on an invisible bridge. It’s a great metaphor for faith. The character had to believe in something that was not seen — that was true — in order to get where he wanted to go.

There’s a lot of talk in society these days about finding our passion and following our dreams. Essentially, we want to determine where we want to go. Our greatest desires are usually (or at least they should be) rather difficult to achieve. They lie on the other side of a great chasm, which can represent our fears and doubts. There is a bridge there that will take us straight across, but it’s invisible. Are you going to take a step out into the chasm? Or are you going to wait until you can see the bridge? Here’s the spoiler: the bridge will never become visible.

There is magic — there are miracles — in the world today, but they aren’t visible to our natural eyes. They have to be seen with an eye of faith. Even if you saw Elijah call down fire from heaven, would you believe what you saw? Maybe you’d try to find some logical/scientific explanation, as we often do. Maybe you’d be able to come up with some sort of explanation. But would it really help you understand what you saw?

Some things just have to be taken on faith for the time being. We aren’t ready to understand them. If we accept that, then we can enjoy the wonder of them, and we can trust that we will understand them at a future time. Life’s a lot more fun that way. It’s a lot more fun when we allow some magic in.

Budgeting Brings Freedom

The word “budget” seems to have a negative connotation. It makes us think of limiting our spending and not being able to buy things that we enjoy. It may feel like something that boxes us in and limits our freedom, and in a way, it does. However, on the other hand, it really makes us free to buy the things we want without having to go into debt to get them.

Budgeting is simply deciding where our money will go so that we make sure we cover all of the most important things. Once those are covered, we can use the rest of the money however the h*ck we want, without having to worry that there won’t be enough left over.

Budgeting will look a little bit different for everyone. For example, my wife and I both work, so we budget our own paychecks separately, and we both use a little bit different systems. Here’s what mine looks like:

Budget

This is how I track my recurring (usually monthly/semi-monthly) expenses. I use it as a personal “Financial Dashboard” of sorts. Everything’s here, so I can see how much I’m spending in each area, and I can make adjustments when I see a need. This also helps me make sure I’m allocating plenty of money into savings and retirement funds — planning for the future.

I also have the “House” category in that “After Taxes” section. This is my wife’s and my main financial goal right now — we want to own a home — so I make sure that a good percentage of my money is going into saving for that.

Once we get all the way down to the bottom, that “Food/Gas/Misc.” category is pretty flexible. Any money that’s left there after going through all the categories above is mine to spend however I want, and I make sure that the other categories aren’t taking too much of the money, so there’s plenty left here for me to enjoy life now.

Besides this sheet, I also have what I call my “Balance Sheet,” where I track all my spending. The main purpose of the Balance Sheet is to make sure I always know how much money I have available at any given moment. The idea is to avoid spending money I don’t have — to avoid debt. I want to make sure interest is working in my favor as much as possible, rather than working against me. I’ll get more into that and how I use credit cards in a different post.

If you budget well and track your spending, you’ll be free to buy the things you want without burdening yourself with debt. Yes, it will take some patience and discipline, but those attributes are required in order to obtain any truly good thing, so why should handling money be any different?

Finding Peace with Money

I’ve been reading a lot about money lately — personal finance books. I started out with Dave Ramsey and participating in Financial Peace University. The company I work for offers it as a benefit — you pay for the class, it takes place at our company headquarters, and once you finish, they reimburse you for the cost of the class and give you a $100 bonus.

I enjoyed the class and I started making some changes as a result, but I didn’t really adopt everything 100%. I started doing a better job of saving, and I started putting more money towards paying off debt. One of Dave’s big things, though, is to not use credit cards at all. He argues that they just end up getting you into debt (with a really high interest rate) more often than not, and even if you do pay off your credit card every month, he cites studies that say that the average person simply spends more money when using a credit card. So you may be paying it off every month, but you’re still spending more than you would otherwise.

I still use credit cards. I only have three, and I basically use one most of the time. I use the other two only if I’m buying something from the store that sponsors the card, because there are extra benefits that way.

Despite continuing to use credit cards, in the past 1-2 years since I attended FPU I’ve become more of a Ramsey “disciple.” My wife and I have paid off all of our debt (admittedly, there wasn’t a ton because neither one of us had to take out student loans — it was mainly just my car that needed to be paid off), we have an emergency fund that should cover us for 6 months, and we’re budgeting hard and saving a large percentage of our money to go towards a down payment on our first house. We track every expenditure we make.

My wife doesn’t use credit cards. She’s all debit. She feels that it’s easier to track expenditures that way and control spending, and I agree. I still use credit cards because of the rewards, and I feel like I have a good system for tracking and controlling my spending. I developed good spending habits during a period when I was strictly debit and not using credit cards. Over the past few months I’ve started really tracking my spending and being even more diligent about making sure I stay within a budget. Maybe I’ll dump the credit cards at some point, but I feel good about things right now.

The Dave Ramsey stuff really helped me with making decisions about insurance and how to start saving for retirement, too. His system is very simple and easy to understand, which I really appreciate. A month or two ago, I got to the point where I felt like there wasn’t really anything more for me to apply from his teachings, so I went looking for more information.

I ended up reading “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” I got pretty into it and wanted to start figuring out how to get more out of my money, especially in the way of investments and the stock market. Thoughts about money and how to make more of it started to dominate my mind. Everything else kind of took a back seat. I don’t think it was very healthy. There are some good things I learned from that book, but, honestly, I didn’t feel peaceful about money when I was trying to apply its teachings, and that lack of financial peace made me feel a little bit unsettled about my life in general.

I really just figured this out a couple of days ago. Dave Ramsey’s stuff is so great because it is so simple. You can apply his teachings and be just fine, and you can make your financial situation very comfortable. You may not become a multi-millionaire, but I think you’ll enjoy your life overall a lot more. It’s not all about money — it’s more about making sure money doesn’t become a distraction from the things that are more important, like your relationships with family and other loved ones.

When I started to become a little bit fanatical about money, I wasn’t able to put as much thought and effort into my relationships. I also wasn’t able to put as much energy into my spiritual growth. In the past couple of days, since I turned back to a wiser, more balanced approach to my finances, I’ve felt more calm and present. I’ve been able to spend more time in the scriptures and actually be focused on what I was reading. It’s been great, and I look forward to more of that.

To give a little bit more specific information — last week I had some extra cash that I wanted to put into the stock market, and I wanted to figure out which stocks to buy (and when to buy them). I watched videos of Warren Buffet explaining some things and I started reading “The Intelligent Investor,” but I just couldn’t figure out what to do. Finally, after much deliberation, I decided to follow Dave Ramsey’s advice and put the money into a good mutual fund. The idea is to let the professionals decide which stocks to buy so I don’t have to worry about it. I just have to pick good mutual funds based on their track record, making sure that they’ve had at least a good 10-12% return for the life of the fund.

I feel good, and I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s stuff. It’s all about common sense. If you follow good principles and exercise discipline in how you handle your money, you’ll have financial peace. You’ll have enough money, and you’ll be more free to enjoy the most important things in life.