Guide to Managing Media for Tweens and Teens

GUIDE TO MANAGING MEDIA FOR TWEENS AND TEENS

Jill Murphy

With kids consuming more media than ever before, parents need new rules for how to manage it.

The Common Sense Census: A Day in Teens’ Digital Lives

Today’s kids are immersed in media. More than ever before, tweens and teens are watching, reading, listening, creating, and communicating throughout their entire day. It’s become harder to distinguish between screen time and just … time. The Common Sense Census found that American teens average about nine hours of media per day and tweens about six per day. This doesn’t include time spent doing homework on a computer or tablet or reading books for school.

Beyond the amount of time kids are spending with media, the Common Sense Census identified several patterns, from what boys and girls do differently to their favorite media activities. If you’re wondering how this all affects your kid — well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But what’s clear is that parents, teachers, and supportive adults can help support kids in using media and tech in healthy, productive, and responsible ways. Here are tips for parents:

Parents should feel empowered to set limits on screens of all sizes. Devices are a huge part of screen time, and kids need support in establishing balance and setting limits. Depending on your family, these rules can be as simple as “no phones at the dinner table” or “no texting after 9 p.m.”  

Encourage your kids to be creative, responsible consumers, not just passive users. Media can be incredibly productive, educational, and empowering. Helping younger kids find great content and get access to quality books, complex movies, challenging games, and safe apps and websites fosters a positive relationship with media.  

Help kids understand the effects of multitasking. Our research shows tweens and teens think multitasking has no impact on the quality of their homework. As parents, we know that helping kids stay focused will only strengthen interpersonal skills and school performance. Encourage them to manage one task at a time, shutting down social media while working online for homework or engaging in conversation.  

Talk the talk, walk the walk. Lead by example by putting your own devices away during family time. Parent role-modeling shows kids the behavior and values you want in your home. Kids will be more open and willing participants when the house rules apply to you, too.

How to Set Screen Rules That Stick

HOW TO SET SCREEN RULES THAT STICK

Caroline Knorr

Easy tips for limiting kids’ computer, TV, game, and movie time.

In many homes, getting kids to turn off their cell phones, shut down the video games, or quit YouTube can incite a revolt. And if your kids say they need to be online for schoolwork, you may not know when the research stops and idle activity begins.

When it comes to screen time, every family will have different amounts of time that they think is “enough.” What’s important is giving it some thought, creating age-appropriate limits (with built-in flexibility for special circumstances), making media choices you’re comfortable with, and modeling responsible screen limits for your kids. Try these age-based guidelines to create screen rules that stick.

Preschoolers. There are lots of great TV showsappsgames, and websites geared for this age. But too much time spent in front of a screen can interfere with activities that are essential for growing brains and bodies.

  • Go for quality and age-appropriateness. Not everything for preschoolers needs to be a so-called “brain-builder,” but there’s a difference between mindless and mindfulentertainment. Our reviews can steer you toward titles that help preschoolers work on developmental skills like sharing, cooperation, and emotional intelligence.
  • Sit with them, and enjoy the discovery process. There will always be moments when you need to rely on the TV or an app to distract your preschooler while you get something done. But as much as you can, enjoy media together. Little hands and developing brains really benefit from your company (and guidance!).
  • Begin setting limits when kids are little. Habits get ingrained early, so try to establish clear screen-time rules when your kids are young. For games, apps, and websites, you may need to set a timer. For TV, just say “one show.”

Elementary and Middle Schoolers. At this age, kids love TV shows, games, movies, and online videos. They begin to explore more and hear about new shows and games from friends. Because they can access these things by themselves, it’s crucial to continue to supervise their activities and help them stick to your rules.

  • Start with an endpoint. Use whatever tools you have — your DVR, Netflix, OnDemand — to pre-record shows, cue them up, or plan ahead to watch at a specific time. That way, one show won’t flow into the other, and you can avoid commercials. If your kids are into YouTube, search for age-appropriate videos, and add them to a playlist to watch later. Because most games don’t have built-in endings (and are, in fact, designed to make kids play as long as possible), set a timer or some other cue that says “time to stop.”
  • Help them balance their day. Kids this age need guidance from you on a daily plan that includes a little bit of time for everything. And staying involved works: Kids whose parents make an effort to limit media use spend less time with media than their peers do, according to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ worksheets to create a family media plan. 
  • Practice what you preach. It’s tempting to keep reaching for your phone to check email, texts, Facebook, or the news. But your kids will be the first to call you out for not “walking the talk.” Plus, they’ll pick up habits from you. Model the media behavior that you want your kids to emulate.

High Schoolers. You’ll have more success with teens if you explain the reasons why too much screen time is harmful. For example, social media may contribute to anxiety

  • Help them make quality choices. You still have a say in what they see, hear, and play. Put in your two cents about the importance of quality shows, games, and movies.
  • Crack down on multitasking. High school kids who’ve discovered texting, IM, Facebook, and music tend to do them all at once — especially when they’re supposed to be doing mundane tasks like homework. But a University of Michigan study found that humans are terrible multitaskers and that the practice actually reduces the ability to concentrate and focus.
  • Find ways to say “yes.” Look for movies they can watch. Find games you’re OK with. If your teens ask to see something you don’t approve of, help them find alternatives.

10 Ways Your Kids Could See Porn Without You Knowing

10 WAYS YOUR KIDS COULD SEE PORN WITHOUT YOU KNOWING

Shane Denham

“Are you excited for school to start?!”

As a kid, I would dread that question. I never wanted summer to end! Of course, now that I’m a parent, I find myself asking that question.

For a kid, back-to-school is about the buzzing excitement of a new adventure. It’s shopping for new clothes and school supplies, seeing friends again after a long summer apart, and getting to know new teachers, classrooms, and subjects.

For the parents, it’s the longed-for reality of a quiet house and the return of a regular schedule. Our days are spent on work routines, chores, or errands, while our kids are out-of-sight-out-of-mind. Our evening schedules fill up with activities and the pace of life increases. In all the commotion of a new school year, it’s easy to overlook some of the basic precautions we would (and should) normally take to keep our kids safe.

As you prepare your child to head back to school, here are ten potential “danger zones” where your kids could encounter mature or inappropriate content.

1. YouTube

It’s the second most popular search engine after Google and one of the easiest ways for our kids to consume content such as video game walk-throughs, music videos, and movie trailers. But, the platform also contains a boatload of content that you may consider inappropriate for your children.

Some of the biggest dangers on YouTube are the suggested videos displayed after each video view. Clicking from one enticing video to the next can become a downhill slide from innocent to explicit content..

2. Instagram

Kids love Instagram. In fact, some of them practically live there, documenting and sharing each moment of their lives with their group of friends. The image-based nature of the platform appeals to young people, but that nature combined with a lack of oversight on the part of Instagram can result in easily accessible porn.

3. Snapchat

This is another social media platform that kids spend a lot of time on. The large number of photo filters make it fun to share pictures and videos with friends. Unfortunately, this platform also hosts a volume of adult content, and there is very little enforcement by Snapchat to keep underage users from seeing it.

The “instant picture” feature of Snapchat can also be dangerous for young children. When a picture is sent or received, it can only be viewed for up to ten seconds; then, it disappears forever. This makes it easy to send inappropriate pictures and videos without the fear of being caught.

4. Google Images

Searching Google for images and videos can be a quick, convenient way to research a topic for school or entertainment. But, it’s important to remember that the search results can (and often will) contain mature content when Google SafeSearch has not been activated.

This is another way that kids might encounter the “rabbit hole” effect, where clicking on one enticing image reveals a list of other suggested images, which can become increasingly graphic in nature.

5. Personal Devices

Many kids have their own phones and tablets. It can be a great way to stay connected with your child and a fun source of entertainment for them.

However, it’s important for parents to remember that it’s our job to teach our children how to behave in a healthy, responsible manner, and that includes the use of their personal devices. Take the time to research and set up the available parental controls on your kid’s device. Also, using Screen Accountability software can promote honest, grace-filled conversations with our kids about how they use their devices.

When their devices are properly protected, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing your kids are safe, and they can feel free to have fun without you hovering over their shoulder.

6. School Laptops or Tablets

Many schools now offer students the opportunity to take home a school device, such as a laptop or iPad. It’s a great way to make sure all students have access to technology. Schools tend to lock these devices down so that students aren’t able to abuse them, but if you’re a parent, you know that kids can be resourceful. It’s always a good idea to have a basic understanding of the protections in place on your child’s school device.

7. Library Computers

Public libraries are a great way for people with limited internet access to get online for free. Most schools will also have a computer lab available for students to do research online. These are public places, but that doesn’t always stop a determined young person from searching out inappropriate content.

8. Your Devices

Do your kids know the password to access your phone, tablet, or laptop? Do you allow them to use your devices unsupervised?

If your kids are using your devices, you should consider implementing the same protections you would use on their devices. Otherwise, lock them out. They can still pick up your phone in a emergency and dial 911 without unlocking it.

9. A Friend’s House

It’s a basic rule of parenting that most of us do instinctively: know who your kids’ friends are and know their parents.

But, have you considered asking those parents how they are protecting their kids’ devices? Are the kids left unsupervised with their devices? Do they have their phone or laptop in their bedroom behind closed doors?

10. A Friend’s Device

You can’t be everywhere at once. No parent can. Maybe you trust the level of supervision at your child’s friend’s house, but what about at school? Or at the mall?

It’s a good idea to talk to your kids about using their friend’s devices and let them know you still expect responsible behavior, even when you’re not there to see it.

So, what can you do?

With the ease of access to media of all kinds via internet-connected devices, it can be overwhelming as a parent to try and keep up. Here are a few suggestions to help you keep your kids a little safer.

  • Pay attention. Know where your kids are, who they are spending time with, and what they are doing together. Just knowing you’re paying attention can often dissuade kids from acting out when they’re tempted.
  • Have conversations. Be a sounding board for your kids. Listen more than you talk. Let them know they can come to you with any problem, and they won’t be judged or condemned. Talk openly about things like pornography and why it can be so enticing and harmful. It’s important to maintain your authority, but you can do so in a way that encourages open communication and trust rather than secrecy.
  • Use technology to your advantage. Tech is often the problem, but it can also be the solution. Screen Accountability and Filtering software, such as Covenant Eyes, can help facilitate conversations with your child about how to use their devices safely and avoid online temptations. That’s the goal, after all: teach them how to stay safe.

Back-to-school is a good time to remind ourselves that our aim is not to put our kids in cages, but to raise them up into healthy, responsible adults who know how to navigate this digital world with integrity.

Behind Every Woman’s Body Is a Woman

BEHIND EVERY WOMAN’S BODY IS A WOMAN

Noah Filipiak

When you look at pornography, what you end up seeing is a long line of naked bodies. When you look at pornography for years, you end up seeing years and years’ worth of long lines of naked bodies.

I do a lot of work with guys who, in their past, looked at porn for years. They don’t look at porn anymore, but they have a very hard time controlling where their eyes go when real-life women approach them. While it seems natural that we should be able to control the physical movements of our eyes, the connection between exposure to pornography and how it conditions us should not be such a surprise. It is, in fact, one of the greatest tragedies caused by porn.

Porn teaches men that women are bodies. I’m using a broad definition of the word “porn” here. I’m referring to any seductive display of a woman’s naked body, whether that’s a pornographic video, a Playboy image, or a scene from Game of Thrones. I’d even throw in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, the gateway to porn for scores of men, as its seductive photos have created the same conditioned response: women are bodies.

We know this message isn’t true, and we’ve seen its tragic consequences in our culture, yet it continues every time a pornographic image is consumed.

A Hyperbolic Example

Let’s look at a hyperbolic example. A baby boy is born on an island separated from the human population. All he sees his entire life are videos and images of nude women either having sex, desiring sex, or posing seductively.

Then, at age 25, he is placed into the general human population. How is he going to view the women that he meets and interacts with every day?

That’s a scary thought, but it shouldn’t be surprising. He’s going to see women as two-dimensional sets of body parts whose only purpose for existing is his own sexual gratification. This has nothing to do with how a woman is dressed, for this will happen regardless of the style or fashion. Throughout his entire life his eyes have darted straight to her body parts, so that’s what they will continue to do, because he thinks that’s what a woman is.

I say some of this because I’m still shocked at how secular culture can embrace pornography in all its forms, yet somehow not see the connection between it and the sexual objectification and abuse of women in the real world.

But I also say it to set the table for the real men who are now caught in the trap they have built for themselves over years of being conditioned by porn. Most of us are at a point where we aren’t condemning the man who is looking at porn, or who has looked at it in his past, but are extending a hand of grace and help. But now this man’s physiological responses to women have been trained to see them as sexual objects and to subconsciously glance at their body parts as a now-instinctive act of consumption and gratification.

Can this conditioned response be stopped?

The good news is, it can be. But not without some intentionality and hard work. For most men it will take more than a sermon or a lecture to get their eyes to do what their mind and heart want.

The Problem with the Porn Mindset

The foundation of this rewiring process begins with our approach to how and why we are avoiding pornography in the first place. If you’ve been told to not look at pornography because it’s bad and sinful to do it, you might be able to cut out porn from your life, but your porn mindset is likely to remain. Porn did something to your mind, something that has to be undone. More than just training yourself to avoid pornography, you have to rewire your mind from the porn mindset.

The problem with the porn mindset is it doesn’t see all of a woman (or man), it only sees their body parts. We all know we are more than body parts. We all know our mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives are more than body parts. We know that we are all complex beings. We know that what makes relationships both rewarding and challenging is that we are complex beings. Every woman, just like every man, has strengths, weaknesses, stressors, anxieties, pain, joy, personality, values, and a long list of other attributes that separate humans from the animals.

Yet porn has trained men that women are just bodies. You can consume them and move on.

God’s design for sex doesn’t allow for this. His design for sex is that all of someone is embraced in a lifetime commitment. When you deal with all of someone, conflict is sure to come! But the bond of commitment is there to sustain it. All requires selflessness, which is the definition of love. Sex and body parts are only one ingredient inside of this recipe, not something that was designed to be indulged in on their own.

When tempted to lust, the only way to get beyond the body-part-mindset is to understand that behind every woman’s body is a full, whole, complex woman. She is a soul. There is a depth and sacredness to this that I can’t put into words.

If you’re married, you know what I’m saying is true because you see it every day in your own wife. There may have been a day when you first met that you only saw her physical attributes, but you now know she is a much more complex equation than that (praise God). The same is true for every woman on the planet.

Let the Rewiring Begin

Porn has taught you to see: BODY. You have to be rewired to see: WOMAN. And to apply what this means. You look into her eyes because that’s where she is. She is a she, not a thatShe’s not an object to be consumed.

Body parts separated from the person are only things. God didn’t call you to consume people, taking life away from them, he called you to bring life to people. This is the foundational calling of all Christians.

We live on a planet full of human beings. Full, whole, complex human beings. Porn has taught us that women aren’t fully human and we’ve been conditioned into believing that lie whenever we consume them for our selfish gratification.

The path of rewiring means taking the truths of Scripture and letting them renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) away from the lies porn has taught us.

  • Every woman is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), full of his dignity, honor, and complexity.
  • Every woman is fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by God himself (Psalm 139:13-16).
  • Every woman has a soul.
  • Every woman is God’s.

Repeat these truths to yourself daily when you spend time praying and reading your Bible. Repeat them in prayer all throughout your day.

The next time your eyes want to go toward a woman’s body, remind yourself of the truth that she is a whole person and all that means. Look her in the eyes and see her that way.

Why Marriage Won’t Cure Your Porn Problem

WHY MARRIAGE WON’T CURE YOUR PORN PROBLEM

Bobby Angel

For many of us who have grown up with the presence of pornography from a young age—magazines, movies, or the Internet—marriage is sometimes viewed as the healthy “cure” to end a pornography habit.

I’ll stop when I’m married” or “I won’t bring this into my marriage” is usually the rationale. The problem is that there is no superpower in that wedding ring that will magically imbue you with the discipline (and the freedom) to renounce pornography; your ring is not forged in the fires of self-mastery. There’s no switch thrown on your wedding day that will make you impervious to temptations. Nor will your spouse magically satisfy all the illicit sexual fantasies that porn trains your brain to expect.

Marriage will not cure your porn problem; your porn problem will undermine your marriage.

You bring into your marriage who you are, and that includes your daily habits and behaviors. Good habits and bad habits alike take time to cultivate. I have to make a conscious effort to floss my teeth everyday for a few weeks before the habit can take root into an internalized behavior. I have to deliberately stop gossiping or disparaging my coworkers before the actions become habitual and improve my character. And I must take seriously my battle with pornography long before I am ever married; otherwise that habit will shoot down my marriage before it starts.

Thank God, that’s exactly what happened for me.

Several years before I was married, I decided that my chastity (and my future wife, and my soul) was indeed worth $10.99 a month for accountability software. So I installed Covenant Eyes and asked a close friend to be my Accountability Partner. I didn’t want pornography to come anywhere near my vocation (whether it was marriage or the priesthood), and so I took the necessary steps to purge it from my life. It wasn’t an overnight story of victory, but it was a huge first step and the necessary action to be free of porn years before I met the woman who would become my wife. But I had to first admit that I needed help and needed the motivation of protecting my prospective family before I could act.

We’re a culture with a widespread porn problem. That much has been well established by churches, psychologists, and a few honest media outlets. Deceitful magazines and talking heads will still tell you that bringing pornography into your marriage will help you, not hurt you, but this is an evil lie that is losing more and more of its steam.

Pornography, by its very nature, undercuts the commitments needed to love one’s spouse faithfully. It negatively influences behavior and leads to a perpetuation of brokenness, mistrust, and heartache. If the habit of viewing pornography has been well established for many years, the daily stresses of marriage and family life will only stir those temptations and can call for release. Many wives have been abused or even raped by their husbands because of the poisonous influence of pornography. And if the person conditioned by pornography finds no willing release from his or her spouse, then the person will look elsewhere to feed the disordered appetites. This is not authentic love.

In my church we teach, “Grace builds on nature.” Human and spiritual growth happens in tandem. The graces poured out upon a person on their wedding or ordination day are only effective insofar as the individual has been conforming to God’s will. If you haven’t cultivated a habit of prayer, nothing magical happens on the day you become a pastor. If you haven’t addressed why you’re running to pornography and subsequently rooting it out, you’ll return to it after a disagreement with your spouse or an evening where you’ll feeling lonely.

God desires to bless us with the strength we need, but we also have to put in the work.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). God does not hijack our natures, but His grace will pour down once we welcome it and make room for it. And it is often through our weaknesses—say, a habit of viewing pornography—that we are humbled and willing to accept God’s strength. He continually invites us to surrender control and not rely on ourselves for our own redemption.

Beyond merely building on, grace also perfects nature. We must first make the steps necessary to own our porn habit and increase in discipline, call for help when needed, and rely on God always. God’s grace will perfect us in our weakness; where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).

We need to have cultivated discipline and mastery of self before we take our marital vows, not after. For love of your family and love of God, root out pornography now to save your marriage before it even starts.

How to Deal with Secret Sexual Struggles

HOW TO DEAL WITH SECRET SEXUAL STRUGGLES

Kristen Clark

My heart was pounding. My hands were sweaty. I knew I needed to be honest about my struggle but it was the last thing in the world I wanted to talk about. Especially to my parents. As scared as I was of being honest, I couldn’t bear the weight of my secret any longer.

As a teen, I had been really struggling with my thought life for a while, and lust seemed to be my constant companion. These sinful thoughts and imaginations also lead me down the path of masturbation. I tried to stop many times, but couldn’t seem to break the pattern in my life. I knew my thoughts and actions weren’t holy, pure, or honoring to God, but nothing I did seemed to work.

That’s when I heard something that turned my world upside down.

My Turning Point

I was at a conference and heard the speaker talking about the powerful act of bringing secret sins into the light. Exposing them had a way of breaking the bondage they had over us. I wanted that! I knew what I needed to do.

Choosing to bring my secret sexual struggle into the light was the turning point for me. God gave me the courage to be open and honest with my parents and ask for their help.

From that point on, everything changed. My struggle was no longer mine alone to bear. I had support, prayer, encouragement, and accountability. The next few months and years looked very different. I didn’t walk perfectly, but I walked in victory much more consistently.

If you’re currently wrestling with a secret sexual struggle, I understand the weight and burden it can be. Whether it’s pornography, masturbation, erotica, sexting, lustful thoughts, or something else, you don’t have to fight this battle alone.

Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” God’s good plan for His church is that we would bear one another’s burdens by walking with each other through the hard stuff.

Jesus wants victory and freedom for you! And through Him, this is possible.

Romans 6:13-14 says, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

I want to share with you four specific ways you can deal with your secret sexual struggles right now. These four things are pulled directly from chapter 11 of my new book which is titled, “Real Talk: Porn, Erotica and Masturbation.” To get the full version, I hope you will grab a copy of Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl’s Heart and dig into this entire chapter on your own. I truly believe it could be life-changing for you.

1. Pursue Genuine Repentance

For each of us, the first step toward victory from lustful sin is to recognize that we have sinned against God and are in need of His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Our God is full of grace and forgiveness, willing to receive and forgive any who seek Him.

2. Bring Secret Sins into the Light

Sin thrives in darkness. There is something powerfully freeing about bringing secret sins into the light. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” God promises to give us mercy if we expose our sin. Whether it’s porn, masturbation, erotica, or something else—if you truly desire freedom, you must expose it.

3. Seek Ongoing Discipleship from a Godly Woman

After bringing your struggle into the light, don’t revert back into your own private world again. Breaking sinful habits is hard. Don’t fight your battles alone.

Find a godly woman in your life and ask her to disciple you in God’s truth. Depending on what your specific struggle is (i.e. porn, masturbation, erotica, etc.), consider reading a biblically grounded book together on the topic. You could also pray together regularly. She could provide an “open door” of accountability where you text or call her any time you’re tempted toward your struggle.

4. Make Radical Changes

Depending on the frequency and severity of your struggle, you may need to employ some radical changes in your life to avoid sexual compromise. For example, if you struggle with pornography, consider only using your computer or phone in public places, installing a strong accountability filter on your devices, and/or taking a break from technology for a while.

If you struggle with erotica, be intentional to throw away any tempting books/movies, delete erotic content from your media devices, and avoid getting on technology when you’re alone. If you struggle with masturbation, evaluate where your temptation strikes the hardest. Maybe it’s in your bedroom, shower, or when you’re tired. Come up with a plan of action on how you’re going to handle this temptation.

Being honest about your secret sexual struggle may be the hardest to do, but it is the first step toward breaking its grip on you. I pray you will take these four steps seriously and begin your journey toward freedom today.

The Importance of Accountability

THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Chris McKenna

Is accountability powerful enough to help change a heart? Sixteen years ago, Covenant Eyes was founded by two individuals on the simple premise that it is, and today the company has a team of over 150 people who base their work and livelihood on this very idea. We believe in the importance of accountability and the power of honest conversation.

Some people still haven’t been convinced their “private” porn problem merits the “not-so-private” solution of accountability. Inaccurate ideas of what accountability really is, bad past experiences, or just plain old fear stop those struggling with porn from bringing their battle to the attention of a friend. They may think accountability has some value, but they don’t understand the deep importance of accountability in bringing about lasting life change.

“I have talked to hundreds of addicts, spouses of addicts and parents, and the majority of them would have told you accountability is a good idea, but they saw accountability in their life as a last resort, not a lifestyle,” said author and speaker Luke Gilkerson at the Set Free Summit.  “We cannot tell people to do accountability until we have a firm idea of what it is and how to do it.”

The Importance of Accountability

In this short video from the Set Free Summit, Luke conveys a compelling description of what accountability is and why it’s important. Take a look.

As Luke said, “We are created for community. We were redeemed in community. We will be glorified in community. Therefore, we are going to be sanctified in community.” Accountability matters.

Let’s build out the importance of accountability a little further.

God Knows Us Fully, Isn’t This Accountability Enough?

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (Emphasis mine)

Ready for a wake-up call? Fully known is the only perspective God has. In their book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart say, “God’s knowledge of us is immediate–full and direct, face to face…”

God sees us through and through. Every thought. Every inclination. Every bent of our heart.

Can I venture to say most Christians often forget this truth? Instead, many believe the fallacy of secrecy, even though various Scriptures clearly point to an all seeing, all knowing Father (Proverbs 5:21, Psalm 33:13-14, Hebrews 4:13, among others).

In May, we received this comment on our blog, 10 Reasons Why Accountability Is Unpopular in the Church

Authentic Christians don’t need an accountability partner because we already have the best dwelling inside us. If you listen to Jesus, through your Holy Spirit, you will never choose the wrong path….If Jesus could do nothing on His own, how can we think we know how to do things better than Him? This is why we turn control of our lives over to Him and that eliminates the ‘need’ for an accountability partner.

Jesus is definitely what we need. But, being “in Christ” does not eliminate the importance of earthly accountability. 

The Importance of Accountability with Another Person

For most Christians, understanding that God is fully knowing just isn’t tangible enough to hold them accountable for what they say and do. On the other hand, that “thing” that you might struggle with is tangible. It’s right in front of you. Sometimes, the empty promises offered by addiction seem far more real and frankly, more satisfying, than a promise from Scripture.

Dr. Kenneth Boa writes, “Our ability to embed ourselves within the impenetrable shell of rationalization, projection and denial is nothing short of amazing….An entire field of social psychology–the study of ‘cognitive dissonance’–is based on our limitless ability to rationalize what we do and say. That being the case, we all need people who will help us protect ourselves from ourselves and the desires of our own hearts.”

It’s impossible to be fully known on this side of heaven, but an accountable relationship can point us towards the light. Consistently. Lovingly. Directly (if necessary).

According to pastor and author Timothy Keller:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Accountability is important because “one another” trumps “one.”

This could also be said as “we” trumps “just me.”  In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” There are 59 “one another” statements in the New Testament. Scripture begs us to “do” things towards and with other people.

  • To be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • To wash one another’s feet (John 13:14)
  • To love one another (over and over and over)
  • To live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
  • To have equal concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
  • To bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:12)

Pastor and author Andy Stanley also says, “The primary activity of the [early] church was one-anothering one another.”

Jesus Christ modeled “one-anothering” in his earthly ministry. Not because He needed accountability, but because by doing life with 12 brothers, He showed us how to live openly and in community. He showed us the importance of accountability. The Trinity is founded on the “one another” principle. We are inherently stronger when we are locked together.

In our free e-book, Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability, author Luke Gilkerson says, “[Accountability] means really getting to know one another. It means not just confessing surface-level stuff, but helping one another to see underlying motivations. It means hearing one another’s stories and spending time together. It means helping one another tap into godly motives for Christian living.”

Accountability is important because speaking trumps silence.

There is power in spoken words. When our thoughts become words, or we are listening to words from someone else, our brain kicks into high gear. University College London did extensive analysis of how the brain processes spoken words. The scientists discovered that our brains can magically isolate language from other sounds and usher it to the “primary auditory cortex” where it is assigned meaning.

In Romans 10:9, we read, “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I’ve never been a big fan of the “bow your heads and raise your hand to accept Jesus into your hearts” approach to salvation. I just don’t see it modeled anywhere in Scripture. Words matter! All form and matter came into existence because God spoke.

Having genuine and straightforward conversation with an accountability partner is sweet therapy for a dry, empty soul. This type of conversation doesn’t just land in our brain. It lifts heavy burdens from our hearts.

Accountability is important because light trumps darkness.

Speaking openly with an accountability partner keeps our secrets out in the open. It crushes the fallacy of secrecy. In darkness, sin rules us. But, in the light, sin shrivels. Nothing beats the light.

Ephesians 5:6-9 tells us, “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” (Emphasis mine)

Darkness isn’t a wave or a particle. It isn’t a “thing.” It’s simply the absence of light. Human vision is diminished as light is decreased. We are unable to distinguish color. What a befitting metaphor for what happens to our spiritual discernment while under the cover of sin.

An accountable relationship with another Jesus-loving brother or sister is a warm LED flashlight to the soul. It calls us up to the light and out of the darkness.

Can Accountability Really Change a Heart?

We believe it can, and we’ve seen it happen in so many Covenant Eyes users. This is why we believe so strongly in the importance of accountability. But you’re never going to know for yourself until you give it a try.

8 Relationship-Saving Principles You Can Start Using Tonight

8 RELATIONSHIP-SAVING PRINCIPLES YOU CAN START USING TONIGHT

Jay and Lori Pyatt

I’ll be honest with you. I betrayed my wife. 

I lied to her almost every night for four straight years. I did a quick estimate and figured that I lied at least 1,000 times to her face in those four years. I know how to destroy trust in a relationship. 

Thankfully, I learned how to rebuild that trust.

It wasn’t easy.

It was the single hardest, worst, and most challenging thing I’ve ever done–and I have run a marathon.

But, I did it. And here is the really important thing: rebuilding trust is worth it.

While your relationship will never be the same as it was, it could actually be even better.

Here’s why:

  • You will heal the person you betrayed.
  • You can look yourself in the mirror again, knowing you are an upstanding person.
  • Your relationship will be stronger and more satisfying for both of you.

The years of pornography did a lot of damage, but what I found to be even more damaging was the lies I told and the behavior that surrounded my actions.

For quite some time, I didn’t fully understand the damage I had done to my relationship with my spouse.

FoolishlyI thought that just telling the truth would fix things. My thought was, “If I quit lying, everything will be OK. I just have to be honest when she asks me questions. She should trust me again in two or three weeks.”

This didn’t work. There is little ground for telling the truth when you have already been lying for so long. There isn’t a way to verify what the heck is going on. Even after I stopped lying, my wife still didn’t feel safe, and she certainly didn’t trust me. Stepping forward with the truth wasn’t enough to turn our relationship around.

I had to become radical in my honesty. I had to put more energy into the relationship than I had previously. I had to grow. I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Like I said, rebuilding trust challenged me more than anything I have ever done.

Can You Rebuild Trust?

My very firm answer on this is, well, “maybe.”

Not everyone chooses a relationship over their own comfort. Not everyone wants to humble themselves in front of the person they betrayed. Sometimes the cost to the betrayed person exceeds the time needed to rebuild.

However, I rebuilt trust, so it can be done. I actually help other guys and they have rebuilt trust in their marriages as well.

There is hope for you, if you are willing to do the work. 

Hard work. 

Scary work.

Are you willing to do it? Because if you aren’t, tell the other person right now. Rip off the bandage and tell them you don’t want the relationship any longer. Walk out the front door.

How to Rebuild Trust

Okay, if you are still with me, then there is a chance for you to rebuild trust in a relationship wrecked with lies, deception, or sneakiness.

To rebuild trust, I needed to take a different approach than I had in the past. My normal behaviors and attitudes led me to me where I was, but they would not guide me to where I ultimately wanted to be.

In simple terms, I had to “grow up”; I lived in an immature and uneducated state of mind. Growth is painful – ask anyone trying to get into shape. Using new muscles and developing new habits takes effort, focus, and a degree of suffering.

Just telling you to “grow up” isn’t terribly helpful and probably feels a little insulting. I am okay with the insulting part: if you need to rebuild trust, then you didn’t get here through honorable behavior.

Here are seven relationship-saving principles to integrate into every interaction with the person you betrayed. You will need to work on and use each of these principles constantly in the rebuilding process.

1. Humility

This principle is the building block for all of the others that will follow. Repairing your relationship should be a humbling experience. 

In my personal definition, humility is knowing the truth of who you are and accepting it. For me, I frequently chose self-loathing over of humility. Self-loathing causes problems because we want to see ourselves in a better light and might resist accepting the truth of our actions.

Humility also means letting your hurting spouse share their own pain without fear of judgment or being fixed. They need you to feel their pain, because only you can heal it effectively.

2. Consistency

To rebuild trust, I had to be consistent. Anything I committed to do, I had to see it through. My wife lived in fear of the uncertain ground I created by lying. When I would start something good, only to fall quickly back into past behavior, this just reminded her of how little she could count on me.

So, if you start something, stick to it.

There are some pitfalls to consistency, but you need to stay consistent or the person you betrayed will see this as playing with their trust (and heart).

Stay consistent, or your efforts are a waste.

3. Proactivity

To be honest, this word annoyed me for a long time. Both my therapist and my wife kept telling me to “be proactive.”

I didn’t get it. “I think I know what the word means, but not what it means mechanically. What am I supposed to do proactively?”

The answer is: take action on your own initiative. Don’t wait for the person you betrayed to tell you what they need. Go ask them.

Once they tell you what they need, go do it. 

4. Meeting Needs

The person you broke trust with has specific needs. Find out what they are.

Now, go back to step three and start meeting these needs proactively.

This is the growth process I mentioned earlier. You will have to set your own needs aside to meet the needs of the other person. Considering the possible alternatives, this is a small price to pay.

5. Openness

Openness and honesty are two sides of the same coin. Honesty means that if I ask you a question, you tell me the truth. Openness means that you tell me the truth without me having to ask the “right” question, especially in areas where trust is broken.

Rebuilding trust requires a new level of communication with the person you betrayed. 

You must talk to them about what you are doing, plain and simple.

I am not saying, “Hey, this is a good idea!” I am telling you that openness is a requirement. If you aren’t willing to give the other person this much access to your life, you may never rebuild trust.

Giving full access to the person you betrayed will help them see your commitment to do whatever it takes to make things right.

So, if you betrayed them through money, give them access to the bank accounts. If you cheated in the relationship, give them the passwords to your phone, computer, social media, and anything else you can think of so they can determine and verify what you are up to.

6. Vulnerability

When it comes to the scariest words in the English language, vulnerability is probably near the top; at least it was for me.

Vulnerability is the very reason I lied to my wife. The truth makes me vulnerable to her judgment, rejection, or anger, all of which were justified from my behavior.

I regularly tell the guys I work with, “The relationship you want with your wife will be purchased through your vulnerability.” 

I really think of vulnerability as taking off the armor that I previously used to protect myself. 

For me, anger was my armor. When my wife would ask uncomfortable questions, I instantly put up a shield of anger. This is an effective way of telling another person to shut up, but it’s far from helpful or healthy. Anger is one way to stop the conversation, or you might run away and shut down. 

The other person really needs you to listen to them, even though it feels purely miserable to discuss the topic they brought up.

They also need you to connect with the emotions of what they are going through, specifically how bad it feels for them. This is difficult because it requires us to double-down on how rotten it feels to hear how our unhealthy behavior impacts someone close to us.

7. Ownership

Take responsibility for your actions and the impact those actions had on the other person. 

Then, keep taking responsibility for those actions, especially when it feels uncomfortable.

I say that because I like to minimize responsibility for my actions. I nearly ended my marriage trying to salvage my image with the very person I lied to. 

So, when my wife would say, “Remember those times you lied about using porn at work?”, I responded with something like, “I didn’t say that. I said I only looked at YouTube videos at work.” And then she would say, “That is not what you said…”, and the breakdown would continue until I finally confessed or re-owned my actions. 

This kind of behavior makes people crazy.

8. Blind Spots

Believe it or not, I am not clear on all of my behaviors and how they impact the person I betrayed. This means that I have blind spots – areas of my personality that I am completely unaware of and need help to see.

Ask the person you betrayed for help with this. This requires humility, a teachable spirit, and a willingness to learn.

Once you discover these blind spots, start working on them, or at least own their existence. Because these could be the very things holding you back in the relationship.

Give Them Time

These are the basics, and you need to practice them. While you are doing this, the other person will need time to heal and ultimately decide if it is worth staying.

I lied for four years in the last go-round; I shouldn’t be shocked that it took almost four years to fix things, especially since I dragged my feet on these topics and made them much more difficult than they needed to be.

Get Help

My work with men to rebuild trust in their own relationships has shortened the recovery time to somewhere between four and eighteen months, depending on the breakdown and situation.

Saving your relationship is far from easy, and you will need a network of support.

It also helps to work with someone who went through a similar experience, so use my bio below to contact me for more information.

Because I have done this, I know you probably can as well. Don’t lose hope; just keep practicing these principles every day.

How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps

HOW TO QUIT PORN: 6 ESSENTIAL STEPS

Douglas Weiss

If you’re wondering how to quit porn, you’re not alone. Skim through the comments below and you’ll see. Quitting porn doesn’t have to be so complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you want to quit watching porn, it’s going to take some intentional work, and I encourage you to get real familiar with these six steps.

Step 1: You need to want to quit watching porn.

The first part to quitting porn is you really have to want to quit porn. You need to be sick and tired of porn and the sickness that it causes you in order to quit. If you are not committed, you will only be quitting untl the next time you look. Deep inside you have to want to stop.

Step 2: You have to be willing to try a different way.

Secondly, you have to be willing to do things you haven’t done before. Seriously, if you keep quitting the same way, you’re likely to fail again. To quit, you have to give up what you’ve  been doing and do what you have to do. Have you tried using Screen Accountability yet?

Step 3: You need to be brutally honest with another person.

Thirdly, you have to tell someone else about your struggle and desire to get free. This person may be a male friend, your wife, a person of clergy, a life coach, or a 12-step group person.  Somebody has to know the truth about your porn usage for you to get and stay free.

Step 4: You need to get rid of all your porn.

Next, you have to do what I call “clean house.” You have to get rid of the porn you have. Throw away the discs, magazines, anything you have used as pornography, and make sure to dump and clean out your computer. This is just a start, some you have to clean house regularly.

Step 5: You also need to block porn from coming in.

The next step is you have to block entry points. This means have a porn blocker and accountability software like Covenant Eyes on your phone, computer at home, and at the office. If you have people sending you compromising emails, block them. Unsubscribe from porn websites. You may have to decide if credit cards are a problem. You know how porn is coming into your life. If you had a gun to your head you could block entry points in a minute.

Step 6: You need a friend to help you stay on track.

Finally, get accountable to a man on a daily basis about your porn usage. Make a call a day and a commitment to call this person before you even consider looking at porn. People who set consequences for porn relapse do better. Seriously, if you look at porn, set a consequence. Some guys run laps, give money to the political party they don’t vote for, do leg lunges for a half mile, give up some privilege or just pick up trash on the highway for a few hours.

A porn-free life is a better life.

You have to decide that you are worth living porn free. I decided that almost 25 years ago and just passed a polygraph verifying my freedom. I believe you’re worth it but your behavior will show you if you are. Don’t believe your words. Believe only your behaviors; otherwise, you can be in denial as to your commitment to being porn free.

One of the most effective tools I’ve found to quit porn is Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability™. It helps with four of these six essential steps. Not only can it block porn before it gets to you, it also provides a weekly report of your internet use to a trusted friend–forcing you to be brutally honest and making it easier than ever for you to have the open and honest relationship needed to beat your porn addiction.

Remember, you are not the only one being affected if you are married or want to be married. She is in pain because of your porn usage. Your children are being affected as well. They deserve the best man you can be. You decide. Do they get the porn-drunk you or the porn-free you? I recommend the porn-free you. It’s the better you.

Jesus vs. Porn: How Christ destroyed my addiction to lust

JESUS VS. PORN: HOW CHRIST DESTROYED MY ADDICTION TO LUST

Dan Sheldon

Dan Sheldon

It all started for me in the mid 80s at a young age. It was all innocent enough. My neighborhood friend found his dad’s stash of Playboys and he showed them to me.

Like all addictions it started small and snowballed out of control. It started with Playboy, but when that wasn’t enough, I started looking at Penthouse, when that wasn’t enough I went to harder and harder material. When the Internet came around it was over, I could look at whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

From Porn to Sex

Viewing porn started to affect my “real life.” I had many partners and starting acting out some things I was seeing. I didn’t care who the person was as long as I was getting what I wanted. I felt lonelier and lonelier with each partner. I no longer knew who I was.

Then I really hit the bottom. One drunken night at the bar, I had unprotected sex with a girl I met there. I ended up getting Chlamydia. That really scared me. What if it would have been AIDS? I called my friends who are born again Christians. I asked if their offer to take me to church was still open. I started to go to church with them and even answered an alter call. I didn’t feel any different and started right back down the road of sex and porn.

Coming to Christ

A few months later, while I was on the Internet surfing through some really hardcore porn, a voice said to me, “This isn’t how you are going to find a wife, and it isn’t how you are going to be a good dad someday.” I later found out this voice was the Holy Spirit talking to me. The Holy Spirit knew I had always dreamed of being married and having children. I had all but given up on that dream. However, I actually listened to that voice this time. I clicked off the Internet that night.

A few days after that I went on a train ride with my friends. After the ride we stopped to eat. As we were eating, I started to tell them about my addiction. How I couldn’t get porn out of my life. My friend said to me, “All you have to do is admit your sins to Jesus and accept him as your Savior.” I looked at her and said, “I think I just did.” From that moment I was forgiven for my sins!

The Difference Jesus Makes

My story was just beginning. I started to go back to church. This time it was different: I wanted to change! Everything started in small steps. The first was throwing out all the porn magazines and DVDs. Next, I threw out all the extra “stuff” I collected from my former partners. The next thing was I stopped drinking. When I got drunk I would do things I wouldn’t do otherwise. One of the hardest things to give up was using my phone to sext. I kept that one girl in my phone so I’d still be able to flirt. I was finally convicted of it and told her I could no longer do that. I also realized I couldn’t use the Internet late at night when no one else was around and I deleted my MySpace page because it was too easy to find porn. I was starting to finally be content with being alone.

That’s when God put a special woman in my life. We met at membership classes for the church. I was afraid to be in a relationship because of all the things I had done in the past. I told my future wife everything within three weeks of knowing her. Telling her if she wanted out, that would be the time. She didn’t leave. We were married in December of 2008. In January we were given the news that my wife was pregnant and in September my little boy was born! I adopted her daughter as well! The things I always dreamed about!

Going Deeper with Christ

During that time I still continued to grow. I had a meeting with one of the pastors and he helped me break the soul bonds I had created with all my past partners. I also threw out anything in my house that reminded me of old girlfriends, even if they weren’t sexually related. Later I started to use Covenant Eyes on my computer with my wife and an Accountability Partner getting the Reports in their e-mail. The next step was finding a group of guys who get together once a week for face to face accountability.

Another thing I have been working on is masturbation. I struggled with that when I first came to the Lord. I was taught that with God’s grace it can be defeated! I am also working on getting rid of lustful thoughts and changing my thought process. It took years for me to get to the point I was at and it took time to change that.

Looking Back: 7 Important Steps

The porn problem hasn’t been much of a problem lately, but I will continue to take steps to make sure it doesn’t come back into my life. The most important things it took for me to come as far as I have:

1. I admitted I had a problem

2. I asked God to help me through the work Jesus Christ did on the cross

3. Taking small steps

4. Transforming my thoughts

5. Accountability (both on the computer and face to face)

6. A continuous choice to want to get better

7. I found a good church to help me

I have come a long, long way since I gave my life to Jesus in October of 2007, and with the help of Jesus Christ I will continue on my walk!