I had known for months that something was going on, but it wasn’t until this moment that my friend admitted the truth to me out loud: she had been struggling with pornography for years, basically the entire time I had known her.
While sitting in the car listening to her confession, I was grateful. Don’t get me wrong—it hurt deeply to know she had been struggling so long without me knowing—but I was glad I was at a place where I could respond with love instead of judgment.
Sometimes the knowledge that pornography is evil can bleed into our perceptions of others. I know it did mine at one point. When I was younger, I would hear about people who struggled with pornography and my internal reaction would be anger and even disgust. But when my friend told me about her struggles, I was in a better place to comfort her because I had grown more aware of my own sins and weaknesses over the years.
I know now that being unkind is never justified. Jesus Christ, who is our perfect example, sought after the people who were despised by others. He spoke with Samaritans and sinners. Christ, who can’t “look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:31), looks “at us, imperfect as we are, without recoiling in horror and disgust.”1 So having that deep conversation with my friend, I tried to think of how Jesus would react. The story of the woman caught in adultery helped me know how to respond.
The scribes and Pharisees living the Mosaic law at the time of Jesus’s ministry didn’t have a lot of compassion. There were very specific, often brutal, punishments assigned for sins, and adultery required stoning. But when the adulteress was brought to Jesus, He wasn’t disgusted—He showed her compassion. Rather than congratulating the accusers on finding someone caught in the act, He reminded the accusers of their own sins (see John 8:3–7). After all, we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Christ didn’t condemn the sinner, and we certainly shouldn’t either (see John 13:34–35).
Once the accusers left, burned by their guilty consciences, Christ spoke to the woman. His words were few but profound. He first asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” And when she answered that they were gone, He simply said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:10–11).
Condemnation would not have helped this woman to change, but the Savior knew that love could.
Love is simply the first step in helping someone overcome pornography. The healing process is always as unique as the individual, but there are some basic steps that everyone struggling needs to take. Encourage them to meet with their bishop; he will have resources and tools to help. When appropriate, help them identify their triggers and create a plan to help them avoid them. Encourage them to see a professional or join a support group. And continue to love and support them each step of the way.
Christ expressed love to the woman and made sure she knew He didn’t want her to continue in her sins. Real charity doesn’t mean we ignore the mistakes of others; rather, it causes us to see their potential and encourages us to help them move forward.
I loved my friend already, but I loved her even more after she told her secret. No matter what you or someone you love has done, “it is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”2
If you know someone struggling with pornography, don’t give up on them! Reach out with love and compassion just as the Savior would. It will not always be easy; these struggles don’t go away overnight. Be patient with your loved one and with yourself. Learning to love and understand someone going through something so difficult isn’t always pretty or easy. But I trust that all the love we give will not be in vain, no matter the length or result of our loved one’s journey.