In the fifth chapter, “From Impulse to Life-Giving Union,” we are asked to consider the three sources of temptation and how they relate to pornography and sexual sin. Only by understanding where these temptations come from can we learn how to fight against them and reject them. The three sources of temptation, which are listed by St. John (1 John 2:16-17) are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
The Lust of the Flesh is our bodily desires, for example, for food and drink, for comfort, and for pleasure. None of these things are bad. In fact, they are all gifts from God, but if we allow our desires to get out of control, then they can start to control us. Pornography enhances the lust of the flesh by presenting situations that are out of our fantasies. They go beyond and warp real life. When we begin to control our other bodily desire we can become better at controlling sexual desires as well. We can do this by practicing moderation in what we eat and drink, by putting the thermostat a little bit higher or lower than we normally like it, and by taking cold showers, and in many other ways.
The Lust of the Eyes is how we take delight in what we see. It is healthy to delight in a beautiful sunset or landscape, the work of talented artists, or even in the beauty of another person. It becomes unhealthy when we feel like we have to possess or own those things and when we begin to treat other people as objects. Pornography always treats people as objects and teaches those who use it to do the same. We can combat this temptation by practicing custody of the eyes; that is, when you are tempted by what we see, look away. Look at something else, or even distract yourself with something else. If you keep your mind occupied, then you won’t be able to think about whatever the temptation is.
The Pride of Life refers to the drive for ambition and power. This distorts our healthy desire to be the best that we can be and grow in virtue and holiness. Pride turns this into arrogance a desire for power over others. Pornography is attractive to some because it gives us an illusion of control. We think that we are in control of what we see, but in reality, the more someone used pornography, the more it controls him. We can fight this temptation through practicing generosity, compassion, and humility, and by praying for those who are trapped in lives of sexual exploitation.
All three sources of temptation take what is good and corrupt it. We can fight back through staying close to the source of all goodness, God.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.