How going to bible college or seminary can make your porn problem worse.


  

The Bible tells the story of Abram, being chosen by God, to set off on journey to a far country. 

The season before starting college or seminary can be similar: an exhilarating time with a sense of clarity about God’s calling and purpose for your life, a start of a new chapter, a new adventure. 

It can be a time of growing faith and a strong sense of God’s presence and purpose for your life. 

It can also be a time of hidden danger. 

Like Abram dealing with pharoah, lying about his wife Sarah to save his skin in Genesis 12 , along the way to where God wants you to be, there can be unexpected challenges at key moments, that can threaten To compromise your character, destroy your integrity and inflame any hidden shadows or addiction in your life.  Particularly porn. 

For about the past 11 years I’ve been meeting with seminary and bible college students about porn.  Tragically, it’s something that threatens to derail their dreams and goals of serving God in ministry before they’ve even really had a chance to start.  

Starting at a new college or seminary may include moving to a new town, a new living situation, new roommates. 

It may involve a new job, new relationships, social groups. 

There will probably be new shiny, attractive people for you to flirt with or connect with/stalk on social media.

New churches to try, small groups or ministries to be involved with and serve with.   

Putting your best foot forward or even the desire for a fresh start, a clean break from the past, can make you vulnerable to putting on a mask again (or maybe you’ve never taken the one your wearing off) but now there’s more at stake in your new role as someone who is devoting the next few years of your life to being essentially a “professional” christian. 

There can be this assumption that because you’re a youth pastor intern or a counseling student counseling people about porn, that you are doing fine in this area.  Being in leadership, or being a “bible college student” or a “seminary student”, can be a trap.

There’s more at stake when you’re not just one of the guys in youth group who’s struggled with porn.  What happens when you’re the youth pastor who people are now looking up to as the example of sexual purity?

It may have been something that you’ve worked hard to overcome, something you been authentic and honest about back home.  The temptation with new relationships is Why go through all that again? What if these new people aren’t as gracious and understanding as my friends and family back home? What if my past is a deal breaker with the cute girl I’m just starting to know in class? 

In seminary and bible college, there’s regularly scheduled come-to-Jesus moments, aka chapels, that also can be life-changing and grow your faith. Your professor may even start classes with prayer. 

There’s also the danger of becoming complacent, taking it for granted, or even becoming numb to these opportunities to worship and meet with God.  

There will be new teachers and leaders to look up to, new books to read, new subjects to learn and explore which is exciting and what you’re paying lots of money for. 

But you may find yourself studying and reading (very likely) much more than you have in your life and feel like your head is going to explode. 

You may struggle with feeling stretched, challenged, maybe even overwhelmedacademically  for the first time. Feeling incompetent or doubting whether you’ll be able to handle the workload might be a shock.

You may even have to drop a class, or fail, the first time.

You might start a new student ministry, which may be awesome.  
But sometimes, it’s not.
 
Sometimes, you may end up with a poor fit for your skills and strengths, who you are. 
You may not click, for different reasons, with your supervisor or mentor. 

New rhythms, a new room and bed, new gym or CrossFit box. 
You have to find new self-care spots and times. 

Depending on how you deal with change, if you struggle with social anxiety or introversion, this may or may not go smoothly. 

You may even lose some sleep in the transition. 

Your sense of self, your confidence, can be shaken.

For these reasons, and more, even as your committing your life to learn more about God and serve Him with your life you can become more vulnerable to a problem with porn (or other addiction) either getting worse or resurfacing.

Addendum: Even if it’s a problem you’ve had victory in, sometimes a problem that been dormant can flare up again because often porn can be “managed” with rigid boundaries, filters, computers in public places, accountability, busyness – a host of strategies and outward restrictions – back home.  But if the root causes of the addiction aren’t addressed, without those usual safeguards in place, the beast of porn easily can be unleashed and come back just as strong, once the lid is taken off. 

So, here’s a few suggestions. 

Be mindful and prayerful. Be honest and stay honest about what is really going on in your heart and mind.

If you’re moving away from your usual support and accountability in this area try to connect as soon as you get a bit settled with a supportive community. Find safe people. Don’t give up if it’s hard at first. 

Don’t spend too much time church hopping or trying to find just the right church, try to get plugged in sooner rather than later. 
Finding a community will help you from feeling isolated. 

Pay attention to your relationship with Jesus.  You can spend hours studying and reading about God, about theology and Jesus and at the same time become very distant and disconnected from Jesus.   

Be mindful of self-care, your mood and stress.  Working and going to school, financial pressures, academic workload, full ministry calendar, social events, just being a college kid (aka taco runs at 2am), hours on the computer, can quickly add up to depletion and survival mode which make you vulnerable to rationalizing, minimizing, justifying and compartmentalizing acting out.   

If porn becomes worse, or has never been something you’ve addressed in your life, it might be helpful to start counseling or recovery group to work on it.   Many schools offer student counseling services that can help.

In the end, Abraham isn’t remembered most for his dishonesty with pharoah about Sarah, he’s known for being a man who walked by faith, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness, a man who ultimately God has used to bless the nations. 

If you struggle with porn, this can be true for you too.

I hope this post hasn’t been discouraging or intimidating but has encouraged you if you are starting bible college or seminary soon (or if you work with students) to be wary of this potential pitfall.

And I hope you’ll see God’s plans and purpose for you clearly as you start the school year. 


Published by

Sovann

Licensed professional counselor and health coach in Portland, OR
Pre-marital and couples counseling.
Individual counseling for anxiety, depression, insomnia, sleep disorders, sexual addiction, porn addiction, career, transitions, grief, burnout, personal growth.

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