Is pornography use something I need to discuss with the bishop?

Is pornography use something I need to discuss with the bishop? June 25, 2010

23 yo female…

I’m so glad you asked this. I’m in a very similar situation– the depression, pornography and difficult times. I only did it for about a year on and off. I also masturbated a handful of times, but it’s been quite a while since I did either (at least 8 months).

I think a lot of my worry and feelings of guilt come from not knowing how serious this is. I prayed about this for a considerable space of time, and felt much better. Then I had the thought that maybe I was supposed/required to confess this to the Bishop or something. My depression makes it very difficult for me to forgive myself, but at the same time I don’t want to rationalize this and just give myself a break.

Is this something I have to discuss with the Bishop? Or is it okay to handle this between me and the Lord? The thought of discussing anything of this nature with my Bishop makes me ***extremely*** uncomfortable.

This response will be somewhat similar to the one I gave the original poster. I cannot be the one who decides whether or not you should see your bishop for a religious/spiritual confession. You do not HAVE to do anything. Whether or not you CHOOSE to talk to your bishop is your own personal decision – and it should be made in the light of what you think will be most helpful to YOU. The main point I would like to make about confession – is that it should be seen and treated as a tool that is MEANT to help you. It is supposed to mirror or symbolize our ability to go to our Savior and leave at His feet our pain, sin and weakness. From my own personal experience and hundreds of other experiences I have listened to – confession can and should serve as a “letting go.” It is the spiritual equivalent of a therapy process per se (not to imply that a bishop is a therapist, because he usually is not or that confession should take the place of psychotherapy). But confession, which is a verbal manifestation of information we usually hold privately, is a form of healing that mirrors talk-therapy. It can be a powerful process to lay our woes in front of another and be vulnerable enough to ask for help/guidance. It goes along with the idea that we need not face our hardships or weaknesses alone.

I do not want to minimize that, unfortunately, I have heard of negative experiences with confession – mainly that of feeling shamed. Bishops are not perfect at this process. They vary in style, experience, empathy and views regarding disciplinary action. However, from a statistical perspective, I have heard many more positive experiences than negative in regards to confessionals.

The following is my interpretation of guidelines (which you are welcome to take under consideration):

  • Watching pornography probably falls under what most bishops or leaders in the church would consider serious enough to necessitate confession as far as feeling like you are in “good standing”. Especially when it has occurred on multiple occasions. And by pornography I do not mean a rated R movie or looking at a Victoria’s Secret catalog. Although these things may not be spiritually uplifting, they are not what I would consider pornographic material.
  • Masturbation is less serious than viewing pornography and can be taken to confession if it is a behavior that is causing overwhelming guilt, becoming difficult to control or occurring at a worrisome frequency.

Everything about the repentance process is meant to be for our benefit (and the benefit of others if we have harmed another) – not to purposely shame us or lower our self-worth or self-esteem. It is meant to act as a buoy; an anchor; a liberator. The relationship you mention between you and the Lord is ultimately the one that matters. He loves you and He wants to heal you. His balm is soothing, refreshing and eases our aches and pains.

Notice the purpose.

An interesting article on the benefits and methods of confession:

From a mental health standpoint, the behavior you report is not serious – in the sense that it has not become addictive or out of control in your life. Regardless of what you decide to do regarding confession – it is time to move on. It’s been a while since you’ve engaged in behavior that concerns you – a fact you should celebrate. What concerns me more, is that if you get stuck in a pattern of shame and guilt, you may be more likely to revert back to things that cause you shame and guilt. Celebrate your strengths, acknowledge what you learned from your mistakes and get going on the next chapter of your life. Good luck!

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