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An Ounce of Accountability Is Worth A Pound of Willpower

A man struggling to lift a heavy weight.
Efforts to break a pornography habit or addiction based solely on willpower typically fail.

“On one side of accountability is courage, on the other is freedom.” (Jean Hamilton-Ford) Breaking a bad habit or starting a good one is preceded by a change in thinking. We will only say “no” to something that is easy and “yes” to something that is difficult when the benefits add up. However, change is not just a function of the way we think (internal processes), but also a function of our environment (external processes). A lot of people fail to quit pornography because they focus too much on thinking differently and mustering extraordinary amounts of willpower, and not enough on changing their environment.   

However, change is not just a function of the way we think (internal processes), but also a function of our environment (external processes). A lot of us have failed to change in an area because we focused too much attention on thinking differently and mustering extraordinary amounts of willpower, and not enough time on creating environments naturally conducive to success.

When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.

James Clear in Atomic Habits

Establishing Accountability to Break a Pornography Habit or Addiction

Given easy access to explicit material on the internet, a passive, think-as-you-go approach is destined to fail.

Porn is a silent vice. Unlike smoking, drinking, gambling, or doing drugs, it requires no paper trail, brokerage, supply chain, or social interaction to sustain it.

Cultural Quote #184: The Silent Vice

An active approach, on the other hand, requires entering into a proactive accountability relationship with a trusted person or persons. Under such an arrangement, the accountable is encouraged to check in regularly during the week and receive support in the heat of temptation, not merely to confess relapses after the fact.

I have been a part of churches and communities where solid accountability was a given. In other contexts, I had to get creative. It may take effort to find an ideal accountability partner(s), but it’s a worthy priority since the success of everything else we do depends on it.

Porn Filters and Accountability Software to Break a Pornography Habit or Addiction

An active approach seeks to eliminate access to pornographic media and increase transparency. Software like Covenant Eyes (blocks explicit content), Accountable2You (sends detailed reports of internet usage to an accountability partner), and Lion (a free accountability browser with a reporting function), were designed with these goals in mind.

The market for pornography filters and accountability software is a fast-evolving space. Research the available offerings and find an arrangement that works for you. I contend that every dollar invested in accountability is money well spent; and a desire to get a good return on that investment might further motivate compliance.    

The best way to use porn filters is part of a comprehensive approach to ending your behavior with porn and masturbation. They aren’t a waste of time when you know that they’re not the true solution to your problem. They are simply a deterrence—a short-term deterrence.

J.K. Emezi in Are Porn Filters a Waste of Time?

The goal of reboot/recovery is to become the kind of person who doesn’t need pornography and would choose wisely in any circumstance. However, human nature and the ongoing pitfalls of technology make accountability and internet filtering/reporting a universal necessity.

Obviously, as I continued to go along and get further into freedom, a level of clarity came to my mind. It was like I was seeing with new eyes. It was really because I had that accountability in place that I was able to get to that point of wanting to keep the freedom and never wanting to go back.

Brandon’s Battle Through The Firestorm of Porn

For me, what made the biggest difference was opening up to someone that I really loved and trusted.

Larry Wheels in “Overcoming My Cam Site Addiction

People typically fail to attain freedom from pornography in the absence of accountability. I can testify that the times when I had solid accountability in place were my most successful, and the times where I had flimsy accountability–or none, at all–were when I relapsed and spiraled the most

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Given the special challenges of modern life, the ancient wisdom of accountability is a first essential.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).

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