Lent is a time of repentance and turning back to the Lord, of turning away from our sins and preparing our hearts for Easter.

Fasting reminds us of our dependence on God, and creates a space for him in our hearts and lives so that we can grow closer to Him. We also fast during Lent because it allows us to offer worship and sacrifice to God and trains us in obedience and self-mastery of our appetites. It’s a time for everyone to examine their consciences and root out sin in their lives.

So, if you’re addicted to pornography, there is hope and help readily available to you. But, if you’re planning on giving up chocolate for Lent?

You might want to rethink your strategy.

How to fast from pornography

In a recent podcast, Catholic speaker Matt Fradd and Fr. Sean Kilcawley explain how a different kind of fasting can bring real healing and transformation into the lives of someone enslaved to a pornography addiction. Fradd and Fr. Kilcawley both work with Integrity Restored, a ministry that helps restore the integrity of individuals, spouses, and families that have been affected by pornography and pornography addiction.

For the non-addicted person, giving up something like chocolate or coffee for Lent makes sense, Fr. Kilkawley explained, because it can help people develop the virtue of temperance, which will keep them from falling into sexual sin.

However, “we have to make a distinction between developing the virtue of temperance, which will keep us from falling into sexual sin, (compared to) what’s the case for someone who’s really enslaved to sexual sin and they’re trying to get out of it?”

For the addicted person, while there are obvious sins to give up – pornography, masturbation – there are also secondary behaviors that lead to these sins that should be eliminated from their life.

“So if somebody is really struggling with pornography, and maybe watching YouTube videos is always the way that they start off in their ritual before they get to pornography, that person should give up YouTube for Lent. That should be their fast,” he said.

“Their fast should be from those things that aren’t definitely immoral in and of themselves, but they become gateways to the beginning of a ritual that leads them to relapsing.”

Listen to the full podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/integrity-restored-podcast/id1110413677?mt=2

Why you should fast from pornography

There are numerous reasons to get rid of pornography in your life, whether you’re addicted to it or whether you watch it occasionally.

Fight the New Drug, a secular organization whose mission is to raise awareness of the harmful effects of pornography through creative mediums, has broken down the harms of pornography into three categories- how it harms the brain, relationships, and finally the world.

One major way that pornography harms other people is through driving and supplying the trafficking of human beings for the sex trade.

In a recent blog post, Fight the New Drug linked to a TEDxGreeville talk from Megan Johnson, who works with a nonprofit that helps women who have escaped sex trafficking. In her talk, she explores the harmful inconsistency of the Porn Paradox: we live in a society that denounces sex trafficking but applauds pornography, without recognizing that pornography drives the sex trade.

The increasingly sexually deviant pornography, that has become readily available through the internet, normalizes sexually deviant behaviors for frequent viewers, driving the demand for more pornography, which drives the demand for more sex trafficking, Johnson explains.

“Studies show that people who view porn regularly are much more likely to pursue bought sex in real life,” she said.

Modest estimates suspect that at least 20 percent of online pornography shows victims of sex trafficking, and the viewer has no way of knowing the difference. According to numbers from Fight the New Drug, 12 percent of all internet websites are pornographic, 35 percent of all internet downloads are pornography, and 25 percent of online search engine requests are related to sex, or about 68 million searches per day. And about 40 million Americans consider themselves regular viewers of pornography.

“Pornography increases the demand for bought sex, which lays the groundwork for modern day slavery,” Johnson said.

Currently, about 27 million people are being held as sex slaves throughout the world. Approximately 80 percent of them are female, and about half are children.

If you are fasting from pornography and related behaviors this Lent, consider offering your sacrifice for the women and girls who are currently enslaved in the sex trade.