pornography didn't kill our love and friendship... i did; and how we got it back.

as i sit here and type this, my hands are shaking. almost uncontrollably. i'm afraid to post anything like this because it's too close to home. i've shared some of my "biggest fears" and "deeper feelings" before, but nothing like this. until now.

the whole idea of weaknesses has been on my mind for a LONG time. years, in fact. just sunday, i shared this on my instagram:

"Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." • the Savior didn't condone this woman's sins, but He also didn't condemn her because He loved her. People C A N change. The Atonement of Christ is real.

but it wasn't until today [as in, april 28, 2015] that i realized that this story isn't just for women. (a little pathetic and sexist, eh?) and then i realized that i had a story to tell. this story is my story. there will be no names shared, don't go trying to guess who is who in the story because really, that's not that important. instead, insert yourself into the story and learn with me.


i'd heard the word a million times in my life, but i'd never known anyone personally with a pornography addiction. i knew it was bad. something that once you've seen once, the images stay with you; they mock you even, or at least that's what i'd heard. with my friends we talked with disgust about never dating anyone with a pornography addiction-- let alone marry anyone who had that problem. we talked in young women's about the same thing, but also of the Atonement-- another word that i'd heard a million times but had never really known how to personally apply it. after all, i couldn't really see my weaknesses. and if i did-- they weren't as bad as pornography, or breaking the word of wisdom, or (insert any other sin here)...

on the eve of my birthday one year, i was watching a movie with one of my best friends. well, actually, i was watching the movie. he was preoccupied with his phone. preoccupied for too long. so finally, i asked him what he was doing, not meaning to pry, but honestly wondering what on earth could be that interesting that he wouldn't even watch the movie with me.
"nothing, just looking at facebook." he responded-- angrily; an out of character emotion he seemed to be exhibiting frequently lately.
"for TWO hours?" i loved facebook, but even i knew that you can only scroll so far before you run into old stuff and it's not exciting anymore. i knew something was up, so i paused the movie and waited. (i'm not sure what i was waiting for, because looking back, i was not ready for what was coming next)
"it's just facebook. turn the movie back on."
"what have you been looking at?"
no response.
i started to get worried and feel sick. i knew that pornography was easily accessible but i never in all of my days of living imagined him being caught up in it but something inside me urged me to keep pushing and questioning.
"how long have you been looking at it?"
a wave of emotions flashed across his face. annoyance, anger, fear, regret, disappointment, relief and lastly, hope. he looked down and responded, "over a year."
i felt like somebody sucker punched me in the gut. but almost instantly, i knew that this could be overcome. i didn't know how, but i knew that it could be. "you're telling your mom and dad." i said in a tone that meant business.
again, a look of hope flashed across his face. but i dismissed it. he was going to be in so much trouble and maybe that would soothe my sucker punched gut feeling.
i started to cry and hugged him tightly, "you have to fight this." as angry as i was, i still loved him.

a few hours later, i found myself in my bedroom. feeling emotions i had never felt in my life. i cried for hours. i tried using every technique that had calmed me down prior to this: singing primary songs and church hymns; reading my scriptures; saying prayers; writing in my journal. but nothing helped. all i could think about was how dirty i felt; how used i felt; how in some way, i had to be partially one to blame (i was a girl. girls are a part of porn. therefore i had to have been an object of lustful desire. {this is probably untrue, but that is how i felt}); how if he was looking at porn, all of my guy friends must be looking at porn. i hated the pornography industry. i hated the girls that purposely shared their bodies for that sake. i hated the disgusting pig-like men and women who a) were creating this garbage b) who watched and looked at that garbage. i hated my guy friends. and i hated my friend who took my perfect, naïve world and shattered it in seconds. i resolved that i wasn't about to go trusting him with anything anymore. nope. he ruined that.

i woke my parents up and talked to them about everything that had happened. they were strangely calm about the entire ordeal. they reminded me that although this wasin fact, a serious problem that we all have weaknesses. and because he was learning how to apply the Savior's Atonement at this age was going to make him a better person, friend, missionary, and husband one day. my parents' words placed band-aids over my hurting heart and i went to bed.

the next day was sunday and also my birthday. i did not feel like celebrating anything.
i walked into church and saw my friend sitting in a pew with his dad. his eyes were puffy and red. he held a furiously used tissue in his hands. he'd been crying. i knew he had talked to the bishop. i had planned on being strong through church and just avoiding all of my unkind and angry feelings for the rest of my life, but when i saw him, i started sobbing. i couldn't do this. i couldn't fake being happy around him. i couldn't pretend that i didn't know about his problem.

for the next few weeks when the sacrament came around, i watched as he didn't take it.

as hard as i tried, i couldn't shake the unmentionable truth. i didn't feel like i could bring the topic up to my parents again. i surely wasn't going to talk to him about it; even though i wanted to. i felt alone. so i prayed. but i couldn't get over it.

when i noticed that his parents gave his phone back (only a few days later), i was shocked; how could they trust him with his phone?! the very device he had been using only days earlier to look at the most vile and disgusting thing that had grasped him and changed him-- they gave it back to him, just like that.

then one week in sacrament meeting, i watched as the sacrament came around and he made eye contact with the bishop. the bishop smiled and nodded as the tray passed by him. he reached out and grabbed the bread and beamed as he put it in his mouth. i should have been happy for him. but i wasn't. i was angry. i didn't understand. he had been ensnared in that trap for over a year and here he was a few weeks later, partaking of the sacrament again, like nothing had happened. repentance takes time. this has not been enough time. what on earth is going on? he can't be done. pornography is an addiction, he can't simply be "over it" already. 

fast forward a few years. he continued to repent and i continued to withhold trust and forgiveness. after talking with him, i learned that a piece of advice that his mom had given him to help him through everything was to develop his talents; in essence, to change his thought process. ie: when a bad thought or the urge to look at pornography or be alone came to do something completely different, like play the piano. we were sitting in my piano room one day and he started to play. he's gotten really good at the piano, i thought. and then it hit me. he had gotten really good at the piano. it was like someone sucked all of the air out of the room. but i plastered a smile on my face and continued to pretend like the whole situation was behind us... behind me.

i tried hard to love him. i tried hard to trust him. i tried hard to forgive him. and there were times when i thought i had. but then something would happen and i was holding his past against him. not outwardly, but definitely inwardly. i got really good at pretending everything was in the past. i even had myself convinced a lot of the time.

then we went our separate ways for a few years. i kept having experiences with people with pornography addictions. i felt that my experience was important because i could help people with their struggles. but after each experience with a new person, my resentment was rekindled. i began to really seek the Savior's help. i began to come to realize that i couldn't get through this on my own. i needed the Savior. i needed the Atonement.

i remember sitting in one of my apartments on my mission, during personal study, after somebody was having a really hard time with the repentance process, with forgiveness in general. we had talked about doctrine & covenants 58:42, which says, "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." she then asked, "if the Lord has forgotten it, then why can't i?" it was a question that i, myself, asked often. too often. and i didn't have an answer.
so back to sitting in my apartment: i was sitting there, pondering her question. my memory was flooded with this one experience with my friend and his pornography experience. i could not forget it. i knew he had repented. i knew he had repented. so why couldn't i forget it or move on? so i studied on forgiveness and repentance. i searched through ensigns and general conference talks. and somewhere in the midst of all of my studies, i read a quote by lewis b. smedes which states, "forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember." my mind went back to the girl's question and the scripture we read; God never promised that we would forget those things-- at least not in this lifetime, but He will forget them. and He also said in doctrine & covenants 64:10, "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." {emphasis added} i vowed from that day forward to try and create a new way to remember my past experiences. and then i felt an overwhelming feeling of love. love for my friend. love for my Savior. love for the gospel. love for my family. love for my parents. love for his parents. love for the girl that was struggling. and i felt love in return. i knew that my struggle was over-- at least this one was. i could move on. when i finally came to understand and see my friend in the new light that the Savior's Atonement shed on him, i saw him for what he truly was: a son of God seeking forgiveness. a son of God trying to be his best. simply, a son of God. and i'm a daughter of God, so that makes him my brother. i thought of my brothers and how much i truly loved them, how much they mattered to me, and how i couldn't bear the thought of not forgiving one of them because of their mistakes or weaknesses. and so i forgave him.

it took me years to forgive him. YEARS, my friends. it took me years to forgive him because I REFUSED to let the Savior's Atonement apply to him. when i read of weaknesses and mercy in the scriptures, i couldn't let it go. i wouldn't let it go. = BUT = i expected him and everyone else to merely [and quickly, might i add] let go of my weaknesses. i expected the Savior's mercy and Atonement to work for me. i expected forgiveness.
"I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed..." {psalms 77:1-3; emphasis added}
i want to help you to understand something that i've learned through this whole thing: pornography didn't kill the love and friendship between me and my friend... i did. i refused to be friends with him because i knew that he had struggles and i knew specifically what they were. how stupid is that? and really, how incredibly rude is that?(although, i must admit, his pornography problem surely didn't nurture love and friendship.) what truly "kills the love" in relationships is a lack of forgiveness; a lack of mercy; a lack of faith; a lack of repentance; a lack of trust; a lack of commitment; a lack of selflessness; a lack of... i could really go on forever. in essence, what truly kills love is the natural man {see mosiah 3:19} and our choice to refuse to give the natural man lifestyle up.

now, i want to make something ABSOLUTELY clear: i DO NOT in ANY way condone addictions of ANY kind, especially pornography. i DO NOT want anyone to become involved with pornography. you do not have to experience these things in order to know that they are wrong and harmful. 

most of us aren't proud of our weaknesses. we don't want them to be a part of our lives, but they are. it got back to me later that my friend wanted to get caught. he tried for months, multiple times even, to stop on his own, but every time he tried, he failed and would get sucked back in. he knew that unless he got caught he wouldn't have the courage to fess up. he was embarrassed. he was known as a "good kid" and that problem definitely wasn't a problem that a "good kid" had. they said that when he got caught he was so relieved. he could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel that he had been trapped in for so long. he began to understand that the Savior's Atonement was greater than his weaknesses. he knew that there was no other way out without the Savior's help. {i just want to add that i'm so grateful that my friend was willing to forgive me and love me after all of this-- he surely didn't have to do that. but he did anyway.} i don't know the rest of his story and i don't need to. that's between him and God. but i do know that i can love him and be his friend, despite his weaknesses.

my dear friends, there is hope. there is relief. forgiveness can enter into our lives. we can be cleansed. we can love again. the Savior's Atonement applies to EVERYONE. don't make the mistake that i did and withhold mercy of the Savior's Atonement from anyone because in reality, you're only hurting yourself. please don't misunderstand: it's okay to struggle and go through the grieving process. but don't refuse to forgive someone because they have made mistakes. 

if you or someone you know struggles with pornography, there IS help and there IS hope!
also, listen to this song. it gave me hope during my struggles!

"Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." • the Savior didn't condone this man's sins, but He also didn't condemn him because He loved him. People C A N change. The Atonement of Christ is real.

the pictures of Christ and also the lonely woman are from