By Dr. W. Dean Belnap
Time was when Sodom and Gomorrah were considered as bad as it could get. The entire civilization was consumed by sex in all its forms and fashions. Today’s society is spinning downward into such a culture of bizarre mindsets, beliefs and practices. Sex is paraded about like the ice cream truck on a Saturday afternoon. And the result is being recorded ? we call it imprinting ? on the brains of the young.
President Gordon B. Hinckley stated in a 2004 Leadership Training Broadcast, “I do not know that things were worse in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The Heart of Sexual Perversion
Pornography is at the heart of sexual perversion. It is everywhere. Condoned as free speech, it looks nothing like what the founding fathers had in mind. All boundaries and taboos have been dropped; anything goes as long as it’s pleasure driven. Hollywood ? with its misguided pop culture ? is fanning the flames. What once was considered intimate and even honored is now ever-present, cheap, meaningless and tawdry. And it’s available for the young.
Immaturity of the teenage brain makes it vulnerable to miscues or misdirections. Stamped in the mind ? imprinted ? is what we saw, felt, experienced. That imprinting is more than memory, more than knowledge catalogued according to date, time and place. Imprinting is a biological process that takes place in the brain where we do our most selective thinking. We are born with certain genetic connectors that predispose us to act and think and make decisions and connect those experiences to pleasure or pain. Imprinting acts upon that genetic structure.
Imprinted with pornography, the brain rewires to the new stimulation as if this was the course ? for a lifetime. Developing the ability to plan, to organize, to manage emotions, to understand others, to read circumstances, to exercise judgment are pushed aside with the need to feel exhilarated by sexual stimulation. And that’s trouble.
Put simply, imprinting of sex prompts an addiction that has hooked easily 30 percent of the male population and is growing among women as well. Some statistics say it is as high as one out of two church-goers in this country.
From Plain Brown Wrappers to Living Color
Magazines were once the domain for pornography with all their centerfold titillations. But they were kept behind the counter. It was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality. Times have changed. Sex has jumped to the Internet with a vengeance and taken hold of unsuspecting minds by the hundreds of thousands. All it takes is one view to be imprinted and addicted ? for life.
With the growth of online pornography, every imaginable sexual experience has been spread across the screens of America and been shoved into the faces of many whose emails are clogged with hard-core sexual images.
And what’s the result. Viewers want more. Not because they are bad people or because they have sought sex, but because they have had one glance imprinted and for many, that’s all it took. Whatever dark and loathsome activity you can imagine, someone out in there is actually putting it on the Internet and drawing others to their harmful thinking. And it is destroying our society.
It is astonishing that today’s popular culture ? from gender confusion to perverse sexual expression ? has lost its Christian values and debunks any efforts to hold the line at virtue and morality. Even the very mention of the words “virtue” or “morality” bring jeers and charges of being “old-fashioned.”
In past eras, parents had the rest of society to help with the fight between good and evil. Youth could bond to teachers, church leaders, mentors or organizations for healthy direction and stability and for affirmation of their parent’s beliefs. But today, youth have been cut loose ? drawn off in an I-pod world that puts cell phones at the fingertips and parental guidance at arm’s length.
What should you do in a culture that is molesting the minds of our youth?
- Be virtuous. Consider your imprint on the minds of your youth. If you live according to the rules you have set, honestly seeking to do the right thing at the right time, to act with integrity, to represent the best in you though you are far from perfect, you will create form and shape for your youth to consider. Youth need patience, firmness, limits, kindness, insight and honest, non-hypocritical examples. In other words, they need to feel genuine parental love and direction. It comes from constancy and integrity to a cause greater than today and tomorrow.
That does not suggest imposing limits and rules that speak louder than your love. It means being reasonable and accessible. Otherwise, they will resent your structure ? and you. And that rage will manifest itself in complex and evil ways. Children feel compelled to rebel against authority ? when you fail them. Everything forbidden ? from sex, to drugs to tattoos ? speaks of personal freedom. From you. Practices they once would have shunned or even ignored become enticing and then ? just one experience imprints their minds. Next, the basal area of the brain begins to drive their decisions ? their addictions.
- Take Pornography seriously. Expect that every youth has been or will be exposed to pornographic images. Talk with them about the degradation of such imagery, the risks of losing your own will to basal need. Keep them talking to you, day after day, week after week, and help them fill their “down time” with something that stimulates their creative senses, their athletic interests, their social skills. Be there for those activities and those quiet moments.
Pornography is accessed behind closed doors. It is harsh and dirty ? and inescapable. They are not prepared to fight it alone. They need support to supplant that addiction with other stimulus. They need parents to continue to love them, to help them turn off the screen and never return.
You’ve heard put the computer in the middle of a room, not in their room or the basement. But it takes more than placement of a machine because their friend’s laptop can bring up those images, so quickly. Help them prepare responses and ways to get out of uncomfortable settings without losing face. They need personal will and commitment, spiritual strength and constant check-ups. They need to trust you will be there and if you are that rock of constancy, they can reverse that imprinting.
Hold a family council and make some determinations that the group can help uphold. Talk one-on-one, not once but often. Find new interests that you can share. Work at it together.
- Turn to the Lord. The spirit can cleanse the soul and erase the images in the mind. Trust that the spirit of God can reverse the imprints of pornographic addiction. Live worthy of that blessing, beginning today.
It’s not too late.
Next ? Putting Spiritual Forces to Work in Fighting Pornographic Addiction
Are your children safe surfing the Internet? Are you sure? Click Here to find out how to keep your family safe on the Internet.
Dr. W. Dean Belnap is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and received his medical degree from the University of Utah. He was in the private practice of child neuropsychiatry for 30 years and is a member of the clinical faculty at the University of Utah Medical School. He’s been a child psychiatric consultant to community health clinics in Davis and Salt Lake County and the President of the Utah School Board Association.