The third step in the porn cycle is guilt. Admittedly, the use of the word "guilt" here is an over-simplification. Guilt, as it pertains to the porn cycle, actually combines two separate emotions: shame and fear.
These emotions are the direct result of taking action we know to be out of line with our moral values, as well as the consequences they bring upon us. Porn, being contrary to God's law, will inevitably draw this emotional response out of His followers.
Shame is the uncomfortable feeling of embarrassment and regret we feel when we knowingly take immoral action. While shame may carry a negative connotation, it can actually be profitable if it produces positive change. If our shame motivates us to try harder, or to be more diligent about improving ourselves, then it is certainly beneficial. This is essentially the idea behind the Godly sorrow about which Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth:
"For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without
regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death."
- 2 Corinthians 7:10
The problem arises when we misplace this shame, and shift its focus from what we did, to who we are. We ought to be ashamed of sinful actions. But, with porn addiction, we eventually become ashamed not at our actions, but at ourselves. In time, our sense of shame mutates into a twisted idea that, not only have I done bad things, but I am a bad person.
Fear can likewise be a positive emotion. Fear prevents us from making foolish or hasty decisions which might otherwise put our well being at risk. We fear things like heights and snakes due to the harm they could potentially inflict on our bodies.
Accordingly, God wants us to fear and obey Him in order to avoid the spiritual disasters of selfishness and sin. This fear is the basis for that healthy respect we develop for things that might expose us to danger. We ought to fear sin because it puts our souls at eternal risk, endangering our spiritual standing with God.
However, we once again misdirect our emotions, aiming our fear at an unsuitable target. Rather than eternal consequences, we begin to fear sin's earthly consequences. Rather than psychological damage, we worry about reputation damage. We get so wrapped up in the opinions of other people, that their perceptions become more important than God's. Our spiritual condition takes a back seat to our public image.
This constant misappropriation of both shame and fear leads to some serious consequences.
It places us into a continuous state of cognitive dissonance, in which we simultaneously hold opposing views about our addiction. We enjoy looking at porn, but we dislike its effect on our lives. A constant battle between two desires is now taking place; lovomg a life with the ever-present weight of a sin that we both love and hate.
This battle can rage unresolved in our minds for years, sparking us into a downward spiral of depression, hopelessness, and self-loathing.
"God will never forgive me."
"I'll never be able to beat this."
"I don't deserve to be loved."
These thoughts are as untrue as they are unhealthy. But that doesn't stop us from believing them.
The real risk associated with this guilt is that, instead of handling our problems appropriately, we turn to porn for comfort.
In essence we are afraid to address our shame.
So, we escape into the fantasy of porn to forget about our problems. We medicate the symptoms, rather than treat the cause. This serves no purpose but to further the cycle, in many cases for years.
Once we have lived in this state for any period of time, it becomes difficult to climb out. We often suffer under this spiritual and emotional burden for years, which is the next step in the cycle: silence.