Christopher filled his plate with food in the kitchen and retreated to his room. His sister Kaitlyn, a freshman in high school, was having a party for her friends before the stake dance began.
Christopher, two years older, had decided not to go to the stake dance. Instead, he would stay in his room and play video games or go online.
His parents would be attending the dance as chaperones, so he would be alone. He could hardly wait for everyone to leave. Even so, he had a strange feeling. It was the feeling you’d have walking along the top of a steep, ice-covered roof, knowing that, if you start to slip, it would be very difficult to keep from sliding off the roof.
“Not this time,” he said to himself.
He turned on his computer and checked his e-mail. He had two messages from friends he’d found on a chat line. He read each one and sent a reply. He had more online friends now than from school or church.
There was a knock at the door, and then Kaitlyn threw open the door and stuck her head in the room. Standing next to her was one of her friends. She was a good six inches shorter than Christopher, with a long narrow face and dark brown hair.
“Mom and Dad are about to leave. You coming with us?” Kaitlyn asked.
“I don’t think so.”
The phone rang. “I’ll get it!” Kaitlyn shouted, running down the hall.
Christopher stepped out of the room. He was relieved he hadn’t been looking at anything inappropriate, but at the same time, he was embarrassed that he could have been.
“Why is your face so red?” Kaitlyn’s friend asked.
“You should come to the dance,” she said.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Hannah Banana Happy Piana.”
“That’s your name?”
“Not the Banana Happy Piana part, but my first name is Hannah.”
“Well, it’s always nice to meet one of Kaitlyn’s little friends,” he said sarcastically.
“How come you don’t want to come to the dance?”
“I don’t like to dance, and none of my friends will be there.”
“I’ll be there.”
“You could dance with me.”
“No offense, but I’d rather stay home.”
“Stay home and what? Watch a computer screen? Do you know what computer images are? I just learned about it. They’re just a series of 1’s and 0’s. Would you rather spend time with 1’s and 0’s than talking to me?”
“Do you want an honest answer?”
She playfully slugged him on the arm. “Can a bunch of 1’s and 0’s do that?”
“Go away. You’re bothering me.”
“Come to the dance with us. I’ll teach you not to be so boring all the time.”
“Who says I’m boring?”
“Kaitlyn says you scare girls away because you don’t know how to talk to them.”
“That’s not true.” But even as he said it, he realized it had been a long time since he had spent much time with girls.
“I say it is. I say you’re totally hopeless. Anyone can see that.”
“Look, I doubt if you could teach me anything.”
“I could teach you that staying in your room playing with your computer when you could go to a dance is lame. All I’m saying is think about it, okay? We won’t be going for a few more minutes, so you can still change your mind.” And with that, she was gone.
He was glad to get rid of her and could hardly wait for everyone to leave. But at the same time, he felt some dread at what might happen after everyone left—what had happened at other times when he’d been alone.
It was hard for him now to stay away from some Web sites. He had been introduced to pornography at a friend’s house two years earlier. What he saw there was both disgusting and degrading. When he finally got a computer in his room, he had gone to a pornographic Web site just out of curiosity. And now he found himself returning again and again, until it was as if he had no ability to stop himself.
More than once he had promised himself he would never look at those things again. Sometimes he went a day or two, but eventually he found himself returning.
One Sunday, after his bishop had talked to the Aaronic Priesthood about the evils of pornography, he’d gone to his room and prayed. He had poured out his heart to God for help, but nothing seemed to change. And now everyone was about to leave for the dance, and he’d be alone again.
He closed his eyes. “Father in Heaven, please help me. I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
There was a loud pounding on the door.
Hannah threw open the door. “It’s me again! Kaitlyn sent me here to get you for the dance. We worked it all out. You’ll dance every dance with one of us, except for Kaitlyn. She doesn’t want to dance with you. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Suddenly he was looking at her in a new light, wondering if she could possibly be an answer to his prayers. One thing was for sure, he knew what would happen if he stayed at home.
He stood up. “Give me a minute. I need to change.”
Hannah called out into the hall. “He’s going! I won the bet, Kaitlyn!”
A few minutes later, he went into the living room, where six girls were waiting for him. They all ended up riding in the family van with Christopher’s parents. He sat in the middle with Kaitlyn on his right and Hannah on his left.
“What’s your favorite color?” Hannah asked him.
“I don’t know.”
“Come on, you’ve got to pick one.”
“It’s one of the first things I learn when I meet somebody. You can learn a lot about people if you know their favorite color.”
“What can you learn?”
“Well, for one thing, you’ll know their favorite color!” She started laughing hysterically.
“It wasn’t that funny.”
“It was plenty funny. My favorite color is orange. My bedroom is painted orange. Sometimes I wake up and pretend I’m living inside a pumpkin, like I’m one of the seeds.”
“You are a very strange girl.”
“I like to think of colors as if they had a personality. Like serene green, or true blue, or cheery red. Do you ever do that?”
“No, I never do.”
The dance seemed to have been frozen in time until Hannah showed up with her friends, with Christopher in the middle of them all.
“We’re here, everybody!” Hannah called out. She grabbed Christopher’s hand. “I get the first dance because I got you to come.”
They went out on the dance floor and waited for the next dance to start. The music began. Christopher shuffled his feet.
“Okay, Christopher, start dancing,” Hannah said.
“I am dancing.”
She smiled. “Well, that’s a start. Let me give you some pointers. Watch carefully.”
He watched her dance. It was totally unpredictable.
“You got it?” she asked.
“Look, just do what I do, okay?”
A few minutes later they returned to the other girls. “Okay,” Hannah said, “now dance with Melissa. You’ve got 10 minutes, and then it’s Sarah’s turn.”
Melissa wasn’t as spontaneous as Hannah, so within a few minutes neither she nor Christopher was saying anything.
He realized he used to be better at talking with girls, but not anymore. Just after an episode with pornography, he felt such guilt that he avoided any wholesome interaction with a girl. But then as time went on and he became tempted again, he couldn’t look at a girl without thinking of her in ways he knew he shouldn’t. It was a vicious cycle that kept repeating over and over again with the net result being that he pulled into himself. Hannah was able to draw him out—but Melissa was a little shy, and he couldn’t seem to make the personal contact by himself.
“Time out!” Hannah shouted. She came out to them. “Melissa, I need to talk to Christopher for a minute, but I’ll get him back to you soon.”
Melissa returned to her friends.
“What’s the deal? You didn’t even talk to Melissa. Okay, we’ll practice. I’ll be Melissa, and you be you. Talk to me.”
“Don’t you think that Hannah is the strangest person in the whole world?” he asked.
Hannah wasn’t amused. “Very funny! Okay, you be Melissa, and I’ll be you.”
“It’s easy to be Melissa,” he said. “All I need to do is stare at the floor and not say anything.”
“Melissa, how many brothers and sisters do you have?” she asked, trying to mimic his voice.
“Four brothers, two sisters,” Christopher said in his highest voice.
“And what are their names?”
“Winken, Blinken, and Nod, Donner, Comet, and Blitzen.”
“Do you have any hobbies, Melissa?” Hannah asked Christopher.
“Yes,” he said in his high voice. “I collect boilers from condemned schools.”
Hannah tried her best not to laugh. “How interesting.”
“I have them in my room.”
“Big room, huh?”
“Yes, and it’s always warm.” They both laughed.
Hannah said, “Do you see how easy it is to carry on a conversation with a girl? You just keep asking questions about her life. But you need to be interested in the answers she gives. Okay, let’s go back in there and see how you do.”
For the rest of the evening, Hannah let him practice what she’d taught him. He danced with Hannah, Kaitlyn, and all their friends. Two hours later the dance was over.
On the way home Kaitlyn turned to Christopher.
“Thanks for being so good with my friends,” she said.
“I had fun,” Christopher responded.
At home they had family prayer and hugged each other, and then everyone separated to get ready for bed. A few minutes later, Christopher entered his room. The first thing he noticed was the computer on his desk. It seemed more like an enemy than a tool.
“Maybe I should check to see if I have any e-mails,” he thought. He sat on his bed and tried to decide what to do. In the past, something as innocent as checking his e-mails late at night had led to him ending up on pornographic Web sites.
“How am I going to make it through the night?” he thought. “And what about tomorrow and the next day and the day after that?”
Out of nowhere, in his mind, he heard Hannah, in her upbeat, cheerful way: “What’s your favorite color?” The thought of asking one of the women on a pornographic site a question like that seemed ridiculous. They wouldn’t answer such a question, and he wouldn’t ask it. They existed in a one-dimensional world where only one thing mattered. And that one thing promised a thrill but gave nothing back but guilt and remorse.
He went to his desk and began to write in his journal:
“From now on I will spend my time with real girls, not with virtual images on a monitor. I’ll ask them what their favorite color is. I’ll ask how many brothers and sisters they have. I’ll ask them what their hobbies are. I’ll dance with them, joke with them, tease and get teased by them, and I’ll laugh with them. I will stay away from virtual girls for the rest of my life.”
He signed it, looked up, and glared at his computer on the desk. He quickly began disconnecting all the cables. A few minutes later, he had set up his computer in the kitchen where anybody coming into the room could see what was on the monitor.
His dad heard him moving about and came into the kitchen. “What are you doing?”
“Dad, do you have a few minutes? There’s something I need to tell you, something I need help with.”
“What is it?”
Christopher lowered his head. He wasn’t even sure he could say the word to his father. He fought to stay in control.
“I need to know so I can help,” his dad said.
Christopher sighed. “It’s pornography, Dad. That’s my problem. I’ve been looking at it in my room, but I want to quit. It’s tearing me apart.”
“Is that why you brought your computer in here?”
“Yes. At first I thought I could just tell myself I wasn’t going to look at it anymore. But that hasn’t worked. The truth is I can’t seem to stop.”
His dad put his hand on Christopher’s shoulder. “I’m proud of you for telling me this.”
“No, Dad. There’s nothing to be proud of when it comes to me.”
“I disagree. You could have gone your whole life trying to hide this from the rest of the world, but you knew you couldn’t live a lie. To me that shows character.”
“I’m out of control. I need help.”
“I’ll be glad to help.”
“You’ll need to work with the bishop, too. Because of his calling, he can help you in ways I can’t.”
“He’ll be really disappointed in me.”
“I think he’ll be pleased you want to get rid of this evil in your life.”
They talked until two in the morning. They made a list of actions they could take. Christopher’s dad made it clear that there were some things he would need to keep doing. Things like praying and reading the scriptures, filling his time with positive activities and positive thoughts. An addiction like his isn’t overcome easily, and not without help.
Christopher asked, “Dad, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to or if I’m too unworthy, but could you give me a priesthood blessing?”
“I would very much like to do that.”
“I didn’t know if I should even ask. I haven’t felt much like praying either.”
“Heavenly Father will never turn away from us, no matter what we’ve done.”
After the blessing, they hugged each other and said good night. Christopher returned to his room. It seemed a much safer place without the computer. He knelt once again in prayer and then, a few minutes later, slipped into bed.
He remembered Hannah’s question, “What’s your favorite color?” He smiled. “I know the answer to that question now. My favorite color is true blue.” He felt better at that moment than he’d felt in a long time.