Having purposed in your heart to pursue sexual purity, you will need to employ some very basic but crucial tactics to guard your heart against lust.
Once you’ve invited the hairy beast in for a visit, it’s difficult to get him to leave until you’ve acted out in some way. Additionally, we’ve all established some patterns or habits of lust that are so ingrained and so fuel our thoughts that victory will hinge on changing those habits. What follow are some very practical steps you can take that will not remove the fight but will position you better to succeed.
Every guy faces things that trigger sexual arousal. As we are all unique and have different experiences throughout life, what’s arousing varies from person to person. A great resource called Living Free mentions mapping out things that trigger your sexual arousal so that you can prepare yourself for responding to the situations that set you up to give in to sexual sin.
This list could include locations, sensations, body types, personality types and emotions. Anything in life can become sexually arousing because, throughout experiences in life, we can associate certain things with sexuality. For example, someone who begins to masturbate as a way to escape his feelings of anger or rejection will often become aroused in the future when those feelings are triggered. In this lesson, we’ll walk through identifying and understanding your triggers.
Our next sage advice comes from Joshua Harris in his book, “Not Even a Hint”. He calls it “Getting Rid of Lust Triggers.” We all have circumstances that, when confronted, begin our minds racing toward lust. Scheming about how to fulfill those desires follows. Once the machinery gets rolling, it gets hard to yell, “Stop the presses.”
Our best strategy is to avoid lust triggers, or at the very least, have a plan for confronting them. If I were rich, I’d hire a personal trainer to keep me fit – no more swimming in the last guy’s sweaty body imprint left on the bench press at the YMCA. The beauty of a personal trainer is an individually tailored exercise plan. In the battle of lust, you have to be your own personal trainer. Only you know what triggers your lust.
To get you thinking, here are some typical triggers most men share in common:
The gym: It’s a difficult place to be. I don’t know why but, for some reason, it’s a bit of a struggle seeing attractive individuals working out virtually naked. Go figure. Have a plan. Personally, I avoid any conversations because they lead to flirting. I strategically move away from working out next to people that I find attractive, and I go at times when I don’t think it’s going to be “Sorority Hour” at the gym. I also notify my close friends if I become triggered.
Mailboxes and emails: Sometimes you get a who-knows-what catalogue, advertisement or spam in the mail or through email. Personally, I find circulars for hot wings more seductive, but a good plan is to immediately toss or delete whatever needs to be tossed.
Long showers and long periods of lying in bed: Keep moving, people! Keep moving!
Being home alone: Let your roommates or friends know ahead of time and ask them to stay in communication with you during this vulnerable time.
Music: There are certain songs that are either explicit enough to get me imagining or have some memory attached to them that also sparks my imagination. I turn the songs off and then vigorously rinse my mind with 30 seconds of polka music.
Social Media: Be on guard when you visit social media websites and be aware of how much time you spend on them. A suggestive thumbnail or picture can easily trigger a desire to give in and search for more images.
TV and Movies: You’ve got to stay away from shows and movies that arouse you. Block out – completely – certain stations. Throw away certain DVDs or digital movies. I don’t have cable, as much as I would like to have it. Have certain hours you watch and don’t cross that curfew line. Have a plan.
An explicit lyric or image is not harmless. The reason Scripture cautions against “not even a hint” of sexual immorality is because lust, even slightly fed, will always want more. For all of your lust triggers you need to be intentional, prepared, prayed up and have a clear plan or procedure in mind that you are going to live by involving trusted friends.
Stressful situations: Because lust is often about coping with pain in life, stressful situations can often trigger a desire to act out. Identify the patterns of feelings, situations, interactions with others and emotions that occur before you end up in sexual sin. Become familiar with the acronym HALT–Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These are times when you are most susceptible to sexual sin. Also master the FASTER Scale in the next lesson, Blood Brothers.
Our final insight about triggers comes once again from “Living Free”. The resource mentions that what arouses us is often developed as a result of our life experiences, for better or for worse. At times we can sexualize certain things as a way to cope and get our perceived needs met.
For example if I’m particularly attracted, and triggered by, strong and dominant woman that can be a clue to what I’ve experienced in relationships, how they’ve shaped me and the false beliefs that can impair my ability to trust God. So, understanding and processing the way that I’m aroused helps me in two ways: 1) To deal with specific temptation with a specific action plan and 2) To help me to understand my faulty thinking so I can apply God’s truth to my life.
John had a weak spot for tall, slim blonde women. He never knew why until he started to think more about from where this attraction came. He realized that he never felt approved of by his father growing up, but his mother was very nurturing and accepting of him. His mother was, you guessed it, tall, slim and blonde. As he grew older, he developed an attraction to women with these traits because his mother was one of the few people around whom he felt safe. As an adult, he sexualized that need for safety through tall, slim blonde women.
Mark was particularly attracted to women with strong and dominant personalities. After looking deeper at his past, he realized that he often felt rejected growing up by his friends and family. He developed a low view of himself and lacked confidence. As an adult, he developed an attraction toward what he lacked – confidence, which was often expressed through strong and dominant personalities.
Tim struggled with same-sex attraction for as long as he could remember. He desperately wanted something else to be true of his life and to one day get married to a woman and have a family. Through his recovery journey from porn addiction, he realized how his parents were subtly emotionally hurtful while he was young. His dad had a quick temper, and his mom was often frantically worrying about countless things. At an early age, he had a close friend named Stephen who was very accepting, fun and easy going.
To Tim, Stephen seemed to be peace amidst the storm, and he loved getting to hang out with him. Tim began to experience same-sex attraction to Stephen and many others, which continued for years to come. Tim had found deep comfort in another boy his age, which led him to oversexualize his desire for safety.
It’s important that you identify what specific body types, personality types, locations, situations and emotions trigger your arousal. This work is crucial so that you can fight this battle well. Once you identify these patterns in your life, come up with a plan of action for specific patterns of arousal you constantly face.
For example, I often find myself aroused when I go to the gym and see tall, slim blonde women. To set myself up well, I’ll reach out to my friend Matt if there’s a woman near me at the gym who shares these traits. I’ll remove myself from being able to see her and remind myself what unmet needs I’m sexualizing by wanting to lust after her. Then, I’ll turn to Psalm 145:16 and the Holy Spirit for strength.
Guard Your Eyes and Mind
Your eyes are the gateway to your mind. Identify what you are attracted to physically. For example, what specific body types trigger the most arousal? What types of clothing, outfits or hairstyles bring arousal? When your eyes wrap around a person, your mind and thoughts contour them as well. Guard your eyes, and you will guard your mind.
Accountability in the Christian world tends to be very reactive as opposed to being proactive. In the next lesson, we’ll dive into this in greater depth. But for starters, know that you need a team of others around you to battle alongside. If you are going to see sustained victory over lust, a nonnegotiable will be enlisting the help, encouragement and accountability of Christian friends.
You need several ingredients that only other Christians can offer. You need a person to whom you can confess your failures and struggles and who will help you feel forgiven. You need someone you can call and tell that you are struggling and how you are feeling, emotionally, before you sin. Finally, you need a group of guys with whom you can openly discuss such issues in order to learn, encourage and normalize your struggles.
With regard to your computer, one strategy we cannot more passionately urge you to use is the Covenant Eyes web filter. This filter is not one you can bypass. Each day, the addresses of the websites you visited are sent to two friends. This internet accountability is a powerful tool that will help you to reach your goal.
The Word of God is our sword (Ephesians 6:17). There is no time more critical than when you are seeking to establish habits of purity to have passages wash through your mind throughout the day.
Here are our top six passages – not to just memorize but to meditate:
“You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16).
God has a way of satisfying our deepest needs in a much better way than we can.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
When we surrender our ways of coping, Jesus promises us greater fulfillment.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:12)
Reign means to rule or set up a kingdom in your mind and body.
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6).
Once you’re in the mud, the tendency is to stay and wallow in it. There is nothing more important than walking away with a partial victory and stopping yourself in the midst of sin. Perhaps you went to a website you shouldn’t have. Remember, it’s not too late to turn it off. Or you were so filled with lust that you masturbated. But you stopped yourself from going to pornography – this is a partial victory. Large victories are often the product of many partial ones.
Your standard is now “not even a hint.” Anything less is still feeding lust, and it becomes only a matter of time before you capitulate. Lust is a hunger that always wants more. You are no longer tolerating anything that is questionable or marginal. Sexual purity is a battle, and you have drawn your line at the very outskirts of your territory – it is there that you construct your wall.
“I deserve to be able to watch TV at night when I’m tired,” or “I should be able to work on the Internet like everyone else.” These are our inalienable (whatever that means) rights, aren’t they? These are all wonderful privileges, but these and others need to be relinquished if your freedom leads you to sin. Make a willful choice to lay down your rights and freedoms in order to gain holiness.
As we discussed in the article on truth, we need to cultivate a lifestyle of truth. It’s a lifestyle referred to as living with the “roof off and walls down” – a strict adherence to truth in every area of your life and vigilance against exaggeration or any falsehood. A lifestyle that says no to secrets has great difficulty supporting the many lies that support lust.
Last, and most important, is to live a life saturated in Jesus Christ. Praise Him. Thank Him. Sing to Him. Rely on Him throughout the day. Like a sponge, we cannot squeeze lust from our lives without filling our souls with Christ. We cannot empty our souls of lust without replacing them with the enjoyment and worship of something else. Replace lust with God. Make a plan to spend rich and satisfying times with Him, where your soul is fed; pray continuously, and have others praying for you.
These practical steps outlined above are the basic tactics that we have. Don’t be overwhelmed, but move ahead at a staying-speed. If making progress means simply taking and implementing just one of these strategies, then get after that one thing.
Due to Christ’s death on the cross, your sins have been forgiven. But you will continue to sin. So, what should you do when you sin?
For testosterone-enriched men, besides the issue of masturbation, there’s no bigger question than where the line is drawn on physical contact in a dating relationship.
When we put our faith in Jesus Christ and invite Him into our hearts, it is the person of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ), not really Jesus, who comes to dwell in us.
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