Leaving lustful looking behind – tip 1

Sorry for going dark for a little while there! Back at it!

Let’s deal with lustful looking. To leave it behind has a finality to it that I don’t want to misrepresent. It is an ongoing work, NOT a one-and-done change that happens. And the reason I think is because it is so much more than a temporal, physical issue. It is a heart, mind, body and soul issue. So dealing in pragmatics, I want to offer some tips I hope will be helpful.

First, you need a mantra. Sounds corny, huh? But seriously, perhaps you’ve heard this quote –

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
― Henry Ford

We’ll end up believing what we tell ourselves. This isn’t about pop-psychology positive self talk. It’s about the core beliefs we have about ourselves. And when it comes to lustful looking, some of us have these core beliefs:

  • If I don’t look I’ll miss out on something.
  • They might look back and that will feel electric/powerful/significant/etc.
  • I am entitled to look.
  • I’m not hurting anyone by looking.
  • I have to look in order to meet someone. [for singles]

Unfortunately, much like processes running in the background on our computers, these core beliefs are operating in the background of our hearts and minds. Without even realizing it, we’re already at a disadvantage in the war for sexual integrity.

Think about this for a moment from the perspective of a professional athlete. What would happen if everyday, multiple times a day, the team’s star receiver repeated to himself, “when the ball comes to me, I drop it every time. When the ball comes to me, I drop it every time”.  Sounds asinine doesn’t it? Yet that’s how many of us operate. “When an attractive woman/man crosses my path, I look her up and down.” When an attractive woman/man crosses my path, I look her up and down.” Side note: isn’t it crazy how we’ll celebrate and sensationalize the disciplines of an elite athlete, but we’ll call the disciplines of a spiritual athlete hokey or ridiculous?

So how do we change this? One way is by having a mantra. We reprogram the processes running in the background. My mantra is, “there’s nothing I need, guaranteed”. What that means to me is, I haven’t a single need that God hasn’t already appropriated meeting through Shelley, other men, or Himself, albeit maybe not immediately.

Practically speaking, I walk into Starbucks and an attractive woman is in line, “nothing I need, guaranteed.” Urge to double-take, “nothing I need, guaranteed.” Seriously. And guess what; over time, I’ve come to believe it. My core belief today is not that I’m missing out if I don’t. Instead that core belief is that no one on the planet can satisfy the longings of my heart more than Shelley, men and God. So why would I even have to look at another woman? It’s a foregone conclusion.

I am a fan of you having a mantra. One that you repeat every day, multiple times a day, so that you start to believe it.

I’d love to hear what your mantra is if you have one, or when you come up with one.

More tips to come!

4 Realities of Lustful Looking

Lustful looking is so tacky, isn’t it? You know when you see guys oogling some woman or  guy up and down how repulsive it is. And most of us know the feeling of being that guy too. But beyond that, there are a few reasons why lustful looking is so damaging. Nevermind that its hurtful to our spouses/significant others. Here are 4 realities we need to acknowledge to begin moving beyond it:

  1. You are the only guardian of your heart. The more toxic junk you take in through your eyes, the more polluted your heart will be, thus the more that pollution will manifest in the way you live. As if original sin isn’t enough toxicity, lets add to the garbage dump, right? Wrong. You are the guardian of your heart. You are the gatekeeper, deciding what goes in, thus what comes out. The key here is to recognize that until you decide you’ll no longer give the world permission to use your heart and mind as a septic tank, you’ll continue to live like …. you get the picture. I’ve told this story before, but I’ll repeat it because it’s so fitting. A few years ago, when I still had hair, I was about to take my son to a barber shop I frequented. It was edgy, with fairly wild folks working there, racy posters of bands and rock stars, and dance-club music blaring. I felt hesitation as I was getting ready to leave and Shelley asked what it was about. I told her I was a little hesitant to take our son into the place. She looked at me dead pan and said, “then why would you go there?” Boom. In other words, why wouldn’t I protect my own heart the way I was thinking about protecting his? You have to protect your heart, because no else will.
  2. Your discontent is directly tied to your lustful looking. By nature, it breeds comparison, contrasting and thereby leads to criticism and discontent. Want to find more contentedness and satisfaction with the person your with? Want to stop always finding something wrong with their body, hair, skin, walk, height, shape, nails or idiosyncrasies? Give yourself a chance to find the person you’re with satisfactory. Give them a chance to feel satisfactory. Every look you take and image you register is yet another point of note to somehow breed discontent.
  3. You’re a thief every time you do it. Every lustful look steals a little bit of that persons dignity. You rob the person of their basic humanity divorce them of their soul and objectify them into organized flesh created for your own consumption. And let’s not even talk about gawking at someone dressed inappropriately and obviously looking for attention. To objectify them is to take their woundedness, capitalize on it for our own gain, then leave them with less self worth than we found them.
  4. Your lustful looking is a direct expression of your awe of God. A lot of men get this one backwards. To look lustfully at a woman is to admire God’s handiwork; that’s what I hear too often. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. To look lustfully at someone is to belittle, demean and desecrate God’s creation. Isn’t it interesting that God is so holy the folks he interacted with weren’t even able to see him? His majesty was so powerful, so overwhelming, so awe inspiring and his presence so intense that to look on him could result in death. Such was true of many kings who thought themselves to be god-like. When called into the presence of a king, the expectation was to look at the ground rather than to look directly at him, and especially not to make eye contact unless summoned to do so. The penalty for violating the etiquette could even be death. My point is this: the person you are looking lustfully at is handcrafted, by God, to reflect His own image and splendor. When we casually and flippantly look lustfully, we’re actually giving expression to our own lack of awe for and our arrogance towards the creator of the universe.

The point of this post isn’t to accuse or shame, but simply to be honest about what lustful looking is and does. We just can’t afford to soft sell it, downplay the effect, or to recklessly overlook it. Next time I’ll share a few key tips that help me move from lustful looking to a more redemptive reality.

What Not to Say

This is a super quick post to address a simple but particularly infuriating issue. If you are in the process of healing and restoration with a significant other there are inevitably moments where that other can’t see progress. Some conversations just feel like nothing has been accomplished and zero forward momentum can be found. When that happens, and the hopelessness sets in, some men will try to manufacture a sense of hope and progress by comparing what they are doing now to what they could be doing wrong now or what they used to do wrong in the past.

Examples of what not to say-

  • I used to lust after almost every woman I saw (but now I’m not)
  • I could be looking at porn every day when I’m at work (but I don’t)
  • If I wanted to sleep with my assistant I could (but I’m not)
  • I could lie and completely get away with it (but I’m not)
  • I could still be deleting texts from my phone and you’d never know (but I’m not)
  • If I wanted to get around the internet filter I could (but I don’t)
  • I used to flirt with women at church all the time (but I’m not now)

Hopefully you get the point. It’s never helpful to measure today’s progress against what you aren’t doing or could be doing that is worse. We talked about this a little bit in the Measuring Up blog post here. It is neither comforting nor reassuring to for a wife/significant other to hear how bad things could be or used to be, as a way of seeing progress in the present.

Practically, when you feel hopelessness because progress seems elusive, focus on the future rather than the past. Invite the person you’re wooing back to you to hang on and watch another day. To give you another week. To reassess on Friday. Whatever the timeline, give them something to cling to, rather than something to try to throw as far as they can see.