Final Four

After the brief detour to talk about the many faces of a man in recovery, we’re getting back on track. Time to round out the discussion on Secondary Boundaries. What we’ve covered so far:

  1. Geographic
  2. Situational
  3. Relational
  4. Intellectual
  5. Psychological
  6. Financial

Now for the final 4.

7. Emotional feelings. This is the stuff going on at a heart level that might propel us into the addictive cycle. It is important to identify and acknowledge which emotions increase your propensity to medicate. That said, we have to go to the deepest levels. For example, Anger is easy to identify. However, underneath that anger may be hurt, fear, failure, shame or disappointment. We must identify those. Stress is a common one. But when many people say stress, what they mean is they feel overwhelmed and fearful of failure. Some guys act out when they feel excited and happy. Others when they feel sad, lonely or rejection.

8. Spiritualwhere are you and God? We know we can’t fight this alone. And we know that if God doesn’t intervene we’re hopeless. Sometimes God is near, sometimes far. In one of my groups a guy described his relationship with God like this: “I feel like I’m a member of a large audience, 1000’s of people, and I know God the way I know the speaker on a stage. He doesn’t know me, he just knows I’m out there. I don’t really know him, but I know he’s up there speaking, and I should be listening.” Living in that relational space with God could be a space where you act out sexually. Or perhaps when you feel like God is miles away. Or maybe even when you come off a mountain top high with God, like after a mens retreat. The important thing here is again to raise your awareness and plan for those occasions.

9. Physiological – think body. It is unfortunately too frequent for guys to say that crossed a line and acted out sexually because of some bodily urge. Is there a reality to our cycles of sperm production and the feelings of needing a release? Yes. And did God make appropriations in our bodies for that release? Yes. Which means we don’t have to take matters into our own hands (literally or figuratively). Don’t let natural urges be the driver on acting out. Create plans around physiological boundaries. Limit time laying in bed in the morning, or limit time in the shower. Double check your motive for pursuing sexual intimacy with your wife. Don’t give yourself the excuse that your urges and just natural impulses and thus you are entitled to some behavior. I always come back to this verse when thinking about these boundaries:

Jude 1:10b – and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them.

10. Technologicalanything related to technology. We’ve heard so many of the stories of guys acting out using playstations, kindles, ipads, cellphones, laptops, etc. There’s an endless supply of media devices to be used for evil or good. Don’t be so careless as to think that using an online device is safe. It is not. There is always a risk, even if you have a filters in place. Create safeguards around how & when you use technology. Make sure your accountability folks know those boundaries and help you be accountable for them.

Hopefully this info is helpful. Another reminder, the goal isn’t to have a narrow, boxed in life. It is to have freedom because we have guard rails that keep us from getting off in the ditch.

More Fences

Picking up from the last post about secondary boundaries, today we’ll look at 3 more. Again the idea isn’t to manage our lives by avoiding these boundaries at all costs. Instead it is about using these boundaries as signals to help us navigate life in a God honoring way, especially as it pertains to sexual integrity. Let’s jump in.

4. Intellectual – think curiosity. Intellectual boundaries are those places in our minds where we may end up triggered. The most common example of this is when a guy says he saw something on TV or in a magazine, then felt curious, so he jumped online and googled it. He is basically asking to be slimed. It is something that has or could have a sexual hook to it. It could be a person’s name, a product or object, or even an article. If your radar is up and your mind starts to wonder towards something with a sexual edge to it, it is probably an Intellectual Boundary.

5. Psychologicalmental health issues. Some people act out sexually in times of depression. Others in the swings of a bipolar disorder or in the manic phases of bipolar disorder. Still others in the midst of anxiety or when they feel panicky. Mental health issues play an important role for some people and seeing a doctor to discuss medication is the right next step. If you (or someone close to you) can help see a trend or pattern of sexual volatility around mental health struggles, it’s time to get that checked out.

6. Financialmoney. I’ve talked to guys who act out on payday and for very different reasons. Some because they feel powerful and in control, they feel adequate and want to celebrate their achievements. Others because payday is a reminder of their inadequacy and shortcomings, knowing there is too much month and not enough check. Financial talks with spouses can be stressful, as can figuring out how to pay for your son/daughters next semester at college. Mounting debt, unexpected auto expenses, medical bills, etc. can all be a factor. With financial boundaries, the goal is to have a plan in place to handle the issues that will arise. Perhaps on the front end that looks like taking a Crown Financial or a Financial Peace class. It also looks like be on the same page as your spouse, which those classes can help with.

I urge you to discuss these boundaries with your accountability partners. Ask them to help you identify trends and to see your blindspots. Get their input on what appropriate boundaries are and what the plan should look like to deal with them. Be prayerful with them to invite God in, and ask His input on your structure and path forward.

Bounce Your Eyes

In talking to alumni over the past few weeks, the thing that seems to keep cropping up is, “It’s summertime, and the women are wearing less clothing. How do I deal with that?” This summer is the perfect opportunity to practice ‘bouncing the eyes’ as Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker wrote about in the ‘Every Man’s Battle‘ book.

First of all, what exactly is meant by ‘bouncing the eyes?’ Well, as those of you who have read the book will know, it’s not complicated, but it is extremely effective. Steve writes: “The problem is that your eyes have always bounced toward the sexual, and you’ve made no attempt to end this habit. To combat it, you need to build a reflex action by training your eyes to immediately bounce away from the sexual, like the jerk of your hand away from a hot stove. Let’s repeat that for emphasis: “When your eyes bounce toward a woman, they must bounce away immediately. . .”
If you bounce your eyes for six weeks, you can win this war. As I write this, it is the middle of July, which means there are six weeks left of summer. Coincidence? I think not!

First Step: Make a List of Your Enemies!
The first way to start, Fred tells us, is by making a list of your “greatest enemies”. These could be lingerie ads, either in a seemingly harmless department store catalog, or that Victoria’s Secret magazine that your wife left laying around. It could include billboards, it could be TV shows or ads, it may be female joggers, or maybe it’s that female co-worker who tends to dress a little suggestively. And then there’s always the beach.

Second Step: Set up a Battle Plan!
In any event, the second step is to set up a “battle plan”, a way you are going to get victory. Let’s look at each of our examples:

  •  If you are looking at a department store catalog, make a covenant with your eyes and with yourself that   you will only look at men’s clothes, and then you will close it.
  • And if Victoria’s Secret is an issue, simply ask your wife to be discreet with where she leaves it. She will respect you for being honest with her.
  • If billboards are a problem on your drive into work, and an alternate route is out of the question, make a mental note of which streets or exits on the freeway the billboards falls between, and then as you approach that area, focus on something else; prayer, some verses you’ve memorized, or even something else near the road that is neutral.
  • As far as the TV goes, use your TV guide, turn on one show that you know is safe, and don’t flip around during commercials. Or if you’re watching a ball game and the advertisements are the problem, have the remote handy, and when the commercials come on, go to a program that you have already designated as being safe.
  • Joggers. Practice bouncing your eyes to the other side of the road, or straight ahead. It will be tough at first but if you continue to do it, it will get easier as time goes on.
  • At work, again, practice bouncing the eyes onto something else when that female comes into your line of sight. Have a picture of your family at your work place. Pretend that your wife, or if you’re single, maybe Jesus, is sitting next to you at your desk or wherever you’re working.
  • If you have a problem at the beach, don’t go, at least until you feel this part of your life is under control. There are other ways to have fun during the summer.

The above suggestions are admittedly not rocket science, but too many of us neglect them. Let’s use this summer as a way to get victory, not an excuse to act out. Make it a goal to be regularly bouncing your eyes by Labor Day. God will honor you for it.

For more help, see Every Man’s Battle. You can also call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)