“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– from First Things First by Steven Covey
Visual stimulation is a common struggle’so common, in fact, that I’d say it’s almost universal. If you’re a man serious about sexual purity, your inner man is going to be attacked by two formidable challengers: erotic images and memories of past sexual encounters. Both of these are powerful opponents; both can be faced and conquered.
Erotic images pose a challenge. I dare you to try to escape them. There was a time you could do so pretty easily just by avoiding pornographic magazines, but those days are long gone. Take a drive and you’ll see some model flashing her wares on a billboard. Thumb through a magazine’a regular magazine, mind you’and you’ll get hit with clothing ads that show more flesh than clothes. Watch television and you won’t get away from sexual themes no matter what channel you turn to. Try as you may, you can’t get away from erotic images without going into hibernation. In our modern cult of physical beauty, the gods and goddesses of the Perfect Physique demand your attention wherever you are.
Exercise the Emotional Muscles of
SELF-RESTRAINT and MENTAL DISCIPLINE!
The Payoffs are Incredible!!
You probably respond to erotic images according to cycle: visual contact, stimulation, sexual arousal. You notice, or ‘flash on,’ a picture that got your attention, whether or not you wanted it to. There’s a quick charge of stimulation, a recognition of the kind of image or person that excites you. You feel pulled into the image, prone to linger over it and consume it. Sexual arousal follows, with a drive to unite with the image in a mental sexual encounter.
You can abort this cycle through, again, simple decision-making. Integrity is a process of daily decisions to remain consistent with your beliefs. Nine times out of ten, you don’t decide to flash onto the magazine picture, billboard, or attractive woman walking down the street: she’s simply there. But at the moment of recognition (‘Wow, that’s just my type’), you can decide to move on. The earlier you decide, the easier it is not to be obsessed with the image.
Your responsibility is not to keep beautiful women out of your field of vision (an impossibility) or to force yourself not to be attracted by them. Rather, you’re responsible to keep moving, not letting yourself dwell on what you are seeing. You grow considerably each time you do this, because you exercise the emotional muscles of self-restraint and mental discipline. The payoffs are incredible.
Remember, it is no sin to be tempted. It only becomes a sin when you act upon or deliberately feed temptation. It is up to God, not you, to diffuse the power of sexual attractions, so don’t take responsibility for what you cannot control. As a man who’s committed to fighting Every Man’s Battle, you’ve got enough to contend with as it is.
For more help see, Every Man’s Battle.