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!

Empathy Barrier

One of the biggest challenges in the relational recovery process is for a husband to have empathy. I wrote another post about that recently here. I think its important to understand a key barrier to empathy. That barrier is a lack of self-intimacy; knowing our own hearts and our needs.

As we navigate life, our emotions are stirred and we are impacted by the world around us. We have good days, and we also have those days where we wish we had a mulligan. Those tough days, especially, affect us. Our car breaks down and we feel powerless, disappointed and angry. Our stocks go down and we feel the same. Our boss yells at us, or we yell at employees. Or kids. Or our wives. And we feel guilty and remorseful. A deal falls through, a vacation gets canceled, etc. Or perhaps we act out again and relapse with porn, strip clubs or cross-dressing. You name it, the emotional impact of life can leave us feeling hurt, disappointed, ashamed, guilty and fearful to name a few.

Unfortunately, many men don’t give credence to these emotional impacts. A lot of us will  cruise through the day, trying to let this stuff roll off our backs, knowing tomorrow we’ll just start over and hope it goes differently. Wash, rinse, repeat for many of us. But along the way, our hearts are hurt. We end up with legitimate emotional needs that never get addressed. Needs like reassurance, affirmation, validation or perspective. And those needs build, functioning like a kettle on a stove. They heat up and heat up, then eventually when the kettle whistles we’re at critical mass and we’ll move into a reactionary posture. At that point automatic processing kicks in and old habits show up – angry outbursts, shutting down, acting out, acting in. All the while, we’re denying our hearts by ignoring them.

Think about it for a second – how can I have tenderness and compassion towards my wife and honor her heart, when I’ve locked my own heart in a vault? If I don’t allow myself to feel then I’m not going to know my own needs. Nor will I get those needs met in healthy ways. Thus it’ll be nearly impossible to be available for someone else’s needs. Especially those we love the most.

So if you’re struggling with empathy, chances are high that you’re not dealing in self-intimacy; knowing your own heart and your own needs. I don’t mean this in a selfish way, I mean this in a serving way. I am responsible to protect and nourish my own heart in order to have gas in the tank to protect and nourish the hearts God has entrusted to my care.

If you are wondering what that even means, I encourage you to talk to your support guys, your counselor and/or your pastor.

 

Dignity

This week while I was on New Life Live Radio the overwhelming theme was dignity. Or, better said, the lack, degradation and thievery there of. I want to spend a few minutes here talking about dignity.

Here’s the definition: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

For too many men, we’ve diminished our dignity through our involvement with pornography, prostitution, affairs and other sexual escapades. We’ve jettisoned our own sense of honor and respect. I don’t know about you, but in my addiction I hated seeing myself in the mirror. I just didn’t like the man looking back at me.

Likewise, many wives have diminished their dignity by being willing to accept their husbands’ wanton disregard for them. On radio, we talked with several wives who’ve resigned themselves to marriages fraught with sexual, spiritual, emotional and physical abuse. They’ve mistaken love for license, and in so doing have lost respect and honor for themselves. Many of those wives seemed to believe that they don’t deserve to be treated with honor and respect.

We are all men and women of worth, simply because God handcrafted us in his image. Neither the things we’ve done nor the things done to us have tarnished our true worth and dignity, it only informed our perception of it as rusty and dilapidated. Those things put blinders of shame on us to see ourselves through a foggy, dysfunctional and errant lens.

Part of our (Shelley and I) healing journey has been to recapture our sense of God-given dignity. I had to decide that I’m worth an intimate relationship with another human being, not just relegated to a fraudulent, empty life of sexual fantasy.

I had to decide, through God’s help, that the women I was engaging with, both online and off, were created in His image and, as such, they were women of worth and dignity. My abuse of them was in fact spitting in God’s face and giving him the bird.

Shelley had to decide that she was worth more than lies, secrets and settling for second best. She had to come to the conclusion that what God said about her is more important than what I was saying about her. She also had to decide that her self-respect and the respect of God was more important than anyone else’s respect on the planet.

I hope today you’ll also recapture your sense of dignity. You worthwhile and honorable, deserving of respect simply as a function of God having breathed life into you.