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
You’ve made a commitment to purity with all your heart. Now if only your eyes would get with the program!
Visual stimulation has got to be one of the most common struggles men face – so common, in fact, that I’d say it’s almost universal. So if you’re a guy serious about sexual purity, your inner man is going to be attacked by two formidable challengers: erotic images in the real world, and erotic images in the world of your mind. Both of these are powerful opponents; both can be faced and conquered.
But conquerable or not, those images pose quite a challenge. I dare you to try to escape them.
There was a time in our culture when you could do so pretty easily just by avoiding overtly pornographic magazines, because the rest of the environment was pretty safe. 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’ll get hit with sexual themes no matter what channel you turn to. Try as you may, you can’t get away from erotic images without going
In our modern cult of physical beauty, the gods and goddesses of the Perfect Physique demand your attention wherever you are.
The Mental Muscles: Flex ‘Em!
If you’re like most guys, you respond to erotic images according to cycle:
Visual contact – Stimulation – Sexual arousal.
Visual contact starts when you notice, or ‘flash on,’ a picture, image, or person that got your attention, whether or not you wanted it to.
Once it happens, 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 simple decision-making, which is what integrity’s all about.
Integrity is a process of daily decisions to remain consistent with your beliefs. For example, 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 images 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 the temptation. In this beautiful but sometimes rough process of sanctification we’re in, we strive not to become non-sexual (impossible) but rather, good stewards of our sexuality (mandatory).
Paul put it beautifully:
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification. That you abstain from fornication, and that each of you learn to possess your vessel with honor.” (I Thessalonians 4:3-4)
Honorable stewardship is a goal we’ll spend a lifetime pursuing. We’re never too old to work on our integrity muscles and, in fact, we’re never given a pass on that form of training. God help you and I today to be diligent, faithful managers of these bodies He entrusted us with.
If you or someone you love has a problem with the porn habit, be sure to join me this Saturday August 18 for my 90-minute teaching webinar called “Breaking the Habit.” To register click here: