Today’s blog is an excerpt from my ebook “Inside Out: A Guide To Overcoming Insecurity and Loving the Skin You’re In.” You can check it out here.
When I was in elementary school, a cousin of mine brought home a video that he claimed he found in the old shed in our backyard. We had been renting our house and there was a bunch of junk there, so it seemed like a believable story at the time. It was around 4:30 in the afternoon, and Power Rangers was about to come on. I wasn’t happy about missing my favorite after-school show, but he was older than me, so I went along with it.
He popped the video into the VCR and what came onto the screen next branded images in my mind that I couldn’t get rid of for years. It was pornography, and my nine-year-old brain was soaking up the images and sounds with a morbid fascination. Our eyes were glued to the TV screen for what seemed like at least an hour.
Afterward, every night those same images would keep me up at night. I’d lie awake in bed re-imagining the scenes and I had so many questions about what I’d seen, but no one to ask.
Sometime later, a friend of mine at school introduced me to my first romance novel. I loved to read, so when I realized that there were entire books devoted to describing sex scenes in detail, I was hooked! I devoured book after book, always hungry for more.
The next school year I saw my friend and asked her what romance novel she had read lately. Her answer completely baffled me. She said, “I don’t read those books anymore because they make you lusty.”
Lusty? I thought to myself, What’s that? I shrugged my shoulders and told her I didn’t have that problem when I read the books and then walked away. But after that conversation, her words kept playing in my head. Was there something wrong with reading about romance?
As I got older and puberty hit, I started noticing that I was having physical reactions to what I was reading. Certain explicit passages made me feel weird “down there,” but again, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about these things. All I knew was that I felt weird and ashamed afterward.
Even worse, the things I read about would keep me up at night and I’d rewrite them in my mind, except with myself in the fantasy sometimes. And I just couldn’t help myself. That concerned me more than anything. It was like a drug I had to have. I had to keep finding new books to read or re-read my old ones.
I had a problem with lust.
The lust didn’t just stay in the books I read, though. I started fantasizing about boys I knew, and I knew that if I didn’t stop, my thoughts would become actions one day.
When I got baptized in the ninth grade, I decided to give up romance novels altogether. I just felt like I was dishonoring God in my thoughts by reading about other people’s sexual encounters and fantasizing about them, even if they were fictional characters.
That’s the difference between simple sexual attraction and lust. Sexual attraction is natural and God-given. You see someone who looks attractive and acknowledge it in your head. But lust goes a step further and explores the person mentally in the form of fantasy: what you wish you could do with them, how they look without clothes on, etc.
So, here’s why that isn’t a good thing.
Thoughts lead to actions.
There’s a saying that goes, “If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do.” Your thoughts guide your decisions. Your thoughts reveal what your actions would be if given the opportunity. So the more time you spend fantasizing about someone you’re not even married to, the more likely you are to engage in those behaviors when the circumstance presents itself.
2. It Becomes a Habit.
Once a habit forms, it can be very, very difficult to break. Getting married to someone you love won’t magically cure you of lust either. You’ll find yourself having lustful thoughts, fantasizing, and looking or reading things that trigger lust when you’re stressed, lonely, or sad. It will become a habit that you depend on to cope with things in your life, and that’s not what you want.
Lust becomes a hindrance in your sexual encounters with your spouse.
You want your marriage bed to have only two people in it: yourself and your spouse. But if you constantly have images and fantasies of other people in your mind, then you’re tainting your sexual union. You’re actually robbing yourself of the sacred intimacy God wants you to have in your marriage.
But you CAN overcome lust and STAY victorious!
Admit that you have a problem with lust.
Acknowledgment of the problem starts the process of loosening the hold it has on your life. So admit to yourself and to God that you have a problem and realize you can’t overcome it on your own.
You have a problem with lust if:
You find yourself getting aroused a lot by what you watch or read
You find yourself fantasizing about doing sexual things
You try to control those sexual thoughts but can’t help yourself
You depend on masturbation (although some people also masturbate to self-medicate when they’re feeling certain types of stress)
I think the reason why lust has such a hold on a lot of people is that we pretend it doesn’t exist. We make it seem like only depraved, really sinful people struggle with lust. By distancing ourselves from the stigma, we make it difficult for other people to open up about the struggle and actually get help.
For a long time, I was ashamed that I struggled with lust. But you know what? Shame is a warden that ensures you never get out of your prison.
I think lust is a struggle we all have to deal with all the time and the sooner we accept it and stop acting like it’s the most disgusting thing ever, the faster we take away its power over our lives.
2. Get an accountability partner.
Find someone you can trust to talk to about your struggle. Keeping your struggle a secret will make it easier for you to slip back into familiar habits. If you truly want to overcome, find someone. It can be a close friend or someone you look up to. Do you have a spiritual mentor or a prayer partner? Now may be the perfect time to look for one. Set up a specific day where you’ll check in with them and let them know how things are going. Call them or text them when you feel the struggle getting tough, or when you feel tempted to watch or do something that you know will feed the lust. Putting your struggle in the open and reaching out to someone when you feel tempted is another big step in breaking the hold it has on your life.
3. Change your routines.
When you get serious about overcoming lust, you have to replace your old routines with new ones. If there are certain TV shows you usually watch that trigger lustful thoughts in your mind, start watching different ones. Or try doing another activity at that time, like working out or catching up with a friend on the phone. If you struggle with reading lust-triggering books as I did, start reading different types of books. I started reading inspirational books by people like John Maxwell and listening to podcasts and audiobooks. It’s changing the way I think and live. Definitely try it and see!
4. Don’t Entertain Suggestive Thoughts.
Try your best to be aware of your thoughts. When you see them going in a questionable direction, steer them to more positive things. Have a go-to quote or verse that you repeat to yourself. Call your accountability partner. Go for a run. Listen to an uplifting song. Do everything you can to keep your thoughts on a positive track. It’s not easy to do, but the more you practice examining your thoughts, the better you’ll become at controlling them.
When you make it habit of steering your thoughts toward positive things, you build a mental wall against temptation. Those provocative images and thoughts may enter your mind, but you’ll quickly shoot them right back out.
When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he resisted consistently until Satan left him for another more opportune time. Consistency will be your greatest ally in helping you overcome lust. Be consistent in reading positive things, listening to positive things, and watching positive things. Weaken the hold it has over you until there’s no answering chord in your soul for it.
Expect the journey to be challenging. You may even regress back to old ways at times. But don’t give up! Keep getting back up and never stop.
It’s not easy, but the growth is definitely worth it!
Want to read more about overcoming the stuff we all struggle with like insecurity, shame, and fear? Download your copy of the book here!
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