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Men and 'dirty' thoughts

Jacob Ninan

* Men are 'wired' or 'programmed' to take a proactive role in sex. From the time when sex hormones begin to act in their bodies at the time of puberty, their bodies direct their minds to take a special interest in girls/women, and they can easily get stirred sexually when they deal with ladies. Different hormones act in men's bodies generating excitement, one level leading to another, and if things go on beyond a point it can become difficult for them to think straight (for example, about the consequences) and to stop themselves. Though women also can cross this point for themselves, men's progress in this direction is very much faster. (If a man does not have any interest in sex, what he needs is a medical check up!)

* As boys grow up, normally they learn to 'control' themselves so that they remain within the boundaries of 'appropriate behaviour.' In other words, they learn that even though there are all sorts of provocations, their behaviour has to be limited to what is 'acceptable.' Many boys, however, take deviant routes because of curiosity or peer pressure, and end up in perversions or unhealthy habits.

* It is natural that men have sexual thoughts coming up in their minds when they come across pretty women, or provocative pictures on TV, magazines, posters, etc. How 'dirty' these thoughts are depends on what their minds have been fed with in the past. As they say, "Garbage in, garbage out!" (Sometimes even godly men have some really dirty thoughts put into their minds by demons, and these men can be utterly shocked and perplexed about how they could be thinking such thoughts. But in these cases these thoughts are not their own.) The more someone has dabbled with dirty thoughts, imaginations, images, and acts in the past, the more natural it is for such thoughts to pop up in different situations. Even dreams become full of sexual content if that is what the mind has been fed with.

* However such thoughts come into our minds, we must recognise that they are 'temptations' and not yet 'sins.' In other words, we don't have to assume that we have already sinned just because these thoughts have come into our mind. Recognising this can be a major step in the battle for victory in this area. A temptation is a 'suggestion' to take up a sinful attitude or action. We are not obliged to follow such suggestions. Even if we feel that it is a strong suggestion and feel under great pressure to give in, we don't have to give in. Even if we find it difficult, we still have the option to say "No" to it. If we are able to say "No", even after a struggle, we have won a victory! It is only if we give in to the temptation that we sin.

* What does it mean to 'give in'? In this case it means we accept the suggestion, continue to think about what is titillating us and enjoy the thrill of imagination or let our imagination run into fantasies, and perhaps take some action. Even if we don't do anything externally, if we continue to enjoy the thrill the thoughts give us, we have succumbed.

* What is wrong if we continue to 'enjoy' these thoughts? We may reason it out saying that we are not hurting anyone. If there is nothing wrong, where is the guilt coming from? That is our God given conscience speaking, warning us to take care. In simple terms, when we let our imaginations run along sexual lines concerning other people, we are crossing a boundary that God has laid down for us. Sexual activity has a boundary, limited to married couples between themselves. We should keep to this boundary, even in our thoughts. Otherwise we will suffer different types of consequences affecting our relationship with God, own personality, and our relationships with other people.

The more we are exposed to sinful situations, our horror or disgust with such things goes down because we get used to them in our mind. This is an established psychological fact. In other words, our 'walls' that separate us from those sins become lower. For example, the more one watches pornographic videos one begins to 'accept' the perverse behaviour that is depicted there, and one's resistance to temptations to indulge in fantasies or acts of that kind comes down. If we let that happen, we are setting ourselves up for possible failures in future.

* On the contrary, if we resist such thoughts, and try our best to stop them, we are on the way to victory. 'Resisting' includes making a firm determination, making plans to take different practical steps to overcome temptations, avoiding placing ourselves in circumstances that can provoke temptation, constantly asking God for help, and dealing with the temptations firmly when they come. Even if we lose some battles, if we persevere in this way we will ultimately win the war. It is not an easy battle for men (women can't usually understand this). But we mustn't give up just because it is tough. It can be won, with God's grace, if we don't give up. Even if one dirty thought after another keeps coming, we don't have to despair. If we seek God's help and continue in the battle, we shall win the victory. The reward for this victory is a clean mind, boldness towards God and men, and good relationships.

A helpful tip
It can be that the very attempt to resist dirty thoughts leads to keeping them in focus, and the more we think of dealing with such thoughts the more it serves to bring up such thoughts. The best way is to divert our attention to some other subjects as soon as dirty thoughts come up. We can even plan in advance about the subjects that we will change over to when temptation comes. After some time the new habit of switching subjects becomes normal for us, and the temptation loses its power. The easiest thing is to change our attention to another subject the moment the first dirty thought comes up, because the more we dwell on it, the weaker our will becomes, as chemicals begin to get released by the brain into the blood stream and excitement mounts up.

If we have become children of God, He has given us a new nature (self) which is in the process of growing up and becoming stronger. Then when a dirty thought comes into our mind we can tell ourselves that it is not from us, the new self, but from our old nature or the devil. This gives us boldness and strength to resist that thought, or turn away from it.

* A lot of men fail because while they are battling with dirty thoughts they keep feeding their mind with dirty stuff during the 'interval' times. For example they choose to watch TV programmes or pick up magazines which they know can be provocative. Sometimes the taste of 'success' can make us less careful and make us think that we can afford to take just a small bite of the forbidden fruit. This is to flirt with sin. If we do that we get sucked into the process all over again and may get to a worse position than 'square one.'

* We must be realistic to recognise that as long as we are men, there will be an attraction towards women. There is nothing wrong in this per se. Also, as long as we are alive we are going to be tempted with lustful thoughts -- occasionally or many times depending on how weak we are, and from unexpected quarters. This is just temptation and it is not as if we have already fallen. The issue is whether we give in to the temptation. Temptation is not an excuse for giving in! We have to make a choice.

* The Bible tells men to consider women as mothers or sisters (or daughters, for that matter). Think (take time to sit down and do this) of women you associate with, in this manner. In course of time, we can re-write the association that women may have had in our minds as sex objects.

* If sex has become an addiction for us, there is no way we can be freed except by acknowledging our helplessness and then going to God and asking Him for deliverance. But if we do that, then we believe that what is impossible with men is possible with God.

One secret of deliverance
Every temptation has a lie behind it. The lie is designed to make us think that if we accept the temptation we will gain tremendously. When we believe this lie we forget the terrible consequences that sin will lead to and the blessing that victory can give.

The false belief behind sexual temptation is that sex -- in thought, viewing, imagination or action -- can give us such an unimaginably high thrill, that everything else can be ignored or overlooked in order to satisfy this temptation. The lie makes us think that we must view, touch, read or do something that we are tempted with. There is tremendous pressure behind this lie, because it is extremely hyped up. But it is a lie. The truth is that it is not all that great at all! Sex within marriage between a couple who loves each other is great. But sexual pleasure is not the fantastic thing that it is promoted as. It is not so great that we should give up all our sense of values and priority for it. Sexual pleasure also follows the law of diminishing returns -- the more one gets it, the more stimulus one needs to get the same thrill as before. When we see this truth we will realise how much we have been fooled by this lie.

Psychologists have found a strong connection between addictions of various types and a longing for love. We all have a need to be loved. When our parents shower us with love and affection during the early years of our life, that is how we become stable in our psychological development. If, unfortunately, we have suffered neglect, abandonment or abuse from the parents instead, our need for love remains unfulfilled. It happens often that people who have suffered this lack try to obtain that same feeling from pleasures -- eating, drinking, sex, drugs, etc. If you recognise this in your life, what you can also understand is that the more you know the love of God for you -- unconditional, everlasting, never leaving you, always forgiving, always looking out for your best, etc. -- the less desire you will have for other pleasures that are temporary, unreliable and damaging.

There are other lies that people believe in this connection such as, "After all the pressure I have gone through I am entitled to some pleasue," "I can't be always struggling against it like this; once in a while it is OK to enjoy it," "This is the last time; I am really going to stop with this," "I am an adult enjoying adult art; who is there to question me," etc. You need to identify the particular lie or lies that have been holding you bound and counter it with God's truth.

Ultimately, the secret is to draw nearer to God. There is nothing that can satisfy us like closeness with God. The closer we get to God, the less attractive other things become to us.

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