Christian men have long tried various techniques to keep themselves out of trouble when it comes to sexual sin.
Years ago, men’s accountability groups were all the rage. Birthed through the Christian men’s movement that emerged in the late 80’s/early90’s, groups of men started gathering to take their struggles with sexual sin seriously.
i was in a group like that in the early 90’s. We would get together and ask each other a series of questions about whether we had looked a porn, or masturbated, or been with a woman in a compromising way in the past week.
Some men even had laminated index cards that listed the questions — those guys were the truly spiritual and serious ones.
As the movement gained steam, different pastors or ministry leaders would offer tips and techniques for how to stay pure. These strategies often rose in popularity immediately following a story of a pastor or ministry leader falling into sexual sin.
For example, the church i was attending back in those days made a push for men’s accountability after one of the senior staff had to step down and publicly confess his sexual addiction.
And that confession had only been a year or two after our church’s senior pastor left as part of a church split, the impetus for which was — mostly — the revelation of his “emotional affair” with a woman who had sought pastoral counseling from him.
The church’s knee-jerk reaction was to use the devastation of the moment (which was legitimate) to grab the congregation’s attention and impress upon us all the extreme importance of controlling our sexual impulses.
Tips and techniques. Strategies. Game plans. Battle plans.
Different men have their own terminology for these things, but they are basically the same thing: They are tools we hope will keep us from screwing up.
One popular technique is called “bouncing your eyes.” The idea is that when something comes across your field of view, either a woman walking down the street or a picture on the internet, or an advertisement, you “bounce” your eyes away from it.
Don’t get me wrong, having an approach to how you are going to make good choices with your sexual desire isn’t bad. Not looking is better than looking.
But there are two inherent problems with tips and techniques that snag many men. First, If you simply employ a strategy and put your faith in it to save you, you will fail. Second, if you only ever work your game plan and never address the heart issues that drive the behavior, you will fail.
Many men i meet get stuck in one of those two traps.
The reason is simple: our sexual sin isn’t about sex.
And, even if it were, there will be plenty of days when you won’t want to follow the game plan, or work your strategy.
There will be days that you don’t care. There will be days when you want to look, and bouncing your eyes will be the farthest thing from your mind.
So what do we do?
We must venture into the realm of desire. And in that realm we must pursue the healing of our wounded hearts.
What will keep me from looking at porn or sexually objectifying a woman will be the presence and power of a desire that runs deeper than the momentary lust i am experiencing.
If i pursue healing at the heart level i will be changed and i will begin to see that even the lust and temptation i experience are indicators of a deeper, core longing that is good. And in that realization i will see, again, that the man i most truly want to be is not the lustful one who watches porn.
Rather, i yearn for God and the authentic life He offers. i want to align myself with my true identity as a son of God because that alone satisfies my soul.