This post is the 9th in a series about addiction recovery. If you are not an addict or married to one, then this probably won’t make much sense. To see a list of the entire series from the beginning, go to this page.
This being the day of Tiger Woods’ press conference, I can’t help but think about my own addiction and recovery. I flipped through my addiction journal and ran across something I thought would make a helpful post today.
In his book Breaking Free, author Russell Willingham writes,
Not everyone who struggles with a sexual problem is dealing with an addiction. Some of what passes for lust is testosterone, not moral weakness. Are men, therefore, not responsible to rein it in? Of course they are. Matthew 5:28 says, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” What the Lord didn’t say was “If you see a beautiful woman and feel an inward pull – you’ve sinned!” In other words, simply noticing an attractive woman and responding emotionally is not lust. It’s the second look, taken with the intention of mental pursuit, that is adulterous.
The underlined phrase really caught my attention the first time I read it. What does the intention of mental pursuit mean?
The author goes on with an example about hunger. Hunger is a physiological symptom. If you are driving around town at 1pm and have not eaten lunch yet, what happens when you drive by the fast food restaurant and smell the burgers and fries? If you’re like most men, the reaction is immediate and involuntary. Your stomach will growl, your mouth salivates, and a sense of weakness washes over you. Now, you may pull in to the restaurant or you may drive on by (your action taken based on the stimulus), but you have no control over what happens inside your body in that moment.
Now, he goes on to explain that sexual desire is not quite the same thing as hunger, but it serves an illustrative purpose. The physiological response is separate from the action taken.
To feel shame and guilt about an initial attraction makes about as much sense as condemning yourself for being hungry at one in the afternoon. It’s how you handle that initial attraction and where you go with it that decides the morality of your choice.
This tension between biology and stupid choices was written about perfectly in the book Ten Stupid Things Men Do To Mess Up Their Lives by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She writes:
- Whereas biology calls for immediate relief and gratification of sexual tensions, human beings develop greater self-respect and sexual regard for others when they feel they are masters of their urges, not the other way around.
- Whereas biology calls for immediate relief and gratification of sexual tensions, thoughtful men consider the consequences of inappropriate emotional attachments.
- Whereas biology provides the beauty and excitement of sensual and sexual pleasures, men ultimately realize that the real thrill comes from the love and acceptance from a woman in a committed relationship.
- Whereas biology provides the initial feelings of rapture and infatuation, men, by virtue of their obligations to their woman and their children, determine to trade serial rapture for the satisfaction of having someplace to feel safe, wanted, and valued for more than what their sex organs can supply.
So what do you think? Do you agree with Willingham’s interpretation of Matthew 5:28?
What does the phrase “the intention of mental pursuit” mean to you?
Why do you think many men can’t seem to overcome their “biological pull” as Dr. Laura describes it?