The Intention of Mental Pursuit

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?


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8 Comments on “The Intention of Mental Pursuit”

  1. Viv Ramer Says:

    very thought provoking, jeremy…have to think about this…longs thoughts…

  2. Tony Says:

    I agree with this Jeremy, but I do have one question. Someone who is trying to lose weight, eat healthier, or whatever needs to plan better and not not have those 1PM haven’t eaten yet moments. It leaves you open for too much temptation. The more tempted you are, the more likely you are to fall. The same goes for not taking an alcoholic to a bar for lunch…So, how do we rectify this for people with sexual addiction? You can’t plan what the girl in the office next to yours is going to wear, so what do you do? Do you need to be more aware of yourself in those initial moments?

  3. Kerry Cox Says:

    I really like the “masters of their urges” phrase. My wife and I have begun fasting one day a week. Besides the obvious benefit of providing a day for more specific, prolonged and intentional prayer, I find one of the main side benefits to be the fact that it serves as a strong weekly reminder that WE are in control of our urges, and NOT the other way around. Truly it’s a lesson that our society seems to be completely oblivious to, and one that it sorely needs to live out.

  4. Is it just me or does the crown prince of Brunei resemble Tiger Woods? I think once could pass this pic off as one of Tiger and another one of his mistresses (maybe the only brunette of the bunch) to the media.

    • jermtech Says:

      Can’t say I agree with you on that one, Omni 🙂

      • I was kind of being facetious. But Tiger does look more “Malay” to me than he does black. Brunei is in that Malay region. I know quite a few Thai people who look like Tiger sans the coarse hair. I for one never thought that Tiger looked very African-American.

    • jermtech Says:

      From Wikipedia:
      “Earl, a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran, was of mixed African American, Chinese and Native American ancestry. Kultida (née Punsawad), originally from Thailand, is of mixed Thai, Chinese, and Dutch ancestry. This makes Woods himself half Asian (one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Thai), one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch.[10] He refers to his ethnic make-up as “Cablinasian” (a syllabic abbreviation he coined from Caucasian, Black, (American) Indian, and Asian).[11]”

      • Thanks. I was already aware of his heritage though. The point that I was trying to make is that he is so often perceived by the general public to be African-American when he is more Asian than anything else.

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