Is it really possible for men to fight lust successfully? By asking this question, I am not implying that women don’t fight lust. Many do.
Why focus on male lust? Besides being a man, I am concerned about the well-intended but unhelpful advice often given to men about how to battle lust. Let’s start there.
Bouncing Your Eyes?
In our recent interview, Rachel Joy Welcher made the point that women are often presented as stumbling blocks to men rather than sisters in Christ.
How is this done? One way is to teach men to “bounce their eyes” when they see an attractive woman. While resisting lust is clearly biblical, Rachel expresses concern that women are presented as obstacles to purity rather than divine image bearers. What’s her solution?
Rachel explains, “Instead of teaching men to avoid women, a proactive strategy for battling sexual lust urges men to see women as neighbors…The problem of male lust is not solved by looking away from women but by looking at them correctly–as more than their physical bodies” (Talking Back to Purity Culture, p. 63).
Seeing Women as Image-Bearers
I love this advice because it focuses on how men choose to see women. How men view women shapes how they relate to them. According to Rachel, women are not sex objects and men are not monsters incapable of controlling their lust.
In her excellent book The Great Sex Rescue (which releases today), Sheila Wray Gregoire explains how the “bounce your eyes” advice leads to viewing women as threats:
“Not being able to look at a woman treats women like threats rather than people. And what do you do with threats? You neutralize them. When dealing with alcoholism, you dump the booze down the sink and stay away from places with booze. Well, many people treat lust like its alcoholism–just get rid of the women! Or at least tell them to cover up. But even if every single woman in church dresses like the Amish the rest of society won’t” (p. 92).
Practical Steps for Fighting Lust
So, what can men do about it? Gregoire offers four practical steps for defeating lust by seeing women as people rather than potential threats:
- Rather than bouncing your eyes when you see a woman, look her in the eyes, give a friendly nod, and turn away.
- When you are with a woman, look her in the eyes and engage her in conversation.
- Be in relationship with men and women, and join groups where women are in leadership roles and their opinions are valued.
- Identify women in your life that you can learn from and consult them for advice when making a decision (p. 93).
What I love about this advice is that its holistic. The key is to see women as people–image bearers of God.
Yes, men can fight lust. It’s not about looking away from women but looking at them correctly.
If you’re looking for a biblically-based and timely resource on sex, love, and marriage, check out my latest book for students: Chasing Love: Sex, Love, and Relationships in A Confused Culture.
*If you saw my interview with my father on the Ravi Zacharias scandal, you might think there is a contradiction with this blog and the "Billy Graham rule." I am not convinced they necessarily conflict when implemented wisely and carefully. I may discuss this in a future blog.