Could I just encourage you all to go read Sheila’s posts on men and lust this week on To Love, Honor, and Vacuum?
She takes an in-depth look at the idea that men are visually stimulated, that this visual stimulation leads to lust, and that all men continue to struggle with this. She also looks at how the modesty message in some churches relates to the messages about lust.
She makes important points:
- Noticing that someone is attractive is not the same as lusting after them.
- Lust is a battle that can be won.
- Teaching men to just “bounce their eyes” encourages them to see women only as sexual rather as whole people.
- Wives are completely reasonable in their expectation that their husbands not lust.
- Our emphasis on modesty in the way it is often presented puts the responsibility for a man’s sin of lust on a woman’s (bare) shoulders rather than on his own.
You can find the posts here: Men are Visual: But Does That Mean That All Men Lust?, Why Every Man’s Battle Backfires: We Should Expect Men Not to Lust, and 12 Ways to Help Christian Men Overcome Lust.
I haven’t been part of churches that have said much about lust, so much of what I see in the Christian blogosphere about men, lust, and modesty is kind of academic to me—it’s interesting to think about but it doesn’t affect my own life.
In fact, this was pretty much a non-issue for me—until I began to work to grow in my marriage.
My journey to work on sex included reading a lot about men and men’s sexuality. I read articles and books that helped me understand men’s visual nature. My husband had watched porn in the past but had stopped. I knew that he would often notice a woman dressed in something revealing, but I could also tell that he wasn’t lusting.
My husband seemed aware of other women’s bodies in the way that I am aware of the smell of chocolate chip cookies: a momentarily and partial awareness of something, followed by a return to the previous activity or thought.
As I read, I began to wonder if my husband was far more aware—and interested—than I had realized. I developed sympathy for him being constantly bombarded with all the sexual images out there in the world.
In my effort to be an understanding wife, when a sexy image would present itself, I would sometimes ask my husband what he was thinking and how I could help him.
Sometimes I asked if he wanted me to remove suggestive pictures from magazines or monitor what we were watching. He said it wasn’t necessary. I thought he just didn’t want me to take away something that he enjoyed, since everything I was reading said that he couldn’t help himself.
I would tell him what I was reading in some of the articles and books. “I’m not like that. I learned to control that when I was younger,” he would say. This made no sense to me. I would say, “But all these books and articles say that this is what every man goes through—and that if he says he doesn’t he must be lying.”
My husband would reiterate that it didn’t apply to him—and instead of believing my own husband, I believed what I read.
I thought Big Guy was lying to me.
Books and articles told me that every man was a certain way, so I just knew that my husband was like this, too. Unsurprisingly, this led to a few arguments between us.
My belief in what I read rather than in what Big Guy said slowed down the healing of our relationship. I already had a hard time trusting—and here my husband was, obviously lying to me. How could I trust him?
I finally decided that he wasn’t lying. Instead, I was convinced that he was just oblivious to what was going on with him. I fully believed that he was so used to battling the temptation of lust that he was no longer aware that he was doing so.
I’ve had to work hard to shake the idea that what I’ve been told is true for every man is not true for my husband.
And what you’ve been told is true for every man may not be true for your husband, either.What you've been told is true for every man may not be true for your husband. Click To Tweet
I know how easy it is to generalize. I do it a lot here, partly because the issues I write about are ones that do apply in a lot of marriages—but also because it makes it easier to write than if I had to give constant caveats about what I’m saying.
While generalizing does serve a purpose in writing, as readers, it is important that we be discerning. If you read something that you think might apply to your husband, ask him about it—and if he says that it doesn’t apply to him, choose to believe him over what any writer (yes, including me) says is true for him. (Here’s one of those caveats: I’m talking about husbands who are basically good men who want to be good husbands and aren’t generally liars.)
My husband has helped me understand that when we say that every man lusts because of visual stimuli, we are saying that he has no self-control. We are saying that he is a liar. We say that he is a beast rather than that he is a bearer of God’s image.
We deny Christ’s power to transform his heart.
Choose to believe your husband and expect the best from him. He is not doomed to a life of battling lust. Through Christ, he can win against lust.
In fact, if he’s like Big Guy and other husbands I know, maybe he already has.
My husband is not every man, and neither is yours.