Thursday, February 18, 2010


It seems to me that the Jesus warns us against interior lust as well as exterior actions of sin.

It also seems that God has given us a natural born sexual attraction to the opposite sex (at least in 97% of the cases).

Here is a question for discussion: What is lust? And how do we know the difference between lust and normal sexual feelings? Is there a difference? Is it always wrong to notice and appreciate the attractiveness of others? Or just when it includes lust? Should we feel guilty everytime we notice an attractive man or woman? Where do we draw the line?


Ed said...

Well, I think...

Lust is a reach for what does not belong to us. Lust is theft. It is reaching for something which belongs to "her," her husband, her parents, and to God. "She" is not mine. I have no more right to touch, or even think about her body, than I do to her bank account, her car, or her furniture.

Lust is not a synonym for sex drive.

A sex drive is normal. It is a gift from God. Without a sex drive, the species would die. Yes, because of its force, sexual desire can be problematic. That is why it is not good -- long term -- to live alone.

Like any gift, a sex drive has to be received with gratitude, care, joy, and purpose. We should always ask the Lord to help us to receive it. How do I cherish it without turning it into an idol?

Joseph Holbrook said...

Thanks Ed! Very well said. I agree with your distinctions. It can be just as problematic to feel guilt and shame and to obesess over the normal human sexual drive as it can be to give in to lust.

Here are a couple of definitions of lust from the web:

• "lecherousness: a strong sexual desire
• crave: have a craving, appetite, or great desire for
• self-indulgent sexual desire (personified as one of the deadly sins)
• Lust (or lechery) is a craving for sexual intercourse, sometimes to the point of assuming a self-indulgent or violent character. Lust, or a desire for the flesh of another, is considered a sin, or impure act, in the three major Abrahamic religions."

The Greek word (used in James 4:2) is epithumeo, desire, or lust after. It is also translated as covet, craved, longing. In 1 John 2:16 it is epithumia, passionate longing, or lust. It is the same word used in Jesus’ warning in Matt. 5:28 about lust being equivalent to adultery.
On the other hand, normal sexual attraction to members of the opposite gender, as pointed out by Ed, is an important development of adolescence and is a god-given instinct for the preservation of our species and for reproduction.
What is the difference between normal human sexual attraction and lust? Of course I should note here that lust is not always sexual, there are other kinds of lust, lust for power, for money, for praise, etc.

steve H said...

I echo Joseph's "Very well said," Ed. And the reality that lust applies to other things besides sex is vital. I am challenged by the passage 1 John 2:15: John says we are not to love the world and the things in the world. (World in this context refers to the world as a way of operating outside of right relationship with God.) He sums up world in this sense as "the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life." Sexual lust is obviously only one these lusts/desires.

There is a normal sex drive and there is normal attraction to the opposite sex. However, I am not "normal" -- not in the way I was created; rather I am fallen, a member of a fallen species. Therefore, my sex drive and my attraction to the opposite sex strongly tend toward becoming driving forces--forces that lead me to live out of my self-love and self-interest rather than live centered on love for God and godly love for my neighbor.

I have to live on constant guard, as in a war, or else lusts for sex or lusts for other things will direct my thoughts, choices, and life. If God is to be the driving force in my life then I have to fight to continually allow God's Spirit working through my spirit to direct my life. I fall short often but that is the goal I'm after.

The power of lust reminds me of a story Charles Colson told about a young woman who went to a psychiatrist. She went on and on talking about the negative impact that her behavior was having on her life. She was into a never-ending cycle of drinking, drugs, sex -- the party life. The pyschiatrist said, "Why don't you just stop doing these things." She responded, "You mean I don't have to do everything I want to do."

Apart from the active working of God's grace I would be living the same way as this girl. But God's grace teaches me to say "No." See Titus 2:11-14

Brian Emmet said...

Paraphrasing Frederick Buechner: Lust is the craving for potato chips of a man who is dying of thirst" (from "Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC," p 54).

John M. said...

Apparently lust is not as popular as sex!

I define lust as "desire out of control". Ex. Money is not evil. It is a tool. It is an appropriate return for the work we do and it helps provide for our needs. But "the desrie to get rich" is a "snare" that leads to all kinds of bad outcomes, and "the love of money" is the "root of all kinds of evil".

Sex is a gift that meets legitimate needs. Personally, I would submit that sex is God's gift and meets God-given needs.

Our sexuality is at the core of who we are. We are born either male or female. (I concede that their are medical exceptions, either physical or emotional, but those are anomalies.)

The scriptures say that when God created humans,that he created them male and female. Humankind, male and female, is made in God's "image".

Sex is God's idea and our sexuality reflects him. Those who speak of sex in spiritual, even transcendent terms are touching what is ture about sex, although it can be argued, that there are other aspects to sex as well, procreation not being an insignificant element of those "other" aspects.

When we allow our sexual desires to get out of control, we have crossed a dangerous line. Desire out of control easily becomes addiction.

As Ed says, we begin coveting what is not ours. But our lust causes us to feel entitled to it. We rationalize that we are "over sexed", that our sex drive cannot be satisfied by one partner, or that we "need" more frequency than our partner provides.

We begin to look for alternate sources to fulfill our lust. Did I mention that lust is never satisfied? Pornographers, dating services, strip clubs, video chat rooms, and the women (and men) who make money from displaying themselves or having sex for pay, also understand this reality. Consequently, the sex industry makes billions from others' lust.

Our lust causes the objectification of other humans and their body parts. That objectification doesn't stop with the images on the computer, the stripper in the club or the prostitute in the hotel. Spouses, co-workers, family members, and anonymous, innocent people become merely objects in the constant pursuit of sexual fulfillment.

Orgasm is extremely powerful and pleasurable. Life can become focused and consumed on the pursuit of the next one.

The biochemistry involved in sexual activity is real and powerful, releasing dopamine and other chemicals and hormones that give a "rush", a chemical high, not unlike cocaine or other narcotic drugs.

In sex addiction (and other addictions that do not require ingesting a substance), the same chemicals create the same kind of high, but are actually created and released inside the body and brain. The chemical high is just as real, it is simply self-induced rather than requiring the introduction of an external substance (other than she sex itself). There's research for all this, if you care to pursue it.

A pain killer can be very helpful when appropriately used for its medical purpose. When abused, it quickly becomes addictive and the body desires greater and greater quantities, leading to destructive, and many times, illegal behavior.

Sexual addiction is just as real as substance abuse and needs to be interrupted by the same means necessary to recover from any other addiction, because it eventully creates the same consequences -- broken marriages, broken relationships, consuming self-absorbtion, lost work, lost money etc.

All this to say: sex is wonderful; lust is addictive and destructive.

Joseph Holbrook said...

Looks like we lost the younger crowd out of this conversation again … darn it! Back to the drawing board.

One of the best books on the subject of healthy sexuality that I have ever read was written by Dr. Donald M. Joy, a psychology professor at Asbury Theological Seminary. The book is called Bonding: Relationships in the Image of God. It brings some balance and normalcy to a subject that is a bit obsessive and even taboo for many Christians and consequently leaves Christian youth struggling in the dark to come to terms with their own sexual desires.

I think my point about the distinction between lust and normal attraction is that oftentimes Christians obsess in a morbid way about sexuality … and the negative focus in the long run actually INCREASES the inclination toward unhealthy or destructive sexuality. One might think of Jimmy Swaggert or Ted Haggert here.

I have always liked the verse that Steve cited in Titus. Notice that it is the grace of God that teaches us to say “no” …

I have always been taught in Weight Watchers that the best way to avoid binging on junk food is not to go without eating, but to eat really good healthy fruits and veggies. Absolute denial of sexual feelings might lead to destructive binging. The “sexual” fruits and veggies for married people and singles alike is appropriate intimacy in relationships: family, friendships, co-workers and the divine relationship with God. I can tell a couple of anecdotes about that.

By-the-way, Dr. Joy has a web site

John M. said...

Sorry Steve and Brian. You posted while I was composing mine. Ed and Joseph, I didn't intend to ignore your comments. My acknowledgment and and agreement was deleted. Good comments all.

Also, I meant, "the sex itself", not "she sex itself".

John said...

As far as sexual lust goes, I find that most frequently it arises from feelings of loneliness. So Joe said keeping a healthy balance of intimacy in relationships is a good way to stay off junk food, but being single at the age of 24 and feeling like girls just don't give a damn about you, you're going to feel pretty fracking lonely. Does acting out on our lust cure the loneliness? Absolutely not, but it's a pleasant distraction and at the very least gets your mind off things for a little while. I'm not advocating lust, just asking what a guy's gotta do these days to catch a break. All the good stuff we want to do isn't attainable and all the bad stuff we want to do is a "No-no," so to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, hell might not have any great evils like Hitler or Mussalini to feed on, but they've got a steady flow of the moderate, mediocre, and "nice guys."

Patrick said...

you guys have some good things to say here. Sorry I'm late into the conversation. Here's my 2 cents:

Lust vs Sexual drive
Being single, this is all theoretical. At this point in time, lust and sexual drive are hard to distinguish between. I try to keep the sex drive dormant, following the Song of Solomon "don't awaken love till it's time" advice. Lust is a constant battle, mostly being caught off guard. But I think the more my heart is pruned, the less it will happen...? I spent years wrestling with porn, masturbation, etc. but God delivered me out of those challenges and I am careful to not let myself be in a place where it could reenter.

After I have sex with my wife, I'll get back to you guys.

Joseph Holbrook said...

and how proximate is this happy occasion? (having sex with you wife?)

i congratulate you.....

Patrick said...

Originally, the date was April 11, but it is presently postponed. If I may ask, What exactly are you congratulating me about?

Joseph Holbrook said...

i am congratulating you
for your upcoming wedding
and soon to end single chastity

Joseph Holbrook said...

ok, here we go ... darn. The Chinese hackers (or maybe Thai) found us.

It is hard enough to get people to post on here, not to mention if we put on security passwords. I suppose I should have known better than to use "lust" as a subject line.

John said...

I think you can delete the post as a moderator.

Brian Emmet said...

Backing up a bit to John's last comment:

I think you're right that lust, when acted upon, provides temporary relief from loneliness, but the "rebound effect" can be worse. Lust, acted on, can easily become addictive, and all addictive "substances" provide temporary relief in exchange for deeper dependency/control/misery.

Perhaps the idea/picture of "wilderness" could be a resource. Premarital sexual faithfulness feels a lot like a wilderness, but the wilderness is a place full of purpose, not just an unpleasantnesss to be endured. Wilderness is not about "punishment"--it's true that Israel's disobedience led to a lengthening of their time in the wilderness, but didn't change the reality that they had to journey through the wilderness to arrive in the land. What kinds of things can God work into us during our sojournings in the wilderness of sexual longing?

Patrick said...

I'd think denying sexual drive before marriage serves to kill self and help increase the intensity of sex post marriage. I've found that im easier to irritate in this wilderness tho

Joseph Holbrook said...

i totally agree Patrick. There is a lot to be said about the self-denial of sexual self-indulgence.

I'm tempted to ask the older married guys how many of us have fallen to the temptation to indulge ourselves in internet porn over the last year. However, this is probably not the forum for that level of honesty.

The statistics would seem to indicate that many more older married men (and church leaders)struggle in that area than one would want to think. I try not to but find myself a bit cynical and skeptical when I hear married men telling unmarried men to deny themselves. It helps to hear a single guy like Patrick also saying it.

I hasten to add that I am not directing this comment to any in this forum in particular. My comment will probably finish off what little conversation we had going.

One final thought: I'm not sure that the younger, single crowd is that much more sexually active or dysfunctional than the older, married (and biblically conservative) crowd. But they ARE much more open and frank about their sexuality... and even more willing to be transparent about their own human weakness I think. I find it refreshing.

By-the-way, I have not had problems with internet porn since the 1990s and some inner healing with Richard McAfee. What I have to watch out for is flipping through channels in hotels. I had one moment of weakness last year in a hotel in Sao Paulo Brazil, but I shared it with Debbie and we prayed together. I cannot have HBO on my cable service at home.

John said...

More than anything I think that lust is a perversion of a natural need and desire to be in a deep, loving, relationship with the opposite sex. Humans simply don't feel whole until they're in a committed relationship. Of course one could argue that perhaps certain people are able to feel complete without marriage, but I'd bet that even those people have the sensation of missing a part of themselves.

Patrick said...

I've got a quote that would go good here after John's comment, but it's at home and I'm at work...I'll be back

Laurel Long said...

Hey guys,
What an interesting and relevant topic. I appreciate the honesty and candid comments by each one.
I must say that this topic seems to be relegated to the male population of the church, but believe me, and perhaps you already know that the female part of the church has just as many problems overcoming our sinful natures as you all. Please understand and hear my voice, this is not a rebuke; I think women have been far too judgemental of men in the church who have struggled with this "natural tendency" and should understand and admit that this inordinate passion is "common to Man/Woman." Billy and I have lived separately for 7 years; just think of the challenges that has presented to our relationship. We have both tried to be very honest about our vulnerabilities, but there are some situations I would rather he talk to a friend about and vice versa. I know he loves me as much as any man can love his wife but that doesn't mean he is invulnerable to temptation.
I have talked with the Lord at lengths about this topic, mostly because I have sinned greatly in my thoughts. He has taught me very patiently that my lusts are robbing me of true and godly friendships with really awesome men. He showed me that every time I lusted after someone that I was virtually hurting and harming them as much as I was hurting and harming myself. I was using them to make myself feel good in an illegal way. So, the sin of lust has many more sins attached to it. It keeps growing expotentially.
Thanks for being so honest, I would not want to loose any of you as a true friend.

Brian Emmet said...

Laurel, so good to hear from you again--thanks for chiming in, with your usual candor and insight!

I think one thing that has really helped me is to remember, to remind myself over and over again, that any woman who I'm tempted to "go after," whether "only" in my mind, or via photos, or the quick look that lingers way too long, is someone's daughter, sister, wife, mother. Sexual lust is all about the depersonalization and objectification of another person--I turn a human being into an object, a thing. (I'd add that I also think this is why sexual immorality, in all of its various expressions, is so wrong and harmful, because of all the ways it turns us into "users" of one another.) Nothing works perfectly, but this has been of great help to me... but it's been a long training process. The good news is that the training process can actually work, and produce some genuine liberty!

Travis said...

Many times, I look back and realize my train of thought for the past minute or so has been lustful. I'm working on that. Somebody said one time (super vague, I know) that I should just try to get God's perspective on women and then I wouldn't lust, masturbate, look at porn anymore, etc. Well, I found that what worked best was when Dennis Braswell told me a couple of years ago, "If you ever look at porn, ever, you have to give me fifty bucks." So, later, when I did, he made me pay for breakfast and give him $50. It hurt because that was all the spending money I had that week. So, it helped me not look at pornography anymore.

There's two things that I have to do. First of all, make it my first priority to connect with the Father, because only then can I stay away from lust, porn, etc. The second thing is practically keeping myself away from dangerous situations (i.e. computer filtering software, not staring at a woman for the hell of it, etc.)

This has been a big battle for me, probably made worse by the rejection I suffered growing up. So, I'm just learning to lean on the Father and let Him help me. I'm glad to say that I made the choice a few years ago to walk away from all of that stuff. It's still hard, but God helps me even when I stray.

Nicole said...

Hey there, sorry to come in late in the conversation, I'm a new name to the forums here.

I'm trying to find a way to verbalize all the thoughts that come to mind. First off i'd like to say that my personal definition of Lust, when referring to sex, is a strong sexual desire with out and emotional or intellectual tie towards whom you are lusting over. In any case I believe that you can lust over your significant other.

When it comes down to it, I think Love and Lust are two separate things that cross at times. In some cases lust for an individual turning into love.

I come from a different school of thought than many posters here altogether. I don't have vows towards God, which in most cases people would think that I have a free pass and no morality. Which is totally incorrect.

Yes, I have lusted many times over any given person and I think it's healthy to indulge in such feelings, it helps you grow as a person and helps to know yourself in a more intimate level. I can't imagine trying to talk myself out of feeling a ceratin way or trying to hide thoughts from myself. Is that really possible? I hear from many Christians who confide with God to help them through suchs thoughts, but why?

After all the only true place of solice is our own minds, and once we try to hand that over, we've lost our own identity.

Now when referring to Lust leading to other things such as adultery and addiction, that is a separate topic on its own and perhaps that ties in to self control issues. But in the end Lust is a natural process and yes, emotion, that all humans will experience, and women are no strangers to this. I think repressing such thoughts is only a lie to yourself.

I have no problem for example if my husband indulges in porn, I do it at times myself. and we are a better couple for it in some ways.

Please don't misunderstand this is as me saying if you lust over someone, by all means, go for it. Respect and acceptable social behaviors come into play.

Sorry for the long rant, somehow I still think i'm unclear in my explanation.

Patrick said...

Hi Laurel! I don't know you but It's cool to have a woman's perspective on this. I was wondering if anyone was going to share from that side.

"the good news is that the training process can actually work, and produce some genuine liberty!" Very encouraging, Brian, thanks!

Hi Nicole! Welcome aboard! Thanks for sharing so openly. Don't feel bad - your rant was pretty clear, and wasn't half as long as some of the earlier comments (no names). I hope you stick around for the next topic, too! :)

Here's the quote I was referring to earlier:
4 purposes of sex
1 we cannot complete the image of God alone (Let "us" make man in "our" image - triune relationship) 2 become 1
2 helpmate, companion of life's journey, friend, confidant, partner, bond. It is not good for man to be alone.
3 procreation - Adam knew Eve, then came children
4 pleasure Song of Solomon

This is from a conversation I had with my future father in law. I also think sex is a practical way we choose to humble ourselves and become fully known.

Joseph Holbrook said...

Thanks Patrick, Nicole and Travis. I was beginning to think that we were not going to get any youthful perspective in here other than big john (and LAUREL! We needed a feminine point of view!)

And thank you Nicole for the courage to give a frank and “politically incorrect” point of view. You are always thoughtful and articulate (Nicole participates in our Tuesday god-parties and always enriches the conversation).

Nicole’s frank point of view of the naturalness of lust and desire represents a large swath of secular (and even not so secular) young adults. When we as ‘Christians’ and especially as Christian leaders, start out the conversation with unspoken assumptions that we must not engage in certain behaviors because of scriptural reasons (the bible says…) we end up talking right past those who do not share our assumptions. Thoughtful conversations with sincere truth seekers like Nicole and others who share her views have helped me deepen my own convictions and have helped me learn how to communicate them better while respecting opposing points of view.

Brian Emmet said...

Nicole, thanks very much for jumping in! Are you saying that lust, being natural, is not really a problem, or did I misunderstand you? I know that you're not advocating adultery or unacceptable social behaviors, but as long as lust just stays inside my head, then it's really not that big a deal?

Patrick said...

In line with that, I would go so far as to say that I've known many Christians who struggle with lust but hide it. This is severely detrimental and arguably hypocritical. I prefer associating with open/honest people I disagree with over people who confess similar values yet walk shady roads. This has only 1 connection to Lust, it must be revealed to be conquered

Patrick said...

Didn't mean to post past you B.

Joseph Holbrook said...

Good question Brian. Patrick, I agree. Martin Luther once was quoated as saying: "sin boldly, that you might experience God's grace more boldly still." I think what he meant was that it was better to be an honest sinner, than a secret sinner who pretends to be righteous....

Amanda said...

Finally back. School occasionally gets in the way of life, so I have some catching up to do here.

I don't know that I had ever thought this much about lust before, so a lot of my thoughts are questions.

I thought it was interesting to think of lust as "theft," as posted by Ed. However, I'm not sure that I agree with the idea. This goes into later comments made that lust is "desire out of control." But if lust is kept in check, and simply a thought never physically acting on, is it still "theft?" And, furthermore, is it "sin?" (topic to be taken up again in this post)

Is "lust" then just a matter of limits/boundaries to take it from normal sexual desire and simple racing hormones, into a darker region of changing behaviour, and possible violent action? Is that the line which has to be crossed to make lust "theft" and "sin"?

I wonder, is lust is automatically covetous? Or can lust be benign wishing and fantasy without any attempt at (or even desire for) realization? Is it true that we must ask forgiveness for even a "lustful" thought?

A brief aside: John, loved your paraphrase of C.S. Lewis, and find a good deal of truth in such statements. I prescribe to the "stray dogs and alley cats" view myself. A country song (imagine that :-P) that claims that, though we sometimes commit sinful or wrong acts, they may have been made for good reason and to help others. Ex: a little boy slips out of church to play at the pool hall. When his mother rebukes him, he says he has made enough to cover their bills. "I don't expect to sit at God's right hand, but maybe I could empty Heaven's garbage can...Little wings are better than big tails," he claims. Not sure that this pertains to the topic here, but an interesting thought.

I don't, however, agree with you John that "lust breaks the loneliness." Here again, I would draw the distinction between normal desire and lust, because I would second Brian's comment that the "rebound effect" of lust is much worse than the brief moment of release from loneliness. This reminds a good deal of the discussions we had on the sex blog about blindly giving into to sex just for the sake of sex. The emotional void is still there and that it was brings us down more, though the physical deprivation can be ridiculously trying.

This is where good friendships can play a huge role in our lives. Those friendships can, however briefly and admittedly sometimes fleetingly as well, fill the void of intimacy with another person that may lead us into lust. (Singledom can certainly feel like punishment sometimes, but that is a whole other issue we may take up elsewhere.)

I personally have never indulged in pornography. Perhaps its simply "southern shame" that actually seeing the images makes me feel sinful. So that the boys may not feel as ashamed though, and as you all know my blunt honesty already, I do masturbate. I do not see this as sin or something abnormal. In fact, I think for many of us perpetually single people out there, masturbation can help lessen the intensification of lustful thoughts and keep us from acting on them.

Let's face it, attraction cannot be stopped and hormones are notoriously hard to control. It is normal to feel giddy and electric around someone you like and to think about possible sexual interaction. The avenues through which you approach that interaction and the actions you eventually decide to take are what defines "lust" or simple "desire" in my book. Go home and 'relieve the tension' if you need to. I'd certainly like to other thoughts on this.

(See, Nicole, you needn't worry about long posts now :) I think I may win on this one)

Patrick said...

Props and greetings Amanda! I enjoyed reading your post. I like all that you said, but I only have a comment for one part. The thing I dislike about masturbation is it causes us to develop a habit of self-sufficiency. For instance, a couple in a disagreement. Instead of fighting through the shit to get to a place where 2 people make sweet love, it makes it ok to be separate and experience a less satisfying pleasure. I'm not talking about being codependent, but seeking relationship and adventure. I don't have to romance myself into it; but gardens must be tended to enjoy the fruit. I like the challenge

All in all, I think the Thai kid said it best:

John said...

Bah, easy for you to say Amanda, you've got an on button but men don't have the luxury. I believe that for men, the more accustomed one gets to masturbating to an external stimuli such as pornography, the less able one is to masturbate without said stimuli. Anywho, Brian mentioned the look that lingers to long, and I thought I'd talk about my experiences with physical attraction. The reason I feel it's worth mentioning is that once upon a time I had myself trained pretty well to the point that I simply stopped noticing women. (I operated under the two second rule.) The problem here was that I realized after some time that not only was I not noticing women at all, but also I was still having just as many problems with pronography and lust as I had before I had stopped looking at women all together.

I ended up eventually creating a new habit of admiring the women that I see because I feel like that's simply much more healthy. Of course sometimes that can lead to lust, but more then that I would say it leads me personally to a stronger appreciation of woman and the way they were created. When I look at a girl, the beauty of her face holds just as much value as the beauty of the rest of her body. I feel that the decision that I made regarding admiring women has actually helped me to be more comfortable in my own skin as well as given me a small joy throughout my day that I didn't have before and that doesn't neccesarily lead directly to lust.

I'm not sure why I mentioned all that but I did so hah!

Also, Nicole, I think we've had similar conversations in the past. For me at least the whole reason to avoid lust is simply personal preference. When I'm in a relationship I feel a desire to be completely faithful to the person that I'm in it with. I feel personally that a woman in a porno is just as real as any other woman, and that a need to find a sexual and mental escape in porn is most likely caused by a break down in communication in a relationship. In other words I feel like if I'm looking at porn then something in the relationship has gone wrong or that I personally am not doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, Amanda, for re-engaging with us; we'll gladly give you a mulligan on post length!

Seems like we're still unclear about what lust really is. Attraction to, or desire for? That doesn't seem right: is merely noticing that someone is "hot" a bad thing? Probably not...

Maybe here's another tack to take. Amanda, Nicole, Laurel(Susannah, if you're still around, and any other women wanting to weigh in) how do you feel when you men leer at you/check out your bodies and comment thereupon? What makes their attention attractive, what makes it repulsive? I'm not asking you to be more vulnerable than you care to be; I guess my question is an attempt to understand how it feels to be the lustee (the one lusted after) instead of the luster (the one doing the lusting).

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, John; we cross-posted, but having just commented, let me head to the back of the line for now...

Amanda said...

Patrick, I agree that masturbation and pornography should not be used as substitutes for communication for a partner. I was speaking from SingleTown. Communication is key in any relationship and should be first and foremost.

John, I resent your misogynistic statement. Women have hormones and desires not unlike men, and respond to many of the same types of stimuli. We struggle with the same things. Female loneliness and needs are no different than those of the male species. So take that :) (Maybe I am slightly feminist, who knew?)

I think your point is well taken though about how to direct desire/lust and making clear distinctions between the two. Which is where I would also second Nicole's statement about personal responsibility.

Does the Bible address the topic of lust and desire separately? Are they distinguished from one another or simply lumped in under the generic umbrella of "sexual immorality?"

Amanda said...

We cross-posted too, Brian. Thanks for the mulligan.

I appreciate you bringing up the point about men leering. There is a very clear difference between lecherous lookers and simple "size-her-uppers." In my particular case, I realize that men will look, and I have grown accustomed to that. After all, sometimes you want to be looked at. A lot of thought goes into dressing and accessorizing.

But there is a very distinct difference between looking and leering (or, I guess we could say "lusting" here). Its strange, but it is just something you feel. You just suddenly feel dirty and exposed. I have had this discussion with many girl and guy friends and it is often very obvious to other men too.

I do my part to make sure that the guy can't make the decision to act on what may very well be lust. Grab a sweater, make a friend into an impromptu boyfriend, or leave if I can. It can certainly make for an awkward situation.

John said...

Misogynistic, whatever do you mean? So anyways all I'm saying is that women belong at home raising the kids and making me dinner. =OP

Travis said...

Okay, so we've established that men and women deal with this whole issue relatively equally. So, what's the right thing to do? I know it's been mentioned that it's okay to look at pornography or to masturbate. But, I just can't agree with that. It's like taking a cheap imitation of a Picasso instead of saving up to buy the real thing. The imitation has no real value, while the real thing is invaluable.

And Amanda, you're right about the lecherous, lustful looking. When men look at women like that, it degrades men's motives from humane and decent to animalistic and perverse. It makes my stomach lurch to think of men that view women as simply something to obtain.

Brian, although you keeping asking us what lust is, I bet you have a pretty good definition over there. So, roll out the red carpet and tell us what you think.

Oh, and Patrick's right. We need to get that Thai kid on here again. He had killer comments.

Joseph Holbrook said...

I really appreciate the honesty and vulnerability that has been generated in this conversation. I do have to agree with Travis. Let me plunge in and give an opinion.

Intense experiences tend to “anchor” memories in our mind and emotions, including both intensely pleasurable as well as intently traumatic experiences. This is particularly true of orgasm (by-the-way, it is also true of consuming sugar, more in some people than others).

One tends to become “bonded” to whatever one is thinking about or looking at during the intensely pleasurable experience of orgasm.

Debbie is the most important person in my life and has been for a long time. I would never want to hurt her, or damage our relationship in any way. There is no one or nothing that I want to allow myself to “bond” to besides her. Therefore, I MUST be very careful about what allow to give me sexual pleasure.

This principle can be extended to singles as well. If you allow yourself to become “bonded” to porn, it can be very addictive, and can lead in a downward spiral of needing every greater “lust” fixes to satisfy sexual urges. Jeffry Dahmer is an example of a guy who went from porn to violence.

Why not save that “bonding” for a permanent relationship with one that you love and want to share you life with? I read somewhere that we don’t have to define ourselves by our urges.

I offer this respectfully to those who may hold a different view. I didn’t start with scripture, but I end with one that seems particularly appropriate at this point:

Romans 6:16

16Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God)?

Here is the same passage in The Message:

What Is True Freedom?

15-18So, since we're out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we're free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you've let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you've started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!

God is not a killjoy, and he is not against having fun or pleasure. Just like a parent who disciplines her child for wandering out into the street, to protect the child, God does not call something sin unless there is a good reason for our own protection and health. I'm talking here specifically about lust, not necessarily about masturbation, although it is a bit difficult to separate them.

Brian Emmet said...

Anybody track down Nicole? Laurel?

Great discussion! Remember to track back a bit--sometimes so many comments are in the pipeline at once that someone's excellent contribution doesn't get acknowledged or responded to. All the action isn't necessarily at the bottom of the string.

Some thoughts on lust (with a coda about desire): lust is, first of all, me-centered, all about me getting what me wants just when me wants it and on me's terms. So lust is selfish, intensely so. Second, lust depersonalizes: I'm not really into having a relationship with the object (right word there) of my lust, despite what my fantasies are pretending. Lust is a carnivorous predator--it eats and moves on. Interestingly, lust also depersonalizes me, the luster. It does not deepen my capacities for faithful love, it atrophies them; lust actually stunts my growth, even though it sells me on the idea of "liberation." Finally, lust is only about the now; genuine love is about the now and the always. Once lust has sated itself, it slinks off, in search of another... opportunity.

Lust is the corruption of a very good thing--desire. We desire what we desire because God planted those desires within us; the problem isn't with desire, which is a good gift, it's with the way we twist and distort those desires in bad directions. Human sexuality, if I may reference the Bible's take on it, was God's idea. Our sexuality is one aspect of God's good creation; when God looked out over all that God had made, God pronounced it all (sex included) as "very good." On God's good and generous terms, all of God's good gifts are wonderful; twisted away from God, deformed by our terms, that goodness is compromised and diminished.

Long post--sorry. It means that I buy a round the next time I'm in Miami, or y'all come up here! I'm looking forward to that!

Joseph Holbrook said...

not that long ... and extremely well articulated! Save that piece for your first book or for a sermon.

i'll see nicole tonight ... don't know about Laurel

Dansome said...

Does anybody think that lust has ever led to anything good? I don't believe that lust and love can simultaneously co-exist. How can you truly love somebody when you're selfishly objectifying them for your own gratification? Man I just convicted myself...

Nicole said...

Hi guys, sorry been at work! :)

In response to Brian's question....No, I don't see lust as a problem, to me it's natural, I see it as an unfounded sexual attraction/desire towards another with out an emotional tie.

There are so many paths I can take this on, but I want to comment on two things John mentioned. Firstly, regarding giving into lust to simmer down the lonliness. In my personal opinion that is why there is so much pre-marital and non-commital sex out there. Millions of people attempting to get a "high" of love, which isn't really love, it's cheap lust, sure it feels good for a while, but the next day you are back to square one...being alone. Unfortunetly, I gave into cheap lust quite a bit at one point in my life. I do however think that to feel truly fullfilled one must find love.

Secondly, regarding masturabation and pornography in a relationship as an underlying problem, ehhh.
I can say for experience that I don't see that way, and I myself enjoy it. Now, is a person who has a few drinks during the week an alchoholic? No, when taken to the extreme, yes, but is the alchohol that is the problem, not really, probably something that goes deeper. So when engaging in masturbation, porn, or even lusting over someone, I don't think it's an problem, until taken to an extreme, in which case you ask yourself, why am I doing this so much?

And to answer the question of how it feels to be the lustee...well not recently feeling it much having put on so much weight and now trying to loose it...I can remember a time being when guys did look at me in a lustful way, I liked the attention. Of course if it was from an unwanted source, that's different, but that is because I didn't care for "his attention" lets say, being a guy more to my taste, I'd gladly accept it, and then that is more an issue of hypocrisy.

So, in closing I think Lust is another spice of life, just tad keeps it exciting, too much spoils the meal.

Laurel Long said...

So much has been said and I really do appreciate the perspectives voiced from each one. Being an old lady you must grant me the opportunity to say one more thing on this delicate but very real subject.
Our God is a God of goodness. Just for a moment let's remember what a few other religions require of their worshipers. Bhuddism requires that no fleshly appetites be satisfied, no touch, no feel, no love- Hinduism requires that all of their 1,000 gods be satisfied primarily with the most sensual, lustful, sexually perverse expressions. The Greek's gods, though we think about them as only mythological, regularly had sex with their human counterparts. These are just a few examples of how false religions exploit "the lust of human kind" to sustain its own existence.
Our God, though it makes me shutter to even make a comparison, would never encourage such behavior, in fact He prohibits it inequivocably.
Dear ones, a definition that would be acceptable to me for the word lust would be: the recognition of human desire and allowing that desire to become a god in our heart who/which would require the appropriation of every carnal resource at our disposal to be satisfied. What a completely exhausting endeavor. Lust is never "good," whether it is acted upon or not, because it always leads to either the exploitation and illegal use of another person, no matter what the age, sex, or race, it never leads to the goodness that the Lord "wants us to lay hold of."

Joseph Holbrook said...

I agree Laurel ...

My friend and Laurel's husband, Billy Long has written another great post with funny stories and vivid illustrations.


Also, Ray Ciervo, another friend has posted a critical review on the theology of AVATAR and what the movie reveals about our image-driven culture.

AVATAR review

Anyone have any suggestions for our next topic? Perhaps we should move on to something other than sex for a while.

Brian Emmet said...

While you're musing on possible next topics, I have some follow-up for Nicole (and anyone else who cares to respond):

Nicole, thanks for your recent comments. I wonder: do you think the porn industry is inherently exploitative? While there may be the fairly rare individual who just loves that sort of work, I'm not persuaded that the vast majority of "porn stars" do. I wonder what working conditions, pay and benefits are like for the typical porn actor... and who is getting rich off them. Could sexuality have a justice dimension and not just a purely privatized "satisfaction of my needs?"

Amanda said...

I hate to leave a topic with open questions, but sometimes that seems to be the nature of Christian study :)

For further topics, (and maybe as a nice cross-post with the god-party blog), perhaps we could discuss strength and/or acceptance. I am personally struggling with these issues at the moment. I am feeling quite worn down lately and a bit despairing about many aspects of my current and future life--uncertainty of what I will find upon leaving Miami this summer, being very pessimistic about a relationship and feeling wanted/loved, etc.

How do we reconcile feeling as though we are being punished for following our hearts (e.g. loneliness and constant failed/delayed relationships for following a career path)? How can we overcome our own pessimism and remain hopeful?

Brian Emmet said...

Like it, Amanda. Could you try to frame it in a specific question?

Other thoughts? Anyone interested in plumbing the depths of AVATAR? Another movie?

Joseph Holbrook said...

really good thoughts Amanda, and you know I always appreciate personal vulnerability. I'll look forward to your specific question.

Brian: we could discuss Avatar, but you have to go see it first. It is a cultural must if you want to communicate with 20-somethings.

CindyC said...

Hey there, I have not actually fallen off the face of the earth, but have an 8-month-old girl consuming most of my time and attention. Anyways, I've just spent a couple of hours last night reading the last couple of discussions, and I think my head is about to explode. My brain is not used to getting such exercise these days!

When you start a new topic, I will try to hit the ground running and join in before there are 45 comments to read before posting.

I know you're all about ready to move on from this topic of lust, but I just ran across this, and thought it may be interesting to watch, as it runs along the lines of "is porn OK?" that have been discussed: on The Joy Behar Show airing tonight (2/24): "Is the meteoric rise of sex addiction directly caused by internet pornography? A debate with anti-porn advocate Craig Gross and adult film legend Ron Jeremy."

If anything, it could be quite a debate! (I don't get the channel the show is on, so I won't be able to watch it.)

susannah said...

Sorry to have been absent from the last topic, but just want to say I like Amanda's idea. I'm definitely struggling with same feelings. I think I've learned the difference between being 'happy' about my circumstances and being 'content' with them, but, like Amanda, that doesn't necessarily mean I'm hopeful for the FUTURE. Maybe a question would be: what is the difference between hope and realism? or... Is hope based in reality? Just ideas...

Patrick said...

That sounds like a good one. I think hope is based in the reality of Jesus. Or whatever you might be hoping for. I'll stop until we get a new post up.

Brian Emmet said...

I promise not to comment on movies I haven't seen!

John said...

I don't think anyone responded to Nicole's comment about Moderation when it comes to masturbation/pornography. In some ways that seems a lot more realistic than completely abstaining from anything sexual. Hell, some of you guys might have the will power but I no I ain't got it =OP

Brian Emmet said...

For me, my earlier comments on porn make my own position clear, but let's hear from others. As for masturbation, if "we" don't feel that it's all that big a deal, where's the angst about it coming from?

steve H said...

it is not clear to me in Scripture whether masturbation is forbidden or not. And I know sincere and serious followers of Jesus who believe it to be absolutely wrong. Others believe it to be at least an allowable physical release when one if one not fantasizing (lusting) about someone when doing it.

What I can say is that masturbation does bring a certain release or relief at the moment, but it has not left any sense of fulfillment or satisfaction that lasts. Rather, I find that it has left a sense of dissatisfaction and lessened me in my own eyes when I have looked back on it.

Again, although I don't want to beat a dead horse, the measuring stick according to Scripture is to love God with all one's heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love one's neighbor as himself. Then Jesus upped the ante with his new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.

Jesus' love was completely other-centered. First he loved the Father and lived fully to please him. And with the Father, so loved the world that he offered himself up to death to pay the penalty for our offenses against God. If my aim is to love the way he loved, then I must aim at living an other-centered life. Masturbation is not other-centered.

It is better to aim at the right target and miss and try again, than to not aim, or to aim at the wrong target, or to just give up.

John M. said...
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John said...

Nicole I apologize that I can't completely agree with you but the truth is that I don't think watching porn is healthy, as far as masturbation, I don't think it's necessarily wrong, but the difficulty with it is that it's almost impossible, at least for me, to masturbate without any type of pornography or fantasy.

The truth is that in a perfect world none of us would have to struggle with this, but in the world we have, surrounded by the mentality that "sex sells" is there really any healthy way to put aside those urges? I mention healthy because I feel that personally I have at times put so much focus on attempting to tame my lust that instead of taking care of it I actually promoted it with my attention. Anywho, just some more food for thought.

John M. said...
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John M. said...
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Joseph Holbrook said...

Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability John M. I resonated with something I read recently: "we do not need to define ourselves by our urges."

I commend you on your freedom!

I have some thoughts about focusing too much on sexuality from a negative view point and trying to "repress" our urges being just as counter productive as being ruled by them, but it is not very clear, so I will let it simmer ... something about cruccifixtion and being free to forget about it ...

John M. said...

Thanks Joseph. My only regret is that I didn't do what I'm doing now, 30-40 years ago. But I can't change that, and I'm embracing the future by living the present to the fullest. I hope to make the future different than the past by living clean each day one at a time.

My hope is that telling my story won't draw attention to me, but to God's faithfulness, and the possibility of living sexually clean even in a world were everything seems to be sexualized.

I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Leah Long said...

I am humbled by the number of "confessions" posted on this particular thread. I identify with some of them. Each one is to be treated with the utmost respect and confidence. However, it occurs to me that full disclosure of one's struggles on this topic of discussion, which is the nature of confession, is at odds with the purpose of a blog; or is it? Confession is good for the soul, and I, for one, would not deny anyone that recourse, however, it need not burden others with the monmouth struggle which burdens us all, or do we want to provide counseling for those who are struggling? This may require a more private medium.
Are we overexposing ourselves? Have we not used the impersonal venue of technology to hash out the most personal and delicate nature of all personal relationships? This may be why our younger friends are having trouble appropriating hope for the future. Our generation is the one which made sexual activity the most accessible and impersonal of all human activity. Is it any wonder why this topic needs a thorough reconsideration?

Leah Long said...

the previous post is by Laurel Long, not Leah Long. I don't know how this happened.

Joseph Holbrook said...

do you have a daughter named Leah? She was probably on the computer and logged in before you ... and you didn't realize that you needed to log out and re-log in with your id. That has happened to others in this blog before.

Brian Emmet said...

"Relog in with your id...?" Oh, you meant your "eye-dee," not your Freudian "id" ... a Freudian slip on my part, no doubt.

Appreciated Laurel's contribution; a blog can be pretty much whatever participants want it to be, but we should keep in mind that once it's on the web it's there forever and for anyone. In my opinion, there can be real value in sharing struggles, confessions, etc., but when we're ready to move towards healing and change, a blog may not be the best resource for that...

Brian Emmet said...

John M, I add my thanks for your honesty. I especially appreciated your thoughts about "sex may be a wonderful thing, but it is not an essential aspect of a full, fuflfilling and joyful life.

John M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Billy Long said...

Hey, All. My work is preventing me from getting into all the discussion. I just wanted to make two tangential comments.
First, Laurel's comment about she and I "living apart for 7 years" is simply referring to my job keeping me on the road so much. We are not "separated", our relationship is very good.
Second, I really liked Brian's comments on the "id" in Joseph's comment.


Laurel Long said...

Please know that your struggle and confessions are a holy thing to me. You need not explain or justify the reason for the full disclosure of your struggle, I do appreciate them. Believe me if I were free to comment without restraint on some of our (mine and Billy's) struggles-not necessarily with lust, but with the criminally insane activities of one of our daughters, there would be a great sigh of expressions: "I thought I had problems!"
I do not want to impose my own need for privacy on anyone else. Your freedom to vent here may be just what will bring resolution for you. I need a more private, trusted and compassionate context for all that has passed through our life the past 5 years. James Dobson would probably love to use us as a case study of the most dysfunctional marriage and family that ever existed in the modern Church. Regardless, Billy and I are still married and love one another deeply, our children love us and each other, and we all love being together despite all of our unresolved issues. There is nothing anyone could say that would shock me-I truly wish there was.
Perhaps this is the very place that the Lord wants us to live: suspended between His amazing grace and the pursuit of all the holy qualities He has bestowed upon us as His children. He is so awesome!!!!!!!!!!
You are a good man, my friend.

Laurel Long said...

Joseph and Brian,
You two are very funny. I am glad I could provide a bit of comic relief for you with this technological blunder on my part. Unfortunately, "my" computer is considered the "family" computer right now. So this may happen again. I certainly hope not though. I am so happy to have given you a good laugh!

John M. said...

Lauarel, thank you. I do have a more private and very compassionalte forum in which I am pursuing my recovery... and I'm also becomeing comfortable sharing more publicly.

Thank you for your own vulnerability, just now and in your earlier post. You and Billy are wonderful comrades, and I have only the deepest respect and admiration for you both. With my issues I would not want to try what Billy has had to do...

May the Lord continue to give you all wisdom, grace and strength.

Laurel, I posted as "Sarah" one time after my daughter had used my computer... long story!

Laurel Long said...

Thanks John!

Billy Long said...

Since the conversation is about “lust” I have decided to throw in a couple comments. The apostle Paul used the term “deceitful lusts.” Simply put, this means that our lusts lie to us. They promise fulfillment and satisfaction but deliver neither. The problem with lust is that it is never satisfied and it keeps demanding and pushing for more, pushing for what is around the next corner while always producing hunger and emptiness. Promiscuity produces discontent and dissatisfaction. A man who plays the field will inevitably not be satisfied with his wife. Faithfulness along with a good relationship will keep the fire and the passion in a marriage. It always offends me to hear Hollywood so often refer to sex in marriage as boring. It is just that for them because of the very reasons I mentioned above. I have been married 39 years and my wife is as appealing to me now as when we were first married.
The other point is that lust destroys intimacy in terms of finding a good relationship. I think that most women look for a man who will love them and connect with them on a deeper level than the physical, but they mistakenly think that they will win him with their body. The problem is that when a man starts the relationship out with sex, he does not go past that. People start out with sex, get married or get “in a relationship” and find they don’t really know each other. Starting out on a purely physical level short-circuits the ability to connect deeper at the soul and relational level.

That's my 2 cents for the day.
Billy Long

Joseph Holbrook said...

i agree Billy. Well said.

Are we done with this topic? any requests or suggestions for the next topic?

Amanda said...

A few things: One, Laurel, your comment about confession being good for the soul but also possibly burdensome to those we confess too is well-taken. It is a topic that we have discussed at length a few times at Joseph's Tuesday night god-party along with "personal experience" stories that we tell during various topics of discussion--like when someone is struggling with a problem and others share their own experience relating to that topic. We discussed whether such personal stories were a way to divert attention to other people/personal problems, or if they rather served as empathetic assurances and examples (teaching-ish) for those they were shared with.

In some respects, overexposure is the problem. But, at the same time, sheltering and underexposure is what have led many us towards "overexposure." In such forums we find people who struggle with our same issues and can help us work through. Confession is necessary, I feel, for even the Bible often supports the fact that we cannot, and should not, walk through this world alone.

John M., I also thank you for your honesty. Many times the younger generation feels disconnected from those more seasoned than they, and it just that seasoning and wisdom that can help guide others through such struggles. Some amount of authority means more than simple 'advice'/opinion.

John M. said...

Thanks Amanda. We're all trying to find the appropriate ground between two extremes, aren't we? At this point I find the transperancy of the younger gneration very refreshing.

Self-revelation can be self-serving or it can lead to healing, both for ourselves and for those who hear. May that be so in the case of this blog and the God Party conversations you refer to.

I know that in the context of a recovery group, hearing others' stories is incredibly helpful.

Good stuff Billy. Wish you had time to comment more often. You're one of the funniest guys I know -- also, one of the wisest.

Dennis said...

Lust is wanting something NOW. It avoids those activities that build patience and endurance.

Brian Emmet said...

OK, everyone, take a good cold shower, and let's move on to a new post. Let's follow up a suggestion of Amanda's (seconded by Susannah)...

Laurel Long said...

Thanks Amanda,
You are so right and I appreciate your comments. You are an awesome and insightful young woman!!!!

Joseph Holbrook said...

cold showers ... ya gotta love them! A 3 mile run works pretty good too ... well, according my memory. Lately it has been 3 mile walks... while reading a book ... ok, I'll just shut up now.

John M. said...

This winter, up here, a cold shower isn't necessary -- just step outside.