A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about purity, and I promised I would elaborate more on practical ways to fight temptation and stay pure. So here it is.
We all are tempted by lust (by definition lust is having strong sexual desires), so it is important to know how to fight it and control it.
St. John Cassian said, “Only the lifeless are exempt from the battles of lust. We know, then, that the struggle of flesh and the spirit is extremely useful to us... to gain self-control and
mastery over our desires.”
As women, we all have a desire to feel wanted, desired, and beautiful. That’s just a normal part of human nature, you are not alone if you feel this way. The hard part is controlling that desire so it doesn’t lead us down the wrong path. Besides fulfilling that desire through Christ Himself, who loves us and wants us to be with Him regardless of our state, marriage also helps with this. In marriage, ideally your spouse would fulfill all those desires you have in a loving and healthy way. And even in marriage you can still be tempted by lust for others, so you always have to keep your guard up. But if marriage is not in your near future, then listen up, here are just a few ways you can fight temptation.
If we are careful in examining ourselves, and realizing why we give into the temptation of lust we can fight it straight on. We have to know the source of the problem before we try to fight it.
For me, I realized that one of the things that was contributing to my lustful thoughts was indulging in secular entertainment. The movies I watched, the music I listened to, and the social media I was scrolling through were all filling my head with thoughts and desires I had to battle. These things I was watching or listening to weren’t necessarily bad, but they were triggers for me.
I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a good chick flick. Growing up my eyes sparkled with admiration as I watched endless movies with the same romantic story line. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they overcome some meaningless conflict, and live happily ever after. Teenage me watched and daydreamed about my prince charming. Sometimes I was impatient and got tired of waiting, and I would be tempted to do things I shouldn’t do. I finally realized these types of movies were having a big impact on my thoughts and emotions, so I avoided watching them as much as I could. Besides, they painted an inaccurate portrait of what healthy relationships look like. Please be careful as these misleading ideas in popular culture could really ruin your relationship in the future.
I listened to popular songs on the radio that were filled with lyrics all about desire and satisfaction. I sang along to the catchy lines, and without realizing I let those words become my desires. Music has a way of settling into your thoughts and consciousness without you even being fully aware that it's happening. I eventually started listening to Christian music instead. Those songs had uplifting messages that helped fill my thoughts with godly things. It was such an empowering thing to do for myself.
When I was single and scrolling through social media feeds I saw countless posts about beautiful couples and happy relationships. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these kinds of posts, it made me want what I did not have. Envy and jealousy subtly crept in. I had to take several breaks from social media, so I would delete my apps until I was in a better head space to go back to it. I know this sounds silly, because people in relationships are all around us in real life, but having it in my face on my phone or computer made me zone in on it even more.
I cannot talk about lustful entertainment without mentioning pornography, although it deserves its own blog post; I’ll keep this short. Please do yourself and your future spouse a favor, and stay away from watching porn! It does way more damage than you realize. It fills you with impure thoughts and desires, and these images can stay in your head for years. It portrays an unrealistic expectation of what real and healthy sex is actually like. Nothing positive will ever come out of watching porn. The studies exploring the impact of porn on an individual’s cognitive development, psychological well being, and ability to maintain healthy relationships provides staggering evidence of the detrimental effects of exposure. Are you willing to fight the long uphill battle of fixing the negative effects that porn has had on you for a moment of perverse satisfaction?
Lastly, I know we all have friends or acquaintances that do not hold the same standard for purity in their lives as we do. I talked about how bad company corrupts good habits in last week’s post. I’m not saying to condemn these people, but maybe we can avoid those types of conversations with them. We talk about what we care about, and if your friends tend to discuss relationships, the aesthetics of the opposite sex, and other lust-inducing topics, then they’re showing you what matters to them, and eventually that will guide your desires. Try to surround yourselves with friends that will help you stay on the right path, as you should also be striving to better your friendships.
Now it's time to examine yourself. Ask yourself these questions: What is consuming my thoughts? Are they lustful desires? What are the sources of my lustful thoughts? How can I battle them?
Learn how to guard your heart and mind! Say the Jesus prayer when you get a sinful thought. Ask Christ to help you control your thoughts and desires.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
In this day and age one of our biggest battles is fighting lust. St. Mark the Ascetic said, “Living a chaste Christian life is sometimes more difficult than suffering a martyr’s death.” We must die to our fleshly desires and strive for a chaste and pure life. By God's grace we can have big and small wins against the battling lust. It might be something you struggle with for a short period, or for the rest of your life. I know it's not easy, but we have to fight to enter through the narrow gate if the kingdom is the goal for our final destination.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”