As you know, the topic of lust is something that often comes up when one starts to talk about porn addiction and/or sexual integrity. And why wouldn’t it? After all, lust is often the precursor to the poor sexual decisions we sometimes make. Similarly, the other matter that usually surfaces is the question of how do I stop or halt lust?

In fact, this very question has been the inspiration for countless books, sermons, and podcasts.

Unfortunately, usually the answers provided to this question fall into what I would describe as legalistic or mindless solutions. Examples include:

  • Pray for deliverance.
  • Bounce your eyes.
  • Snap a rubber band on your wrist.
  • Flee like Joseph.

And let me be clear, these suggestions are not mindless/legalistic in and of themselves. They become so when there is no thought behind them, and they get used as an almost automatic response. In other words, instead of wrestling with our motives or thoughts, we flee from the “temptation,” which is coincidentally also a living, breathing human being.

I talked about this sort of “reverse objectification” a couple of weeks ago.

So then how can we stop lust in its tracks in a more thoughtful and meaningful manner? Here are a few suggestions that can help you next time without relying on a robotic and/or legalistic response.

First, be mindful of your present state.

Again, the issue with many lust management techniques is that they are employed without any thought or consideration. Basically they are a reflex that only temporarily relieves the anxiety of the moment. But they do nothing in terms of growth or addressing the real issue.

So if you are caught in that type of situation, rather than retreating in a panic, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and then ask…”What is going on here?” In other words, sit with the discomfort and take a few seconds to reflect on what you are feeling without falling into shame or self-condemnation.

That person is attractive to me. There’s nothing wrong with that. But…

  • Am I just noticing their beauty, or is there something more going on here?
  • Is this just an honest observation and natural response, or am I looking at that person for other reasons?
  • Am I trying to get some degree of sexual gratification when I look at them?
  • Am I seeing them as a person, or a collection of body parts?
  • And if I am drifting into the realm of objectification, what can I do to stop that?
  • What is the best course of action that best reflects who I aspire to be?

Understand that practicing mindfulness allows you to stay present in the moment and make conscious choices that align with your personal beliefs and aspirations. It helps you cultivate a greater awareness of your thoughts and actions, enabling you to live with greater intention and authenticity.

This is an exercise that lets you slow down which is needed because one of the main dangers of lust is that it snowballs quickly. We see something that lights up the pleasure center of our brain, and instead of taking a few minutes to observe what’s going on, we just roll with it.

Ultimately, recognize it is much harder to drive off a cliff if your foot is on the brake.

Second, say a prayer.

I know… “Wait! You just said praying is legalistic? What’s the deal?”

No, I said praying for deliverance as an automatic response can be done in a legalistic manner. But praying is certainly an appropriate action. Here’s what I mean.

When we see someone who is attractive or dressed in a manner that appeals to our visual senses, our first reaction should not be, “Hey God, please remove that temptation from my life and help me not lust.” Because in essence what you are saying is, “That person is not a person but a temptress/tempter, and rather than taking responsibility for my actions and thoughts, it would be a whole lot easier if you just bailed me out here, God.”

However, what if instead of praying for deliverance from your thoughts and the nearby Jezebel, you prayed for that person? What if instead of praying to be rescued, you prayed for the strength and clarity of mind to do the right things for the right reasons?

What if your prayer looked more like this…

“Hey Lord, that person is very attractive. Help me remember that they are a human being deserving of dignity and not my objectification. I don’t know them, but I’m sure they have a family and their own story. They may or may not know you. They probably have their own struggles and pain they are dealing with just like I am dealing with my own stuff. I pray you help them in any areas of life where they need help. Comfort them and make yourself known to them. Thank you.”

See the difference there?

In the first prayer, you are disregarding the personhood of someone and praying for rescue. In the second prayer, you are not only recognizing a person’s dignity, you are doubling down on that realization by praying for them and asking God to help you stay committed to the path of integrity.

And here’s the thing… It’s not as easy lusting after someone if you are also praying for them because the two acts are so counterintuitive. It would be like smoking a cigarette while you are running a mile on the treadmill.

So yes, if you are tempted to lust, by all means, pray. But pray for the right reasons and with a more intentional mindset.

Third, respectfully remove yourself from the situation if necessary.

Look, there is no shame in admitting your frailties. If you are struggling with porn or other unwanted sexual behaviors, you may need to be a little more proactive with your follow-up actions.

Maybe you can catch yourself, pray, focus on your values, and move on to other things. Maybe you can’t. And if you can’t, it’s not the end of the world. It just means you aren’t quite where you want to be when it comes to aligning your actions with your values.

So if that’s the case, remove yourself respectfully. That’s not the same thing as running out of the room in a thoughtless frenzy. Rather, you are mindfully recognizing the situation for what it is, and in the best interest of yourself and the other person, you are purposefully choosing to leave or look away out of respect for yourself and others.

Fleeing says, “Danger, danger, I need to get out.” But intentionally choosing to remove yourself says, “Hey, this situation is more than I can handle right now, so I am going to do the right thing to make sure I am honoring everyone concerned (i.e., me, them, and God).”

Last, do something else to get your mind in the right place.

Reality check… lust can continue to haunt you even after you leave the room. Once an image gets seared into our brains, it can be very difficult not to keep dwelling on it. So go do something else.

  • Read a book.
  • Listen to a podcast.
  • Text a friend or go grab a coffee.
  • Go for a run (This one is my favorite!).

Lust is an emotional response. It is a mental state if you will. So do something that changes your mental state. That’s why I like exercise because a change in your physical state will always create a change in your mental state.

This is not the same thing as willpower and trying to stop thinking about something you don’t want to think about. Rather, it is engaging in something else and shifting your focus. Again, you are being intentional in your pursuits rather than being robotic and reactionary.

Remember, lust is a choice; some might call it a “battle.” But it is a battle that starts and ends in the mind.