Spring is here and so is my favorite time of the year as the dark, cold, and short days of winter make way for the brighter and warmer season. However, as temperatures start to increase, so do the concerns and complaints of men and women who find these warmer months more triggering given the change in activities and dress attire. 

  • Coats and scarves are exchanged for bikinis and swim trunks.
  • Sweaters and turtlenecks are stashed away in favor of tank tops and midriffs.
  • Jeans and sweatpants are abandoned in favor of shorts and spandex bottoms.
  • Shopping at the indoor mall is replaced with long days at the beach.

Yes, these are the realities of life in a very visual world. And let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with it. However, these things can prove to be extremely challenging to those who already struggle with various forms of unwanted sexual behavior. Not only in the way one conducts themself, but the questions they must answer such as…

  • Am I lusting if I notice a girl/guy who comes across my path?
  • Is it wrong that I find said person attractive?
  • Am I lusting if I merely look at someone or is there more to it?
  • And so on…

Unfortunately, and especially in the church, there is so much confusion over these sorts of topics. Healthy sexuality is not something many people really understand so they default to checklists to govern the rightness or wrongness of their behavior. All of which leads to more confusion and shame. So this month we want to address some of these topics. Not to excuse or pardon certain behaviors, but to clarify the real issues so you can be more clear on what you should be doing, what you shouldn’t be doing, and most importantly – Why?

As such, today I want to talk about attraction and lust. What do these terms mean, how are they different, and why does it matter?

Let’s start with attraction.

Attraction is something that we all experience.The dictionary defines “attraction”as the action or power of evoking interest, pleasure, or liking for someone or something. This attraction can encompass various aspects, including physical, emotional, intellectual, or even spiritual elements that elicit a positive response or connection. Yet, when we talk about physical attraction for another person conversations can get a bit touchy and/or sensitive.

Unfortunately because attraction is so often associated with physical appeal, it tends to get a bad reputation among those who struggle with their sexual choices. And, so men and women tend to demonize the notion of attraction towards someone else especially when that someone else is not a spouse or partner, and  especially when that person is wearing something that (let’s just say) accentuates their “best” physical qualities.

But is attraction wrong? Or is it only wrong in certain situations?

In a short word… No.

Why? Because attraction is normal and it’s not willful. Attraction just happens. Primarily because our sense of attraction is due to a number of psychological factors, including but not limited to past experiences, learned behaviors, and subconscious desires. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes those psychological factors are attributable to past experiences of trauma, abuse, or unhealthy patterns of behavior that individuals may have experienced or developed over time such as looking at porn. Yet, the resulting attraction in and of itself is just a psychological reality, not a willful choice or something we control.

Attraction is also healthy and serves as the catalyst for connections between individuals. We may think of attraction as only a physical phenomenon but attraction encompasses a broad spectrum of feelings and stimuli that draw us towards someone or something. Ultimately, attraction lays the foundation for relationships, serving as the gateway to deeper connections. It prompts us to initiate conversations, seek proximity, and invest time and effort in getting to know someone better and is the first step in developing human romantic relationships.

That said, attraction can surface for someone that is not a viable option in terms of a relationship. For instance, if you are married and notice that the barista across the counter at your local coffee shop is “attractive” then that is not wrong. However, trying to get his or her name and number to start a side romantic relationship definitely is.

So in the end, understand this. Simple attraction is not wrong. It’s just a part of life. It’s what you do with or about that attraction that can cause issues and become maladaptive.

Which brings me to our next term… LUST. 

Lust is the real issue and it is not the same thing as attraction. Additionally, unlike attraction, lust is a choice. It’s willful and can be regulated or controlled. And if you struggle with unwanted sexual behavior, it is especially something you want to steer far away from. Unlike attraction that signals a spark of interest, lust is a primal urge driven by raw desire and physical gratification.

Lust is characterized by intense, often overwhelming desires for physical pleasure, devoid of emotional connection or intimacy. 

It’s a visceral reaction to stimuli that elicits arousal, prompts impulsive responses, and serves the needs of oneself. It is not just noticing beauty, it is the act of consuming beauty. And unlike attraction that simply exists, lust exists solely for the benefit of the individual and promotes selfish indulgence and sexual objectification. It is fleeting in nature, and generally devoid of deeper emotional connection.

And while lust is not healthy, altruistic, or moral it also stands in direct opposition to Jesus’ command to love and serve one another. Because instead of honoring or upholding someone, we are choosing to use and exploit them.

Lust is wrong. Simple as that. But it is a choice and something we can flee, deny, or confront.

Recognize that we are all human. We are all flawed. And yes, we all at times may catch ourselves lusting after someone or something. That’s not an excuse. It’s simply the elephant in the room. So as the season changes be on alert. Understand that when you are dealing with compulsive sexual behaviors it may get a little more challenging. But focus your attention on the right things.

Stop worrying about who you find attractive. Worry more about what you will do with that reality and how you plan on honoring the object of your attraction rather than consuming them like a cheap TV dinner.