Springtime is my favorite time of year. The days begin to get longer, the flowers are blooming, and it means summer is coming. And let’s face it, as the weather starts to get warmer, women start to wear less clothing (sometimes a lot less). This can be a challenge for men who struggle with porn and lust. It brings up some natural questions. What exactly is lust? Is it the same as attraction or desire?

There is a difference and yes, I believe it definitely does matter.

First, I don’t think desire in itself is not wrong  and neither is physical attraction – if we didn’t desire anything at all in life we would probably just sit around and do nothing. Lust is a desire of God that we have taken in the wrong direction. 

It’s no secret God created men to be attracted to women. However, lust is more than attraction or even just desire. It’s where we get ourselves into trouble as men. When we lust, we objectify a woman and we covet something that doesn’t belong to us. Unfortunately, for many of us who have struggled with porn, we have been numbed into thinking that women are objects rather than people made in God’s image.

According to Noah Filipiak in his book Beyond the Battle, the porn age we live in has contributed to the separation of a woman’s body from who she really is. He writes:

One of the biggest things the pornography age has done is separate sexual intimacy from human intimacy, body parts from human beings. This separation goes against what makes us human” (Filipiak, Beyond the Battle, p. 80).

Filipiak goes on to say that this lust is essentially robbing women of their humanity.

“The root of lust is this dehumanization, whether in pornography, in an indulgent gaze on the street, or in the fantasy of running off with a flirtatious friend. Every time we lust over a person, we dehumanize that person. We see and covet body parts while ignoring what makes that person human…When lust has affected our hearts, we no longer see women the way God created us to see them” (Filipiak, Beyond the Battle, p. 80).

When we look at a woman merely for her body, we are robbing her of what makes her truly human. We forget she is a person with feelings, needs and insecurities of her own. 

As a Christian, I try to follow Jesus’ example the best I can. I wish I could remember where I read this, but one of the most sobering comparisons of lust I have heard is this: Jesus, before he went to the cross and died for our sins, said “This is my body. It is given for you.” (1 Cor. 11:24 NIRV) Lust says, “This is your body taken by me.” It’s a sobering reminder of how selfish our lust really is. 

Which brings us to the much more challenging question, now that I know what lust is, how do I stop doing it?? 

There is not an easy answer, believe me. For years, men have been told to do things like bounce your eyes or that one look is okay but look again and that’s lust. While these suggestions are well meaning, they don’t really help us to address some of the roots of the problem. For many of us, the struggle with lust has been years in the making and it won’t just change with the snap of a finger. It can be a painstaking process. 

My wife and I recently had our first child, a beautiful baby girl. When I want to turn to lust or fantasy, I need to think, would I want someone looking at my daughter that way. Every woman we fantasize about is someone’s daughter, sister, or mother. It is a painstaking process of changing our way of thinking and re-training our brains. As the apostle Paul says we need to “renew our minds.”

Every time we are tempted to lust we can in the heat of the moment declare that that woman is a human being who has incredible value. 

For most of us, we can’t win this battle alone. We need accountability, in the form of a partner or a group. We can get some accountability software on our phones and computers. Read books like Beyond the Battle, or John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart, or Carl Thomas’ When Shame Gets Real to better understand your struggle. (There are countless others as well.)

As I said, this change is a process, for me and for everyone else. Move forward and take ground little by little each day. 

“Essentially I (and men everywhere) had taken women and put them in the place of God…I was looking to women to provide for me what only God could.”

Filipiak references another good read, John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart, where Eldridge describes how the guy falls for The Golden Haired Woman, a beautiful woman who fulfills his every desire. Until the man essentially gets bored with her and looks for a new goddess to pursue.

Filipiak’s point is that a woman alone is not meant to meet all the desires of our heart and our need for fulfillment. He points out that “Once we know that attractive women aren’t goddesses, we can see them for who they really are. We can learn to look past the goddess mask to see their souls. As we remove this goddess power, we give them the dignity and respect they deserve as daughters and as complex, whole human beings.”

So how do we stop lusting?

I’m not going to lie, it sounds much easier than it is. Like many guys, I have tried to work on the external things, and those are good. I try not to gape at beautiful women, I have filters on my phone and computer. However, I have found this isn’t enough; it isn’t really addressing the root issues. Since lust is really a heart issue, that’s where I need to start. I have to ask God to change my heart and the way I look at the opposite sex as more than a piece of meat. I have a daughter who is 9 months old. Every time I feel tempted to or fantasize, I need to ask myself, would I want another man thinking about my daughter like this. 

This applies to both single and married guys, old and young. 

We have to recognize when we are being drawn into this. My whole life I’ve thought of lust as purely being about sexual desire, but it can be more than that because it taps into the deepest longings of our heart.

“Whether it’s real life or porn, when we feel our eyes being drawn to a woman, we need to realize what’s going on. We aren’t attracted to her just because she’s pretty, we are attracted to her because we want her to worship us. We want her to want us.”

I’m learning that overcoming lust isn’t a quick fix. It takes heart change and a deeper relationship with the God who designed love, sex, desire and each of us. Take action. Get an accountability partner who can ask the tough questions and help you in this process. As I recalled earlier, you should remember this: Jesus says this is my body broken for you. Lust and porn says, “this is your body taken by me.”

It is the opposite of self sacrifice. It treats the other person as an object rather than a human being made in the image of God.