Eight Skills for Sexual Integrity: Become the Master of Your Mind
You don't have to be a slave to sexual fantasies and surges.

by Doug Rosenau

Part Three of a weekly eight-part series: "Eight Skills for Sexual Integrity."

What if God decided to give the woman in your life the ability to see your every sexual thought for a day? If you're the average male, this would be the ultimate nightmare! We would be driven to our knees in desperate bargaining: "Lord, please not that. I promise to grow up!"

Fortunately, this is not God's plan. He has no desire to expose or embarrass us. But He does want us to get the highest possible fulfillment from our sexuality--and that means rejecting our unhealthy sexual lust.

It's likely we already know what the scriptures say about self-control (1 Thessalonians 4:4,5 (NIV): "Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust.") But with the surging hormones that we have, we might wonder if this self-control is really possible. God not only tells us it's possible, He also tells us how. And remember, God is the One who gave us those surging hormones. Let's search for those answers.

Mind Over Matter
Men often think they are more highly sexed than their wives. In reality, men are often just less disciplined. While it's true that most men think about sex more and seem to be more visually oriented, their problem is not hormones or their sexual natures, but instead is poor self-control. Men are not able to, as I call it, "stop with one cue."

Stopping with one cue is an interesting discipline that applies two scriptures: "Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5), and "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light" (Matthew 6:22). With those scriptures in mind, consider these ideas to help you stop with one cue:

* Do not close your eyes. When seeing or hearing a sexual cue (e.g., hearing someone talk about making love), keep from "closing your eyes" and visualizing or fantasizing the cue. You can choose to not go there.

* Try the "three second" rule. When you see a sexual cue, do not allow your gaze to linger and further sexualize the cue. Move your eyes and mind on.

* Do not run with cues. Men can take one sexual cue and build it into seven. For example, if a guy is driving down the street and sees a cute female jogger, he will almost run off the road trying to see what her build is like in the rearview mirror. Then he will say to himself, "Wow, great build and a blonde." He is now off and running in his mind, with each sexual thought building on the next. The best advice: when the first thought comes, don't allow the second one to follow.

* Choose to immediately switch your thinking. Women are often amazed how men can be sitting in normal interaction and then suddenly have sexual thoughts flit across their thinking and take up lodging rent-free. Actually, it is a God-given ability to switch topics in one's mind and utilize thought-control. If a man can suddenly switch on a sexual thought, he also can switch it off. I do this all the time in my counseling sessions. If a sexual thought comes to my mind, I stop and switch.

It's important to note that not all sexual thoughts are lustful, and not all are wrong. Sinful lust is when we start mentally disrobing and visualizing people in sexual situations. In Christ's teaching in Matthew 5:28, the verb "looks" is in the imperfect tense. So we could translate it as, "anyone who continually looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." His purpose for saying this is clear: Jesus does not want us demeaning women by undressing them in our minds.

Remember the Soul and Spirit
There's another powerful mechanism for disciplining our sexual surges and fantasies. It is found in 1 Corinthians 6:13-19, where Paul explains the deep effects of sex. The act of sex goes way beyond a simple act of the body. It's a soul thing. When you make love you become emotionally and spiritually connected to someone. Sex is three dimensional, just as you are, and just as every woman is. We are all body, soul and spirit.

How many men, when they notice an attractive women in the mall, look at her face and think, Wow, she must be tired. Or, how many notice the packages she is carrying and think, I bet she's a great mom, and probably a lawyer too. When confronted with feminine beauty, men don't often think of the woman as a real person with feelings, a person with a soul, one that experiences joy and fatigue. Instead, they zoom in on female parts, not even looking at the whole body. It is narrow and one-dimensional.

It reminds me Greg, one of my clients. He was feeling very guilty and disgusted with himself because his wife's best friend, Holly, was such a turn-on for him. I encouraged him to see her 3-D (body, soul and spirit) and told him to think about the many facets and dimensions of Holly. We thought about her soul, her emotions, thinking and imagination, and her ability to make choices. We remembered that she and we have a spirit, longing for completion and committed connection, resonating with God's love.

Things changed for Greg, and they can for others too. Next time you are with a beautiful woman, look beyond her build to these things:

Body: Observe her eyes, the window of her soul. Is she happy, sad, tired? Look at other parts of her body, her hands and mouth. Allow her soul to light up her body with its unique feminine beauty and style. See that God has made every woman with her own special mannerisms and charm.

Soul: Be aware of her emotions--that special way she enjoys life and people. Consider her mind and heart, and realize that she has facets you will never know. Encourage her individual choices and celebrate her dreams.

Spirit: Understand her need for intimate connecting to God. Discover and cheer on her deeper values and character, as she truly learns to love.

It may not feel natural to go through this process, but it is a skill that can be learned. Try it. Let women be people without zooming in on their female parts.

It feels good to know that we are not slaves to our sexual surges and fantasies. Some of our breakthroughs to freedom will require a little discipline--but that's not a bad thing. Remember the verse from Hebrews 12:11: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Getting Real:
What are the toughest areas of your thought life to discipline sexually? Why do you think these are so difficult? Where can you begin to stop with one cue?

Are there any women in your life whom you tend to see in one dimension? Choose two things you will try in order to see her as a real 3-D person.

Next Week:
Skill Four: Embrace masculinity and enjoy moms, sisters and daughters

Missed earlier parts of this eight-article series? Just click on the skill you want to read--and learn everything you want to know about sexual integrity.

The Eight Skills for Sexual Integrity

Skill One: Plug into God's thinking and power
Skill Two: Meet nonsexual needs nonsexually
Skill Three: Discipline sexual fantasies and surges
Skill Four: Embrace masculinity and enjoy moms, sisters and daughters
Skill Five: Cultivate covenant monogamy and passionate intimacy
Skill Six: Make positive pre- and post-temptation choices
Skill Seven: Run to God's ER when broken
Skill Eight: Create practical theologies for doubtful issues

Dr. Doug Rosenau is a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Atlanta. He is the author of A Celebration of Sex (Thomas Nelson).

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