Why is it we get drawn into sinful things? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about matters and he started talking with me about some of my writings on the topic of pornography. He told me that he thinks I don’t mention that it’s normally a sin people fall into unintentionally. I can fully agree with this which leads to some thinking on the nature of sin and its draw.
When I was growing up, the D.A.R.E. program was the big thing. This was a program meant to keep kids off of drugs. I never attended a meeting or anything like that, but I was well aware of the organization. There were several commercials done in that age with kids talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up and one common line in them was “No one ever says, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up.’ ”
And this is how it is with most sins in our lives. Very few spouses will get up in the morning and say “You know, I think today would be a good day to have an affair.” Someone stopping at the bar for an evening won’t likely be thinking “I really want to be an alcoholic.” Someone who overeats on Thanksgiving too much is not likely thinking “I want to get addicted to food and become really overweight.”
With the last two, it’s not to say those automatically happen. A lot of people do overeat on Thanksgiving and manage to control themselves the rest of the year for the most part. Some people can go into a bar and get a drink and control their alcohol and be just fine. These can just be gateway points.
Here’s something to think about. When we are tempted with sin, we are in some way tempted with something that we think is good. This is not to say that the sin is good. No sin is. This is to say that this is our nature.
The porn addict has a desire to see a beautiful person of the opposite sex naked and has a desire to have sex. None of those are wrong desires. Most teenage boys growing up especially will have those desires and that’s normal for them. Having the desires is not a problem and is no sin. It’s what one does with the desires.
In this, C.S. Lewis gave a great piece of wisdom. Only good people understand temptation. Bad people do not. Bad people give in to it. Good people wrestle against it and can be grieved greatly by it. With her interest in saints in the Orthodox Church, I have told her that the saints are the ones who are most aware of their sin and struggle against it. Take the best saint you can think of in any tradition, and yes, we Protestants need to recognize there are some people who have led lives that we think are exceptionally holy, and realize that as they were dying, they still had sins they were struggling with.
This doesn’t mean that someone won’t want the sin. That is part of the struggle. You will not be tempted with something that is disgusting to you. Most of us will not be wrestling with the temptation to have sex with our mothers, for example. That seems absolutely repulsive to us even if we think our mothers are beautiful and wonderful women.
Some of you might be skeptical of the idea of temptations involving perceived good. What about murder? Usually, a crime is committed for one of three reasons. Money, sex, power. None of these are evil in themselves. It is how they are wanted and how they are used. A person wanting a murder could want justice. Justice isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the murderer wants to be judge, jury, and executioner.
Even the suicide wants something good. The suicide wants some peace from what is going on in their lives. Peace is a good thing. They just have a wrong way of wanting to get that peace.
In some cases, one does need to remove the object of temptation. It’s not in all cases, but some. If you have a problem with overeating, you can’t respond by removing all eating from your life. You’ll soon have another problem. It depends on the object of temptation entirely.
If one is tempted with porn, one should seek to cut things off entirely since porn in itself is a sin. It’s not wise to say that one needs a moderate amount of sin in their lives. In other cases, self-discipline is the idea. It also requires self-examination where you look into yourself and ask “What do I really want?” Don’t settle with a base answer like sex, power, justice, etc. Ask why one wants those things.
Suppose we go back to the guy tempted with porn. What does he want? On a basic level, he wants sex and he wants to see a naked woman, or in this case, women. Having a desire for the naked human female form is not wrong and having a desire for sex is not wrong. Yet we could ask what other things this guy wants. Perhaps he wants to feel like a man. That could be a root of the problem. Then we have to ask why this guy thinks he needs porn to feel like a man. He could ask what it really means to be a man. These are the productive questions.
Many an affair begins innocently. A woman starts talking with a man at the office and then they talk and talk and one day they go out together for lunch at the same time and just happen to go together and they just talk and talk and before too long, they’re in a hotel room together. At the start, she just wanted someone to talk to. That wasn’t wrong. What could we ask?
Why does she want this connection? What does it provide for her that she’s lacking? If she is already married, how is she viewing her marriage? Are there legitimate problems that need work? (And in every marriage, the answer is yes) What can she do to improve it?
Many times, dealing with the actions can be just like dealing with the symptoms of a disease without dealing with the disease itself. We Christians often talk about repentance so much, but that repentance which we rightly talk about is a process. It can be a long and hard and painful process. Repentance does not mean the temptation goes away or one no longer struggles. That we are struggling is really a sign of how seriously we are taking sin. People who don’t care don’t really talk about repentance. If you are feeling guilty for a sin and wrestling with it, even if there is a part of you that still wants it, as far as I’m concerned, you are in the process of repentance.
Finally, have some grace for yourself. Everyone is always struggling with some sin and for many of us, we’ve been struggling with the same kind of sin for years. Grace seems to be a concept we often think applies to everyone else instead of ourselves. Picture what you’re saying to yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to anyone else in the same situation, don’t say it to yourself. Grace is always there for people who are willing to struggle through the walk and God is always there with them even if one doesn’t feel like it.