July 31, 2012

News Flash: Women Struggle with Lust

Fair Warning: I'm as frank as I've ever been here on the blog. I could've been even more blunt, but that probably would have scared away some of you permanently.
How did these women arrive at this conclusion? Because for years most churches herded the men off to talk about lust, while gathering the women to discuss modesty. While those are valid and much needed messages, they are incomplete for the culture in which we now live. To understand the times, let's look at the messages women have absorbed in recent years. There are stripper pole classes at the gym and women's magazines with screaming headlines about sex and seduction techniques. The morning talk shows candidly discuss sex toy parties. "Sex and the City" becomes a major franchise while "Girls Gone Wild" captures drunken sexual escapades among college students. Abercrombie & Fitch markets push-up bikini tops to 8-year-old girls. Lady Gaga bursts onto the pop music scene wishing she could shut her Playboy mouth. Not one item is sold in the mall without an erotic image. And women are increasingly immersed in online porn. This highly sexualized culture is the new normal for young women who grew up in the ethos of third-wave feminism's pro-porn, pro-sex work stance. ~Carolyn McCulley in Lust: Not for Men Only
For every 3 people who visit a pornography website, 1 is a woman.
That's makes a total of roughly 9.4 million women a month viewing pornography.
The majority of those women (70%) will keep it a secret. 
In 1992, one report stated that 10% of women regularly masturbated. 
Although it was estimated that it was probably higher, as many women don't want to admit it.
That was 20 years ago now, and that percent has more than likely grown significantly since then.
While women may not be addicted to visual porn, many are addicted to porn in the form of erotic literature. 
Many of these women are in the church, sitting in the pews with us.

There should be something glaringly obvious to us all here...

Lust is no respecter of gender...
 Women struggle with lust just as much as men do. 

There's a thread found in nearly every story of the Christian woman who struggles with lust: "I am the only one." Pornography and sexual addiction is rarely, if ever, talked about in churches in relation to women. It makes sense that dozens of women would then think they're alone in this. It makes sense that they'd hide it for years. It makes sense that they'd feel like they could never reach out and ask for help without facing a fear of rejection... a very real fear... a very legitimate fear because sometimes reality delivers just that: rejection. I don't think the church at large can afford to ignore this issue any longer. I don't think our Christian subculture can afford to downplay the extreme sex-crazed world women and young girls find themselves bombarded by. I don't think sweet, elderly church ladies can afford to not be frank, clear, or unambiguous in discussing sex anymore. Society doesn't afford that luxury any longer. And I don't think you and I, the individual Christian women who make up our churches across the country, can't afford to turn a blind eye to the women and young girls around us who are battling this.

How can we be proactive in creating an environment or community amongst close friends and sisters in Christ who struggle with lust so that they can get the help and healing they need?

Don't Freak Out. If a woman or young girl comes to you and tells you this is an issue don't freak out and treat her like a leper or something. Realize it took a huge amount of courage on her part to even bring her secret into the light. One of the enemy's tactics is keeping us and our sins in the dark. When one steps out into the light, we need to keep in mind that they were probably fearful in doing so, and should respond in a way that's appropriate... freaking out would not be appropriate. Admitting there's a problem is the first step to solving it, isn't it? Isolation in this case does more damage than good. So don't isolate yourself from her or vice versa. She's not alone in this (because the numbers don't lie). She's God's daughter. And He loves her, but she has a heart issue here that needs to be addressed and worked through.

Counseling and Professional Help. Some addictions are so deeply rooted and connected to other issues as well, that the it's wise and helpful to get professional, biblical counseling. 

Heart Change Proceeds... behavior modification. Telling people with sexual addictions to "just cut it out" and "white knuckle their way to purity" is not helpful, nor possible. Cold-turkey quitters are in the minority, not the majority (and even then that battle rages on in the mind). Enforcing behavior modification, depending on a person's self-discipline, can only last for a little while and hardly brings about real lasting change, because behavior is the symptom, not the disease. Any good doctor always targets and treats the disease, not the symptoms. Symptoms exist to point to a greater problem. If we only focus on the symptoms (behavior) than what we're really doing is slapping on a band-aid on a deep, gaping wound and sending the person on their merry way. It just doesn't work. We need to be aware that there's something much more at work in the heart here. Behind sexual addictions and immorality, there's the root issue of lust, and behind lust there's an issue with worship in the heart. It reveals that worship of an idol has taken the place of the Living God. When we choose to worship anything and anybody other than God, we're sure to become disappointed, despondent, and eventually depressed. It all becomes one vicious cycle that needs to be broken, because all idols "over-promise and under-deliver." So, encourage her to dig deep and to not focus primarily on her outward actions and behavior, but rather her heart by...
  • Loving her enough to ask her hard questions that will help in figuring out what's really going on in that "root system" in her heart. On temptations Sam Storms writes, "Temptation is often strong because it comes in the form of an enticement to satisfy legitimate needs through illegitimate means." What are the legitimate needs that she's trying to fulfill by acting upon her lust (be it pornography, erotic literature, masturbation, etc.)? Why did she run to this "illegitimate mean" in the beginning? There may have been specific situations or factors that had a huge role leading into this that need to be taken cared of as well.
  • Help her to identify the lies that are feeding/sustaining the addiction, as well as truth to use in fighting against those lies.
  • Ask her how you can encourage or motivate her to walk in purity. I know one girl who found it incredibly helpful to have scripture just texted to her from friends throughout the day to help focus her thought life around Jesus.
And then ultimately encourage her to pursue the Lord like crazy. We have a saying in our church whenever topics such as these are brought up: "Passion beats passion." In battling any kind of idolatry we have to make our passion, desire, and our love for Christ far greater than our desire for a sexual release (due to misusing God's gift of sex in a sinful manner). John Piper put it perfectly in addressing lust:
Turn the mind forcefully toward Christ as a superior satisfaction. Fight fire with fire...  We must stock our minds with the superior promises and pleasures of Jesus... Cultivate the capacities for pleasure in Christ. One reason lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal. We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ... You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart – more than you treasure sex or sugar. If you have little taste for Jesus, competing pleasures will triumph. Then look, look, look at the most magnificent Person in the universe until you see him the way he is. ~ANTHEM
Set Up Boundaries. There's a reason I put this after heart change, because if you skip the heart change, then deconstructing and reconstructing behavior will at some point fail. Help her to identify practical boundaries (a good place to start is to protect against triggers as much as possible) that she can enact right now. Help her to stay accountable to those boundaries. 

Pray for and Over Her. We should never underestimate or undermine the power of prayer and asking God to bring about freedom from idols and healing for wounds. She's going to need Christ's strength in overcoming her addiction, she'll fail if she does it our of her own strength and become even more discouraged.

Equip Yourself, in Order to Equip Others. It's not really helpful if you don't know where to direct others or know how to practically help them in this fight. Here are some great resources and places to start...
Humble Yourself and Extend Grace. We don't turn a blind eye to the struggle, nor do we build ourselves up with pride. Christ calls us all to be ministers of grace, meaning when the opportunity arises we serve, love, and help one another. His grace covers over her sins and addictions, and we should stress that constantly, because we forget if all the time. But we also know that God loves us too much to ever leave us where we are.
When facing a woman addicted to sexual sin, how quickly we forget that ALL have sinned, ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. So what grounds do we have to judge her for her addictions? Are my sins “less bad” or “less addicting” because they are accepted by Christian society? When looking comparatively between her sin and the pride of my own heart, I must ask these questions. How long have I had this pride in my life? How often do I feed it? How often do I justify it? How often do I protect it? How often do I nurture it? Pride is sure sounding like an addiction, isn’t it? And yet this is what we do. When we look down our noses at the women struggling with masturbatory practices and pornographic addictions, it’s no wonder 70% don’t speak a word of it to anyone. Let’s stop this cycle and start dealing with the problem without passing judgment. ~Sarah Bubar in The Secret Lives of 9.4 Million Women

9 comments :

  1. I love that you address these issues and provide top-notch resources. You're doing such a great job Natalie.

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  2. "Heart Change Proceeds... behavior modification"
    this is SO true!

    i love this post!

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  3. I second what Ashley said. Thanks for posting on something that so desperately needs to be brought to light!

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  4. This is such a good post! Thank you for your honesty and for helping us girls grow in Christ and secure our purity. Purity is such a precious thing - us girls definitely need to support each other and help each other protect it. Thanks Natalie!

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  5. Thank you for addressing such a difficult issue, Natalie. You did it well. :)

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  6. This is such an interesting post. Your perspective is great, very insightful.

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  7. I love how you tackle all the difficult and avoided subjects. :)

    I had never thought about how guys and girls are separated and then taught different things (lust vs. modesty) but it's so true! That's exactly what happened in my grade 12 class (I went to a Christian school).

    Keep posting the tough topics -you are doing an awesome job!

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  8. SO TRUE. and the sad thing is, women can get away with it for some reason because its masked under "romance" and "thats how women are." women should be held to the same standard that men are when it comes to guarding our eyes AND our hearts. and dont get me started on the whole 50 shades of grey craze going on right now... thanks for writing this natalie!

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  9. THANK YOU for writing about this and for being so frank about it. I pray this insight and teaching will come to help many woman! Thank you Lord <3

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