Can A Man Admire A Beautiful Woman Without Sinning?
A couple of years ago, I read the book When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography for review. Reading that book has lead me to think more about this word addiction as it relates to sex and pornography. Many questions came to my mind, and I have had some troubling conversations with women about this issue and how it affects the way that we should relate to men. I wrote about it then, and I continue to have these discussions now. So this is a pretty much a repost of those reflections that are more questions than answers.
When does a struggle with pornography and sex become an addiction?
I've heard people claim this label as soon as their sin is revealed. And then they are off to special programs, groups, and counseling for sexual addiction. Suddenly, they are speaking as a victim more than as a sinner. While I certainly don't want to make light of the very real battle highlighted in the word addiction, and the physiological changes that occur in the brain when persistently involved in sin, I'm not willing to say that sexual addiction is a medical condition.
Doesn't every sin carry this addictive seduction? Jesus tells us that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Sin enslaves us--isn't that the picture of addiction? But we never hear someone say they are addicted to gossip or greed.
So I asked my husband. In one sense it is "every man's battle" to be on guard against the proclivity of sexual sin. I would be devastated to find my husband indulging in one pornographic image. And I'm sure if he did that, it would tempt him to move on to another. That is the nature of sin--it never satisfies. And so he must be mindful of this seductive sin.
A person with an alcohol addiction knows they should never have one drink. But two fingers and three cubes are not going to hurl me off the wagon (are non-alcoholics on a wagon?). While drunkenness is clearly a sin, it isn't necessarily a sin for me to have a drink to unwind tonight. Likewise, sex is certainly to be celebrated and enjoyed in the biblical context of marriage. But can a sex addict partake in one drink (and just to be clear, I'm not talking about alcohol anymore), even in marriage? What does that do to an addict?
So my next question is, given the power of lust and the enslavement of sin, is everyone who indulges in porn or has an affair addicted? And, how is this word helpful?
And that leads me to another question, which could easily be a whole article or more. Many of the women whom I have talked to whose husbands are "addicted" to pornography/sex become very discouraged and convinced that all men have this problem. They begin to think that men are incapable of controlling their sexual impulses. Naturally, the feelings of betrayal and inadequacy that they have to deal with from their husbands' affairs make them suspicious when their husband is around attractive women. While I don't want my husband to be thinking impure thoughts, I think it's perfectly fine for him to notice that someone is beautiful. And I'd be a complete idiot to think that he doesn't. But suffering wives hurt by their husband's sin doubt whether that's even possible. Can a man admire a beautiful woman without sexually fantasizing about her?
I think this is part of the addiction equation. If we label sexual sin patterns an addiction, what are we saying the cure is? Removing all temptations of beauty, or properly defining beauty? All sin seeks good from some other source than God. And we are all completely dependent on our Redeemer for righteousness. He is the only One who could propitiate God's wrath for our sin, and he is the only one who can make us holy. He is not only the creator of all beauty, but is himself the beatific vision. We must look to him to transform our desires. Without Christ there is no hope for a cure to our enslavement to sin--there is no outside antidote to addiction.
"But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness" (Rom. 6:17-18).
I know that some of you might think that I'm over-simplifying and some of you may think I'm over-complicating. Either way, these are some questions that need to be wrestled with. In fact, that last question just resurfaced in a conversation I had over the weekend. Many seem to think this is not possible, and that makes me very sad. If that is the case, then maybe wives should stay locked away in their homes all day and make every effort to cover their beauty and promote frumpiness outside the home. Should beautiful women be suspicious every time the produce guy smiles and says, "hello"? Are men unable to treat them as human beings, made in the image of God? Is this the curse for beautiful women, to be viewed only as objects of lust? What are we to do with all these temptations that walk the earth getting their groceries, cheering on their children at ball games, or even worse, their younger models who are ignorantly enjoying life like they are more than a cut of meat?
The original article was titled, I Get By With A Little Help From My Readers. Follow the link if you would like to add to the conversation.