Can you help who you are attracted to? What if it’s an inappropriate attraction? Should you just give in? Why would you want to deny yourself pleasure? Who decides what’s “appropriate” and “inappropriate” anyway?
If you haven’t read the story about the youth pastor that was arrested for taping the girls in the shower then you can read that here. If you did then it probably got your blood boiling that it was past the statute of limitations and he couldn’t be punished for it. If not for a little national attention right now then he would have gotten away with it all together. But, it got me thinking about an issue that I thought needed to be addressed- what happens when you have an inappropriate attraction to someone that you should not be with?
Most people have had secret (and sometimes not so secret) crushes at some point. Whether it’s someone that we will never meet such as a celebrity or if it’s someone that we see on a regular basis. Of course it could be someone that we met casually or someone from our past. Most crushes are harmless but what happens when a crush turns into something more intimate and ultimately inappropriate? At what point do we make our mind up to turn away or to take things to the next level?
I know there will be many who will read this with pain in their heart over a broken relationship. Please know that my heart is not to open those scabs and re-create that pain. My heart is to sound the alarm for anyone who might be reading this and flirting with the idea of taking their inappropriate attractions to the next level- whether it’s sending a text, taking pictures or video, going to get drinks, having an affair or simply verbalizing their feelings. They can choose a different path and do not have to travel down a path that will not bring joy or satisfaction but just destruction and ruined relationships and reputations.
So, let me define what I mean by “inappropriate attraction”. For the most part I assume we’re all adults reading this blog. If you need to be told this then you are probably trying to justify an inappropriate attraction right now. But, I will spell it out- it’s an attraction with a) someone that is underage and/ or b) someone other than your spouse with whom you would like to be intimate. I’ve said before that I’m pretty black and white sometimes but this is pretty simple- at least on the surface it is.
However, I’m not naive- I live in the real world. I know that people rationalize decisions everyday. Some decisions don’t carry immediate dire consequences (like my fast food addiction) but others will have immediate and long lasting consequences.
We have extremely good defense mechanisms to make every decision we make “OK” in our own mind. No one wants to think they are purposely making a bad decision in the moment. Like the youth pastor in the story he probably had a perfectly logical reason for videotaping those girls (at least in his mind). But, now he sees that it was “inappropriate”.
Around this time my wife will typically say something like “Guys are the ones who want a physical affair. Girls struggle with emotional affairs”. My youth pastor said something a long time ago that is true now as it was then- Guys will give emotional support to get physical pleasure and girls will give physical pleasure to get emotional support. Most guys aren’t fantasizing about having long talks and holding hands with someone other than their spouse. They know what got their spouse to marry them was being sensitive, thoughtful, kind, etc. Women know that men are basically hairless apes that see a little cleavage and we are under their spell. But, in order to get what we want we must be willing to be available emotionally.
So, let’s get to it- how do we resist inappropriate attraction? First, we must acknowledge that it is inappropriate. If someone we didn’t know were telling us their feelings for “X” would we think it was inappropriate? I know that question doesn’t always help because our situation is “unique”. But, if we can admit that it is inappropriate and we can see it from a different perspective that will allow us to take the next few steps. If we can’t even see that it is inappropriate then we are already headed down a path that is difficult to leave.
The second thing that we need to do is confide in someone. Ideally this would be your spouse. When we keep something a secret like this then we tend to fantasize it in unrealistic ways. By allowing someone else to know what is in our hearts and minds we can see it for what it is. It deflates the “fantasy” and snaps us back to reality. If you cannot talk to your spouse then find a good friend or a counselor to be brutally honest with. Some pastors can even handle that level of honesty and vulnerability. The important thing is that it must be verbalized- with nothing left out.
Third you must allow the person that you tell to hold you accountable. This means allowing them to ask you tough questions and you being honest. It means putting together a plan to avoid this person or group of people, sticking to it and admitting when you don’t. Sometimes it will mean you transfer positions or even quit your job! It might mean you quit leading a small group or Sunday School class. If this is not possible then you have the accountability to not be alone with them and you certainly don’t allow any flirtation to happen.
I had a college professor who would talk with us about sexual purity. We understood that it was more than not having sex. But, he would make the point that most sexual encounters last from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. The question we should ask ourselves is “Is it worth 30 seconds of pleasure to give up all that I’ve worked for in my relationships with my spouse, kids and job?” If that question helps to put things in perspective then please use it.
If you have already started down the path and have given into this inappropriate attraction there is hope for you. It will not be easy -you might have done irreparable damage and there will definitely be consequences to face. But, you can make decisions from this day forward, one day at a time, to not give into those attractions. It will take accountability, prayer and personal discipline. You cannot do this alone and are not expected to go at it alone. Cry out to God as David did in Psalm 51 after his affair with Bathsheba:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
Are you in a place now where you are wrestling with inappropriate attractions? Who will you tell? What will be your plan to not take it farther? I pray that you do not give in to these feelings but that your eyes will be opened and your heart set free. I pray that you find healing from the pain or loneliness that is causing this attraction. And I pray that you have the strength to continue resisting these feelings.