Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Every Man's Battle

I mentioned to a friend of mine that I have taken steps to deal with controlling my lustful thoughts. Tempering such an insatiable beast takes determined and purposeful measures. The Bible says "For this is the will of God ... that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust." (1 Thess. 4:3-5) As a result of our conversation, he lent me a copy of the book Every Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. The subtitle of the book is "Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time".

As I worked my way through each chapter of this book, the thought that kept circling around my mind is that there was something very familiar about the book's layout and message. Although I had never read this book before, it is very similar to other book's about Christian men and their trials and tribulations dealing with sexual immorality. For example, Pure Desire by Ted Roberts and Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes. These books all spend several chapters describing the downward spiral brought on by the ever-increasing pull of sexual immorality and our lack of sexual integrity, followed by several chapters telling us how wrong it is and how draining its presence can be in our lives. The strategy for our ultimate and complete victory in this arena is then uncovered at the end in a big reveal ... "Just stop being addicted or impure!" ... ta-da.

Now perhaps I am over-simplifying these works a little bit, but I sometimes think that many authors in this genre are either naive or have an approach that works better in a clinical setting but does not translate well into a self-help book. Some books seem to claim that one day you will look at a Playboy centerfold and the next you will be a serial rapist. Others claim that even a passing glance at a good-looking woman on the street and you are a marriage-destroying devil. Now I am all for men taking ownership of their moral weaknesses and working to make improvements in their lives. I find this commendible, honorable, and biblical. So, reading a book like this might help folks to develop their own personal plans. However, I think that these strategies would be more successful if they did not come with a biblical brow-beating. Our sexual desires are both innate (hormonal and instinctual) and learned. The learned part was developed and inured over the course of decades and it takes time and patience to develop new thought and behavior patterns. I'm just not sure that any of these books has found a path that makes full sense to me.