Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Breaking the Silence: Women Like Men

It's been long known than men like women. And I would like to break to you a shocking secret: Women like men.

In the past 10-ish years in Christian culture in America, it has come into the light just how much of a struggle men's innate attraction to the female body is. Thankfully, many conferences, books, and sermons have created an atmosphere in which men can feel more open and comfortable admitting their struggle with pornography. (Not that it is ever easy.) But at least there is often a culture of, "Hey, we know this is a problem and a lot of us are facing it; let's be honest and support each other."

When it comes to women, so many of us are keeping silent. With married women, our secret isn't typically porn. What many struggle with is the plain and simple fact that we still like guys. Married men are still attracted to women, and married women are still attracted to men.

When we got married, we didn't ride off in a pumpkin into happily ever after with a new brain. We woke up the same person with the same brain we had the day before - with the same impulses and struggles. We did not magically transform into beings who will never feel anything toward any other man on the planet for the rest of our lives, no matter how much the fairy tales imply otherwise.

I think we do women and girls a great disservice when we don't let them know this. Men are warned that they will still want to look at women. Girls, be warned that you may still get blutterflies in your stomach over some guy when you get married.

(Quick disclaimer: I hate it when anyone says all women are like this or that. We are each different with unique struggles. So suffice it to say that what I say is true of many women.)

Not every woman will face the same struggle, depending on her circumstances. If you rarely are in the company of other men except at church, then perhaps you won't have ample opportunities to face this. (Or maybe it will make your interactions with men seem like an even bigger deal!) But many women, like me, do live their daily lives around men. And I believe that every last person among us put in the right (or wrong) circumstances can fall.

Staying silent with this potential landmine is the worst possible thing to do. When we stay silent, we assume that we are the only person with this problem. We assume that no one else could possibly understand our problems. We believe that we are beyond help.

When our feelings of attraction for another man stay in the dark with only our own brain (which suspects we're the most screwed up person alive), they are allowed to grow bigger and bigger. What could otherwise be understood and dealt with is allowed to turn into a really big deal. And, eventually, if unchecked, it is allowed to turn into sin.

But, my married lady friends, if we will be honest with ourselves and others, we can be prepared for when we face the struggle. We will be able to say, "Hey, I am not the first person to ever struggle with this. I do need to get my actions and my emotions in check. I probably need to ask for some advice and put up some boundaries."

Let's all bring a little light into this area in our lives. If you are struggling with feelings for a man besides your husband, don't let it fester in the dark. Talk to a friend, ask for accountability and advice. She'll probaby be relieved that the topic is finally on the table.

It's important to know yourself and know your triggers. Watch out for the things that you know may spark something. In my own life, I travel for work, often with men. I might be spending time with a man for an extended period away from home. It may be someone that I would never like in "real" life, but I nevertheless know that this is a dangerous situation. So I prepare myself. I acknowledge that spending a lot of time in so and so's company might result in me feeling something. I make sure not to flirt. (I'm a recovering flirt.) I make sure to bring up how great my husband is a lot. I don't allow myself to wallow in what might seem like pleasant feelings at the moment.

I am not perfect. Obviously. That's why I'm writing this post. But I also know that when I'm seeking God, when I'm honest with myself and open with my friends, this potential landmine can become just another bump on the road.


Cindy said...

great post. i don't think i've ever read anything on this before. thanks for sharing and being transparent, this was very helpful!

compassiondave said...

Hey Amber, sorry for the invasion, but I just had to chime-in. Married folks having even minimalistic feelings towards anyone who is not their spouse is not a normal response. I agree that it feels normal, but if we’re honest we must call it what it is—sin.

We can argue that God gave us innate desires for the opposite sex and that those cravings are not magically turned-off when we wed, but if we assume that reasoning we sidestep the simplicity of God’s solution to the problem. The longer we hold onto the notion that it is a normal response that we must suppress for the rest of our lives, the longer we will struggle with it. We begin to change when we start referring to these things by their proper label: sinful responses.

Should we talk about these things with others? I believe the answer to that question is maybe. I’m not suggesting we let feelings fester in the dark, but rather we confess them in the light immediately—to God. The inherent danger in sharing our sin with others is that we’re liable to eventually find a sympathetic ear. Honestly, the last thing a sinner needs to hear is, “Don’t worry about it too much, after all what you’re going through is normal.”

If we want sympathy (and we all do), we should seek it from Jesus.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Can a good friend help through these situations? Absolutely. But I submit to you that every time we bypass Christ Jesus He is speaks to our souls, “Oh how I desire that you would have brought these things to Me.”

I pray that everything I expressed was received in love. God bless!

Amber said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Dave.

My point isn't so much to argue whether temptation/feelings are sin or not. Saying something is "normal" doesn't mean that I'm saying it isn't sin.

1 Corinthians 10: 12-13 says, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

If you look at the verses immediately before this, the "temptations" being discussed are sexual immorality, idolatry, testing Christ, and grumbling. (vs. 7-11)

These temptations are "common" to mankind. That doesn't mean they are OK. But the knowledge that the temptations we face are common to man (this is what I meant by "normal"), helps us to respond to them. Many people facing these temptations have a tendency to hide them because they think that they are somehow worse then others around them and that others couldn't understand. This results in people hiding their sins in the dark and trying to handle them on their own.

I agree that we need to take our struggles first to Christ and rely on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. But with temptations such as pornography or sexual immorality, I would also say that we are lying to ourselves when we think we can handle them alone and don't need outside accountability and support.

I don't suggest we go tell just anyone about it. I certainly don't suggest we talk to others simply to get sympathy. I suggest that we talk to someone who we can trust, who is mature in the faith, and who we know will give us wise advice and hold us accountable.

That is why I think it is so important that for women we create an open atmosphere to talk about our struggles, just as I think there has been progress on this front for men.

Vicki Small said...

I have been taught, all my life--and based on scripture, I believe--that temptation is not sin; the sin is in dwelling on it, fantasizing about it, and/or acting out on it. If the temptation becomes a problem through our thought life or actions, then yes, we are sinning.

And Amber, you make a good point about establishing some boundaries. Certain situations are best avoided, if at all possible.

The Good News is that, when we are tempted and fall into sin (at thought level or action), Jesus can break the power of our sin! (Tested and proved!)

Amber said...

Thanks, Vicki. It reminds me of this passage: "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." James 1:14-15

I altered my post, since my use of the words "normal" and "basic human response" seemed to be what was offending people. Hopefully the way it is written now will be less of a stumbling block, and will let my real point come through - that we need to be honest with ourselves and a close trusted friend when we need help with this issue, and so that we can also be prepared for when we do face temptation.

Michael Jonathan Van Schooneveld said...

I agree with all this. There's a lot more to be said, but this is a great summary. Men have come a long way lately thanks to the issue of sexual temptation "coming out" as it were. Books like Every Man's Battle (every man's, what is common to mankind) have really helped. And women face similar/complimentary challenges. They may be set off by different circumstances or things, but they're there. Knoweldge is power. You'll never expect sin and be on guard against it, you'll never be able to take captive every thought, if you aren't aware of what you're like and what things are likely to affect and tempt you.

I think it's also helpful to understand who the "you" in you is. What I mean is, there are things that are normal in the sense of that's ust how we're made. We're spiritual, rational, emotional, and physical beings. All of those are aspects of what and who we are. Spiritually, we're saved, but the other parts of us are what they were, and a big part of living life as a Christian is bringing the various parts of ourselves under Christ's rule and not letting them rule us. For some people, the struggle is with their emotional self. For others it's the physical self. If you show a man a picture of a naked woman, any naked woman, his physical self will react by releasing chemicals in his brain that will make him like what he sees and want to keep looking at it. There's no stopping dopamine receptors. That's built-in. In that sense, it's normal. But we do, as creatures that are more than JUST physical, have the choice to assert our will and turn away, to choose not to let our will follow our body into lusting for that girl. As a multi-part being, you can view yourself, or parts of yourself as a subject. You may not be able to control the fact that pretty women stimulate the release of chemicals in your brain, or that someone being kind to you when you're feeling neglected and reaching out to hold your hand makes you feel good (let's assume for the sake of argument that you're a woman and it's a guy who isn't your husband). Those are both normal, in the sense of natural, responses. But you are more than nature, more than just emotions or just a body. You can choose what to do with those responses, to ignore them, reject them, or (if it's with your spouse) embrace them! The you who chooses, that's the real you, and that's where sin is or is not located. In what you choose to do with what is put before you.

Understanding that robs temptation of it's power. It puts you and your obedience to God back in the driver's seat; it empowers your ability to treat yourself as the patient (as Martyn Lloyd Jones would put it, see "Spiritual Depression"). And it keeps your spiritual identity where it should be: you're a saved child of God, forgiven and in the process of being perfected. That is who YOU are.

Michael Jonathan Van Schooneveld said...

So yes, knowing is important, and openness is empowering. God isn't afraid of sin. You aren't your temptations, and you're not even your sin, and there's no sin so big that God is worried and afraid that He (and you with him) won't be able to handle it. Understanding your spiritual identity, and your larger physical, emotional, and rational makeup, is important. Otherwise, you'll get confused, and you'll be vulnerable to attack. And for people who have been overcome by their fear of sin, sometimes it's helpful to hear the verse Amber quoted. Hey, it's normal. We're all tempted. That's part of living in this world, and it's no good trying to simply deny that we are still physical/emotional/etc imperfect beings living in a fallen world. We can and will face the temptations common to all mankind. It doesn't help anyone to pretend that we won't, and the Bible certainly doesn't pretend it. The Bible is brutally honest in showing that even the very best of Biblical heroes faced ordinary temptations and even fell to them (sometimes spectacularly). It doesn't benefit me or other men to pretend to be above it all, a perfect Christian who is invulnerable to temptation. I'm not. And the same is true for women. You're vulnerable, just like we men are. When we get married, God doesn't magically take away our dopamine receptors. He gives us our vows, and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to keep those vows, to rule our hearts and take captive our thoughts by a conscious and continual act of submission and obedience. When women get married, God doesn't take away your own natural responses. They made need more specialized circumstances to trigger and may (or may not) express themselves differently, but they're there. And your only recourse is the same as ours.

Anyway, I've gone on far too long. All this is simply to say, more power to you girls, and I respect you all for your courage and openness, and I wish you all strength in meeting the chalenges you face.