Noticing is Not Lusting! We Need to Free Men from this Fallacy

by | May 22, 2019 | Uncategorized | 102 comments

What is lust? Why noticing someone is not lusting.

If you notice a woman is beautiful, is that a sin? Have you already lusted after her in your heart?

If you read many best-selling marriage books, you’d say yes. If you notice a woman, then you’re tempted to undress her. That temptation makes you focus on body parts. You need to resist that temptation! So you need to not look at her body. You need to “bounce your eyes”, as Every Man’s Battle tells you. You need to control your thoughts.

But what if that is actually wrong? What if lust doesn’t work that way? What if that’s “criminalizing”, for lack of a better term, life?

This month I’ve been talking about sex ed for adults, and we’ve looked at what we can learn about God, sex, and the genders from how He created our bodies. We talked about the theology of the clitoris and the theology of the penis.

Today I want to talk about something I’ve been planning to do for ages, and that’s debunking the idea that noticing a woman is beautiful means that you are lusting and therefore sinning. I truly believe that one reason that men are so caught up in lust is because they’ve been put in an impossible situation, making them paranoid and hyper-vigilant (if they’re trying to be good) or making them give up at trying to be good and deciding that lust is a natural thing and women need to get used to it. Both extremes are wrong, but both are caused by the same mistaken teaching.

Here’s what it comes down to:

Do you believe that a man can notice a woman is beautiful or is nicely shaped but then do absolutely nothing else with that information? 

Many would say no. I say yes.

It really comes down to the definition of lust.

We know that lust is a sin. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:27-28

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

A few things about this verse. It does not say that everyone who SEES a woman has committed adultery. It says that a man who LOOKS with lust at a woman has committed adultery with her. “Seeing” is noticing. Seeing is not wrong. Seeing is inevitable. Looking, however, is a deliberate action. But looking, in and of itself, is also not wrong. It’s looking with a certain attitude–with lust–that crosses the line. And lust is a desire to have sex with her, or to fantasize about her sexually (like undressing her in your mind).

It is not that he sees.

It is not even that he looks.

It is that he looks with a specific purpose–to ogle her and fantasize about her.

Sexual attraction is not lust.

Lust is a deliberate act. Sexual attraction is a hard-wired state of being over which we have no control. Sexual attraction falls under the “seeing” side of the equation. Lust falls under the deliberate side. A person can find another individual attractive and not have that have any bearing on their thought life, their fantasy life, the condition of their marriage, anything.

I mean, I can watch a movie and see that Ryan Reynolds is a good looking CANADIAN man. I find him attractive. That does not mean I have ever, even once in my life, pictured him naked or wanted to have sex with him. My husband can go see Wonder Woman in theatres with me and say that the women were attractive (though he also said that the older Amazons were more attractive to him than Gal Godot), but similarly, it does not mean that he pictured them in any sexual way.

Finding someone attractive does not mean that you are mentally cheating on your spouse. Noticing someone walk by does not mean you are lusting.

Fixating on that person and fantasizing about them does. 

This dude is deliberately looking. The guy in the pic above just sees her in the restaurant. Can you see the difference?

Deliberately Lusting after a woman at work

Temptation is not lust. And you can withstand temptation!

When someone is sexually attracted to someone else, yes, they may be tempted to undress them in their minds. They may be tempted to fixate on certain body parts. But that temptation is ALSO not a sin. What is a sin is to give in to it. Jesus Himself was tempted, but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).

The antidote to lust is to see women not as objects but as people. That’s how Jesus saw women. He sat down and had conversations with them, even though that was extremely taboo at the time. In ancient Israel, a man talking to an unrelated woman would have sexual overtones and would be seen as shameful. But Jesus rejected that idea, and simply talked to women. He sat down with the Samaritan woman by a well when it was just the two of them. The disciples were shocked when He did this. But He valued the woman, and had something He wanted to say to her. And interestingly, it was to that woman to whom He first outrightly confessed that He was the Messiah:

John 4:25-26

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 

Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Paul called women his fellow co-workers and co-laborers in the gospel, and mentions many of them by name. In Romans 16, 10 of the 29 people mentioned are female. Paul mentions a deaconess (Phoebe); an apostle (Junia); women who risked their lives for the gospel and others who worked hard for the gospel (Priscilla and Mary) among others. If Paul could work with women when it was taboo, and Jesus could speak with women alone without lusting, then it is possible to be with a woman and not lust.

And what does Paul say about temptation?

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13; NRSV)

You can withstand temptation! You can take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). And that means that men can go through life without lusting.

I believe that we make the temptation to lust far worse because we conflate it with attraction, and then we make men and boys hyper-vigilant.

It’s like the pink elephant phenomenon. As soon as you tell someone, “don’t think of pink elephants!” what’s the first thing they do? They think of pink elephants.

If we raise men and boys saying things like,

You will be sexually attracted to women, and when you see women, you’ll be tempted to undress them in your mind. And that temptation is everywhere! Every cleavage on display is something that could easily lead you down the road to destruction. So you must be sure that you don’t fixate. You must not be tempted or give in to temptation. You must not notice a woman’s body, or you will quickly go down that slippery slope and you’ll be lost.

Well, what’s a guy going to do when he’s out in public? He’s going to be paranoid.

One of my commenters a few years ago said that her husband couldn’t go to the beach with the kids because it was too tempting to lust. When we’re at the point where men can’t take their children to the beach, we’re in trouble.

I remember reading one book from a Christian perspective about the difficulty with lust that men go through that women will never understand.

I read that book with an open mind, but the first chapter left me feeling horrible about my marriage. It was intended to give women an idea of the tremendous pressure that men are under in our over-sexualized culture, and it followed a man throughout his workday.

I’m going by memory here, and I could be wrong, but I recall the book talking about how he’s driving to work and he sees a scantily clad woman on a billboard, and he has to try not to look at it. At work, he’s very worried going in the staff meeting, because he knows a female co-worker will be there and she often leaves several buttons undone. He’s worried what will happen if she sits across from him. At Starbucks for break there is a voluptuous woman, and he’s trying so hard not to stare and not to think of her that way. This goes on all day, and at the end of the day he’s so excited to get home and see his wife so that he can try to forget about all these women in his head, but when he gets home she’s too busy and doesn’t really care about his kisses and advances.

The main message was that men, when they go out in public, are very, very scared and stressed by the women all around them. It also said that a husband will very rarely admit this to his wife.

Temptation is not lust. And you can withstand temptation!

So I asked Keith, and I said that he could be honest with me. My husband works in an almost all-female setting, with mostly female doctors, female nurses, and even female patients (it’s usually the moms of patients who bring in the kids). Did he really live with that level of stress? Was life almost unbearable for him?

He thought I was kidding at first. I asked him if was scared to admit the truth to me (as the books implied that men often are). And he said that, no, being out in public is not scary, and he honestly can’t imagine it being scary for anyone over the age of 13.

Now, my husband could hardly be described as low libido (if that’s not sharing too much information). But this is simply not his experience. It should be noted, however, that he did not become a Christian until he was 18, and so he did not grow up with this message about lust that most Christian teen boys hear.

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This hyper-vigilance and fear of women is, however, a very real part of many Christian men’s lives.

And I believe it’s because they’ve been taught that sexual attraction is a sin, or that it’s such a slippery slope to lust that the best thing to do is to fight against noticing women altogether.

This does a great disservice to men, who live in bondage thinking that they are sinning when they are not. It also impedes them from being able to have healthy relationships with women, as Jesus and Paul had, because women are always a threat to them.

If I look only at her face, does she think I’m deliberately avoiding her body because I’m noticing it? But if I don’t look her in the eyes, will she think I’m checking her out?

Instead of just enjoying getting to know her or having an interesting conversation, he has to be vigilant.

But this is also very harmful to women, because we are always sexualized. How can women have healthy relationships with men if men always see them as a danger? And what if women start seeing other women as threats to their marriage, because we are taught that men are always checking out other women? We’re also taught that because men lust all the time, and they have such a struggle not to notice us, that we have to dress in such a way that they wouldn’t notice. Their lust then becomes our fault. (I wrote here how the “Don’t Be a Stumbling Block” argument doesn’t actually hold up biblically.)

Instead of the biblical example of Paul and Jesus having lots of relationships with women that were totally platonic, in too many Christian circles men are taught that women are dangerous and to be avoided for your own spiritual health.

When we equate noticing with lusting, it’s no wonder that we call lust every man’s battle.

The better message is a simple one:

Talk to women. Treat them like people. Think about the whole person, not the body part. And do not entertain sexual thoughts about a woman you aren’t married to.

I hope this is a freeing message!

Noticing is Not Lusting: The Definition of Lust. It's not sexual attraction or just temptation.

What do you think? Is noticing lusting? Where would you draw the line between what is lust and what is not? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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102 Comments

  1. Kate

    Beautiful, Sheila! This same rule applies to women too. We notice handsome men ALL the time. What we do with that info is all on us, though. Trust me, every man and women on this earth has a preference in a mate of the opposite gender, so whether we admit it or not there will always be someone we find visually appealing. In that situation it best to praise God for His marvelous handwork and keep it moving.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep, absolutely! And we are capable of doing that, too.

      Reply
      • Kate

        Sheila, can you tackle the, every man’s battle, book like you did with the Eggerich’s book? I know you might start an uproar but truth has a way of doing that, and i think this another area where relationships/marriages are battling a war and they can use some Biblical wisdom to free them from the world’s opinion/burden. Please, do a series if possible.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I did do a series on the Every Man’s Battle concept a while back. To be honest, I’ve never read Every Man’s Battle. I’ve read Every Heart Restored, and it seriously wounded me. It made women into sexual receptacles for their men, or else their men would fall prey to lust. Completely ignored intimacy. Was really bad. I’ll think about writing more, but I kind of feel like I covered the main bits. But maybe I should look closer.

          Reply
      • Anonymous

        I agree with this message, and my husband does as well, but what happens when we put these mental actions into words? We know several couples, some Christians, who purposely bring a member of the opposite sex to their spouse’s attention. I feel uncomfortable pointing out other men to my husband, making comments about them and so on. Heck, I feel uncomfortable doing this with female friends. I feel this sort of conversation can lead to lust and hurt feelings from the other spouse. Is it okay to be pointing out to our spouse other people we are attracted to? It just doesn’t seem healthy to me.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          No, I don’t think that’s really healthy at all.

          Reply
        • Norma

          I agree with many of your points but want to know if you have ever researched the questions that have to be answered in our brains before deciding if someone is attractive? They only take a fraction of a second, my husband thinks he can “notice” that another woman has a nicely shaped bum and not be sexualizing her or seeing her through the eye of lust, asks if his sister has a nicely shaped bum, he says he asked why would he ever look at his sister bum that way.
          I think that if you wouldn’t “notice” your mom or sister’s bum then… look on all people, who aren’t your wife, as you would your sisters and brothers in Christ.

          Reply
    • Cam Winston

      Yes, the rule applies that women will find men attractive, but what makes men sexually interested in a woman comes basically via visual stimulation. When it comes to sexual attraction, what a woman does for a living, her education level, her family pedigree, whatever, doesn’t really matter.
      At all.
      The rest, personality/humor/kindness/etc., are what comes in the decision to go forward or possibly find a mate, as those are attractions for a relationship. But for sexual attraction, it’s pretty much looks. And it’s biological, not social. There was no one to tell men to like breasts, it’s engrained within us and that attraction is what makes us the predators/initiators & how we keep the species going. What we are TAUGHT is to tamper it (and that’s good, otherwise we could be creepers) but it is as natural for a man to be sexually attracted to a beautiful woman as it is for any of us to find the aroma of a flower to be pleasant or (if carnivores) the smell of a ribeye steak on the grill to be wanting.

      So, yes, women find men visually attractive, but simply looking at a man generally doesn’t send off 100% of the “I want to mate” sensors, whereas that is how men are hard wired.

      Reply
      • Tom Rhoades

        You’re right, Cam. I think women need to hear those things hundreds of times, because it never seems to sink in in their minds – they just don’t understand what 100% visual attraction means. They usually try to throw emotional things into sexual attraction – for men, it is often entirely visual.

        Reply
      • Jo

        Sorry to burst the bubble, but I’ve got to chime in. I’m definitely a woman, and I definitely notice men. All the time. Everywhere. 100% physical attraction, total strangers, know nothing about them and never will. Trust me, we women absolutely look–I mean, I fight not to look twice, so to speak, but we look. I am hardly the only woman I know to be wired this way. It really frustrates me when people perpetuate the misconception of “women aren’t visual,” because it’s utterly false, widens the understanding gulf between the sexes, and then to add insult to injury, shames and silences women for perfectly normal impulses.

        As an aside, I love Sheila’s article because it’s been my philosophy for years. A++, Sheila!

        Reply
        • Tom Rhoades

          Jo, you are likely an exception, because the average guy is much more sexually stimulated visually than the average woman. As Christian author Shaunti Feldhahn puts it: ‘When a woman tells a man, “but I am visual too” it is like a weekend hiker going up to someone who has summited Everest, K2, and the Eiger and telling them, “I am a hiker, too.” Technically correct, but so far off the mark that the Everest veteran can only politely smile and nod and think “this person has no idea”‘.

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            Here’s a quick run-down of the actual research:
            1. Men tend to respond FIRST to visual stimuli. But it’s not the only thing that makes someone attractive.
            2. Visual stimuli response does NOT mean that lust automatically happens; sexual attraction is not the same as actively thinking about sexual situations with that person
            3. Women can be just as visually stimulated as men; all of these things are on a bell curve distribution which means that even if the average man is more visually stimulated than the average woman, there are going to be women who are more visually stimulated than some men.

            That quote actually silences the women who are on the ends of the bell curve and doesn’t listen to them. Men tend to respond more to visual stimuli, but lust is about more than visuals: it’s about actively engaging in thoughts for the sake of sexual pleasure. Women experience this, too–it just tends to be more contextually based. So let’s not try to one-up each other in our struggles–we’re individuals, each created uniquely, and let’s not be careful to say “Well because I’m this way I automatically have more of a claim to this struggle than you do” because it negates personal responsibility and also limits our ability to learn from each other.

            The reality is that if someone is so visually stimulated that he/she can’t help but lust when they look at someone, they need therapy and they need to develop the fruit of the spirit. No one gets a free pass because of their gender (e.g., I’m a man so it’s more difficult, or you’re a woman so you can’t actually struggle with this as badly as I do)

      • Mary Gellatly

        I really hope this comment is not written by a Christian… because it sounds as though you are coming totally from a biological/evolutionary foundation. I’m not saying you can’t be a Christian if you believe in evolution, but a Christian HAS to believe that humankind, as made in the image of God, is separate from the plants and animal kingdoms with a moral compass and a conscience put their by God which answers to Him.
        We are not animals! We are humans made in the image of a God who loves us. You are capable of a higher level of behaviour, not merely subject to primal instincts!

        Reply
      • Kya

        My husband and I have discussed this multiple times, and he would disagree with you. He has told me several stories of women he found attractive initially, but once he got to know them the attraction waned because he didn’t like their personality/worldview/whatever. I know some of these women personally, and they are gorgeous–physically an A+. But who they are as people actually does matter to him and affects his level of temptation.

        Reply
      • Anna

        I am female too, and totally agree with Jo’s comment. Thank you Jo, I feel just the same.

        Thank you so much Rebecca, for your comment, too!!!

        I am sooo over the message that I’ve heard over and over and over that men are visual, women aren’t. Well, this woman is!

        Thank you again

        Reply
  2. Phil

    Good morning Sheila – Thanks to you and Becca and TLHV for doing this men’s corner. The first one written by Becca I was kind of snippy in my response which was personally related to a resentment in my marriage and nothing to do with the article it self… so I was hoping you would keep going with the concept. As for lusting. I didn’t grow up with the message that all men will lust from within my church. Instead, I grew up with lust that I was taught at age 8 and as I grew up I just figured everyone did it. So my story is different. I was that guy you read about and I know so many like what you read. Once I figured out what I was doing was wrong and I came clean and started working on it, I was scared. Going to the food store was no longer easy for me. Those thoughts that guy had were part of my day. Crap….when I go here I will see her…this woman will dress like this etc…..so it was a process for me to stop the lusting because I had been doing it so long I didn’t even think about it. This morning we were out of half n half for coffee and what we did have curdled in my cup. So I ran down to the store. As I checked out, a woman walked by. She wasn’t particularly on my radar but she smelled good. Maybe too good cuz I could smell her from the next check out over. Yes I noticed her. Maybe she wanted to be noticed? That much perfume….I could’ve taken it farther but what I do with that now is I just notice as you wrote and then go back to what I was doing. GONE. It is just that simple. God made us and he didn’t screw up when he did it. We were created to be beautiful. Both men and women. Some are more attractive to me than others but that is not something I much have control over. It is what I do with it when it occurs. I choose to be done with it and move on. When I have to interact with that same attractive woman I must notice and also move on. Staying in the moment and being present after I notice I am speaking with an attractive woman is really the key for me. For me it took years of practice to undo what I had created. In addition, I must be spiritually fit to be successful in not lusting. I think the message we teach to begin with is much more important. In fact. I half wonder if this should be part of The Whole Story? We need to teach our kids that its ok to notice another human being. As I write I feel like this almost goes with the allow your kids to see you naked piece. If the message is “normal” rather than taboo or comes across as bad then we are more likely to view it as good. I am glad God made men and women beautiful. Sure would be awful to have to look at ugly people all day 🙂

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks so much for that great comment, Phil! Yes, we can notice and then move on and be in the moment and not dwell. That’s the point! And, yes, we’re talking about this in The Whole Story, too!

      Reply
  3. Sheep

    Hi Sheila,

    Thanks for this one, this is really good. For me, growing up in a Christian home I was not constantly pounded with looking is lusting and I had great relationships with girls all through my teen years that didn’t involve lust. The problem started for me once I got married. My wife absolutely thought that even seeing was lusting and she couldn’t be convinced otherwise. Eventually I just gave in and tried not to even see. Looking back I can see the incredible damage this did not just to me, but to our family. I can’t tell you the number of couples that we weren’t allowed to be friends with because she thought the woman was attractive (didn’t matter if I did or not) Our family did not go to the beach or swimming or waterparks because of the possibility of there being a woman there that might be immodestly dressed or attractive. It got to the point where I couldn’t even talk to a woman at church and look at her face while doing so because my wife might notice and decide that I “wanted” her. I had to constantly be hyper vigilant to never look at a woman because in her mind that meant lust. I remember one time at church after sining a song she was glaring at me and I was like “what?” She later told me that I had looked at one of the worship team member that was attractive. I couldn’t even figure out which one I was supposedly looking at (with lust). I lived in constant fear of her deciding that I might be lusting after someone. (and yes, at home sex never happened unless she decided it was going to happen, so eventually I got tired of rejection and she had to initiate it. I was told I should be perfectly satisfied with once or twice a month)

    Looking back, I see that all of this really wasn’t about me and out of concern for me not sinning, It was about her and and her need for control over everything around her.

    Oddly enough, in the end I learned that she had multiple affairs during that time, of which she is not repentant. We are now in the end stages of divorce. It has been really interesting to me re-learning how to interact with women in a normal way and not out of fear. I am finding that it is so true that seeing and looking are not lusting… there is a HUGE difference in personal attitude between the two.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry about your wife’s affairs, Sheep, and about your divorce. You must be going through such an awful time.

      I do think you’ve brought up a really good point, though. When women hear all the time that men lust whenever they see another woman, then many WOMEN become paranoid and don’t want their husbands going places. This whole message just hurts everybody, and it needs to stop.

      Reply
      • Nate

        Thanks Sheep, what a journey we are all on. Attraction now for me, past seeing and noticing, comes down consideration of what motivates me, I.e. knowing what motivates me, long term. I’m recently divorced after a three and a half year separation, with four kids I spend alot of time with, but I’ve found with work, my motivation (I’m self employed) comes down to not just supplying my kids needs but setting up myself to be able to support a wife again one day. See, I wasn’t there for my ex-wife, emotionally, financially, and physically, like I could have been. She did the wandering and left. I reflected on the fact that husbands were exhorted by Paul, to love their wives like the anointed one loves the church, laying his life down for her. I wasn’t doing that for her, but that is what husbands can be anointed spiritually to do (Christ means ‘anointed one’, anointing means given authority and power to do so) and this is God’s will!
        So back to attraction – I now am looking for (and still not noticing yet) one who I will be prepared to do this for. It goes FAR past outward physical attraction which is first, but doesn’t obviously actually matter most and obviously I would need to be attracted to the way this person will also relate to my kids – attraction is a huge area, and love always attracts. Lust tries to imitate it, but love seeks to give while lust seeks to take and seduce.

        Reply
  4. Adam

    You’ve explained this really well, especially the part about how Jesus made a distinction of looking TO lust, and the difference between temptation and giving in to sin. I would offer one counter point though:

    For a lot of guys, lust becomes a habit, then an addiction. Porn is a part of this, but I was addicted to lust for years before I ever really got into porn. Also if you’re really introverted, and tend to live in your head in a fantasy world more than the real world, you tend to, as you described, treat women as objects instead of people, often because you don’t have healthy real relationships with women.

    When you’re at this place, some of the bouncing of eyes, avoiding looking becomes necessary, especially if you’re “recovering” from the addiction. You could make the analogy that an alcoholic doesn’t need to be hanging around bars. Also if you’re in a marriage that has been broken by a porn addiction or an affair, the wife is somewhat justified in being jealous over what you’re looking at, because her trust has been broken.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and thanks for an excellent article!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, Adam, I’d agree. When it’s a big issue for guys, and they do have a lust addiction, then you definitely need to put things in place so you don’t lust.

      But I’d also offer a caveat. Studies have repeatedly shown that the best way to stop lusting is to think of the woman as a whole person. So perhaps one of the antidotes to lust is not to be so hypervigilant and bouncing your eyes, but it’s to specifically practice thinking, “wow, she made a really good point there. She’s really smart.” Or, “Look at her daughter! What a great mom she is.” Notice things that AREN’T sexual about her. When we’re trying so hard not to notice women or fixate, we reinforce the idea that women are simply sexual beings. In fact, the best way to defeat lust is to see them as more than that. Just a thought!

      Reply
      • Guestest Ever

        I want to second your point here Shiela: it’s impossible to lust after someone you respect as a person.

        I was exposed to pornography at a young age, and it poisoned my sexuality in a way I’ve spent the last decade trying to correct. But when I tried to direct those thoughts towards my female friends – some of whom were very beautiful – I only came away feeling disgusted. It was years before I realized that my inability to lust after my friends wasn’t the part of me that was broken!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Isn’t that a great insight? Thank you for sharing. And it’s so true!

          Reply
  5. Debbi

    My exhusband has a porn problem and had multiple affairs which ended our 20year marriage. I am now remarried and my now husband did use porn for years but is doing well now with resisting that temptation. Because of my past marriage and damage there and one incident in my marriage if broken trust with porn I can be overly sensitive and fixate on what he’s looking at. I went through a period of time where I felt tormented by paranoia but the Lord has freed me from that. How do I as a wife with major broken trust deal with my thoughts about what my husband is looking at and thinking? I work at taking my thoughts captive but sometimes I get overwhelmed with fear. My husband and told me to ask him how he’s doing so I don’t allow the fear to grow. We have an honest relationship which is so wonderful and I know he appreciates and feels terrible for the pain caused by lust and porn and he does desire to live rightly with honor and loyalty toward me in our marriage with his mind and actions. I pray for him daily in this as well. I am blessed to be married to a man who is fighting the good fight!
    Thank you for the article as it helps me to accept and realize that not every noticing/looking turns into lust as he has told me and that is something I didn’t really understand.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Debbi, I’m sorry for all the hurt you’ve had! I’d just say keep working on your marriage and keep loving your husband. It sounds like you have a really great guy, and maybe he is one of the vehicles that God will use for great healing in your life!

      Reply
    • EM

      Hi Debbi, I’m so sorry you’ve had your trust broken like that. I know it sucks! I have a really great husband who’s working on it too, and just last night we were talking about my fear surrounding the issue. I tried to name exactly what it is I’m afraid of: that he won’t be attracted to me, that our sex life will be ruined, that we won’t have emotional intimacy, etc. But he has shown me through his actions over the last few years that NONE of those things are true in our relationship. He does love me, he is committed to beating this issue, we do have a great sex life. So what will ACTUALLY happen to me if he slips up occasionally? I will have my feelings hurt, we will have some tough conversations and some tears, and we will work through it together like we have before. It didn’t sound nearly so scary when I thought about it like that. Of course it will always hurt and I will always hate it, but I believe in keeping things in the proper perspective. And no matter what happens, to know that God has me in His hand every step of the way.

      I know it can be hard, especially reading a blog like this where you hear the worst-case scenarios, not to think the worst. But I am really trying to focus on knowing and loving MY husband, and not equating him with stories I read online in my head. I hope that helps a little! Praying for you today.

      Reply
    • Nathan M

      Do you think you could try S-Anon? It’s a support group for spouses of people who have been in the exact same situation as you.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Thank you for posting this, Sheila. As a wife, I’ve realized that I am paranoid, even though my husband has never given me any reason to be, and it’s convicting for me because I think it stems from my own insecurities/not feeling like I am beautiful or attractive. (My husband tells and shows me that I am all the time….it’s just something I struggle with) This post reminds me that I’ve really been unfair to him because of something I need to work through with the Lord. Lust has not been an issue for my husband in our marriage, (and THANK YOU for acknowledging that that is a possibility & that not every man struggles with this all the time) and even if it was I still shouldn’t be paranoid. Thanks for this great reminder!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I think that’s such an important point with this conversation: sometimes our insecurities can create larger problems, and the answer is to work together to find healing! Not just put more rules on the relationship so that the fear is assuaged. How wonderful that you’re married to a man who wants you to know how beautiful you are–that’s such a gift.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So glad it helped! I think it also hurts us women that there are so many books that talk about how all men lust. No wonder we’re paranoid! But we really have to ask God, ‘Is this a problem for my husband? Please reveal it if it is, but otherwise let me live in peace and freedom.’

      Reply
  7. EM

    This is so good! While my husband has had his online struggles, he doesn’t seem to have a hard time with women in the real world. I have never seen him staring or anything like that, and he has healthy relationships with women at work (he is actually an awesome promoter of women in his male-dominated field) and in our social circle. Being raised in a family with strong, independent women seems to have contributed to him seeing them always as whole, interesting people.

    I do think that in marriages it is so important for us to be confident as wives. My husband and I are pretty open about when we see someone attractive. The other day we walked into a fast food restaurant and there was a young, beautiful woman in an itty bitty red dress and towering heels. I mean you couldn’t avoid noticing her if you tried. When we walked out we had a good laugh about it, like oh my goodness, what was she doing out dressed like that? I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for my husband if I was upset with him for noticing her. I can handle it because I know he thinks I’m beautiful, and I understand that our brains are wired to see beauty.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, my husband and I have had similar conversations! You can’t get upset at a guy for noticing someone that you noticed, too! It really isn’t a sin. And we need to not take it so seriously.

      Reply
  8. Kathryn

    This article is so needed for both men and women. Having grown up in a very unhealthy outlook on sexuality and what lust is and isn’t, has affected what I thought about it, a lot. I have come to the place where I know that noticing and having temptations are not lusting (the bible tells us when a women was beautiful to look upon, and Jesus was tempted), it is hard to think that it is okay to be sexually attracted to someone though. I’ll have to think about that one a lot. Thank you so much for this article Sheila!! I really needed it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad! I think sexual attraction simply means that you find someone good-looking. It doesn’t mean that you do anything with that thought. Obviously it can encompass much, much more than that, but thinking that someone is attractive is not, in and of itself, a sin.

      Reply
      • Kathryn

        Okay I get what you’re saying! Thanks for the clarification!!

        Reply
  9. Kya

    Around the time my first child was born, my husband and I became friends with another couple in our church who has 3 young children. When we went over to their house, the men did “men things” while the wife and I watched the kids run around the back yard. Eventually we both needed to breastfeed, and I described myself as a “militant breastfeeder.” What I meant is that I am passionate about breastfeeding and I think it should be more normalized in our society, but given what happened next, I probably should have worded it differently. The next week her husband asked mine out to coffee and basically told him to get his wife in line! He and his wife were both concerned that at some point he would see me breastfeeding and be unable to control his lust. He actually said that: that if he saw a woman breastfeeding, he would be unable to prevent himself from lusting after her. Though I do not have any issues breastfeeding around other people , out of respect for their wishes, I have never breastfed where he could see me. But what is this madness where a man would be unable to see a breastfeeding woman as anything but a sex object? Oh, church, what have we done?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Kya, that’s a pet peeve of mine, too! I actually have that as #11 in my post on 12 things we can do to help men not lust–normalize breastfeeding! In this case, that man was completely inappropriate. You were feeding a baby. If he was tempted to lust because you were feeding a baby, the problem is with him, not with you. He should remove himself from that situation. The baby should be the first priority here, not his sensibilities. To put that on you was ridiculous.

      But more than that, I think that men are growing up feeling that women’s bodies are entirely sexual and that women are entirely sexual beings, and they have no control over that. It’s just wrong. And I do think that if we normalized breastfeeding, we’d have less problem with lust.

      It’s funny, but millennial men are quite comfortable with breastfeeding in public compared to other generations of men, and they also have the least problem with lust. European men, too. It’s our conservative Christian culture which oversexualizes women and which tells men they can’t resist, and that combination is toxic.

      Reply
  10. AL

    I have to disagree that sexual attraction is not lust. It is! Attraction may not be lust, but SEXUAL attraction IS lust. How could it not be? Is it normal for a man or a woman to just walk around sexually attracted to different people? I don’t think so. I think you’re stretching that a lot. Noticing is not lust- it’s being human. Normally I agree with most of your posts, but I have to say no to part of this one. Coming from someone who has struggled with lust myself, and God dealing with me about it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Sexual attraction, to me, means that you find the person attractive in a way that you wouldn’t find a person of the same sex attractive. It doesn’t mean anything more than that. It is absolutely impossible for a person to not find anyone else attractive.

      It doesn’t mean you think about that person. It doesn’t mean you picture anything with that person. It doesn’t mean you give them another thought. It just means that you may think that their body is a pleasing shape. That’s all it is.

      Now, if we’re going to define it to mean that you’re attracted to them in a way that you want to pursue a relationship–then absolutely that’s wrong. But we’re making people feel guilty for simply thinking that someone else is attractive. That’s heaping guilt on something which is not wrong. Even in the Bible women are called beautiful and some men are called handsome. We will notice, and there will be some that we will find attractive. But it does not need to mean anything at all more than that.

      Reply
      • Theresa

        I have to agree with the above person. Let’s be clear here. Finding someone attractive is different than finding someone sexually attractive. I am coming from a place of being hurt by my husband’s pornography addiction, visits to strip clubs and continuously checking other women out, not just their face but a focus on their physical assets. I had a negative knee jerk reaction to your above claim that there is nothing wrong with men being/showing sexual attraction to other women besides their spouse. You changed your claim in your response to the comment made above. You said there is nothing wrong with men finding other women besides their spouse attractive. That is a completely a different meaning. Below is a description of sexual attraction.

        SEXUAL ATTRACTION is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest. Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal is an individual’s ability to attract the sexual or erotic interests of other people, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate.

        After 28 yrs. my husband & I are making a concentrated effort to reconcile and restore our marriage. We are both seeking help in counseling. He is also getting addiction counseling.

        We just started working on your 31 days to great sex book. I had some contention with you there, too. There is a part where you say that if during one of the exercises that one of the partners starts to have some anxiety/thoughts seep in that causes hurt, pain or a disconnect, that we should push a buzzer, stop the exercise and then have a laugh about it and then start again. I assure you that the deep pain and scars that I will carry to my grave from my husband’s years of sexual sin, will never be a laughing matter to me. I’m not sure what your marriage experience has been, so I don’t want to assume anything but it seems that there is not a lot of compassion or connection from you in the area of unfaithfulness due to lust and then sexual sin.
        I would like to share with you that we have enjoyed all other parts of your book. We have opened up to each other in ways, conversation wise, spiritually and intimately, in a deeper way. Thank you for the step by step guide. We desired a marriage rooted in God and connected spiritually, emotionally and intimately. We were not sure what the intimate part of that looked like. Your book is a great example of what a God centered intimate relationship should look like!

        Reply
    • Anon

      I actually agree with what you’re saying in your comment AL.

      My marriage died years ago. Thirteen years of porn addiction, ten years of lying about it after I found something on the computer.

      Eight years ago I finally left exhausted from being lied to that what I found on the computer was a ‘one time silly little thing’. That caused a drip fed confession that was punctured with more lies. I came back but our marriage did not survive. As far as I know, no more porn. But lusting after women in public and making up elaborate lies about it. What I’ve discovered, is that husbands lusting after women in public can actually feel worse for a wife than pornography. These women are real, they’re moving, alive.

      At the time this all came out, the church we were in was toxic for this topic. Every Man’s Battle was recommended all over the church, as was Shaunti’s book ‘For Her Only’ which seems to be the one Sheila has quoted here. Every Heart Restored was another forced upon us. Even the counsellor we saw said it was normal to stare at and check out women’s body parts in public… Just as long as my husband wasn’t looking at pornography. People in the church kept saying to me “you do realise all guys lust… Don’t you???” The pain was excruciating. This whole topic destroyed our marriage, along with all the porn obviously.

      In the end I had to decide whether I could trust my husband again or not. I tried and tried. But it just couldn’t be done. Somewhere along the line I needed to find safety in life again. And marriage with him was not safe.

      We still share the same house because that’s what was the most practical thing for our children. Aside from anything else, my health suffered tremendously from all the stress and I am not in a position to be a solo Mum.

      I’m sure there are people who would criticise and judge me on this. Everyone is different. We all have our breaking point.

      Maybe one day I might find love. But for now, I’m stuck with a roommate.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Anon, I’m so sorry!

        And, yes, this is exactly what I’m talking about! When we make lust something that “every man does”, it really gives men permission to openly do this. If we talk about it as something that can be resisted, and that seeing women as whole people is the norm, then maybe more men would grow up expecting to do the latter. Doesn’t that just make sense? Nowhere in the Bible is sin ever called “normal”, and yet we have made it so. They would say it’s for good intentions, because so many guys struggle with this, but if so many guys struggle with this, when the Bible says that shouldn’t be a reality, then perhaps the answer is not to double down on telling guys it’s inevitable, but to instead find a different way of talking about it!

        I’m sorry that your marriage broke down, and that your husband wouldn’t put you all first. I’m very, very sorry.

        Reply
  11. clb

    John Paul II addresses this very well in the Theology of the Body. He says that lust is the opposite of love. Love sees a person as a person (made in the image and likeness of God), and wants what is best for him or her. Lust sees a person as a thing, and wants to use that thing for personal benefit. Lust is definitely not the same as attraction, but a lack of love can turn attraction into lust. Attraction and passion in a marriage should be love-based, not lust-based, because when we fall into lust, we’re no longer seeing our spouse as a person to be loved, but a thing to be used.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s very well said! And that’s also why the antidote for lust is seeing someone as a whole person in the image of God. When we try to defeat lust by avoiding people, we’re actually ingraining the problem, because we see them only as sexual beings. We need to see them as the whole person!

      Reply
    • Jo

      I love that way of phrasing it. In moments where I’m tempted to lust, my catchphrase is, “Hey, they’re a *person*.” Reminds me that they’re not an object to lust after but rather a human who deserves respect.

      Reply
  12. Anonymous

    So thankful for your ministry! It has really helped my heart to heal in many ways! I grew up in the “Every Man’s Battle” time and while I was already a pretty mess, it just added to it. My dad had a major problem with lust (and was an alcoholic) and my well-meaning Christian mom would enforce that EVERY man had a lust issue. I was a quiet girl, majorly sexually harassed in high school, with boys looking up my skirt, playing with my hair, saying awful things when I walked by, etc. and I didn’t see any good men in my life, so when I married, I thought my husband had a lust problem along with every other man. It took me 18 years to realize, I was the one with the problem! I had major trust issues! 7 months ago we realized my trust issue and cried together over the time lost. I don’t know why God allowed it to take me so long to realize. It was like I couldn’t open my heart to my hubby, even though we didn’t know it, and suddenly I could. The Lord has torn this wall down, this thinking no man could be trusted with my heart, and has given us freedom and a close intimate relationship that my heart always longed for (and his too!) I have an amazing man! Not *every man lusts! I am super thankful for a husband who has gently and lovingly helped me through this, because if you are a women who has been hurt or who hasn’t seen good men, on top of bad teaching such as it being every mans battle, it’s really difficult to let your husband in, in the way you should, loving big and not trying to protect your heart. Thank the Lord for freedom! Thank you, Sheila, your posts have helped my heart to heal!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      What a beautiful comment! I may just save this to use in the podcast when I talk about noticing and lusting, if you don’t mind. It’s so encouraging!

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Aw wow! I don’t mind at all. If my story can help someone else, I’d be really glad! Our marriage is completely different now. I can not get over what the Lord has done. We went from being “ok” but not really dealing with issues and at times not even “ok,” to now my hubby sends me love songs, the sweetest emails and texts, we plan lots of dates, *lots of amazing sex, and we honestly consider eachother best friends. Such a change. I can truly see his love for me. I always thought something was wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on it too. For years, I wasn’t looking for what was wrong.. I thought porn, and would pray for the Lord to reveal it to me, but nothing ever came up! It’s because the issue was with me and my trust. I just didn’t know 😭 My heart is so thankful! And I owe it all to God. So thankful there is a better way!

        Reply
        • S

          Hello! My comment will come across snide but its honestly not meant to be. Based off my own life experience, i feel like you have no idea what its like to be a sex addict, or be deep in sexual sin. For someone struggling i dont see how helpful this. You seem to minimize a lot, as though you dont know the depth of sexual addiction. My husband and i have both struggled, have walked through 12 step programs, gone to rehab, and are in weekly counselling with a relapse prevention therapist. You bash some of the very methods they use to keep us in recovery. Im just curious how deep your knowledge is in this area, because you dont seem to consider an already-addicts point of view at all. Like i mentioned this will all sound rude im sure, but its not meant to be.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            S, I do think that sex addiction is a totally different thing. However, most people are not sex addicts, and yet we talk about them as if they are. Not all people lust. Some do, yes, and it is definitely a sin–but when we talk about lust like it’s universal and like it can’t be defeated, then I believe we also push more people–and men especially–towards sex addiction. If we talked about this in a healthier way, then we could distinguish between those who are sex addicted and those who just have a normal sex drive.

          • Phil

            I would like to weigh in here: As a self identified sex addict who has been sober for a long time I happen to identify with Sheila and think she has great knowledge and balance with regard to what she writes including sex addiction as well as normal folks who struggle with life/sex etc. Me personally? I want to know how she knows so much about addiction and seems to almost speak the language of the rooms. I have been following this blog for around 3 years and I have found her balance most helpful. Sheila doesn’t bash she balances. This article wasnt about sex addiction and there is nothing wrong with those methods to help with lust- I have used them all – the key here for me is I have grown out of that stuff. I need to hear as a sober guy. No I dont have to struggle with lust just because I notice an attractive person. Now thats what God wants. Best to you and your husband.

          • S

             Ok so you misunderstood me. I meant no disrespect, and i think her overall message is correct. However, things like “you need to not look at her body. You need to “bounce your eyes”, as Every Man’s Battletells you. You need to control your thoughts. But what if that is actually wrong?”. Bouncing your eyes is one of the beginning stages of not ogling a woman. It teaches you not to second glance, its the same concept as trapdoors, or praying for a woman you want to second glance at cuz shes scantily clad. Its a first step in rewiring your brain. As for watching Wonder Woman, just because your husband can, doesnt mean every man can. The skin tight clothing showing every curve could be a trigger for some men. “One of my commenters a few years ago said that her husband couldn’t go to the beach with the kids because it was too tempting to lust” there may have been more to that, he could have been fantasizing and struggling mentally with purity and avoiding the beach was avoiding temptation for him.

  13. Gary Thomas

    Good word, Sheila! A great and important distinction to make. God’s a wonderful creator; we can use beauty to celebrate Him without holding hands with the devil.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Gary! I just grieve that so many teen boys and men feel like they are slaves to lust because they simply notice women are beautiful. It’s really so sad, and it’s burdening men with guilt and shame they should not have.

      Reply
  14. Nire

    I grew up with the noticing = lusting = adultery=sin mantra. It is so incredibly discouraging – there are no victories as long as one encounters members of the opposite sex. I was told that even having erotic dreams was no different than actually having random sex, both were adultery in the eyes of God.

    Change to the other side of the road to avoid passing by a woman. Bouncing my eyes. I got to the point where I kept my eyes on the ground all the time. Trying to keep an absolute leash on my thoughts. Yet from the time I started puberty – my one prayer was that God would take away this desire – He seems to help alcoholics and other addicts struggling with sin. My conclusion as a teenager was that with year after year with zero progress in lusting/noticing – despite praying and fasting and eyebouncing and mental/physical avoidance, I still felt attraction – that God was not working in my heart, and therefore I was damned and therefore lost.

    The gold standard, the ideal, was phrased to me like this: “Jesus ministered to women without having sinful thoughts; you should be concerned with who they are as a person and not their body. If a naked supermodel walks into the room right now and your first thought is anything but her salvation, then you are sinning.”

    It certainly gets worse. “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. I have heard Christian ministers point out that the word for woman that Jesus uses is the word for wife. I have heard some ministers say that therefore, lusting at unmarried women by unmarried men is OK. On quite the opposite tack, I have heard preachers say that therefore, sexual attraction to one’s own wife is therefore sin. For example, the church father Augustine wrote “What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman.” Jerome wrote: “We[Christians] don’t approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children – He who is too ardent a lover of his own wife is an adulterer.” The Gnostic heresies are alive and well in the church.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, dear, isn’t that awful? And let me say something about erotic dreams.

      They are completely biological. In fact, they’re most likely to happen early in the morning. Do you know why? Because our bladders are full, and it’s the body’s way of making sure you don’t urinate. When you’re aroused, the urge to urinate stops in women, and the ability to urinate stops in men (that’s why men often wake up with erections).

      It seriously is biological. So sad that we have made those things into sin.

      Reply
  15. Jason Bronson

    Sheila, what book ACTUALLY says that noticing a woman is beautiful means that a man is lusting and therefore sinning? Does Every Man’s Battle actually say that? (I believe that book emerged from the bowels of Satan, but that’s a point for another time.)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Jason, what the books tend to do is to conflate everything–once a guy notices, he’ll be drawn towards her body parts, he’ll be tempted to undress her, he’ll be overcome with thoughts of her, etc. I’ve read many books that do this, and Every Man’s Battle series is one, but it’s not the only one. It’s as if they can’t envision that you can stop the progression, but as if it’s inevitable. I actually have much more to say about this, and surrounding some of the research that’s been done on this, but I’m saving it for my next big book that is currently making the publishing rounds.

      Reply
      • Andrea

        I’m so glad you’re writing a book about it, we really need a healthier perspective. But to reiterate an earlier point, I do believe the Christian overemphasis on lust is a misguided attempt to reclaim masculinity in a world where being a virgin before marriage and sleeping with one woman only thereafter puts one’s masculinity in serious question.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That is really interesting. I think you may be on to something. I’m going to save this comment for the book!

          Reply
  16. Lydia purple

    Saying noticing women is lusting is like saying noticing your friends possessions is coveting. Of course we can notice our friends new car, clothes, house and even like these things, that does not mean we desire to have them. We can even compliment on it and rejoice with them.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s an excellent analogy! Thank you.

      Reply
  17. Mommy24

    Sorry, but I feel as if a lot of people are looking for a thumb’s up to ogle others and tell their spouse and themselves it’s totally okay. Like many things in life, this is an area that requires discipline. Train your mind to stay engaged in what you’re doing and refused to be distracted by a pretty face. It may not be sin to notice but what value does it add to your life? Does it bring potential harm? Most certainly. Does it hurt your spouse when they see you noticing another? Without question. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.“ 1 Cor. 6:12

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      See, though, you’re using the word “ogle” which is obviously different than simply noticing someone is beautiful. Like I can say “That man is attractive,” And not be ogling him. And my husband can see a gorgeous woman and notice she is beautiful and not be ogling her.

      Ogling is disrespectful. But simply noticing beauty is not. That’s simply accepting REALITY. We need to be not afraid of simply recognizing truth; we are going to be attracted to some people. But just because we find people attractive doesn’t mean we necessarily ogle them.

      I worry that when we say things like “looking is ogling” or noticing a pretty face is hurtful to your spouse we heap guilt on people that is NOT of Christ. Noticing the beauty in others isn’t sinful, it isn’t exploitative, it isn’t emotional cheating on your spouse. It’s simply stating truth. And we clearly, VERY clearly, show that lust IS wrong in this post. But the idea that we should put rules around simply noticing *in case* people lust is completely similar to the religious guilt heaped on the Jewish people by the pharisees in biblical times–rules were put in place to stop people from doing non-sinful things *in case* those actions led to things that were sin. It’s virtually identical to how we talk about lust today.

      I agree that we don’t NEED to notice everyone. Of course not! But it’s not because it’s wrong, or inherently dangerous to. If someone is a weaker brother and has stricter rules for themselves in this area, no we shouldn’t tell them they should go against those rules they have for themselves (1 Corinthians 8 goes over this quite well). But we also need to be clear that these things are NOT sin so that those who have been held captive by guilt not from God can be released from that.

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Also, just as a quick aside, I am at a church that is very friendly. And my husband and I have multiple older mentor-type couples at the church that we’re quite close with. And if one of the men tells me, “Wow, Rebecca, you look really nice today!” they’re not ogling and it’s not a bad thing. They’re just being an encouragement. In fact, often I see their wives smile when they say that because they’re proud of their husbands’ ability to encourage others. And when Connor (my husband) compliments a woman on her appearance, it warms my heart because women are told SO often horrible things about their bodies (too fat, too skinny, too much acne, frizzy hair, etc.) that I am SO GLAD that there are men like my husband and our friends at church who are working to help women see that they are beautiful.

        If we as a community can’t build each other up in this area because we’re being ruled by fear of potential sin, I think that would be quite sad. I want my husband to tell his female friends that they are beautiful, because it’s true and it’s lovely to hear from someone you know isn’t trying to get anything out of it like a date or attention. Getting compliments from completely platonic opposite-sex friends can be quite healing, actually, since there are no strings attached you can actually believe it!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Exactly. And I think we know when these things veer into the creepy territory. Obviously some dudes would be creepy if they said that, but the vast majority of men would not be. I’ve often appreciated men telling me that I look particularly nice today, and I don’t think anything of it. Often they do it with their wives right there, and their wives agree. Same with Keith; he often compliments people, especially younger or older women. It really doesn’t need to be a big deal. And if we make it a big deal, then I think we’re in danger of sexualizing everything, even platonic relationships.

          Reply
  18. A

    Yes. This exactly. My husband thought it was so weird when we started getting more involved in church and small group and all the single guys thought they had this awful problem of thinking girls were attractive. He realized that if noticed someone was attractive he just MOVED ON WITH HIS LIFE and didn’t think twice about it….probably like most women do with guys.

    Your articles are so on point, all the time. I love them!

    Reply
  19. Lisa Hetherington

    Great post Sheila! Somebody else posted that this is true for women as well. I am a Christian Woman and have unwanted same-sex attraction. So this applies to me noticing women. Thank you so much for letting us know and sharing the biblical truth about how noticing and even temptation is not sin.

    Also for my own personal sake, my eyes are often attracted to a certain body part, and my personal standard for myself is to not look back. I can notice. That’s fine. But maybe I am not strong enough spiritually to take every thought captive for Christ. I know that if I look back, then it is a short slippery slope to lust. And I just want to avoid the temptation.

    But, summertime is hard because women are generally not dressed modestly at all. And I guess that’s the same thing as what you are debunking. I don’t know. I just know that for my own spiritual health, I can’t look twice and it’s harder in the summertime.

    Reply
  20. Samantha

    I have given this post a good bit of thought and I think it boils down to this. I think what you say here applies to single people but I don’t agree that it applies to married people in the same way. Let me explain. I think there is noticing that a person is attractive and then there is sexual attraction. Sexual attraction comes when you start focusing on what makes a member of the opposite sex particularly attractive to you. For instance, a woman can look at a man and think he is generally attractive. This happens pretty automatically. It progresses to sexual attraction when they ALLOW themselves to start focusing on specific physical attributes and whether or not they appeal to them sexually. I think this is absolutely done consciously. I think it is a pretty natural and habitually automatic thing to do when you are single (even though I think way too many people focus way too much on physical appearance). A person can become sexually attracted to someone and not allow it to become sin, lust, or objectification. As I said, I think single people have a habit of looking at the opposite sex more closely and allow the initial noticing to proceed to sexual attraction pretty quickly. It seems to be instantaneous and automatic for that reason. I believe that this is because single people are usually on the look out for potential dates/future spouses. They are looking for sexual attraction and therefore they find it. However, once you are married, you really have no reason to look at the opposite sex that way. Your spouse should fulfill that desire for sexual attraction and I believe that choosing to be satisfied by your spouse in that way is a choice you have to make. Am I saying that continuing to allow initial noticing to progress to sexual attraction is a sin? No. Am I saying it is adultery? No. But I also don’t believe that sexual attraction while you are married has to happen instantaneously and I do believe it can be controlled.

    Reply
    • Samantha

      I believe your spouse can become almost a barrier for sexual attraction to other people. When I see another attractive man, I can’t help but view him through the lens of the opinion I have of my own husband and no matter what that man looks like he can’t even come close to my husband. Why? Because when I look at my husband I am constantly praising the way God designed him in my mind. The appreciation I have for his body will change as he changes and gets older. The appreciation doesn’t come from any conditional standards I have for how he maintains his body either. It comes from the fact that God made him for me. He belongs to me. Sure, I see other attractive men. Am I attracted TO them? No. And I do believe there is a great difference between noticing someone is attractive and being attracted to them. Being sexually attracted to someone physically means that they possess specific physical attributes that you consider appealing. When I see an attractive man I can’t help but think of my husband. Not out of guilt, but because it has literally become automatic to basically think, “he’s handsome, but I’m married to THE MAN.” Every man gets compared to my husband automatically. Sexual attraction isn’t automatic for me and that is not me lying to myself. That’s me truly believing that I am married to the handsomest and sexiest man on earth. And I’ll still believe that when he is 90.

      Reply
  21. Dqn

    This was a really good article, and well thought out. Understanding the differences between lust and appreciation of beauty or personality in other people is very helpful. It is also helpful if your wife knows that she is the most beautiful of all! The average person male or female cannot compete with what we see so often…especially as we age. Yet because of what we have shared together in our marriage, I can truly say my beloved wife will always be the fairest of them all. God bless you all!

    Reply
  22. anon..

    Just to nudge your thoughts;
    When God decided I was mature enough for the relationship He planned for my wife and I, I noticed her. And she, me.
    I did not know her at all, but found everything about her pleasing. As a young man, observing a young woman, was I ‘wanting’ her? Not sexually, although I was captivated by her femininity. That absolutely included her body. I don’t think that was lust. We’ve been married for over 20 years now, have a wonderful relationship, and a beautiful family. I still love her body, and am devoted to her. So think: our attraction became, over time, a more overt sexual attraction, ultimately being fulfilled in our marriage. Before our marriage, is it wrong to want her, sexually? I don’t think so. I doubt many newlyweds ‘discover’ their sexual attraction on their wedding night. Lust, I believe, is sexually wanting what God has NOT given you.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very well put! I think that’s a great way to describe it.

      Reply
  23. Samantha

    Sheila, I’m curious to know your opinion when it comes to intentionally looking away (or bouncing the eyes) from someone who is obviously trying to get sexual attention. I think it is pretty obvious that there are a lot of women these days who make their wardrobe choices with the intention of getting sexual attention. There’s dressing for hot weather and then there’s dressing to look hot in the weather. I think it’s just plain foolish to deny this or try to excuse women’s choices because it happens to be the latest fashion and everyone is dressing that way. I believe women have the tendency to be weak in this particular area of sin (wanting to be the object of desire and lust) just as men have the tendency to struggle more with the looking side of lust. NOT saying that all men and women struggle with those things, but it is incredibly common and has been throughout history. I also believe that the reason it has always been so common is because the two sins feed off one another. There’s also an awful lot of advertising and magazines that contain scantily clad and sexualized pictures of women.

    So what I’m wondering is this. Do you agree that it is wise for all men avoid looking at women who are obviously or probably trying to get sexual attention because of the way they are dressed?

    Reply
    • Samantha

      I believe that it is and I don’t think it has to be out of a fear that they will lust. I think it can be done as a way for men to choose to give dignity and respect to a woman who isn’t giving it to herself. And do you agree that all men should make a point to avert their eyes immediately when they notice an ad or magazine that has a sexualized picture of a woman on it? In other words, isn’t it wise for all men to avert their eyes from something or someone who is obviously attempting to be sexually stimulating? You could argue that they should just simply see them as a person, but isn’t looking away when someone isn’t decently dressed a way to show them respect and give that person dignity? I know you’re specifically talking about noticing beauty here, but I think you’ve just given “bouncing the eyes” a bump rap in the process. I really hate that term by the way. I prefer “avert the eyes”. It doesn’t have to be done out of fear. It can be done out of respect. And if we tell men, “you don’t need to be looking away from women. You can look, notice and appreciate their beauty,” I think that can ultimately lead to men not choosing to be intentional about giving dignity back to women who aren’t giving it to themselves. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with a man staying humble enough to realize that he could be tempted to lust even if it isn’t a particular weakness of his. When we think ourselves immune to a particular sin we are actually making ourselves the most vulnerable to it. It’s like the spouse who is so sure that they will never have an affair that they allow themeselves to be put in really compromising situations and eventually put their marriage in very real danger because of their arrogance. So wouldn’t it be more helpful and realistic to tell men that they don’t have to be afraid of women or noticing that they are attractive, but that it doesn’t make them weak or cowardly for choosing to immediately look away from a woman who is dressed to get sexual attention?

      Reply
  24. Samantha

    Also, I do think it’s important that young people be taught how to view the opposite sex in a healthy way. Part or that teaching is going to have to include being wise about where you let your eyes go on a person and where you allow them to linger. I do think it’s wise to teach young boys that they should make wise decisions when they notice a woman is exposing cleavage, for instance. I don’t think it is healthy to assume that men, let alone a young boy full of hormones, can notice a woman’s cleavage and continue to look at it without being tempted to lust. So why on earth do women think it is totally acceptable to display their cleavage on a daily basis and then expect men to not notice it, be tempted by it, or linger on it? That’s the thing. They don’t expect them to not notice. They fully expect them to notice. That’s why men SHOULD make a point to not notice such things. Because it IS being displayed for sexual attention. But I digress. No, young men should not be taught to fear women, but rather make wise decisions when they are in a situation where temptation is a very real possibility. Boys can be taught how to respect women and respect and protect their own spiritual health at the same time. So yes, teach boys that finding girls attractive is totally healthy and natural, but make sure we’re not leaving out teaching them how to be discerning about something or someone that is purposely trying to be sexually stimulating. In those cases fleeing is a totally acceptable choice. They shouldn’t be made to feel like it somehow makes them cowardly if they find themselves being tempted and decide to get themselves out of the situation rather than forcing themselves to stick around because they feel like they should be able to handle it because that’s what men who respect women do.

    Reply
    • Julia Belanger

      What I would say is that you are in control on your own actions. So while we can focus on why a woman dresses as she does – it doesn’t really matter to you because it isn’t about blaming whoever else for your sin.

      Teaching our sons that women “just want to be sexually attractive” isn’t going to help them learn to self-regulate.

      But even with that…for some reason we teach men that they are ALWAYS going to be attracted if they see breasts or bare skin and they absolutely HAVE to make sure their eyes are pure or else its shameful.

      It isn’t that looking away is wrong. Its that we treat men like that have 0 control. When we show men that women are people and not objects, they are less likely to struggle with lust. If we just tell men they WILL struggle with it and to avoid it at all costs, it is a slippery slope to shame.

      Noticing a woman has cleavage showing isn’t sin. I can see if a woman has cleavage. But then moving past that and seeing the whole person is the answer. Not just telling boys they MUST look away because they WILL sin.

      If they do struggle with that, then totally look away. But telling boys they absolutely will is wrong

      Reply
  25. Jessie

    Dear Sheila, first of all, I want to say THANK YOU. I know that the subject of sex and personal responsibility for our choices are heavy, emotionally charged subjects. As so many other women and men have testified, there are many ways we have all grown up dealing (or not) with the questions this article addresses. As someone who was married previously to a man for whom lust was a continual state of being (even animated Disney Princesses were objects), it has been a long slog of humbling myself to be teachable and open to the possibility that sex could be other than a shaming, dirty experience. My current, amazing, gift of a husband and I have a teen daughter whose school has taken the shaming-women-for-their-bodies ball and run with it, as far as dress code is concerned, SO far that the sheriff was called at one point. As well-intentioned as many of the current Christian authors on marriage and family may be, I think that it’s time we readdressed our own behavior and called OURSELVES to account. I have read many things over the years which laid my ex husband’s sin at my feet, while laying my worth as a human being at his. God created male and female, and gave THEM dominion, because it pleased him to do so. (Genesis 1;26-27) Beyond stewardship over the created world, God gave each of us the ability to have control and dominion over OURSELVES. (Proverbs 25:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Titus 2:11-15, among others) Again, Sheila, I want to thank you for providing this uplifting, affirming, encouraging, instructional, and informative resource. Love, from one who is learning that loving with our bodies starts with loving, period.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Wow, Jessie–that sentence you said there:

      “I have read many things over the years which laid my ex husband’s sin at my feet, while laying my worth as a human being at his”

      That perfectly summarizes much of the dangers in these teachings. So well said, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that as part of your journey–how wonderful that you are in a different place now.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thank you so much, Jessie. I appreciate that. And I’m so glad that you’re in a safe relationship now, too!

      Reply
  26. Anon..

    There are a range of aspects that affect are a part of this, of course. You mentioned dignity, respect, self-worth, for both men and women. Each person carries his/her own responsibility in that.
    I do not believe that it is a sin to notice things. It isn’t even a sin to be tempted: Jesus himself was tempted, yet without sin. Our sinful nature is where the problem lies. What do we do with the temptation?
    I believe there is a desensitization that occurs, due to over exposure (no pun intended) and our cultural norms.
    Telling our young men to be dignified, respectful and pure-minded is wise, (as long as it is modelled by their role models). Telling them that seeing/noticing a provocatively dressed girl/woman is sinful, is not helpful, to anyone. Training and showing them to be grieved about the sinful behaviours of others (and themselves) allows for them to minister to those in need, to direct their paths in a Christ-like way, and to not walk or live in condemnation of others.
    For our boys, this means not investing our selves in places that display provocative material, ie magazine rack at the corner store. But teaching them that NOTICING women becomes sinful, and must be avoided at all costs, does not teach them how to DEAL with it; in fact, I’d have to shut down this site, as the ads coming up the side are largely women’s clothing, of various types, on models. I notice it, but I won’t invest.

    Reply
  27. J. Parker

    I love that you covered this, Sheila! So great.

    Around the time of #MeToo peaking, I wrote about good men versus the “pigs” out there, and what struck me in my study was a simply sentence from Luke 7:44. A sinful woman has come into Simon’s house to wash Jesus’ feet. “Then [Jesus] turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’” Well, of course Simon noticed her, because he previously said to himself, “‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.'” But Jesus points out that Simon isn’t seeing HER—not really. Simon sees only this woman’s external appearance. It’s when we look at people more deeply, as whole, complete beings, that we stop objectifying them. This is why I also tossed out the idea of “bounce your eyes” (which I once considered good advice). How about “bounce your thoughts” instead? As in, move your thoughts into thinking of the other person as a whole person and a child of God.

    And one more thing: Like your hubby, my sons (totally raised in Christian culture) think the notion that a guy can’t interact with girls without lusting after them is ridiculous. Including girls in shorts, swimsuits, and—dare I say it?—yoga pants. 😉

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I remember that post you wrote, J! Such a good one. And I TOTALLY am with you about the “bounce your eyes”. That makes no sense. I think “bounce your thoughts” is much better.

      I’m glad (but not surprised) that your boys think this is totally ridiculous, too. I’m hoping Millennials and Generation Zs will change the church!

      Reply
  28. Colin

    Thank-you! Thank you!! Thank you , thank you , thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU FOR PUTTING THIS INTO WORDS!!

    I know MANY men struggle with this and a friend of mine once made a comment when we were both younger (unmarried) about the difficulties men have “What do you do when you see an attractive woman/girl and turn around to avoid ‘temptation’ only to be faced with two more pretty girls?” I also REALLY struggled with this for MANY years and still have a hard time.

    I have started to realise that noticing someone is attractive is not wrong, I am confident that for the most part I and many other men look at women with absolutely no lust but still feel guilty because of some twisted idea that it is wrong.

    I also understand what it is like to go through a day trying not to see the semi-naked women on billboards, sexy women at the beach, even the ‘average’ women who just happen to look attractive and dress nicely. Only to go home to the one women who I CAN look at, to find her “NOT INTERESTED” in me. It really can crush a man and break his heart to go through the day like this and then be rejected. Then try doing it again the next day and the next and the next… and realising that this is your life to not see any hope. To have to “battle” every day like this is exhausting.

    Knowing that it is NOT wrong to see a woman but that it is the lusting part that IS wrong is freeing.

    If wives would then show some love, passion and enthusiasm for their husbands when they arrived home (and even later in bed) it helps us even further to ‘overcome temptation’.

    AGAIN THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE!!!!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad that this helped, Colin! Please spread it around–men really have been hurt by this message (and women, too!)

      Reply
    • Some guy

      Thank you Sheila and I agree with Colin how tiring “Every man’s battle” is. We certainly need Jesus to free us of lust and find His way of escape. I do believe Sheila is right about viewing women as whole people not just sexual objects.

      This has been an area I’ve needed some transform in for most of my walk with Jesus. I do really appreciate Sheila’s insight that has been helping me think differently. Thank you again for this blog.

      I think there are two issues that haven’t been addressed. The first is that some men can compartmentalize relationship and lust. It’s possible for us to objectify even after our own wives. Even with deep love and respect for them, we can seek our own interests and treat our wives poorly. I believe Sheila would say we need to remember our love and thankfulness for them and remember how it damages our relationship when we lust.

      Second is that men can just look at a woman and judge her to be attractive or ugly or whatever. I think this may be related to lust and sinful, but could seem like just looking, but it is wrong.

      I struggle with both of these. It’s easy to glance at a woman and then want to see if she is attractive or not. There is something that makes a simple look dangerous. It starts with curiousity of how attractive she is, then remembering her, then maybe down the road lust. So where I’m at, I try not to look at woman I don’t know. I still go to the beach, but I have to be careful. Thankfully my wife is patient and loving as I grow.

      I just wanted to share my struggles and show that there is not always a quick easy answer, but with prayer and community and the Spirit, I hope we can have victory.

      Reply
  29. Anne

    This feels like an answer to prayer! I am a woman in her early twenties and I have been struggling with this. I know this is typically a male issue but lust is something I have always had a hard time with. I do however still have a few questions and I really hope someone can help answer them.

    My problem is that I still dont understand lusting in regards to seeing romance in flims, tv, books. I dont watch anything explicit and will purposefully skip any provocative scenes. I dont read any books in the romance genre. Yet sometimes when I see a couple on screen, mind you there is almost never anything overtly sexual going on, I sometimes feel aroused? They dont even have to be touching, them just sitting next to each other or looking romantically at each other sometimes even that makes me feel aroused. Yet when I feel this way Im not fantasizing about the characters doing anything together and I am not even thinking sexually about the male character or actor. It also strangely gets worse when I worry that I might start feeling this way because I do fear that this is lusting.

    Im wondering, is that feeling lust? Am I lusting when this happens? Is arousal in and of itself a sin? Or is it only a sin when accompanied by wrong thoughts and desires and wants?

    I really need help understanding this because I haven’t dated yet but I am positive that once I do I will struggle with this and I dont want to constantly walk around feeling condemned. Im not talking about kissing, hugging, holding hands or anything of the sort. I mean just the act of standing next to him and looking at him and having feelings of love for him and finding him attractive and knowing how much I enjoy being around him, I know for a fact it will make feel aroused at some point. Again, aroused without any sort of sexual thoughts or fantasies. I would really appreciate if someone give me some wisdom on this!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Anne,

      Arousal when it’s to what’s going on in a movie is a normal body reaction to the emotions of what’s going on (it’s interesting; women are often more likely to get aroused by the touch, the kiss, the looks then they are to the hardcore). I would say that if it’s frequent, though, it’s likely a good idea to avoid too many of those things. But, no, arousal itself is not a sin. It’s just a state of being. If you’re persistently seeking out things that make you aroused for the purpose of being aroused, then it does get into problem territory. As for when you’re with a guy, it’s quite likely you will feel aroused. But again, draw good boundaries, and if it becomes a problem, then avoid compromising situations!

      Reply
      • Anne

        I am so sorry it has taken me a few days to respond but I just wanted to thank you for answering my question! I cant even begin to express to you how much it means to me and how much you have helped me. Again I truly feel like this was an answer to prayer because my fear over this feeling lead me to the place where I felt like I couldn’t move forward in my relationship with God. I felt condemned all day every day and I felt as if I was dirty and that I would never get free from what I thought was lust.

        I completely agree with everything you said especially what you said about not purposefully seeking out things with the intention to feel that way. I never want to try and skirt a line with lust so I never purposefully view or seek out anything with that intention. It was always a feeling that just happened without me intending to feel that way and it was never accompanied with any wrong thoughts or desires or anything of the sort.

        You talked about boundaries and that’s really only other thing that I struggle with. When I was younger I thought when I dated one day anything went expect sleeping together. Now that I am older I realize that is not a very wise or Godly way of thinking. Although I still get confused when it comes to things like holding hands and hugging. Even kissing, is that okay as long is its not passionate? I mean like is a peck fine? Or should it be avoided altogether? I really have no idea what is acceptable. Is this something that depends on the couple or should touching be avoided no matter what? Again thank you so so much for your help I am so incredibly grateful!!!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Hi Anne,

          I think boundaries in dating are something that everybody has to come to on their own, and I do think that God nudges people in different places, because for some people, things are a lot more of a temptation.

          But in general I would say that kissing is not wrong at all. My rule I always had for my girls was, “If you would be grossed out seeing your dad and me doing it, don’t do it!” But kissing didn’t fall into that category. Another way of saying it is that affection is okay; doing something to arouse someone sexually does cross a line. But I think most people definitely kiss, and kissing is not sex. But it really does depend on you, and when the time comes, you can ask God for specific direction!

          Reply
          • Anne

            Wow I never thought of it like that but that really does make sense. Its also an easy way to remember where to not cross the line. You’re right though, when the time comes I will definitely be asking God for wisdom and guidance.

            Thank you so much Sheila! I am so thankful you took the time out of your day to respond to me. I have wrote on other blogs and websites in the past looking for help but no one ever bothered to answer me, it was quite discouraging. So for you to take the time to respond with such understanding really means a lot to me. Again, thanks for your help and I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

        • Mommy24

          I find it ironic from the hand-wringing and palpable heartbreak, evidenced via the overwhelming majority of questions and topics on this platform, which pertain to protecting and enhancing the marital relationship, that folks remain adamant that this topic is not monumental. Yes, men (and women) are visual but they are not animals lacking self-control. One of the most hurtful things you can do to your spouse is force her to endure you eyeing another woman. She will never get that picture out of her mind. In my opinion, this is a discipline based on respect, and there are decent men who refuse – and don’t lack the desire to look at women other than their wife. Call it whatever you want: noticing, eyeing, ogling, glancing, lusting, etc. I think there are a lot of people who want a Christian to tell them it’s okay sneak a peek so they’ll feel better about themselves (and then dumbfounded when their marriage does not improve in other areas.)

          Reply
          • Mommy24

            Typo on my part. Should have read, “There are decent men who refuse – and lack the desire to look at women other than their wife.”

  30. Christian Feminist

    YES. As a Christian woman who runs an organization that serves survivors of exploitation and proudly considers myself a feminist (meaning I believe women are incredible and deserve respect / equality), this is such an important distinction. I’ve often heard comments that I have unreasonable expectations because I expect (Christian) men to respect and not objectify women. The irony is that by equating attraction with lust, we’ve boiled women down to their bodies whether a man is avoiding her completely or lusting about her.

    In a marital counseling session last year, I told my husband that I didn’t care about him noticing beautiful women or even taking a “second look”– haha, which shocked both my husband and the male counselor (who grew up in the Every Young Man’s Battle worldview). We realized that I actually have the more realistic standards! What I wanted was for him to respect women as human beings and to not objectify or exploit her body (which is what fantasizing is– using her body for his pleasure without her consent).

    After talking about this more, my husband shared how he had so much more freedom to truly SEE and INTERACT with women (even attractive women) as full humans. He wasn’t walking around feeling shame and like a failure to both God and his wife. Obviously still using good judgement to not put himself in overtly tempting situations, but also now free to see women as full humans– more than just their bodies and their perceived threat or pleasure to him as a man.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      What a great example! Thank you. I’m going to take that comment and put it in a file for my book!

      Reply
  31. Claire

    Thank you for all your articles. I disagree about the guy in the picture. The moment he turned his head and watched her walk away so he could really look at her from behind is the moment he crossed the line from noticing to lusting. If he is married that is very disrespectful and dishonoring to his wife and marriage to watch a woman walk away like that. To just notice her as attractive when she happens to walk in front of him is just human, but for him to continue watching her is crossing the line. I say this after 25 years of marriage and dealing with my husband’s horrific porn addiction. So thank you again for all yours and your husband’s articles and information. Bless you

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I think you actually agree, then–what Sheila is saying is the photo where the dude is watching her walk away is inappropriate. The very first photo in the post, where he’s just placing an order at a restaurant with a pretty waitress, is fine.

      I hope your husband is doing well and staying strong in the fight against pornography. It’s a tough fight, but so important.

      Reply
      • Lily

        The first picture was not on the post. Only the one with the man watching the woman walk away.

        As far as beaches and large crowds in summer; I cannot be with my husband I those types of situations as he is a recovering porn addict.
        The trauma and pain are incredible and these places would be HUGE triggers for both me and him. We have had to change our lifestyle but it is better than divorce.
        Ask yourself what is more important your marriage or going to a beach, concert or places where there will be triggers.
        God heals but it takes a long time and sometimes triggers appear after not having had a tigger in many years.
        I am woman who is highly visual (yes, I can be tempted to lust as well as many of my friends). We practice noticing and moving on; no further thoughts about the man. It is liberating to not be drawn into lust by acknowledging to a friend I noticed a good looking man. It is stating a fact and not keeping it in my head. It loses any hold it could get in my thoughts.
        We need to stop pretending we do not notice men because we are women (mostly older women) and were taught we are not visual. So not true!

        Reply
  32. Kelly

    Hi Sheila,
    It is liberating to read this article! I grew up with a culture like you described, that essentially claimed that all men struggle with lust and you (women) have to prevent it and it equated noticing with lust. Such a degrading view of men and women, honestly. When I asked my husband (who did not grow up in the church) about it, he was appalled that that rhetoric makes rounds in quite a few churches. He was almost hurt because it sounded like I believed he was like that. He essentially told me everything you said here. I don’t know why, but it feels like it took hearing it from another woman to really help me believe it, but hearing it from him was certainly a salve! Thanks for putting this out into the world!

    Reply
  33. Spud

    This post is only semi-useful for me, a married man. You do NOT understand how my radar works. You do NOT, apparently, understand the “Coolidge Effect” in males.

    Imagine all the men you saw IRL and online wore tshirts that had sentences of erotica on them. You would have to force yourself not to read *any* of the sentences you saw. Or their shirts would have pictures of flowers or food, and you couldn’t look at them long enough to think of a smell or taste associated with it. That is what it is like to look at an attractive women and not think about sex.

    Women would be better off just not knowing what goes on in men’s heads. Ignorance is bliss! EMB very much describes what goes on in my head, although I don’t find his solution inspiring.

    Unfortunately I missed your men’s survey, but I hope enough brutally honest men reply and set you straight (if you really can handle it).

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Actually, our men’s survey showed exactly what we thought. About 75% of men think they struggle with lust on a daily basis, but almost half of those men do not struggle not to look at women, do not have intrusive thoughts, do not use porn, etc. etc. All they’re doing is noticing. And noticing isn’t a sin.

      So, over half of men either do not struggle with lust on a daily basis or think they do but they’re simply struggling with noticing. (this was after a long question set to really reveal the answers. And we asked multiple scenarios that actually appear in Every Man’s Battle to see how common they are. Answer: not common at all.

      Reply

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