(This article was first published in July 2008)
Lust is the most widely unopposed sin of the day. It is evident everywhere; shelves are stocked with magazines aimed at inspiring it, non-marital relationships usually involve intercourse, sexual self-gratification is expected, and impure thoughts have become a bragging point.
The reason is simple. Temptation wins in the absence of strong conviction to do battle with it. Conviction is withering away today. Comfort, pleasure, and immediate gratification are considered of greater meaning than eternal principles, and the temptation that lust casts upon us is relentless and powerful. Aside from the wisdom of our ancestors and the commandments of God, which are deplorably mocked and disregarded; there is solid reason upholding why refrain from lust and its expressions is absolutely necessary for everyone.
Premarital sex has become so accepted that a proposal to avoid it will now invoke laughter in most. People who prefer this sad, degraded moral common ground seem to act as if society has always been this way, if not outwardly then privately, but truly the prevalence of such promiscuity is only a recent trend. Those who came before us understood its perils, which result not only from casual encounters but also relations between serious, yet unwed, couples. The latter situation is flat-out expected; serious couples who save themselves for marriage are considered senseless, but that choice will lead them to incomparably happier lives. The decision to spend the rest of one’s life with another must occur before this pair engages in intercourse, so a proper judgment can be made. Such intimacy is designed for, and regardless of your views on purpose, is confirmedly adept at bonding man and woman. When applied before marriage, this bonding power acts only to cloud judgment and put in place an enslaving fear of ending an inadequate relationship, causing it to drag on and devour valuable months or years. If the relationship does end, the deprivation from that bond causes a type of sadness that no man should ever have to feel; it is a sadness that frequently accounts for depression and motivates suicide, the rate of which is unsurprisingly astronomical these past few decades, and one that stems from giving oneself entirely to another, only to have that gift cast aside, along with a serious part of the soul. When this crippling sadness fades, all that is left is the knowledge that your love was all for naught, with the only outcomes being lost time and lessened bonding power of intimacy for future relationships. That same enslaving fear could also be the grounds for a marriage that either ends in divorce or continues with unhappiness for the duration of the couple’s lives, or at least far less happiness than could have been obtained if the spouses were instead inspired to seek a better match. This is not to say that all married couples who engaged in premarital relations are unhappy, but it is so for an astonishing number, and guarding against such a rampant affliction should be a top priority in everyone’s life.
Casual sexual encounters have that same effect of lessening the bonding power of intimacy for future relationships, but take it to an extreme level. When a man shares his bed with one for whom he has no strong and developed feelings, he is showing utter disrespect for himself and his bedmate. He is tearing up his prospects of ever benefiting from intimacy and tossing them into a fire, for he has removed intimacy entirely from the realm of meaning and placed it into the realm of fleeting biological gratification. Like a drug user, he becomes resistant to the pleasures he pursues, except instead of the body being affected, it is the soul.
Adultery is one form of promiscuity that thankfully is still frowned upon. Its prominence is caused primarily by insufficient willpower to resist and, despite a general agreement in its negative effects, an inadequate sense of true conviction opposing it. This may be a consequence of the complete lack of opposition to the other forms of promiscuity, and as evil begets evil, degradation of conviction in one area leads to the same in the others that are related. Triumph is only attainable when the door latched shut to vice, instead of leaving it ajar and hoping only some will enter.
In resisting lust, so many people, despite being principled in many areas, fail to firmly shut this door by inviting sexual self-gratification into their lives. Even many of today’s Christian Churches do not oppose the practice. The reasons to eliminate masturbation may be the least obvious of all the transgressions from lust, but they are neither weak nor scarce. Masturbation has the opposite effect that many theorize it has. It is not a form of releasing built up tension; it is nothing but a means to temporarily appease your passions and thereby empower the propagation of temptation. As rewarding a child with candy in response to every tantrum serves only to reinforce future tantrums, so responding to temptation with masturbation will only cause you to crave more, while promoting your body to master and demoting your being to slave. Freedom can only be realized with utter refusal to satisfy any of the demands that lust solicits, and despite its differences from sexual encounters with others, masturbation is simply another way to satisfy lust instead of combat it. Complete refusal of self-gratification will grant you far greater focus, for when you know there is no possibility of committing this act, your subconscious will cease nagging you to give in. Greater willpower for employment in any pursuit also comes into the possession of whoever accepts complete refusal. Banishing from your life a pleasure that has been so depended on is a great achievement that, as with all struggles, paves the path for more achievement. The common saying “95% of people masturbate and the other 5% of people lie” illustrates the plague of weakness and surrender filling the minds of men. The subservience to their bodies of those who share this view has been developed to such a degree that they refuse to consider that people even exist who are not under such a spell. Do not believe in such discouragements; it truly is both realistic and vital for everyone to rid their lives of this habit.
This all is by no means an exhaustive summary of the malice of lust; far reaching are its effects and its expressions are not limited to what has been mentioned here. Know too that one need not go as far as intercourse with another to suffer greatly; lesser expressions of lust bring the same effects, whether or not to a similarly lesser extent. Understand there is no safety in numbers here; God does not grade on a curve. Today, being merely acceptable means appearing exceptional next to the norm, and even appearing just good here may not be enough.
Notice there has not yet been any mention of the risk of disease; that is because such an affliction is a fleabite compared to the decay of the soul that is at stake. Some say that as the number of their bedmates went up, the sadness from each relationship ending went down. Despite appearing like a good way out of the horror of promiscuity; this consists of nothing but one digging his own grave so deep that the very smell of fresh air escapes his memory, and he becomes accustomed to the stench below. This only means that the worst has happened: sexuality has lost its ability to bind him. His hunger still prevails, but he can no longer gain nourishment from the food. He has descended to the realm of mindless animals who wander the earth abiding only by hormones, and the human heart residing here knows nothing but torment.
But hope is not lost for those who have followed these ways. Though this makes Purity more difficult than for those who have always chosen it, in surmounting the challenge true joy can be found. God can give you a chance to start anew; with His help no burden is too large to bear . Let Him guide you towards the life given to those who reject lust; for obtaining the benefits of its absence are even more persuasive than avoiding the downfalls of its presence.
We know when we see someone free from the chains of lust. For him, life is truly an adventure as opposed to a weak attempt to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. His happiness is based on principles that no event will ever darken. He is impervious to the traps that ensnare the hedonists and even those who remain moderate in this sin, for he has chosen to elevate himself to a level of meaning that is completely independent of such triviality. His time is spent living in the deepest sense of the word. Without the distraction of lust, he is able to pursue his true purpose. Without the parasite of lust, he is able to give his whole heart to his cause. Without the agony, dominance, and deceit of lust; he puts today’s permissive, purposeless, and feeble culture to shame. Defeating lust is only one step, but it is a large step, and one that cannot be skipped. The deepest part of every man’s heart yearns for this great existence more desperately and persistently than any other desire he knows. This understanding can be most real at the close of reading a great novel or watching a powerful movie, but is sadly often gone by the time the next temptation knocks. Do not let such decisions tear you away from the life you crave and need. Take heed of that which your immortal soul knows is right and cast aside that for which your mortal flesh begs. One side must be taken.