Every Mans Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time by Stephen ArterburnWhen I was a kid I used to sleep over at my best friends house, and since he and his family were practicing Christians, I ended up going to a lot of Sunday services with them. Wed sit and listen to the pastor and sing some songs, and often, wed go back to his house and talk about what wed heard.
I remember going with him and his brother to Bible study a few times, where I was always shocked to find that I knew more about the Bible than the kids who were there, who could quote a hundred verses off the top of their heads, which was especially surprising to me, because I really didnt know much about the Bible.
I remember one instance where they were talking about the devil being in their heads, butting doubts and thoughts in there, making them think things they didnt want to think. I interrupted and asked if they remembered last week, when the Pastor had pointed out that nowhere in the Bible does the devil tempt anyone, let alone control their thoughts, except in the story of Job, where Lucifer had to ask Gods permission first, and God did the lions share of the tormenting.
Am I the only one who actually listens to the pastor? I asked, confused--they didnt have an answer for me.
It was around this point that my best friends brother, who was also at the bible study, began to have problems with girls in school. Like most of us, he felt awkward about the new feelings he was having, and was more afraid of women than interested in them. He was a tall, blond, blue-eyed football player and girls liked to hang around him, even asking him out, which made him nervous and confused.
He was a few years younger than us and wed been there, we knew how he felt. His parents decided to try to help him, and at their pastors suggestion, they bought him this book.
After getting and reading it, his fear and anxiety around women seemed to increase, so me and my friend grabbed it from the coffee table, sat down in his room, and read it. We were still high school kids ourselves and hadnt had sex, but even then, we felt like this book was written by people who knew less about sex and human relationships than we did.
Its a book full of guilt and paranoia: people cant control themselves, especially women, who cant help but try to seduce you, and its your duty to avoid them, not to look about them or think about them in sexual ways, not to have those thoughts. The fact that these relationships are expressed in terms of combat shows the level of conflict the authors feel appropriate.
But, of course, almost everyone has those thoughts. They are a natural component of how human beings work--attraction, infatuation, love, sex--these things are real, vital parts of life, secular or Christian. He tried to control his thoughts, to make them go away, but it isnt that easy.
When a person spends hours at school surrounded by other teen boys and girls who have bodies and sexual thoughts, then goes home and reads books about sexual thoughts, its no wonder that those thoughts will consume them. If someone wandered behind you whispering dont think about sex over and over again throughout the day, how would you be able to think about anything else?
And perhaps the biggest problem about this book is that it encourages teens who are confused and uninformed to feel guilty, to feel like its their job to control their thoughts and if they cant, they are failing not only themselves, but the people they are attracted to. Those sorts of negative obsessions can be very powerful, and its easy for them to take hold, as they did for my friends brother.
Now, every time he had a thought about the opposite sex, he was suddenly full of guilt, suddenly telling himself over and over dont think about sex, and getting even more upset when those thoughts didnt go away--which did not make it easier for him to learn to interact with women. The obsession he had with not thinking about sex just gave those thoughts more power and heightened his emotional response.
My friend and I, on the other hand, even though we were going through the same problem, found that as time went on, things got easier. We learned how to communicate with people, the anxiety lessened as we learned that all the stuff we were confused about, all the stuff we didnt know about sex wasnt that big of a deal. We didnt give into those thoughts--we didnt have sex--but we learned to ignore them, to live with them, and we learned that they didnt have to define us or how we interacted with other people. Sure, it was a struggle sometimes, but we never let that struggle define who we are.
The bottom line is, whether you have a positive obsession with sex or a negative obsession with sex, youre still obsessed, and that isnt healthy. Trying to banish your own thoughts is never going to work, because the when you say I have to get rid of my sexual thoughts, that is you thinking about your sexual thoughts.
Its a problem my friends brother deals with to this day. Hes a sweet guy, an intelligent guy, and hes not crazy, its just that the anxiety of this has built up so much in his head for so long from books like this that he never had a chance to learn how to interact with people hes attracted to. He even enrolled in a group that helps people with sex addiction, despite the fact that he is still a virgin and in college, because these thoughts and this guilt still keeps him up at night, and prevent him from meeting or befriending women.
Its fine if people want to be abstinent, or if they want to live as Christians and marry as virgins, but this book is not the path to making peace with yourself and your feelings, its a book that fosters repression and anxiety. Reading through it, I was struck with how the authors talk about sexual thoughts--it became immediately clear that people who repress their sexuality think about sex far more often than I ever have, even as an atheistic teenage boy, I never thought about sex as much as the examples in this book.
This book is not a representation of real life, or of normal human relationships. It is not a tool to help people come to terms with unwanted thoughts, nor will it help anyone to develop a healthy outlook on life and sexuality, Christian or otherwise. This book is full of nonsense and misinformation, and if you are a young man who already feels anxious about sex and women, this book will help to turn that anxiety into constant, life-long fear.
Every man's battle : winning the war on sexual temptation : one victory at a time
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