From The Men: It’s Not About Lust, It’s About Value
Editor’s Note: Matt Shedd blogs at The Unreformed and tweets at @sheddmatt. Today, he shares his story on masturbation, porn, lust, and value. He is a youth paster, a husband, and a good, good man. – Lauren
I spent eight years of my life living under the addiction of pornography and masturbation. The sin was mine; the guilt my own. There is not a single woman in the world who needs to apologize to me. It was never your fault.
It was mine.
Most of us guys start out finding porn not in any attempt to sin or lust, but out of sheer curiosity. We are young and just beginning to notice that the girls around us and especially the ones older than us are just different. The difference itself is almost intoxicating.
And so we look, lustfully yes, but lustful curious about why we are lusting!
None of this is new though, and the real issue isn’t what first brought me to pornography. The real issue is what kept me coming back. It is here, dear ladies, that I will ask a favor of you.
So often women get blamed for men’s lust and that is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It is not your dress that makes my mind impure. I have looked down more at the chest instead of the eyes more times than I can count, but trust me it is not your fault. As I guy I will find a way to lust when I want to lust.
What really trapped me in pornography for years? I didn’t feel valued. I felt like a body with no worth. I had no purpose, and worse, no inherent value. It was in the moments of worthlessness that I chose the only option I thought available to me: I dehumanized others through pornography and lust. I searched out women to call slut and whore. I sought those I could control because it was only in those moments of power that I could forget about my worthlessness.
This hurt and devaluation came from many areas. My parents valued me, but at this time of adolescents parents were not the affirmation I needed. My friends probably did value me, but sarcasm killed any sense of value I could have known.
But it was the girls, the ladies, the young and powerful women who cut the deepest. The words of the women around me emasculated me the most. I desperately wanted to be accepted by these girls. Girls were new to me, and I wanted to know that I had value to them; that in some way they needed me as I needed them. I am not talking about any sexual way, just the way human beings need each other. I wanted them to need me.
They clearly did not. One girl regularly called me gross. My greasy junior high hair was not my fault, but they couldn’t have known that at the time. As the girls chose who to hang out with, I was never part of the “in” crowd. At church it was worse. These girls would flirt to get me to help them, or to take them somewhere only to ditch me later.
Ladies, that stuff hurts.
It was not until college that I found out two important truths:
- My value comes from Christ alone.
- People value who values them.
The first is the clear root of my sin—I was looking for my value in women, not in Christ. Once I felt the love and acceptance of Christ, I stopped trying to be what I thought women wanted; I started being what Christ wanted me from me.
I started loving his way. I started showing value to the women in the school. I started encouraging them to pursue dreams. I sought their opinions on deep matters of faith, and I shared my haunting past— because in Christ, women and men are all valued, loved, and empowered. As I did this, a wonderful thing happened: women started empowering me as well. They started encouraging me and pushing me and challenging me. The encouragement that they gave allowed me to pursue God more fully.
Ladies, if I could share one thing with you today it would be this: empower the men around you. It really isn’t about dress codes and lustful eyes; it’s about worth. One of the great warnings to young men in the Old Testament is to avoid women who continually bring you down. The reason is simple: you as a woman have the ability to empower or emasculate.
Now that I am married, I am telling you that I can face any discouragements at work, from friends or enemies I may face—as long as I know my wife believes in me. She has the power to build me up or tear me down with her words. She is a great encourager. She has given life to me.
The best way to empower the men around you is to encourage their walk of faith. Nothing will go farther in building healthy friendships with men than reminding them of their responsibilities as part of the community of faith. Push them to excel in those areas.
Also, please validate the good that comes from their mind. When they fall prey to lust, don’t tell them how disgusted you are (it destroys and dehumanizes), instead let them know that you know they are better men than what they just showed. Let them know that you have seen the good in them, and that you want them to pursue that good.
Lastly, please pray for the men in your life. We all really struggle with what it means to be a “man.” We all struggle with feelings of worthlessness. We need not only your encouragement but help from the Holy Spirit.
Pray with us and for us.
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