They Do Exist.

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

Dear women,

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:

  1. My value comes from Christ alone.
  2. 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.
Sincerely,
Matt


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29 Responses

  1. sunnyanna

    Thank you for being so open and honest about your experience. I now know how to better love and support my brothers in Christ.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:36 am

  2. Those differences are *most definitely* intoxicating (as God intended them to be!) but as men, our *response* to them is where the danger lies. Grasping hold of the right perspective–awe, admiration, genuine respect, and integrity vs. lust and objectification are key; that "taking every thought captive".

    With the growing contrast between the truth of God's Word and the broken lies the world keeps trying to sell, the truth is getting easier to see all the time.

    March 15, 2012 at 9:12 am

    • Yes! Response is everything. Sadly for me, I was not yet devoted to Christ, let alone self-controlled enough, to know the difference when I was first intoxicated by the beauty of women.

      March 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

  3. THANK YOU for this post. kudos for recognizing and calling out the root of this issue within your own heart — and thank you for being brave to share it with us. what an incredible reminder of the ability we as women have to break down or to build up. i am convicted all the time that i often use my words as a weapon, especially when i am feeling vulnerable and weightless against the power of a man's lust, addiction to porn, etc.

    March 15, 2012 at 9:30 am

    • We are all on the road together. As I continue to learn to value and honor the women around me, I encourage you to learn to value and honor the men around you. it is a process!

      March 15, 2012 at 11:30 am

  4. lumilarose

    It is strange how I know this situation from the other side. There is a general lack of respect for the human beings, not only from women towards men. I came very close to be on the other side of the screen after being abused, because this was the only way I had to look at myself.

    March 15, 2012 at 10:54 am

    • I am so sorry that men have harmed you, abused you, caused you pain. I will pray right now for good men to be present in your life, and for you to be able to respond to them with love and value. And if you have the strength, forgive those who have harmed you. There is power in forgiveness.

      March 15, 2012 at 11:32 am

  5. lumilarose

    I will cherish your prayers, and keep you and your family and your community in mine from now on. Thank you.
    Forgiveness is hard, but that's what makes a Christian. I am working on that, one step at a time.
    Anyway, I think it is important to spread this message of respect and love, and that people like you are open about their darkest times in the past. This is why I am encouraged to be open about mine.

    March 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm

  6. Thank you Matt for sharing your story. It brought tears to my eyes as it reminded me of one of my closest guy friends. This is was such an important reminder for all of us ladies. God bless you!

    March 15, 2012 at 1:01 pm

  7. Chris

    Men need to feel appreciated. I would argue we need this more than sex. Too often women underestimate this or simply just don't get it. We men don't help the situation because we are afraid to be perceived as "needy" or simply because we aren't as comfortable expressing ourselves emotionally. The fantasy world of pornography provides a counterfeit form of appreciation, albeit temporary and profoundly empty. Of course participating in that fantasy world results in mounting shame and guilt and thus we feel even more worthless. It is a black hole that will eventually consume everything good about your life.

    March 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm

  8. What a powerful way to look at this. Thank you for sharing your past and for encouraging me to empower the men in my life. It's so important for us to know that we can play an important role in spurring men on towards purity and righteousness, not just in how we dress, but by how we speak to and treat others.

    March 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

  9. Lovely post – thank for sharing with such honesty and transparency… and for shining a spotlight on a very important topic. Finding value for yourself without validation from others is a journey everyone is on as they deepen their relationship with themselves and with God.

    Women need to be understood… and men need to be APPRECIATED. I'm so sorry you had to go through such a difficult time with women… you are not alone in feeling emasculated… I see it every day, and it needs to stop. We have so much work to do around gender communication. Thank goodness for the work of Alison Armstrong and PAX/Understanding Men… she is really helping women love how their men are wired and to appreciate them for all they do to protect, provide, and be the hero in our lives.

    Wishing you love, joy and laughter,

    Ande Lyons

    March 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    • jen

      "women need to be understood, and men need to be appreciated"….such a good way to put it

      March 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm

  10. Matt, thank you for sharing your story. One of my biggest problems with culture is the demeaning of men. The emasculating of them. To see them portrayed as stupid or just plain ignorant. I'm surrounded by some great guys who are smart and strong and get it. What a tragedy our words often cause.

    Thanks for this encouragement to build up my husband and the other guys in my life.

    March 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm

  11. FatherOf4

    I have a nearly identical story. As a boy/young man, I quickly learned the only place to consistently find exposure to this creature, most beautiful, intriguing, and wondrous was in porn. Unfortunately, I also learned to equate nudity with sexuality, sexuality with objectification, objectification with normalcy, and normalcy with shame and self-disgust. The learned emotional response of shame and disgust was 'helpful' when used as a coping mechanism for situations for which actually processing would have been more prudent.
    However, it has only been through marriage, fatherhood, and study to unlearn some of these deep-seated lies.
    I especially love the concept of [My value comes from Christ alone.]. As someone who was convinced I was a disgusting pervert (like all men) and therefore of lesser value and spirituality than women, it's something I have to remind myself daily hourly every second. Yet, I know everyone else (men, women, girls and boys) have the same struggle.

    March 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm

  12. Anonymous

    As the girlfriend of a man who has overcome an addiction to porn, I was so thankful for this article. Through that situation, I challenged him to be a better man. I told him that I knew he could do better as a spiritual leader in our relationship, that I knew he could protect my heart and be worthy of my trust. So good to hear from a man that this is just the response of empowerment that is necessary. Anyway, thanks.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:13 am

  13. Michael_MT

    This is so on target, and I'll second Matt's plea!

    It's hard to call forth the value you see in others because it means making yourself vulnerable to rejection, but the more we courageously affirm and challenge one another, the better off we all will be!

    "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
    -1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

    March 16, 2012 at 2:53 am

  14. wow matt, this sheds whole new light on this subject for me. thank you for helping me to see. to understand. and thank you for being courageous enough to write this post. bless you brother.

    March 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm

  15. B...

    This is something that I definitely struggle with sometimes. Like an earlier commenter, I choose sarcasm as a weapon. To protect myself when I'm vulnerable, I make the decision to cut you before you can cut me. I've been convicted of this in the past and it's been a constant challenge to choose to empower, not just men, but everyone, instead of demeaning them.

    But I've encountered another problem as I continue to strive to be a woman who empowers. More often than not, I find that when I encourage men, they take it the wrong way. And despite letting them know that I'm not interested in any sort of romantic relationship, they still continue their pursuit, which eventually makes me very uncomfortable. In the end, I find I have no choice but to ignore them or behave in a non-friendly way (never mean), which I'm sure does not empower them in any way. Does anybody have any advice on how to essentially reject a man (and have them FULLY understand that no, you're not just playing hard to get) without emasculating them?

    March 17, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    • That is a really difficult situation! I can see how it would happen, but I am not sure I have the experience to make any suggestions on this topic. Let me think about it and perhaps I will come back with more insight!

      March 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

  16. Sharyn

    If you have to ask to be empowered, you continue to be emasculated. What a bunch of bull!

    March 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

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  18. CRara

    Interesting article. Scientifically, men have monstrous amounts of testosterone and its natural to be horny and have fantasies, right? What teenage boy or girl for that matter DOESN'T look at porn? Its sex. It's animalistic. It's our calling. My partner is a Christian and he constantly feels guilty about his desires- I embrace them! He is a human male! Am I too diplomatic?

    March 22, 2012 at 12:12 am

    • Interesting comment! Haha. I wouldn\’t really go so far as to say that men have monstrous amounts of testosterone – as a whole they have more than women, but women also have testosterone, and separately, women also want sex. But yeah, it\’s definitely natural to have a sex drive, on both sides. Nothing shameful in that whatsoever.

      We\’re physical beings and spiritual/emotional/relational (whatever you want to call it) beings too. Sex is more or less the merging of both – sometimes more on one side than the other. Think of it as the difference between f*cking and making love. Make sense? I wouldn\’t really label sex as animalistic – I think it\’s simply very human of us. And that\’s a great thing.

      It\’s a bummer that your partner feels guilty about desiring sex. A lot of Christians experience guilt/shame. But, there is a difference between feeling guilty about desiring you, his partner, and feeling guilty about viewing porn. I personally think that love/the relationship should always be #1 while sex comes #2 – and porn can be the result of putting sex in the #1 place. So guilt might be coming because your partner subconsciously (or very consciously) knows that he is choosing sex above you, and he probably doesn\’t want to.

      So yeah. Embrace your sex drive, for sure. Embrace every single way your sex drive wants to play out without consideration for how it affects the people you love? Nope. Love first, sex second.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm

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