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5 Defensive Strategies To Defeat Lust

300 soldiers with shields..
“We cannot prevent evil thoughts from coming in, but we can stand firm against them.” -Abba Poemen (Photo: Battle of Thermopylae).

Last week, I elaborated 7 Offensive Weapons To Defeat Lust. I explained that playing offense against lust entails taking constructive steps to grow–emotionally, relationally, and spiritually–when we are not actively being tempted. Fasting, meditation, diet, gratitude, physical activity, spending time with family and friends, and developing a spiritual life all made the cut. The best defense is, in fact, a good offense. However, no matter how far out in front we get, no one’s environment is ever so sound, or character so strong, so as not to experience temptation (Jesus Christ himself was tempted!). In the heat of temptation, there are fast-acting defensive strategies we can execute in order to increase our probability for success.

Without further ado, I present five defensive strategies in the battle for sexual integrity that I and many others have found to be particularly helpful. Your list may look a little bit different, but the idea here is to take preventative action against lust once temptation strikes.

5 Defensive Strategies To Defeat Lust

1. Contact An Accountability Partner

King Solomon said, “Iron sharpens iron, as one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Robust accountability is one of the most surefire ways to achieve progress in an area. It’s true of the gym, diet, school, work, relationships, and it’s true of sexual integrity. If we could have done it on our own, we wouldn’t have a problem to begin with. Having at least one trusted person–or a small group of people–can be the difference between failure and success.

The best accountability is proactive, not reactive. Being proactive means taking action in advance of an outcome in order to improve it. In the case of sexual integrity, that means letting our accountability partner know when we’re feeling tempted, so that they can support us, advise us, pray with us, or simply supply the light and presence we need to make the right decision in the moment. Being reactive, on the other hand, consists of only confessing our mistakes and relapses after the fact.

2. Disconnect From The Internet

A lot of the temptation we face is enabled by the internet. It follows that shutting off internet access can stop temptation in its tracks. Practically, this may mean putting our phones in airplane mode, leaving our phones unattended in a different room (and charging them there when we go off to sleep), ceasing to scroll on social media, surf the web, or do legitimate computer work that can be done another time. There are certain days of the week, and times of day, when we are more prone to temptation. Disconnecting from the internet at the earliest onset of a “temptation cycle” is a wise course of action.

When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.

James Clear in Atomic Habits (link)

3. Go To A Safe Location

While some people are brazen enough to watch pornography in public, most people do so in the privacy of their own homes. This creates a situation where being inside–at home and away from people–is primetime for temptation. Going to the park, a friend’s house, or out to eat can shift our focus away from the object of temptation to a more neutral or wholesome activity. There are other times when returning home from somewhere out can have the same effect. For example, if we are at a friend’s house, party, or event where we feel compromised. As in the example of disconnecting from the internet, we “flee” temptation whenever we exit an environment that promotes it.

4. Engage In Physical Activity

Physical activity is an offensive strategy to grow, in general, when time is not of the essence. it is also a defensive strategy in the heat of temptation, when time is critical. Physical activity rapidly transforms our mental state. There is a saying, “Motion creates emotion,” which motivational speaker Tony Robbins made famous. Sometimes, we cannot will our way out of how we are thinking or feeling. That is where movement, in the form of physical activity, can come to our aid. For more on how physical activity, when done with the right aim and intentions, can promote sexual integrity, see Stretching: An Unsung Remedy For Blue Balls.

5. Pray

When we pray, we enter into a state of God-consciousness. It is easy to forget about God in the business of life and selfishness of our heart’s occupation. Prayer brings us back in touch with our deepest convictions about the world. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). According to the Christian worldview–and most every religion that I know of–God is a morally pure being who supplies divine help to overcome evil. In other words, God is pro sexual integrity, in general, and pro our sexual integrity, in particular.

It’s hard to have an impure thought when you are in the presence of the pure one [God]. . . For me, keeping me pure is meeting with the pure one every day.

Robert Morris

We cannot prevent evil thoughts from coming in, but we can stand firm against them. Christ, when he was tempted by the devil, repeatedly quoted God’s words. The Word of God, it follows, is the best weapon a believer has to stand firm against evil thoughts.

For more, see Do This When Evil Thoughts Come. Also, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of our lives. I got my B.S. from Georgetown University and my M.A. from The Ohio State University.

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