Do You Really Have Control?
When it comes to self-control in your thought life, the habits you’re trying to overcome are often deeply rooted. We’re guys, and that means almost every one of us struggles with sexual thoughts that can get out of hand. If we’re honest, it’s those thoughts that lead to actions that are shameful. We certainly wouldn’t want other people to see what’s going on behind our eyes.
Understanding The War Against Our Minds
God and our culture are at odds as to what is healthy and normal. If you’re a Christian, self-control begins with a renewed realization that what God tells us through Scripture really is right, good, and true – even if it doesn’t make complete sense at the moment. That’s an element of faith.
When I first started paying close attention to where my thought life was (and is) out of control, I was shocked to realize just how bombarded my mind is. It’s on TV, it’s on my computer, it’s on billboards, it’s the way women dress. If I’m honest, I can’t go to the beach, a theme park, or even the grocery store without seeing someone I like but isn’t mine to have. Beyond that, it’s the way I’ve allowed myself to check out any woman at any time, for any reason. I rationalize that I’m a guy, and guys are visual, so my creepy actions are normal and okay.
Winning The Thought Life Battle
The release of endorphins in your system when you follow a fantasy to its conclusion is what keeps bringing you back. It’s as addictive as any drug. When it wears off, you’re left wondering why you can’t be better than that – at least that’s what I’ve wondered every time I failed.
The more I paid attention, the more I began to realize there is a moment when I decide if I’m going to let a thought stick around. Another moment appears when I decide if I’m going to act on the fantasy. And then, there’s a moment when temptation turns to sin.
A Controlled Mind Needs Training
Endurance athletes often have a mantra they repeat to themselves during the tough parts of a training run or race. It helps them focus their mind on something other than the burn in their legs and lungs.
Whenever I recognize a thought taking shape, my mantra becomes the question, “Do I trust that what God says is really best for me?” By stopping to ask that simple question, what comes next is a conscious decision instead of something that I just let ride in my subconscious.
And it worked immediately, right?
Absolutely not. But, because the decision was a conscious one, I was occasionally able to beat it. Slowly, the wins started to pile up until they outweighed the losses. Over the course of a few months, I gained control over the thoughts I didn’t think I could ever beat.
Self-Control Isn’t ALL “Self”
The things we can’t beat on our own God will help us with! It takes more than just a mantra, though. We need to ask for help to overcome these kinds of struggles in our thought life. This help we need can be found in prayer. You pray for strength to beat the temptation. When you win, you praise God for it. When you lose, you immediately ask forgiveness and for the strength to turn away from it.
The great thing is we serve a loving God of the Universe who always greets us with open arms. He has no “remorse period” where we have to be ashamed and act like we’re sorry before returning to him. He’s ready before we act, in the midst of it, and after – we just have to turn and take the first step back toward him.
If you have the courage to be vulnerable with someone you trust to help you be accountable, you’ll have greater success. It can be very difficult to open up to another guy with our dark secrets, but you’ll find the deepest, most meaningful friendships you’ve ever known when you do.
Long Term Self-Control In Your Thought Life
When you get to the point where you’re beating the temptation consistently, it’s still not over. Those temptations don’t ever go away, so you have to keep an active mind working against them. Keep in mind, you won’t be perfect, but you will get better at it.
It sounds exhausting and I admit it can sometimes be overwhelming (hence, our need for help from a greater entity than ourselves). But, having that thought radar constantly up and running is the secret to how a good guy maintains self-control in his thought life. Like anything, though, it takes practice, patience, and the understanding that it’s going to feel foreign at first.
Strength in Our Weakness
Now when I see someone I would want to fantasize about, I turn it straight to prayer. It’s nothing complicated or some magic series of words. It’s as simple as, “Lord, help me to choose you over this.” He’s not waiting with a lightning bolt waiting for us to fail. He’s looking over the horizon, ready to run to us with open arms the moment he sees us coming.
I know I’m weak and I’m good with that. Because where I’m weak, Jesus is strong. I’m happy to surender and defer to his strength over my will and effort. It really is possible to turn your eyes away. It really is possible to close the browser. It really is possible to want what God promises over what the world offers.