We live in a time where lust is glamorized and true love is made out to be shameful and boring. Rising above this culture may not be easy, but doing so promises many benefits that far outweigh the struggles.
2019 is a time of quick fixes and instant gratification. If something breaks, we buy a new one. If we’re tired of commercials, we skip ahead to the content we really want to see. Despite all of these advances, true and lasting love doesn’t come fast and cheap. Lustful desires may seem appealing, but they cheapen the rewards of true love and leave feelings of regret, shame, and a still clear desire for real and meaningful relationships.
Lust? What even is that? A word all but forgotten, lust is properly defined as “a very strong sexual desire.” So what is inherently wrong about that? Experiencing a strong sexual desire is just our physiological human nature, right? While there is some truth to this, we are so much more than just our physical, sexual desires, and to say otherwise cheapens humanity in its entirety. There is inherent value and dignity in every person, and this dignity is comprised of mind and body, both our physical and psychological makeup.
We are so much more than just our physical, sexual desires, and to say otherwise cheapens humanity in its entirety.
In one of the most extensive studies on sexual behavior, psychiatric researchers noted that much of sexual desire stems from and is controlled by the region of the brain known as the hypothalamus. The same region of the brain is also responsible for controlling hunger and anger. We are always given reasons to control hunger and anger (and understandably so), but somehow sexual desire is okay to be left untamed? Scientifically speaking, if all three desires are being produced in the same area of the brain, doesn’t it follow that it would be good to restrain all of them or none of them? Obviously, we don’t let the other two desires run rampant, so why does sexual desire somehow get a free pass? It shouldn’t.
Logically, it seems that our biological makeup dictates that sexual feelings should be moderated, just like those of anger and hunger. Unlike anger and hunger, however, sexual feelings involve another person. When left unchecked, lustful sexual desires have little to no concern for another person, let alone true and lasting love that is more than just physical.
We are thoughtful, emotional beings made to love and be loved. The problem with lust and meaningless sex is that it only concerns our physical natures, leaving people’s hearts and minds to be disregarded. When we are only concerned with the physical, we can fall into the dangerous pattern of relationships of use - using others and allowing ourselves to be used. It is this type of use rather than hate that is actually the opposite of love.
When left unchecked, lustful sexual desires have little to no concern for another person, let alone true and lasting love that is more than just physical.
If left unchecked, our reactions and desires are almost always geared toward ourselves and our own interests. We’re just naturally more in tune with ourselves than anyone else. In a relationship, prioritizing the needs of another doesn't come easily, even with conscious effort.
Wanting to fulfill your own desires is not inherently bad, but when we are solely focused on ourselves without any thought for the needs of others, we're no longer striving to love. We're succumbing to the ease of using another person. This is much easier to do in casual relationships and hook-up sex where the driving desire is for self-gratification and personal pleasure, motivations which inherently use another for how good they can make us feel.
When we are only concerned with the physical, we can fall into the dangerous pattern of relationships of use - using others and allowing ourselves to be used.
In instances when the approach to sex is sensually self-indulgent or hedonistic, there is no deeper love and no desire for the good of the other person. This is a reduction of the fullness real love provides. By addressing the needs of each other, not only will true love provide mutual pleasure, but it will also give the couple a deeper sense of fulfillment because the needs of the whole person, both mind and body, are recognized.
Be a Lover, Not a User
So if we aren’t lusting over one another, and if we're placing a higher value on sex and our relationships, then we're required to really love because we believe that it's worth the effort. Rising above the ease that we're told to embrace, however, is no small accomplishment these days. Therefore everything you do, starting with the first conversation with a potential partner, has to be oriented towards this end.
If the goal is to find love rather than to engage in lust, then casual sex is really off the table. Again, this isn't because sexual pleasure is inherently bad, but because pleasure ordered only towards yourself and not the good of another doesn't create any grounds for real love. You shouldn’t want to use someone else, and you certainly shouldn’t want to be used by them either. Accepting a drink or starting a conversation at the bar is fine, but you should know going into situations where you're going to draw the line. Make a commitment to keep yourself from being used and to keep yourself from using another in the name of laying the foundation for a truly loving relationship.
Sexual pleasure is not inherently bad, but pleasure ordered only towards yourself and not the good of another doesn't create any grounds for real love.
If your only reason for going home together is for a night of pleasure, you can assume that when push comes to shove, this other person probably won’t be the best at putting your needs above their own, especially when it’s difficult. (And quite honestly, you’re not really showing that you would do that either.) If an activity involves using another person or being the object of use, the answer should be an obvious “no.” These moments are often indications of much deeper patterns.
Put in the Work
Being in a loving relationship brings fun, pleasure, and joy. But it also brings work, commitment, and sacrifice. Giving in to lust is easy and requires little work and is thus a poor indicator of how loving someone is truly capable of being.
Instead of obsessing over your sexual chemistry on those initial dates, put in the work of actively learning about the other person. Get to know their character and desires, and assess whether or not this is a person you can see wanting the best for, in all aspects of life. Do you think you would be willing to make sacrifices for them at some point?
Looking past the initial attractiveness or superficial aspects of relationships that quickly fade will allow you to determine whether the relationship is worth pursuing.
Rising above lust is perhaps one of the hardest things you will choose to undertake when venturing into the dating world. But I promise you that precious things are worth fighting for. Your heart and dignity, and that of the person whom you’ll someday love, are worth valuing above all else. Cheapening sex and romance won’t make them any more pleasurable, and glorifying lust at the expense of yourself or another will never fulfill you. True and sacrificial love is worth all of the work that it takes.