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 so 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 sex 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 sex somehow get a free pass? It shouldn’t. Logically it seems that chemical makeup dictates that sexual feelings should be moderated, just like those of anger and hunger. Unlike anger and hunger, however, sexual feelings involve another. Left unchecked, sexual desires that are purely rooted in lust 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 sex derived of meaning 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 fall into the dangerous pattern of usury; using others and allowing ourselves to be used. It is this type of usury rather than hate that is actually the opposite of love.
Left unchecked, sexual desires that are purely rooted in lust have little to no concern for another person, let alone true and lasting love that is more than just physical.
Usury goes both ways. 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. Even in a relationship, prioritizing the needs of another does not come easily, even with conscious effort. Wanting to fulfill your own desires is not always or even intrinsically bad, but when we are solely focused on ourselves and not the needs of others, we are no longer striving to love, but succumbing to the ease of using another. This is inherently much easier to do in casual relationships and hook-up sex when the driving desire is self-gratification and personal pleasure, which inherently uses another for how good they can make us feel.
In those instances when the approach is sensually self-indulgent, or hedonistic, there is no deeper love, no desire for the good of the person on the other end; the goal is entirely wrapped up in a single desire for fleeting pleasure. This is a reduction of the fullness real love provides. Through addressing the needs of each other true love will provide pleasure, yes, but will also give a deeper sense of fulfillment to the couple as 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, if we are placing a higher value on sex and our relationships, then we are required to really love because we believe that it is worth the effort. Rising above the ease that we are 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 ultimately.
If the goal is to find love rather than engage in lust, casual sex is really off the table. Again, this is not because pleasure is inherently bad, but because pleasure ordered only towards yourself and not the good of another does not create any premise 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 know going into situations where you are 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.
Not because pleasure is inherently bad, but because pleasure ordered only towards yourself and not the good of another does not create any premise for real love.
If the only intention of going home together for a night is to get some pleasure, you can probably 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 usury, the answer should be an obvious “no.” These moments are often small indications of much deeper patterns.
Put in the work
Being in a loving relationship can and does brings fun, pleasing joys. But it also brings work, commitment, and often 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 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 can promise you that as with most things in life, precious things are worth fighting for. Your heart, 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.