Story time...Many centuries ago, there were two bishops walking down the street. They walked past a prostitute. One bishop immediately shielded his eyes, as she was wearing a very sexually explicit dress. He didn't want to stare and become lustful. The other bishop, however, looked at her for several seconds as they passed. He did not divert his stare one bit.
Which bishop responded with purity? Both actually achieved purity. The first bishop needed to divert his glance to avoid lusting - he did what he needed to do to stay pure. However, the second bishop shows us that there's a deeper form of purity. The second bishop looked into the eyes and the heart of this woman with pity and love. He was able to see her as God saw her - a beautiful, precious creation. In fact, his look into her eyes was so moving to this prostitute that she followed him, spoke with him, converted to Catholicism - and they both became Saints (St. Nonnus of Edessa and St. Pelagia of Antioch). Pretty cool, huh? All of that from a pure, clean mind!
So, how do we become like this second bishop? How can we have such a clean mind that we aren't very tempted to lust? With His grace, we CAN see as God sees, we can love others as He loves others. Here's some ideas to get us closer to this goal...
1. Recognize sexual attraction as a gift from God. The evil one wants you to think that every sexual thought is nasty and dirty. However, God came up with sexual attraction so we'd want to unite with each other in marriage - a most beautiful thing. It's a gift from God when you are drawn to a woman. The evil sneaks in when you start using her in your brain for your own pleasure. So, before you get to the point of entertaining or using this sexual attraction for your benefit, give glory to God. Say, "Thank you God for this beautiful woman and that I'm a sexually healthy young man."2. Ask God to bless this person. Maybe you are dealing with lust toward a young woman who is seeking sexual attention (by dressing, dancing or talking sexually), or perhaps it is a past memory of you with a girl, or maybe it is a memory from viewing sexually explicit materials - regardless, you can pray for the person (or people) involved. Say a prayer that God would bless her abundantly today and with men in the future - that she'd be respected and know true love. This will help you see women as people deserving of respect and honor. Such a short, sweet prayer will start to change how you look at women - not as an object of your attention - but as a person needing prayers and real love.
3. Pray to be saved from the lust. Although any prayer is good at the time of temptation or even after you lust, to request forgiveness, I encourage you to be specific. First of all, know that the name of Jesus is the most powerful word ever to come out of your mouth. If you're being tempted or even bombarded by thoughts, simply say his name over and over again. He came to be our Savior, so ask him to save you. If you must say his name 20X for the temptations to stop, say it 20X. It infuriates the evil one that Jesus gets to be Savior again and again.
4. Transform thoughts in prayer. God created sexual desire and union. So, bring all your thoughts to Him in prayer, even in Adoration, if that's possible. Although this might sound strange, he can handle it. In doing so, you bring the darkness of your mind out into the Light. Let Jesus transform your thoughts. Sit, with the sexual image, and with God in it at the same time. Allow Him to walk through it with you. Consider asking yourself, "Is this what I really want?" Ask God, "How should I think of this?" When the lustful images pop in your brain, the first thought will no longer be "take, use", it'll be "this shallow act isn't what I ultimately want."
5. Untwist the lie. Under every perverted, impure thought is a pure, beautiful and noble motivation. You do not lust after women because you are a sick human, rotten to the core; you lust because you desire union, real love and real intimacy and the lie you've been fed was that taking sexual pleasure will fulfill your desire. You've been duped. Ask God to help you seek the truth - the real desires deep down that you have to love and honor women and the act of sex. Ask Him to get to the core of who you are and where you want to go in life. He will guide you to seeing and thinking as He does. Lies come from the evil one; truth comes from God. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened to you. He will untwist those thoughts so you will even see your memories differently. He will help you see women and sex as ultimately a cry for union and love - nothing less. Jesus came to restore sight to the blind and heal the broken-hearted. He did that for and through bishop #2; He can do it for and through you, too.
6. Stay soaked in truth. It's difficult to live in this world, stay soaked in the truth, and not give into the lies. I need daily, personal prayer with God. I need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation on at least a monthly basis (sometimes more frequently). I also need Mary's prayers, so I pray a Rosary all the time. And, I need union, as I wait for union with my spouse and for perfect union in Heaven. I receive a taste of Heaven (what sex is meant to be also), when I receive Jesus in the Eucharist. In going to Sunday and daily Mass, I not only get to hear God's word (the truth proclaimed), but I also get to experience perfect love and union in Him. Heaven kisses earth through the Eucharist. Jesus comes to us to love us, unite with us and heal us, as the last prayer we say states, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be...healed." Ask him to heal you, transform you and love you on a regular basis. It will change your heart and your mind dramatically.
7. Learn more about chastity. It's simple, the more I grow in understanding and living the virtue of chastity, the better I get at loving people. In reading about chastity, you'll discover the source and path of real love. Also, you'll hear all the benefits and positive effects of real love. You'll start to crave real love and resolve to live your life for nothing less than real love. Read more books, articles or websites on the topic. Our website has some great resources.
Over time, with prayer, God's truth and a desire to be transformed, you can have a clean mind and heart. It's not a simple or easy road to live chastity whole-heartedly, but it's worth it. In this world, nothing beats real love...nothing.