A practical application of managing one’s experience of unwanted same-sex attraction (especially if one holds biblical convictions that cause him to refrain from sexual intimacy) is the focus of today’s post. As with similar posts on this blog, the exercises outlined are based my personal study (and experience) plus the experiences of others.
Some of our internal conflicts may not be fully resolved this side of heaven. For the Christian, the whole of our lives is one of being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). This implies exchanging old (bad) habits for new (good) ones, in order to please the Lord. For instance, “Do all things without grumbling and complaining” (Philippians 2:14) may demand a new habit on our part.
We may need to cultivate a whole new pattern of thinking, from negative to positive as “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It is the “putting off” of our old nature and “putting on” of the new nature we are given when we are born spiritually into God’s family (Colossians 3:9-10). This is not an easy thing to do and is, in fact, impossible in our own strength.
The purpose of the following exercise is to increase awareness of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors; to get a sense for what is happening in your everyday routine. What is characteristic of your experiences? What old (negative) habits do you need to exchange for new (positive) habits? What thoughts (feelings, behaviors) do you need to take captive and make them obedient to Christ?
Learning how to track, understand and mange our experience of same-sex physical or emotional attraction can be very empowering. I am a big believer of being intentional and proactive. Self-defeating behavior and attitudes such as passivity and being a victim of circumstance does not inspire us to grow as a person or to mature as God wants us to.
Insofar as they relate to same-sex erotic attraction and/or emotional longing, commit to recording your experiences for at least 2 weeks. (A real-life example of these completed instructions is given below.)
For each experience . . .
1. List the date and time.
2. Write a short description of the experience soon after it happens. Don’t wait too long; try to capture as much information about the event as possible.
3. Record a brief description of your physical sensations.
These could be subtle signals of sexual arousal such as increased heart rate, increased perspiration, dizziness, penile erection, vaginal lubrication, etc. Or maybe an increased sense of connection with others or feelings of infatuation.
4. Record your thoughts as they relate to sexual attraction and emotional longing.
Usually images and ideas of what could be (fantasies). Or the memories of previous sexual experiences or same-sex relationships. Take special note if your thoughts encourage you to act out sexually. Conflicting desires and intentions are not uncommon. It’s normal to have ambivalent thoughts. But don’t minimize or deny the thoughts. Be honest with yourself.
5. Record your feelings as they relate to sexual attraction and emotional longing.
Thoughts and feelings are closely connected. How we think about our circumstances contributes greatly to what we feel about our circumstances. Negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions – which can lead to increases sexual attraction or acting out behavior. Have you ever notice we try to soothe ourselves with negative or counterproductive behavior when we feel out of control, stressed out or disconnected?
6. Record your behaviors as they relate to sexual attraction and emotional longing.
What did you do? How did you react? How did you respond? Ask yourself how you would respond differently (based on your new awareness) if placed in a similar situation again.
To complete this exercise, you can use a form like this . . .
Using Myself As An Example
Last week I had lunch with my coworkers. This is how I completed my journal entry for my experience that day.
Date & Time: February 25, 2015. Approximately 12:15 pm
Situation as it related to homoerotic attraction and/or emotional longing: I went to lunch with a small group of coworkers. A woman and a very attractive man (about my age) came into the restaurant and were seated two tables away from us.
Physical Sensations: My heart started to beat faster. My face felt flush. I got an erection.
Thoughts: I want the woman to leave so I could sit with the man. I want to talk to him. I know I can’t or shouldn’t but I want to. I admired his smile, the definition of his body and his aura of self-assurance. I started to visualize him unclothed.
Feelings: Aroused. Lustful. Anxious. A little guilty but then a subtle (but increasing) sense of relaxation. Although I feel a little guilty for being excited and distracted, I recognize the longing means that I have not been nurturing the emotional connections with my male friends and acquaintances.
Behaviors: I kept looking in his direction. I wasn’t as sociable as I could have been with my coworkers. When the man left the restaurant, my eyes followed him out the door. When a situation like this occurs again in the future, I will respond (more quickly) in a way I know helps me to be more centered:
- I will intentionally look into the man’s eyes to connect with his humanity – a precious brother whom God created and the Lord died for (not a body to lust after, objectify, violate and dehumanize).
- I will say a short, silent prayer for the man.
- I will immediately make a note in my planner to connect with (call and/or meet with) one of my male associates ASAP to talk, hang out, etc.
What To Do With What You Have Learned
1. Reflect on how often these habits reoccur. Look for patterns in your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and physical sensations. Do (did) you notice the same reactions or responses with each occurrence? Do you notice the same reactions, responses or behaviors happen everyday? Every week? Every month? On a regular basis whenever you are in a specific mood or circumstance?
2. After you consider your recorded responses, carefully consider ALTERNATE responses: alternate thoughts, alternate feelings, and alternate behaviors. Look inside yourself to better understand yourself. What can you do differently? How will you implement changes?
3. When we reflect on and better understand our habits, patterns, thoughts and routines, we can make better choices that support our life goals.
4. Don’t forget to discuss and share your new realizations with a close friend, an accountability partner or your support group. Take your observations and concerns to the Lord in prayer.
5. Identify and remind yourself of who you are in the totality of your life and in your relationships. Identify and remind yourself of who you are in Christ and how the Lord sees you. Be intentional in your obedience to Christ and walking out your faith. Do the things you know you should do.
Question: Can you identify the messages that tend to run in your head as you anticipate, experience and consider acting on experiences of same-sex attraction? Are there times during a given day or week when you are more likely to hear messages that are counterproductive to your life goals?
“Managing your same-sex attractions”?
When I use this phrase what I have in mind is this: although we may experience or contend with homosexual attractions, we can identify ourselves in ways that are in keeping with traditional Christian beliefs and values. We can take steps to structure and live our lives in the context of vocation, stewardship and Christlikeness. I believe God wants us to know that it is okay to struggle. He will still love us and accept us.
© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2015.
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