I have a lusting problem. Fortunately, I don’t have a pornography problem. I have tried and tried and tried for over 30 years now to overcome looking with lust at immodestly dressed women I see in public. I am no closer now to overcoming it than I was 30 years ago. Church leaders counsel people trying to overcome pornography to avoid it. But, short of living the life of a hermit, how can I avoid seeing these sights everyday out in public? I am so discouraged.
First, I would like to share my appreciation and gratitude that you do not have a pornography problem/addiction. This is good. The decision to watch pornography is a choice, while being bombarded with scantily clad women is not easily avoided — unless you want to be a hermit — but I wouldn’t recommend this choice. There is too much of life to enjoy that would be lost by the choice of becoming a hermit. Then what do we do when we are tempted by the lusts of the flesh?
President Packer provided an inspiring talk, “Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts,” regarding our need to control our thoughts. President Packer shares:
“As you learn to control your thoughts, you can overcome habits, even degrading personal habits. You can gain courage, conquer fear, and have a happy life… I’ve thought about this over the years and have decided that the mind is like a stage. During every waking moment the curtain is up. There is always some act being performed on that stage. It may be a comedy, a tragedy, interesting or dull, good or bad; but always there is some act playing on the stage of your mind.”
I appreciate President Packer’s words because he highlights very important aspects in our desire to control our thoughts. The first compares our mind to a stage. The second, expresses the idea as long as our eyes are open the curtain is always up. Then, we are told “always” some act is being performed on our cognitive stage.
President Packer then shares:
“Have you noticed that shady little thoughts may creep in from the wings and attract your attention in the middle of almost any performance and without any real intent on your part? These delinquent thoughts will try to upstage everybody. If you permit them to go on, all thoughts of any virtue will leave the stage. You will be left, because you consented to it, to the influence of unrighteous thoughts.”
I truly appreciate the first sentence as President Packer highlights that “shady little thoughts” may creep into our mind without any intent, motivation, on our part. Now, this is the crux of controlling our thoughts in relation with our divine moral agency to act or be acted upon. When these shady thoughts enter in our minds, we now are being enticed by opposites (opposition in all things). We can either choose to entertain the shady thought, or we can choose a different act to play on our screen. We now have the opportunity to make a decision such that righteousness is brought to pass.
These shady thoughts can be likened to the unwanted streaker who boisterously parades on our stage, until he/she is removed. When we actively entertain these streakers, we are giving into the lusts of our flesh. In order to remove them we have been given the Lord’s atonement, the ability to repent (a change of heart and mind). What we desire is what will ultimately play on our cognitive stage.
As you ponder these words, the next step is to be patient with yourself as you repent and actively change your mind, or as you actively remove shady thoughts from your mind. Rejoice in those days that you successfully control your thoughts, and what plays on your stage when the curtain is up. Repent, and be grateful for repentance, when you may entertain lustful thoughts. Never give up dear brother, never give up. In the process of perfection you will be successful one day, and then you will be successful for a week, and then you will be successful for a month, and then one day a person may entertain these shady thoughts. Repent, and progress forward until one day we are able to declare “I am clean.”