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5 Defensive Strategies To Defeat Lust

300 soldiers with shields..
“We cannot prevent evil thoughts from coming in, but we can stand firm against them.” -Abba Poemen (Photo: Battle of Thermopylae).

Last week, I elaborated 7 Offensive Weapons To Defeat Lust. I explained that playing offense against lust entails taking constructive steps to grow–emotionally, relationally, and spiritually–when we are not actively being tempted. Fasting, meditation, diet, gratitude, physical activity, spending time with family and friends, and developing a spiritual life all made the cut.

The best defense is, in fact, a good offense. However, no matter how far out in front we get, no one’s environment is ever so sound, or character so strong, so as not to experience temptation (Jesus Christ himself was tempted!) In this chapter, I enumerate five fast-acting defensive strategies that we can execute in the heat of the moment, that is, after temptation has already struck. If temptation is the game, then the objective is to overcome by not capitulating. While most of these strategies are universal, everyone’s drawing board will look a little different. 

5 Defensive Strategies To Defeat Lust

1. Contact An Accountability Partner

King Solomon said, “Iron sharpens iron, as one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Accountability is a surefire way to achieve progress in an area. It’s true of the gym, diet, school, work, relationships, and it’s true of sexual integrity. If we could have done it on our own, we wouldn’t have a problem to begin with. Having at least one trusted person–or a small group of people–can be the difference between failure and success.

The best accountability is proactive, not reactive. Being proactive means taking action in advance of an outcome in order to improve it. In the case of sexual integrity, that means letting our accountability partner know when we’re feeling tempted, so that they can support us, advise us, pray with us, or simply supply the light and presence we need to choose wisely in the moment. Being reactive, on the other hand, consists of only confessing our mistakes and relapses after the fact; it is the lowest and least effective form of accountability.

2. Disconnect From The Internet

A lot of the temptation we face is enabled by the internet. It follows that taking a leave from cyberspace can stop temptation in its tracks. Practically, this may mean putting our phones in airplane mode, leaving our phones unattended in a different room, or simply ceasing to surf the web, scroll on social media, and do legitimate computer work that can be done another time. There are certain days of the week, and times of day, when we are more prone to temptation. Disconnecting from the internet at the earliest onset of a “temptation cycle” is a wise course of action.

When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.

James Clear in Atomic Habits (link)

3. Go To A Safe Location

While some people are brazen enough to watch pornography in public, most do so in the privacy of their own homes. This mean that time spent inside–at home and away from people–is prime time for temptation. It follows that leaving home to go to the park, visit a friend’s house, or eat out can shift out focus away from the object of temptation to a neutral or wholesome stimulus. There are other times when returning home from somewhere out can have the same effect. For example, if we are at a friend’s house, party, or event where we feel compromised. In sum, we “flee” temptation whenever we exit a space, cyber or physical, that enables it.

4. Engage In Physical Activity

Physical activity is an offensive strategy to grow as a person, when time is not of the essence. It is also a defensive strategy to escape in the heat of temptation, when time is critical. Physical activity rapidly transforms our mental state. There is a saying, “Motion creates emotion,” which motivational speaker Tony Robbins made famous. Sometimes, we cannot will our way out of how we are thinking or feeling. That is where movement, in the form of physical activity, can come to the rescue. For more on how physical activity, when done with the right aim and intentions, can promote sexual integrity, see Stretching: An Unsung Remedy For Blue Balls.

5. Practice Spiritual Disciplines

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.

Matthew 26:41

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

While it is easy to lose focus of God amidst the business of life, prayer restores God-consciousness and reconnects the believer with their deepest convictions about the world. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Christ, when he was tempted by the devil, repeatedly quoted God’s words. The Word of God, it follows, is the best weapon a believer has to stand firm against evil thoughts.

For more, see Do This When Evil Thoughts Come. Also, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).

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