22 March 2008

Heading It Off

Sleep in the same room but in separate beds. Any formerly full-time missionary is probably familiar with this counsel found in the white handbook. And any formerly full-time missionary has probably had many a chuckle over it.

But I've learned and re-learned the importance of this and similar counsel to make decisions ahead of time, to plan to avoid temptations that may be more than you can resist. I do believe we are not placed in situations we cannot resist. This applies to a lot of different things in life, not just matters of sexual expression. I simply don't buy the idea that we are mindless animals unable to control ourselves in certain circumstances. I fully reject the notion that "it's just the way I am to do this or that." I believe freedom to choose is the reigning principle in our lives.

I have been in situations in which resisting temptation was extremely difficult. I have been in situations in which I have not resisted temptations. I'm not talking about sex and drugs, but events in which I ended up acting in a way contrary to how I wanted to act. Contrary to who I want to be. But I certainly haven't just been thrust into such situations. Typically, I've seen the situation approaching from a mile away but just lacked the conviction, energy, or foresight to say, "Wait...I'm headed for a situation, here, and as much as I may enjoy the idea of experimenting or satiating my curiosity, there are reasons not to go there, and they are significant, and I need to change my direction, to 'head it off at the pass' before I lose the ability to see this situation objectively or lose clarity."

In certain situations, that foresight must come very early, at the first intimation of temptation. In others, it's something to be aware of and ready to act upon but can probably remain just a red flag to be kept in the line of vision in case the situation draws closer.

In giving in to temptations, we will do things which surprise ourselves. We will act contrary to the direction we previously declared we wanted to go. We will find ourselves in situations which provide a rush of euphoria-inducing chemicals, whether adrenaline or 'hormones' or foreign chemicals introduced by needles or smoke, and that rush can become our "god" or "master".

I have learned that when it comes to matters of physical affection, people are weak. Remarkably weak. It feels amazing to be physically close with someone to whom you're attracted, and it makes you want more closeness, more intensity of feeling. It's exhilarating, to be sure. It also can easily cross over from enjoying closeness and sincerely tender affection into a fully sexual experience. And please forgive my bluntness here, but I doubt penetration is required, in the eyes of most mature people, for something to be considered "sexual".

There have been many times when I've been close with someone with whom I would have really enjoyed doing "more". There have been times an attractive friend has cuddled into me, and I've had the impulse, even if briefly, to do something which could escalate the situation quickly into something bordering on lusty and sexual as opposed to "intimate," such as holding.

I'll just interject that I believe sexuality isn't evil. I've gained an appreciation, in fact, for the beauty of sexual expression in certain contexts. I have yet to feel free to fully express it with someone, but the idea is not foreign to me, if that makes any sense.

Many people may have little or no problem with engaging in the more sexual acts of heavy petting and grinding in more casual contexts and may find such things purely recreational, but I'm saying that IF I want to avoid certain situations and the temptation to go farther than I believe I should, then I have to draw my lines and recognize what track I'm on.

But I learned, early in my experience with other gay males, that there's a reason for all of this counsel I'd heard from church leaders regarding setting bounds ahead of time and deciding, prior to the situations, where to stop. Incidentally, the "same room but not in the same bed" counsel is remarkably valid. I've had enough discussions about regrettable actions to know that. I always used to think it was not a huge deal to go on co-ed camping trips or keep the tents separated by gender by a large distance. Now, I realize how necessary that counsel really is (for many people, at least). I'm very hesitant to allow same-sex attracted guests in my place to even sleep in the same room due to so many later discussions of regrettable things that have gone on in such situations.

I'm not going to tell you, my readers, what your boundaries should be. You're big boys and girls and perfectly capable of determining those on your own. But I am completely weary of hearing, "We didn't plan it. It just happened. My brain stops working and my penis starts doing the thinking." It's a convenient excuse, and one to which any normally sexual person will be quite sympathetic, but you took the steps to get to that point where it "just happened". At some point along the way, you decided to go into the situation you knew would probably cloud all judgement. I'll give you one or two such times. Maybe you didn't realize your weakness. Maybe you truly surprised yourself, but after being surprised one or two times, you are perfectly capable of saying, "Wow...I'm not good at resisting this, so if I intend to resist it in the future, there are simply situations I have to avoid entirely." Own it.

Or, on the flipside, just admit to yourself that you want what you're doing and getting it matters more to you than the reasons not to. If you are not setting up precautions to avoid certain situations, then you are, in fact, choosing to do that thing. Your priorities lay in the act you find yourself unable to resist because you are, in fact, choosing to do it by not avoiding it. We've all done things we didn't intend to or feel we shouldn't. But at some point, I think you have to be honest with yourself and either commit to avoiding the very first sign of temptation, or choose not to avoid it and acknowledge that you're so choosing, for whatever reason. I've found it helpful, anyway. I believe each of us has the power to make these decisions. Nobody is a slave to their hormones. Some people have conditions and addictions which require extra help, so I try to remember that and be sensitive to it, but for me, at least, I will insist that I am the one calling the shots.

A quote I like really applies to resisting temptation to act against your own conscience as well as forging your path: "If you don't change your direction, you may end up where you're headed." That statement is both cautionary and encouraging to me, and remembering it helps me make some of the seemingly smaller decisions in life.


The Impossible K said...

"Maybe you truly surprised yourself, but after being surprise one or two times,"

...I think you meant "surprised"

Obviously, there wasn't much about this post I could relate to or apply... so my natural reflex was to look for grammar mistakes. :P
For what it's worth, though, I do appreciate the teeny tiny phrase in which you insinuated a bit more inclusiveness:
"Now, I realize how necessary that counsel really is (for many people, at least)"
Guess that's all I'm afforded, eh? Fair enough. I know, this post is not intended for people like me- rare as we may be. But I hope the other 99% can gleam something from this. Honestly, my imagination just isn't wild enough to grasp it.
Still- you make a good point. It's important to "own" your actions and recognize temptation before it owns you.

Mr. B said...

As much as those of us who use that excuse would like to lean on it, you speak the truth, and we all know it.

Kengo Biddles said...

I liked this post. Thanks for posting it!

Cyd said...

I need to go back and read this post again - and recommend it to a couple of other people, and then read it once more. And maybe tape it up on my bedroom door, or something. Ahem.

Very effectively put - thank you!