Not Every Man's Battle

I don't look at other women. At least I don't linger long enough to let my mind wander. After a nine-year pornography addiction, this was the system I put in place upon reading Every Man's Battle. But I didn't realize at the time that I was just replacing one lie for another.

On the one hand, culture tells men that sowing their cyber seed (i.e. porn) is masculine and healthy, even though now I feel like less than a man for not being able to appreciate another woman's beauty without the fear of lust.

On the other hand, a Christian subculture tells men that the only way to combat lust is to never, ever, ever look at a woman--unless she's dressed in a frock--for more than a second. It sounds a lot more holy, but it puts men right back where they started: unable to fully appreciate part of God's creation.

The Greeks didn't seem to have this problem. Sculpture upon sculpture was dedicated to immortalizing flesh that was considered beautiful, and in poses that accentuated the natural curves of the human body. So part of me thinks that I should be able to go to the beach and appreciate the beauty there in all of its sunbathing glory.

Then again, what was art to the Greeks is now considered porn to many of us. And I can't escape the nagging feeling that men like me are incapable of admiring the female form without desiring it.

I saw this tension recently on two different blogs. The first ("My Husband Doesn't Need to See Your Boobs") was by a wife concerned about her marriage. It was written as a plea for women to exercise modesty as it affected what her husband saw and thought as well as her own insecurities in knowing what her husband saw and thought.

I couldn't help but identify with it and as the man that I am, I too wanted to yell alongside her: "Don't you know what I've been through? I don't need to see that!"

The second blog considered a different perspective ("I Don't Care if My Husband Sees Your Boobs"). This one was by a soon-to-be-married young woman concerned about inappropriate societal pressure and a culture that abdicates men of any responsibility. In it she contends that what another woman wears only becomes an issue in a marriage if the man lets it.

I have to agree. And I hate when men offer these self-righteous pleas for modesty that are really saying, "Ladies, I just can't help myself, so I need you to do my job for me."

Both bloggers are right in principle. Women need to take responsibility for how their actions affect others, and men need to take responsibility period.

But they also share a similar flaw. The first focuses on what everyone else is doing to my marriage, and the second focuses on what everyone else is doing to my freedom to dress a certain way. In short, they're both self-centered. They're so consumed with what everyone else needs to do for them that they can't consider what they might be able to do for others.

So, borrowing from the wisdom of the second blog, everyone: take responsibility for yourself. Men, if Instagram is causing problems in your marriage, stop whining like a child and pluck the eye out (i.e. delete it). Women, if your man's attention is being drawn away by online Jezebel's, stop talking to the world about it and start talking to him.

But don't forget to apply the first blog too. Everything we do will affect someone else, and taking responsibility for ourselves includes being considerate of consequences we may not have intended. We can't ask the world to cater to our weaknesses, but we can and should go out of our way to cater to the needs of the world.

If we truly care about people, every decision we make needs to be carefully weighed. Unlike the blogs mentioned, people can't be handled with generalizations. Some guys, like me, won't be your friend if you always wear tight clothes when you're around me. Other guys, like a friend of mine from South Florida, laugh at what the Jersey shore calls a bikini.

Modesty is not every man's battle; it's relative to each individual's experience and sensitivity. That's true for most things. And while it may not mean never wearing a bikini again, it does mean asking yourself why you insist on wearing it around a brother who has expressed a weakness for it.

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