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Cultivating a Higher Appreciation and a Deeper Desire

By Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D.

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Sex Addiction Recovery Tips from Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D.

Cultivating a Higher Appreciation and a Deeper Desire

During our first counseling session, one of my clients described his vulnerability to sexual temptation this way: “I have an especially powerful appreciation for female beauty and the female body.”

I took issue right away with his characterization of the problem. “Someone who has a true appreciation of antiques does not break into a collector’s house, smash open a locked cabinet, and then maul the owner’s most priceless and cherished pieces, leaving them strewn accross the floor when he’s done.”

It is our Father in Heaven, and not any individual human, who is the owner who holds the key and has the right to designate when the cabinet can be opened and its contents viewed and touched. The process of appreciation and enjoyment is spoiled when we fail to receive permission from the owner, insist on our own timing instead of his, and therefore feel that we must sneak to do it.

Those who refuse to yield to the pull of pornography do so out of a true and deeper sense of appreciation of female beauty and the female body, and not from a failure to appreciate and enjoy.

Satan is very convincing at the moment of temptation. He holds up a mirror reflecting the very aspect of the divine that will be the most compelling at the moment. Satan is only effective because he convinces us that he is a vendor of the divine, of some aspect of God’s life and the life God wants us to have. Satan’s false promise is that he has the power to give us what is reflected in his mirror. It is only after we have stepped downward to grab for the reflection that we realize that what was pictured there was never Satan’s to give. Satisfaction flees quickly and we are left to decide whether we will take another step down to chase it further or take the more difficult, ascending path.

The goodness and beauty God has in store for us will make the present possibilities pale in comparison, but abstaining from such practices requires trust that God really is saving the very best for us. By the power of faith we delay our gratification and “hold out” for the better reward. It may seem to us at the time that choosing God’s way entails forgoing forever opportunities for gratification; in reality, He requires instead that we merely wait to have what is most gratifying.

Delaying gratification does not entail giving up anything that is truly good. M. Scott Peck has made this point well: “Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live” (The Road Less Travelled, p. 19).

We must have faith that Satan is a liar and that God is truthful, that Satan never keeps his promises and that God always follows through his commitment to give us great things. In his book, Desiring God, John Piper writes, “Conversion is what happens to the heart when Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy. Saving faith is the heartfelt conviction that Christ is both solidly reliable and supremely desirable. The newness of a Christian convert is a new spiritual taste for the glory of Christ.”

Pursuing temptation is always a failure of faith. It is either a failure of belief that what God has is better or a failure of the patience that such a conviction demands. We decide to give up obeying God in some way because we are convinced that life with Him lacks something positive that Satan can provide us right now. Again, Satan has deceived us. What he has only looks good because it is a counterfeit version of something even greater that God has for us. The very design of our souls is such that we are drawn to the real fruit that God offers; Satan’s painted plastic decoy version appeals to us because our souls are designed to crave the real thing.

In other cases, we may believe God’s promise but take what Satan suggests because we don’t want to wait for the greater good. Like shoving down the leftovers we find on a busboys tray even though we know a plate of filet mignon and wonderful side dishes are on their way, but will require another fifteen minutes to be grilled to perfection and presented in their full glory.

How do we apply this principle of faith as we face temptation day by day? We can attempt to avoid enticing sexual fantasies and behavior by trying to convince ourselves that they are not really what we want; however, such arguments carry very little weight in the heat of a tempting moment. On the other hand, we can also try to abstain by reminding ourselves that, as much as we want to pursue what now comes to mind, deep down we want what God has even more. As appealing as the content of our temptation is to us right now, God has something in store for us that would make present possibilities seem bland and empty.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks H. Oaks taught us that any joy we may experience in this life is nothing more than a mere mortal simulation of the eternal joy that is possible. When I first heard him use a congugation of the word “simulate” to describe our positive earthly experiences, I was reminded of the drivers’ education simulator that I sat in as a student at Woods Cross High School. At first, the other students and I were just glad to be behind a wheel–any wheel! As inexperienced as we were, however, we soon realized that what we were experiencing was a pretty weak, watered-down version of actual driving. The real thing, I have seen again and again since then, can take me places I never would have imagined back then. I have driven down the Pacific Coast Highway on one end of the country, past the monuments of Washington D.C. on the other end, and over all kinds of beautiful terrain in between over the last twenty years. Just think of everything I could have missed out on if I had I refused to stop joy-riding during those initial training sessions back in that darkened high school classroom.

 

Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D. is Salt Lake City-based clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of sexual addiction. He can be reached at 801-564-7566. His offices are located at 1258 West South Jordan Parkway, Suite 202, South Jordan, UT and in Davis County at 1785 East 1450 South #233 Clearfield, UT. Mark is author of Wanting More: The Challenge of Enjoyment in the Age of Addiction and coauthor of Willpower Is Not Enough: Why We Don’t Succeed at Change. He specializes in the treatment of addictions and compulsive behavior. Contact Dr. Chamberlain to try out his eWorkbook, “Turning from Other Dependencies to God.”

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