The Downward Spiral of a Man’s Heart

I’m sick of Satan’s dirty little tricks. Criticize me all you want for the legalistic sound of this post but I’m not taking a chance in this area of my life and I want to use this post to encourage men to do likewise.  If I’ve learned anything about being a man it’s that I am weak in this area. I’m tired of sitting with couples whose marriage is rocked because of an affair.  Lately this has included those in ministry and it’s impacting their ability to do Kingdom work.  If a man says he can handle this area of temptation without proper discipline in his life he’s most likely lying or impotent.

In nearly every situation I encounter (all but one or two that I can remember), the affair didn’t start in an instant; it started over a series of time and moments of indiscretion by the man (or woman).  I can’t intelligently speak to this issue from a woman’s perspective, but here is the progression of the sin of adultery in a man’s life:

Glance

Look

Gaze

Thought

Lust

Pornography

Flirting

Affair

Rarely does an affair start at the glance stage. It’s true a man may not go through each of the stages. Some skip the pornography stage, for example, although well over half the time this is the case. The key here is that it is a progression. It seems to me, therefore, that where we need to get a handle on the problem is early in the progression.   Satan is the master at entering adequate temptation into this progression.  He seems to know the right images and situations to tempt the man.

Every time I post about this issue females accuse me of being a pervert.  Just read some of the comments in THIS POST.  Guys, help me out here.  Be honest with who you are and the temptations you face on a daily basis.  You know you have a problem if not controlled.  Even the Old Testament character Job realized he needed some discipline in his life in this area.  (Job 31:1)  No temptation has seized you except what’s common to man. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Men (and women), we must get a handle on what we look at and what we do with our thought life.  I’m not saying every time a man has a lustful thought it is going to end up in an affair, but the progression is the scary part. Some of you reading this are already past the danger point in your progression.  My advice is to get help now. Your family, ministry and reputation are too important not to protect it.

For more on this thought process, read my post Addressing a Porn Generation and 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry from an Affair.

Now, for those brave enough, be honest with meDo you struggle in these areas?  What are you doing to protect yourself?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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32 thoughts on “The Downward Spiral of a Man’s Heart

  1. What makes men think that they can have an affair because they glance, or look? I would never give you any part of me for dinner and a movie. And, why would you want to have an affair? Because you're not getting respect at home? Why don't men try giving some respect for the wife who takes of you, the mother who takes care of he kids, the house, the bills, and works? Ahem!!! Geeze,,,men are stupid. Women don't think they can have an affair with a man because they "look". Gawwwwwdddddd…….really???

  2. God has put a burden on my heart for men much like yours. It’s encouraging to read your wisdom on these issues. The problems men face aren’t much talked about because it’s hard to, as men, trust another human being. I would like to know more on how to reach out to these men. God bless!

    • Ha! Thanks man. My wife said the same thing last night. I had a few nasty posts were written about me around the blog world. Links always find a way of getting back to you. Still think it's an important discussion though.

  3. Nice post Ron and spot on, was thinking this-praying about this for several weeks now. Guess what? God Hates Divorce! As men (women too for that matter) we must set up guidelines for ourselves not only about this but ALL aspects of life…it's when we do not set up parameters that we can be tempted to allow ourselves to indulge in questionable activities which may progress to our demise. Refuse to flirt, to gaze, to meet with a lady for lunch/coffee…little things-big things swing on small hinges…Lastly, when we get our feelings hurt-feel like we aren't appreciated-GROW UP-don't go whining to a lady friend or associate, this may also open the door and you may not be strong enough to close it.

  4. In my men's group (read: addiction group), here are my boundaries:____Absolute Boundaries:__No porn, masturbation or online chatrooms____Freedom Boundaries:__Dedicate day to God in the morning__Take a shower before the kids go to school or go to the gym after dropping them off. It's a mental thing, where I've decided to walk in integrity__Do not get on the computer when my wife is not up__Limit internet use at work (I work at a radio station that encourages looking as certain pictures. Sitting in front of six unfiltered computers doesn't help)____The biggest problem for me is being able to acknowledge my feelings and be able to accept what I'm feeling. What I've found is that I'm prone to act out (and become my own God) when I'm feeling hurt or sad or unloved. For me, that's where the fight still lies.____Maybe that was more than you asked for. This issue is where my heart lies.

    • Something that may help. My issues aren't with porn or affairs. But, as I noted above, I could be a prime candidate for both since my marriage is suffering and my wife is fairly cold to me at a lot of levels. So basically not getting at home tons of things that I should be getting. Have worked through this for almost two years. And I've developed some coping skills that keep me sane and on target and away from the bad things. One is every day to humble myself before God, asking for His direction and to help me to be obedient to Him in every way. Second is to humble myself before my wife each day as a leader/servant/helper/whatever and to love her unconditionally. Is this easy? Not by a long shot, but it keeps me focused and even on days what I just want to chuck it and move on with my life the way that I want to, it pulls me back to what's really important; God and my wife and family.

  5. Ron, it's not a matter of IF the problem exists. That would be like asking if air exists. The problem is here and is here to stay. Men, we must face this fact.

    The IF question has more to do with what we will do with the problem. This post, and others across the internet, are just plain good reading. Fill your minds with this type of reading. Get an accountability partner. Then live day to day (moment to moment, if necessary) racking up small victories in Jesus' name. Over time, you'll leave a legacy you can be proud of.

  6. Yep…it's a progression. And way too many men are trapped in that progression with no idea they're on the way down. I knew that I didn't see the danger when I was on the way down.

  7. I think men should also be aware of how far in this progression they are with someone already. It can be years after the initial phases that the progression continues. This progression is not solely based on a fluid timeline.

  8. Ron, in my life, I know that there are seasons when I am tired, stressed, busy, harangued, bored… in those moments I am more susceptible to the glance, look, gaze, thought, etc. For Christian men, we many times think everything's okay if we "think" like David did (with Bathsheba) as long as we "run" like Joseph did (with Potiphar's wife). We don't get to the heart of the matter, which is enjoying something (thought, lust) more than treasuring Christ in our hearts. Again, in my life, I have to take those seasons of weakness and intentionally pour Christ into the gaps, with the help of my weekly accountability group.

    Great post, brother!!!

    Eric

  9. I love what Jon is saying here, because he is going straight to the heart of the issue. He takes it further than "the progression." While I like having the outline of a progression is place, its use is limited to only recognizing symptoms of a deeper problem. An analogy:

    Progression of a cold:
    Headache
    sore throat
    sneezing
    runny nose
    fever
    body aches
    cold moves to the chest…
    coughing
    physical weakness

    The progression is only useful in helping us identify how far along we are in getting sick/ identifying symptoms. If I want to avoid getting sick, I'm going to make sure I'm well rested, stay warm, and eat/drink well.

    (Part 1 of 2)

    • Similarly, if I want to avoid the affair, I need more than just the progression. I need to look at my heart. I totally agree with Jon in saying that we have to look at our hearts and what needs aren't being met. We need to realize where we are vulnerable (not getting respect or feeling special), and recognize when someone else offers those things to us, because that is where temptation begins. (It doesn't have to start with "a glance" because it may not be physical at first.)

      We need to know our heart, know our needs, know our weaknesses, and know what we ARE getting. By focusing on cherishing the good that we have, and working on getting what we need (but don't get) at home instead of elsewhere, our attention will always be focused on our family.

      Be committed to the family. Be committed to drinking from your own well. And be committed to cherishing the good that is there, while recognizing the lack that may lead to temptation in seeking fulfillment elsewhere.

      (Part 2 of 2)

      • Alban, you are so right. I've had a situation when I've really felt pushed away by my wife and that same day I had to do a small task for the one married woman I mention. It was just a part of my job and nothing that required great skill. But she always sends an email with just a small complement. In that moment, I start to think, gee I wish my wife would do that. But that's where I step in and stop that type of thinking. I rebuke Satan for even putting that idea in my head. But you are so right in that the start doesn't even have to be a glance or anything physical.

        • I've been thinking about this some more, and I think the problem starts in the heart. I think it starts with a sense of dissatisfaction, which leads to discontent, which leads to wanting something more/better.

          The dissatisfaction could start from a spouse/significant other treating you unkindly or even doing something unexpected, leading to disappointment. The dissatisfaction can also start with a glance and wanting something more (Ooh! Pretty car/girl/house/iPhone).

          The key, I think, is recognizing dissatisfaction at the point of inception and choosing to be satisfied with what we have. We can choose to be satisfied with what we already have at any other point down the progression as well, but I think early detection helps ensure greater happiness and less temptation.

          Ron, I'd recommend adding dissatisfaction or discontentment near the top of the progression somewhere. Because if we weren't dissatisfied, we wouldn't continue to look, seek, or desire

          • Thanks for coming back to this. I love that people read comments…so you help build the post. I agree with your assessment.

  10. I agree that an affair doesn't start in a moment. My opinion would be that the average guy who decides on an affair has at least gone down through most of the list you have posted. I'm not sure that porn is always in the progression and even Lust might be absent. But mostly I agree with your progression.

    I think that it starts even before the glance. I think we as Christian men have had to have something else already going on before we take that first glance. As I have shared here in the past, my marriage has issues at the moment, mostly caused by me. And God has dealt with me in those areas. But now my wife is lacking love for me which leads to many important pieces of the marriage to be missing. In one sense, I am a prime candidate for having an affair. I work out at the Y and am exposed to many very attractive women some of whom don't work out in sweats… ahem… I work closely with a very attractive woman who is divorced. Although she's probably really not my type in some ways in other ways she is. And there is a woman, who is married, whom I have worked with for years and years who has a knack of just making me feel special. No, she's not coming on to me, she just appreciates our friendship and the our work-related interactions and can with a small compliment in an email make me feel like the most special of people.

    So, you see, I have opportunity, I have visual stimulation, I have possibilities, and I'm getting something I'm not getting at home…and no, I'm not talking about sex..although that is an issue…I'm getting respect; I'm getting thoughtful encouragements.

    And I think for many men, that's how it starts. How do I resist especially in the cauldron of a marriage that is not what it should be and one in which I feel unloved and disrespected? Fortunately for me, God has worked what I would call a miracle in my life and has given me a deep sense of love and commitment for Him, my vows, my wife, and my marriage. When I am at the Y I realize that these women will be there and I purpose to not look. The same holds with the women at work. I treat them like coworkers and friends and don't, for the most part, even have the thought about something else with them. God has led me to many helpful resources like this blog and a couple of great books that I will recommend. And from that I have decided to love my wife unconditionally. Even though she doesn't love me or respect me in that way and some days she can be cold, I choose to love her unconditionally. And I think that is the key. If I were to have an affair I believe that doing that would devalue my relationship to God, my marriage, and my relationship to my wife. So if I say I am going to love her unconditionally and then decide to have an affair, I guess that makes me a liar.

    The two books I have found that I think are excellent are "Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas and "Love and Respect" by Dr. Emerson Eggerich.

    We can stem the tide of affairs, at least among Christian men, but it takes us being committed men of God.

    • Jon, I actually reworded a paragraph, just because I agree the progression isn't an exact order. The illustration I'm making is that it's a progression. Thanks for the book suggestions.

  11. The only item in your list that seems out of place is "Pornography." Too often it will appear anywhere in the list, and sometimes not at all.

    Otherwise the progression is spot-on. Some say it's OK to "look" (probably "gaze" in your list). I know of extremely few cases where that's actually true. I know I can't just "look" without standing on the edge of the next step in the progression. I also know that I, as well as the people I know who say it's OK to "look," wouldn't want to look if they weren't already in the progression.

    I realize that women are wired differently. They aren't triggered by the visual (though our society is beating that out of them with the shirtless "Weezy Queasy Sleazy" rappers). Men, in general, are. It's deeper than our thoughts, ladies. Sorry.

    (cont'd in reply)
    Twitter: joe_sewell

    • (cont'd due to IntenseDebate size limitations)

      I live in Florida, which means "distractions" are commonplace. In most cases I have to decide to look away. There have been 1 or 2 cases where a dear lady friend has accidently "flashed" me while taking off, say, a motorcycle leather jacket. To God's glory I turned away without even thinking first. Why? Because I cared enough about the lady to want to avoid her being embarrassed!

      That's probably the big thing for me. Care about the person, not just the skin cells shaped by the muscles and bones and other tissue. Above all else, commitment to my wife and to God (not in that order) is top priority. Keeping those almost obsessively at the forefront of my mind helps me.
      Twitter: joe_sewell

    • Joe, you are right. Pornography is not always there….I do see it more times than not however. Your comment encouraged me though to reword the paragraph after the progression. Thanks!