TOB Tues.: To Look Away or to Not Lust…That is the Question

ChelseaChastity, Lust, Theology of the Body, TOB TuesdayLeave a Comment

A day late getting to TOB Tuesday. I got busier yesterday than I thought I would and had no time for blogging, but I did want to point out this thought-provoking article from James Simons at Catholic Exchange (that has generated some great conversation in the combox) on the question of whether it is the man’s responsibility to look away when he sees a naked woman or to not lust. His article is based on a question that was posed to Christopher West during a university TV interview in which a professor (who someone in the combox said was Dr. Scott Hahn) told West that if he were to accidentally see his friend’s wife naked, it would be his responsibility to look away, to which West responded, “No, it would be to not lust.”

Some folks thought that West was saying that his challenger should look at the naked woman. That isn’t what he said. He was addressing the professor’s responsibility. Turning away from a naked woman is not the same thing as not lusting. Looking away from a woman is an exterior physical action. Not lusting is an interior action of the heart. The professor could look away and still lust after the woman in his heart. Our eyes are not required for us to lust. Our imaginations and fantasies serve our lustful hearts even better than the sight of a real live naked woman. But West was pointing out that what was required was that the man not lust, whether or not he looks away. John Paul tells us that the real reason a man lusts after a woman is that he has a lustful heart and lustful hearts lust.

In truth, they’re both right. Men – and women, for that matter (“Diet Coke Break“, anyone?) – should not put themselves into an occasion to sin by willfully seeking out or looking at a naked member of the opposite sex (or same sex, if they have that attraction). But that alone is not the answer to the ultimate problem of lust which lies within the heart. After all, it is also possible – and sometimes just as easy – for the sight of a fully clothed person to incite lust in someone with a lustful heart.

Jesus did not say that a man who merely looks at a woman has committed adultery, but one who has looked with lust (Mt. 5:28). It is not sinful to appreciate how God created the opposite sex (in fact, that is very good!), but because of original sin, we can be tempted to cross the line from appreciation over to objectification and lust. That is why the real solution, besides gaining custody of our eyes and treating our own bodies with respect by dressing modestly is to continually pray for purity of heart so that if and when our eyes do fall on the form of the sex to which we are naturally attracted, clothed or unclothed, we do not so easily cross that line.

My favorite prayers for purity:

To St. Joseph:
Saint Joseph, father and guardian of virgins, to whose faithful keeping Christ Jesus, innocence itself, and Mary, the virgin of virgins, were entrusted, I pray and beseech you by that twofold and most precious charge, by Jesus and Mary, to save me from all uncleanness, to keep my mind untainted, my heart pure, and my body chaste; and to help me always to serve Jesus and Mary in perfect chastity. Amen.

To Our Lady:
Blessed be your purity,
May it be blessed forever,
For no less than God takes delight,
In such exalted beauty.
To you, heavenly Princess,
Holy Virgin Mary,
I offer on this day
My whole heart, life and soul.
Look upon me with compassion,
Do not leave me, my Mother.

Also: Pray the Rosary for Purity!

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