Thursday, August 28, 2008

On Sight

I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me (Psalm 101:3, NJKV).

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl (Job 31:1, NIV).

The third conflict that St. Anthony mentions in his famous quote is that of seeing. Many of us talk too much and/or use our tongues to tear others down. Others let too much noise into our ears, and the noise permeates our brain, molding us into the world's image (contrary to St. Paul's command in Romans 12:1), and depriving us of the silence where we are most likely to experience God. Still others sin by setting wicked things before our eyes (contra Psalm 100/101:3). It is this third problem I wish to address today.

More than ever before in human history, we who wish to live a holy life must strictly guard what we allow our eyes to see. In St. Anthony's day, there were certainly plenty of temptations. Still, he and his contemporaries did not have movies, TV, magazines, DVD's, or the internet. Every time we turn around, impure images are being thrown at us. I remember when I lived in Eastern Europe, in order to walk down the street and avoid temptation, I practically had to have blinders attached. I could not so much as take a glance at a newsstand, for the kiosks that sold newspapers would prominently and openly display pornographic magazines with very explicit covers right at eye level.

I am thankful that this is not the case in the U. S., at least not yet. Nevertheless, images designed to do nothing more than provoke lust are everywhere. We don't have to go looking for them. They are broadcast into our home via TV and movies and onto our computer screens via spam. We must (particularly those of us who are male, who seem to be much more prone to the tempation of lust), to use St. Paul's words to St. Timothy, "Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22).

Men, here are some suggestions I have for guarding your sight. They are really just common sense, but as I have discovered, common sense is not very common any more! Many Christian men fall into sin through not doing the following things:

1. Never, ever look at pictures of naked or scantilly clad women, whether in magazines or elsewhere. If such an image pops up somewhere in your line of sight, turn your head and remove yourself from where you are (if possible).

2. Keep your computer in a room in your house where everyone has access to it and can see the screen while you are on it. Keep icons of Christ, the Theotokos, your patron saint, and your guardian angel nearby at eye level (this is what I call "anti-pornography." ) Avoid using the computer when alone in the home. When you are tempted to look at an inappropriate website, call on their aid in prayer. If necessary, get up, walk around, go outside, or turn off the computer.

3. Don't watch movies that are rated R, particularly if they are R due to nudity or sexual situations (really, you shouldn't go to ones that have a lot of language or violence either, but that's a whole other discussion). If you are considering renting a movie or going to see one in the theater, and you aren't sure what kind of junk it contains, look it up on the excellent website Kids In Mind, which rates the amount of sex/nudity, violence, and language on a scale of 1-10. The same thing goes for TV shows. In my humble opinion, almost nothing on TV is worth watching anyway. Why not read the Bible or another Christian book instead? Life is too short to waste it watching idotic TV shows, anyway. But, I'm starting to digress...

4. If images from your past come to your mind's eye, make the sign of the cross and pray the Jesus Prayer as many times as it takes for you to focus your mind on something else. Remember that God is sitting next to you. Imagine that everything that you think of was projected on a big screen for all to see. If your bishop, your priest, your parents, and/or your spouse (if you have one) were standing next to you, you would change the "channel" that your mind is on ASAP. Remember that God is "everywhere present and fills all things," so He is watching.

5. Memorize the Scripture verses that I quoted above (and there are others as well that are helpful), and recite them daily, especially in times of tempation.

6. Go to confession frequently (at least every other week; every week is ideal). Be completely open with your father/confessor about your failings, and take whatever "medicine" he gives you joyfully, knowing that is given with a few toward helping you overcome the lust of the eyes.

7. Find an "accountability partner" of the same sex whom you trust. Talk to him/her at least once a week and encourage him/her to challenge you to purity. Have him/her ask you each week if you have looked at any impure images or entertained any lustful thoughts.

Of course, there are other sins that can result when we fail to guard our eyes. Greed is one that comes to mind quickly. If we spend too much time in stores, reading newspaper ads, listening to TV commericials or even programs, we will often be tempted to envy, greed, and covetousness. And I could go on and on. I'm sure that there are "eye temptations" that are more prone to affect women than men, but of course I have no experience in such matters. (One of you of the "fairer sex" will need to write a guest article on that. Any takers?).

I will conclude with the Lord Jesus' words:

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"
(Matthew 6:22-23).

May God grant us all the strength and the determination to guard what we look at with our eyes, and that our eyes will be good, so that our whole body and soul will not be full of darkness.


Someone who knows said...

Psalm 50
Byzantine Chant in the car and home
icons everywhere including your desktop and especially the Theotokos sitting directly below your screen
Stare at the license plate of the car in front of you. You already know what stores and signs are around you. No need to keep looking at them.
No magazines, no billboards, no tv, no movies. PERIOD!
When shopping keep your focus IN your cart. Look up to see where you need to go then look IN your cart to get there.
SO What if the person you pass in the hall thinks you are rude if you don't make eye contact. You can still smile towards them and not LOOK at them.
Read your Bible
Listen to AFR homilies
Talk to your significant other unlike what I am doing right now.
Stay home rather than go out. DO NOT go out on holidays or other high traffic days.
Know where you are going before you get there and pre-prepare yourself for what "might" be there.
Jesus said Love your neighbor; not Lust your neighbor.

Lord have mercy on me THE worst of sinners.

The best defense against an ambush is knowing it is there.

For those that need extra help, there is a 12 step program called Sex Addics Anonymous. Highly recommended by clergy I know.

What is an addict?

Someone who suffers from inconceivable, incomprehensible demoralization.

Michael from Texas said...

Bless, Father:

I once had a friend who is a Baptist recommend the same tip you gave in #1....he called it "eye-bouncing"; as soon as you see someone who is dressed in a tempting way, "bounce" your eyes off her and onto something else (preferably an icon)...while I was attending the University of Houston during the summer, when lots of scantily-clad women are on campus, I found that this worked, but seeing as I didn't carry an icon around in my hands everywhere I went, I just kept my gaze on the ground and used my prayer rope for the Jesus prayer as I walked between classes.

Yes, spiritual warfare, even on the U of H campus.

Clint said...

I had a teacher once tell me that you can't help what passes before you eyes in public, but you can control where your attention is. He worded it this way: "It isn't the look that is the is the linger."

I think there is wisdom in that. It goes along with your #1 point above. When you see something that is inappropriate, turn your eyes away.

Your other points are also great advice. Thank you.