If you want to live a life of sexual integrity, you need to improve at resisting sexual temptation. If you don't improve at the point of temptation, all other learning and practices won't matter much.
In this post, I want to unload the best ideas for resisting sexual temptation that I've gathered and practiced in over 20 years of personal pursuit of greater integrity and professional ministry to thousands of sexual addicts.
These ideas are more practical than philosophical. After all, in the moment of temptation you need to take action. I hope these simple ideas will help you make better choices when tempted.
If you have some ideas that have helped you, I'd love to hear them. Send me your ideas for resisting sexual temptation, or post them in the comment section below.
Here are 7 ideas for resisting sexual temptation:
1. "I don't need to know that!"
"You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)
Every sexual temptation is an attempt to convince you that you need to know something that you don't. In other words, temptation is inviting you to "peek over the fence" to see what's on the other side.
One way to resist such temptations is simply to tell yourself: "I don't need to know that!"
God created us originally to only know good. But Satan convinced Eve and Adam that good wasn't good enough; they would be "better" if they knew good and evil. He tempted them by convincing them they needed to know something they didn't. This is at the heart of every temptation.
I realize saying "I don't need to know that" may be easier said than done in the moment of temptation, but give it a try. You might learn to relish such "not knowing."
I have been telling myself for over 20 years "I don't need to know that" in response to thousands of temptations. I can testify from experience, such "ignorance" truly is bliss.
2. Run Away!
"Flee sexual immorality..." (1 Cor. 6:18a)
Temptation of any kind is inviting you to stay and move toward it. This is why God's Word tells us to flee!
There are likely very few times in which you physically can't move away from temptation (for instance, if you are in an airplane). Most of the time, however, the option to move is available. Take it!
Interestingly, when you physically move away from temptation you are also activating other parts of your body to help with redirecting your attention. Such parts include your circulatory and respiratory systems which help with blood flow and oxygen to your brain, giving your prefrontal cortex an opportunity to "light up" and make a wise choice.
3. Look for God
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13; emphasis mine)
Maybe the furthest person from your mind when you are sexually tempted is God, but you are certainly on His mind in that moment. In fact, He already knew (before you were born) that you would face that particular temptation -- and He has provided a way out for you!
Since it is true that God provides a way out for every temptation you could face, why not look for God and His way out when you're tempted? The more you train yourself to look for God when you're tempted the sooner you will resist temptation and get back to God's business in your life.
4. Talk to Your Future Self
You have probably heard (or said) the phrase, "If I knew then what I know now..." It is a way of saying that you would have made a better choice in your past if you had the information then that you have now.
What if you learned to reverse that process? Instead of wishing a different choice on your past self, what if you "talked" to your future self when you are tempted? Such a "conversation" might go like this:
You: Hey, future self, if I say yes to this temptation where does that lead me?
Future You: You will have a few moments of excitement brought on by adrenaline and dopamine and endorphins, followed by a crash that results in disappointment and shame. Your soul will feel heavy.
You: So, what happens if I say no to this temptation?
Future You: You will have a struggle for a brief time while you navigate yourself away from the temptation, followed by a deep sense of relief and gratitude to God. Your soul will feel light.
Some self-talk can be very healthy and constructive. Give it a try. I think your future self will thank you.
5. Phone a Friend
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2
Temptation is very personal, but that doesn't mean you need to face it alone. It is important to have some close friends who know your struggles and can help you resist temptations when they arise.
Thankfully, the world of technology we live in today makes it quite easy to reach out in the moment of temptation. Sadly, though, very few use this technology for this reason. Fear and shame can often paralyze us from reaching out for help when we need it.
I suggest that when you reach out to a friend for help to resist temptation that you connect with them verbally. Text or email just doesn't have the same effect as getting on the phone and speaking with a friend about the struggle you are facing right now.
When sexual temptation strikes, phone a friend and bear the burden together. There is strength in numbers when it comes to successfully resisting temptation.
For a simple, but effective, tool to help you reach out for help when tempted, check out this amazing app from our friends at Triggered.app.
6. Turn "What If" into "What Is"
It is very common when tempted to get on a "what if" train of thought. This creates all kinds of scenarios in the mind about what might happen if this or that decision is made. But it is important to recognize that everything about "what if" thinking is speculative; it isn't yet real.
Therefore, a good way to combat "what if" thinking, and to resist sexual temptation, is to replace "what if" with "what is."
"What is" thinking brings your mind back into reality. It grounds your thoughts in truth. Sometimes this is as simple as looking around the room you are in and naming items you see. Lamp. Chair. Bookcase. Window.
This may seem "silly," but I encourage you to try it. You might be amazed at how something so simple can break your "what if" fantasy thinking and bring you back into the real world. And once you are "reconnected" with the here and now you are in a much better frame of mind for making a different choice about whatever you do next.
7. Choose the Narrow Way
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14)
A life of sexual integrity doesn't form and mature naturally. In other words, resisting sexual temptation is not easy. There is struggle. It is a battle to say no to temptation. But it is a battle that is worth it because victory leads to peace and joy; to life itself.
Jesus said that the "easy way" is a wide gate that leads to destruction and many take that path, but that the "hard way" that leads to life is a narrow gate and only a few find it. This doesn't mean that God is cruel and wants to make it impossible for you to enjoy life. It means that you will "reap what you sow" when it comes to the investments you make in choosing to be a man or woman of greater integrity.
Will you choose the wide, "easy" gate or the narrow way of Jesus? Temptation would want you to believe that the easy way is the way to real satisfaction, but I think we have all walked that path enough to know that is a lie. While the narrow way doesn't look appealing (or possible) on the front end, it leads to lush pastures of true and abiding satisfaction for the soul.
Let's be courageous and take the narrow way when it comes to resisting sexual temptation.
I hope these ideas have helped. If you have ideas that have helped you resist temptation, please post them in the comments below.