I downplayed my music choices in the past, but God is making me take a hard look at even what I listen to. The big themes in my music choices that I’m now cutting out include idolatry of romantic love, foul language, sexual immorality, partying, drunkenness, materialism, revenge, anger, hatred, self-harm and depression. This is MOST music these days. Some of my music still has elements of things like anger and depression, but I go through these emotions keeping them in check with God and do not allow them to dominate my day or actions. More often than not, I end up listening to Christian stations, classical stations, or my ipod (which has had a good cleansing now)! I have noticed a difference. The more I’m keeping my mind pure from earthly things, the easier it is for me to keep my focus on God and respond well to thoughts and temptations. Even the other day, I had just been listening to encouraging, peaceful Christian music when I was confronted by someone that I have a very difficult time with. To my complete shock, I did not freak out inside and become overwhelmed by negative emotion; I felt calm and was able to respond in a way that I know made God proud. My temptations to be sexy, use foul language, party, drink, become bitter, and overly-focus on guys/romance have noticeably decreased. It’s honestly very freeing.
What we read definitely has an influence as well. My main pitfall is romance, and I used to mainly read cheesy romance books to feed my idolization of romance. But I know books can have every element of immorality that movies/shows do, and it can be easy to ignore the influences because it’s a silent activity with no images. I know a big thing for a lot of women is racy romance novels – you know, the ones with the suave half-dressed, muscular man holding the gorgeous, troubled woman on the cover?
It can seem pretty silly, but these truly can be a source of desire and lust, and can cause discontentment within marriage. Not to mention books like 50 Shades of Grey, which I haven’t read, but I can gather it isn’t a great influence. So any negative themes or influences in books need to be looked at, as well!
This is probably the biggest danger today. How easy it is to stumble across pitfalls on the internet. We can be anonymous participants in anything, and enter a whole other world that no one around us may have a clue about. Everyone needs to be self-aware of immorality online and let the same principles apply.
We all know the biggest elephant is pornography. There are so many levels of this, that it is easy to slip through the cracks. Even I have had my failures with immorality online, which is especially easy when something is not “porn.” The struggle is very different for men and women, which is something to learn about. And there are so many ways to fall into dangerous situations, from things you read to things you hear and see.
I personally have witnessed men who casually browse sensual pictures disguised as interest in other things (news, sports, surfing, blogs, forums), many of the pictures including women in bikinis, underwear or other suggestive clothes (I know it doesn’t even have to take much skin for something to be alluring). We try to fool ourselves and others, and maybe pretend God isn’t watching, when we have no business being on a website, clicking on that picture, or watching that video.
This is a big area where accountability is important, which is another topic I definitely want to get into. If you’re struggling in this area or have been failing for a long time, don’t try to do conquer it alone. As scary as it is, tell a trusted Christian you know that will help you in the right direction, and don’t give up on finding the community and accountability you need until you reach success.
With accountability and support, we learn our triggers and have specific options for responding to temptation (go to a safe website, turn off the computer, leave the room, leave the house, call someone, etc – just whatever it takes to overcome that temptation). If we know computer or phone use in certain situations increase the chance of temptation and especially failure, then we simply avoid use in those situations, whether its staying up late, having nothing to do during the day, being home or in a room alone, browsing websites like Reddit and Facebook, etc.
A great defense I found is http://www1.k9webprotection.com/. I have it on my computer, and it blocks out a LOT, from sexually alluring advertisements to graphic image results to explicit material. You can adjust the settings to make it as restrictive as you want in whatever areas you want. It reduces temptations by drastically reducing the amount of sexually alluring material you see online in day-to-day internet use. It’s a free program that is a great first line of defense against temptation, but it definitely is not all you need. I had a friend who used this on his laptop which I thought was great, but I found out he continued to struggle with pornography despite the program (he had the password so in moments of temptation there really wasn’t much stopping him; he also kept his struggle a secret and had no accountability). Using web protection can also be kind of a hassle, because sometimes a simple web search can be complicated because of the program, but it’s so worth it if it helps to avoid sin.
We need to assess ourselves in the level of accountability we need, how/when/where we use the internet (I’ve heard of some men who even got to the point where they could not have internet in their home because that’s what it to took to end their pornography use), who has the password to our web protection (for practicality and accountability), etc. The last thing we want to do is downplay sin, and I see some people getting lax views of pornography because it is so common, but it needs to be taken seriously and avoided just as much as other sins (drug use, pre-marital sexuality, etc). If we know we can take action to avoid another failure, then I firmly believe it’s our responsibility to do so.