A close friend, Seun (not his real name) was a choir leader in a Pentecostal Church I attended a couple of years back when he shared this true-life experience with me. He was spirit-filled and a disciplined and emotionally-balanced young man who had been a great inspiration to me. His frankness and honesty helped me to learn how to be open-minded and not be ashamed to share my own struggles which turned out to be truly therapeutic.
He was struggling with seeming inordinate feelings he had for his best friend’s wife which embarrassed him. Each time he saw her in church, his heart would skip but he managed to hide his feelings from anyone, until he shared them with me. Being a serious and sincere Christian, he acknowledged the feelings but was not anticipating any illicit affairs with his friend’s wife. More so, he was well-respected in church and many young people looked up to him as an example of moral purity and integrity. He lived a clean and decent life with no skeletons in his cupboards. Though his fiancée lived in a different city, he was faithful to her, and resisted the urge to date any of the numerous ‘church sisters’ who hung around him for one reason or the other.
Worried and embarrassed by the inordinate feelings he experienced each time he saw or thought about his friend’s wife, he took out time to pray and cry out to God. He was sincere before God and bared his heart without any inhibitions. After days of prayer and inward looking, he had a breakthrough and the problem got resolved without him going for a session to ‘deliver him from the spirit of lust and whoredom’. God ‘opened his eyes’ and he ‘saw’ that his fiancée and his best friend’s wife had similar physical attributes and character traits. They were of the same height, confident, self-assertive with a strong inner personality etc. It was his ‘eureka moment’ and he felt so relieved and liberated. He was full of praises to God!
This realization helped him to transit from the place of guilt and self-condemnation to the place of liberty. It helped him relate appropriately with her and her husband without crossing the boundaries of sexual morality expected of a Christian. In addition, he gained a deep insight into the dynamics of sexual attraction which has helped him to respond and deconstruct such feelings that may arise when a man and woman for obvious reasons have to maintain close interactions in church or at the workplace.
Years down the line after he was married, Seun’s experience became a lot more useful to him and others. And it was easier for him to offer counseling and spiritual help to another friend in church, Boye who got attracted to an older woman he worked with. From analyzing the scenario together with Seun, he discovered that the lady had attributes similar to his mother’s and that was quite a discovery and it helped Boye handle the fatal attraction without going overboard with the older woman.
Understanding our emotions can go a long way to help in dealing with a lot of issues that crop up in our daily interactions with persons of the opposite sex as Christians. Unfortunately, many of us Christians seem to have been programmed to be victims rather than masters of our emotions. But we need not be so subjugated by our emotions since we have an example in Jesus Christ, and other saints like St. Ignatius Loyola who devoted time and energy to teach his mentees and disciples on the dynamics of emotions and how to acknowledge and deal with them and develop spiritual discernment by accepting and treating emotions as part of an internal feedback mechanism which God had placed in us.
The following steps helped Seun and Boye deal with the feelings of inordinate attraction they had towards women who were not their spouses.
1. When overwhelmed by emotional attraction to someone, step back and think deeply.
2. Ask yourself questions like ‘What is it about and in this guy/lady that makes me fancy him or her? ‘Is it her beauty, color, his/her carriage, mannerisms, intelligence, friendliness etc? Be sure to be honest with your self-analysis and don’t feel embarrassed by the result you’d get.
3. Acknowledge and take mental notes of your feelings, accept them as a ‘normal response’ that follows our judgment of seeing someone as attractive. When you do, you will realize that there are a myriad of qualities and traits that makes almost everyone we meet appear attractive.
4. By an exercise of will, retrace your steps and guard your heart from getting emotionally attached to the wrong person. It is one thing to find someone attractive, but we need not transit to the point of being emotionally attached to them. i.e. inordinate affection!
5. Make deliberate and conscientious efforts to starve the feelings of attraction by checking your thought pattern and avoid feeding the feelings you have towards the lady/guy you feel attracted to. Start seeing them from a different light, and with time your perspective will adjust such that you can still relate with them without feeling fatally attracted like before.
6. Above all, honest and sincere prayer sessions will help us come to terms with our feelings, and pour them before God who promised to grant us the grace to overcome our challenges.