By Melvin Twigg Mason
Purity: When it comes to relationships, it’s arguably one of the most unexpected yet attractive virtues a man can have.
It’s also among the most challenged in our culture (if not the world.) For a man, the biggest obstacle to purity in western society (besides his own smoldering lechery) is the sensuality that surrounds us all. From the play action on our silver screens and televisions, to the live-action on our beaches and city streets. Sex and sexuality is everywhere; sex sells. Even the most wholesome-minded of us can fall victim to a stray thought, a lingering glance, or an inappropriate conversation from time to time.
But true manhood is not defined by your sexual conquests or how “hard” you are in the streets. In his best-selling book, “Disciplines Of A Godly Man,” author R. Kent Hughes addresses the issue of purity of mind and heart, for the exemplary men we may wish to be. The Discipline of Purity is the first chapter in the section called “Relationships.”
Citing King David of the Old Testament, Hughes starts this chapter by giving one example of a true man in his prime: outgoing, enthusiastic, confident, full of integrity, focused and successful in his endeavors. David was good-looking, too. Add to that portrait a brave heart, and a man “with deep convictions,” which makes his presence/physical appearance that much more charismatic to his colleagues and the ladies in his orbit. Hughes refers to this very descriptive picture as “life at the top” for David. Maybe you see a lot of yourself in here as well.
But from this picture, Hughes shows how David’s purity rather quickly begins to disintegrate. The King began to relax his routine disciplines and his focus. And, you know the old saying about “idle hands. . .” That relaxation led his wandering eye to a lingering glance across the rooftops to Bathsheba, his neighbor’s wife, bathing. His unfocused mind and unrestrained passions (he was the King after all!) said “why not? Get her for me.”
From there, David rationalized the one-night stand, then planned how to get her husband out of the picture — permanently! After all, he had been desensitized to such debauchery already by having all of those previous (and simultaneous) wives and side pieces; Bathsheba would be the crowning jewel over all of them.
How about now? Seeing yourself yet? Have you ever slacked off or let your guard down when it comes to your sexual impulses? Have you seen (or been offered) the forbidden — and taken it?
David’s situation degenerated into an unwanted pregnancy and eventually even murder. Your situation may not be as stark or appalling as King David’s was, but is the pattern the same in your particular struggle? Have you said or done whatever is necessary to get what you wanted? Have you rationalized why your decision or behavior is okay? What will bring a man “back from the edge,” or keep him from that edge in the first place? Hughes contends that the answer is in the Discipline of Purity.
- Accountability – partnering with a friend or family member who you trust and can talk to, pray with, and be reminded of your mandate. As Hughes puts it, a mature “godly man who has the experience and wisdom of dealing successfully with these struggles.”
- A Clear Mind – With this tool, the reader is reminded to regularly think about things that are honest, pure, virtuous, and of good report to maintain a clear mind. As the old sayings go, “garbage in, garbage out,” and “which dog you feed wins the fight!” Some radical moves may be necessary here to clear your mind, at least initially. Hughes suggests adjusting where your eyes land while talking with an attractive woman, avoiding certain locker room-type conversations, and yes, even a long walk or a cold shower to calm down and meditate. You might also have your accountability partner set a parental lock on your internet use, if necessary.
- Boundaries – I’ve often heard women being told to guard themselves and their hearts around men, but it was a welcomed surprise to hear the author propose the same for men. We do that by not having women as confidants, avoiding prolonged one-on-one time, and exercising physical restraint when dating (without seeming too distant or cold.)
- Awareness of Your Higher Call – It’s in those moments, when lust is at its peak, that we forget our priorities. Hughes says the call of true masculinity is to live pure and wholesome despite our “porno-topian culture.” Always keep in mind your bigger goal. Again, an accountability partner can help with this, as well as other reminders like a note on a wall or mirror, or a memorized phrase/scripture that strengthens your resolve.
With these things in mind, the practice of purity (and it is something that must be practiced regularly) should be a part of the basics for a real man.
Will you choose to man up?