Do you lust? Few questions can make us feel so uncomfortable. Our discomfort is likely to result from our lack of understanding of what lust truly is. Lust is not a casual glance or a fleeting …
Do you lust? Few questions can make us feel so uncomfortable. Our discomfort is likely to result from our lack of understanding of what lust truly is. Lust is not a casual glance or a fleeting thought but an uncontrolled sexual passion. It is wanting sex without relationship. Lust carries the meaning of “passionate desire,” especially “sexual desire.” Of course, lust is not limited to sexual desire. We can lust after anything, animate or inanimate. The focus of this column is to look at lust in relation to sexual desire; hopefully to alleviate some of the confusion felt by many. Since lust and love are often confused, let’s look at the more obvious differences.
Lust bypasses everything else and moves directly to passion. In contrast, love consists of many emotions, including friendship, empathy, sympathy, commitment, as well as passion. Lust turns the other person into an object; an object to possessed. In contrast, love understands the other person as an individual and desires a relationship to be shared. Lust runs the 10-yard dash. Once the other has satisfied pressing sexual desire, there is little need for that person until the desire rises again. In contrast, love runs a marathon. Because love involves intimacy and commitment along with passion, love can last a lifetime. Lust is based on desire, not commitment. In contrast, love is based on commitment, not desire. For this reason, lust endures very little while love endures all things.
In contemporary society, we can talk about sex frankly and portray it openly, but most often outside the context of intimacy and commitment. The media industry fuels lust. Sex on soap operas occurs 24 times more often between non-married partners than sex between married partners. More than 40 percent of hits on the internet are to pornographic sites, making pornography the biggest money maker on the worldwide web. Individuals like Howard Stern, Hugh Hefner, and Larry Flynt have built financial empires peddling lust. Lust is used to sell almost anything – cars, electronics, food, clothing – anything.
The consequences of lust, uncontrolled sexual passion, are often tragic. Lust is the parent of thousands of unwanted babies. Lust can lead to extramarital affairs which can inflict wounds that take years to heal. Lust has contributed to the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases – gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, and the AIDS virus. Lust easily leads to sexual addictions.
Ironically, in reality lust is anti-sexual, because it distorts sex by trivializing it. This trivializing can lead to total disillusionment. For individuals who seek love but settle for titillation, lust becomes, at best, a poor second cousin. For individuals who want intimacy, lust requires that they settle for sex, hardly more stimulating than a good sneeze. For individuals who want commitment, lust settles for a fleeting relationship.
Our sexual experiences appear to have increased in numbers, but we have made little progress in the areas of intimacy or commitment. Many know the mechanics of sexual intercourse, but know nothing about how to love. This is not only sad, but misses the point. Sex is meant to be an expression of love, not lust.
Lust is a poor substitute for love.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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