Again, Holy Trinity Life Teen Director and youth minister Aaron Hostetter offers his insight for those seeking to grow in virtue. The following thoughts were written for lifeteen.com and are reprinted below with permission from Life Teen:
Lust vs. Love
“What color are my eyes?”
Guys, have you ever heard that before from a girl? It’s the carefully laid trap by a girl who knows when she is being looked at in a lustful way. Gentlemen, it can only get worse from there. Contrary to what we might think, there isn’t an answer that will equal a “get out of jail free” card like in Monopoly. Even if you manage to mumble through her correct eye color, chances are she is still feeling hurt from your eyes only looking at her body instead of appreciating her as a person.
It’s not only guys who struggle with this sin. Both guys and girls think that something as simple as checking a person out just for their “hot bod” isn’t a big deal. It is a big deal though, and any person can tell you they can feel the difference from when someone looks at them with love or with lust. It’s degrading.
You can look at the 9th commandment and think; “Coveting my neighbor’s wife” doesn’t exactly apply to me as a teen. Let’s take a deeper look at it and see precisely why it does apply to you.
It’s the Thought That Counts
In Matthew 5:28, Jesus says that, “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
When Jesus said this, it was completely radical, because he revealed that lust (something that happens inside your heart) is a sin just as much as an external action. What we think with our minds and desire in our hearts is a big deal.
“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. ‘The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.” (Matthew 6:21-23)
At Mass on Sunday, we make a public confession and ask for forgiveness for not only our actions but for what goes on in the heart and mind:
“I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words”
Lust Wounds Love
When you lust after someone, either in physical actions or in thoughts, it wounds your ability to love and be loved. Lust is deliberately inflaming a sexual desire or temptation that naturally comes to you.
Pope John Paul II always said that loving is the opposite of using. Love requires sacrifice, responsibility and a total commitment to the other person. Jesus showed us the model referenced in Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church.”
A quick look at any crucifix will remind us how Christ loved the Church: by laying down his life! So when you reduce someone to an object for pleasure, it excludes God’s plan for love. Bishop Fulton Sheen once said that lust turns love into poison. Lust turns something that is designed to be given away (love) and turns it into something that’s only about “me” and what “I” can get from the other person.
Don’t confuse every lustful thought as a mortal sin. There’s a difference between thoughts that are brought on by ourselves and entertained and ones that pop up and are dismissed. Pray for help in the moment for Jesus to cleanse your mind of the image or thought!
Blessed Are the Pure of Heart (Matthew 5:8)
Just as looking at someone lustfully damages love and tears someone down, looking at someone lovingly affirms their dignity and can build them up. We have to untrain our eyes and hearts from lust and back to love. Purity in the heart is what we should strive for. God can clean the gunk built up in us through lust of the eyes and give us a heavenly vision.
“If, by love and right living, you wash off the filth that has become stuck to your heart, the divine beauty will shine forth in you. Think of iron, which at one moment is dark and tarnished and the next, once the rust has been scraped off, shines and glistens brightly in the sun. It is the same with the inner core of man, which the Lord calls the heart. It has been in damp and foul places and is covered in patches of rust; but once the rust has been scraped off, it will recover itself and once more resemble its ‘original design’ . And whoever is pure in heart is blessed because, seeing his own purity, he sees the ‘original designer’ reflected in the image” ~St. Gregory of Nyssa
Ask God to help you if you struggle with this sin. Here are some do’s and don’ts for the ninth commandment.
How To Obey The Ninth Commandment
- Lust after another person, either in your thoughts or your actions. This damages your ability to love and be loved.
- Look twice. A girl I knew once said, “I know my dad looks at other women. But he never looks twice.” Be the witness when people around you are undressing a person with their eyes. It could change hearts even if they never tell you.
- Give up. It can seem like trying to stop a waterfall by cupping your hands under it, but purity is possible in the world today. It’s worth fighting for, and God’s grace is enough for us to do it!
- Men, turn lust into a blessing. Praise God for His masterful artistry when you see a beautiful woman, don’t praise yourself and turn it into a disordered lustful reality. Use your bodies to glorify God in whatever you do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
- Build up and affirm brothers and sisters in Christ for modesty in dress, speech, and actions. It’s a battle to be pure and we need to hear encouragement in our walk.
- Filter what you feed your heart and mind when it comes to tv shows and movies. Know what causes you to sin and get rid of it from your life. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29).
- Pray for your future spouse every day. Place your trust in God to prepare that person to be with you for the rest of your life/bring you to Heaven. Trust Him to prepare you, too!
Catechism on the 9th Commandment: 2514-2527