This really scared me. Nothing in my evangelical upbringing had prepared me for this. So, I did the only thing I could think to do: I told my husband. His response caught me off guard. He wasn’t rattled or shocked – and simply conveyed that occasional attractions are a normal part of life. We then discussed boundaries; my feelings soon subsided; and I continued working with my male co-worker without any further issues.
I thought about this experience last week when we discussed navigating co-ed workplaces on Up For Debate. Specifically, we debated whether a Christian dentist acted appropriately when he fired a woman because she had become too much of a temptation. Justified or not, I believe this highly-publicized story reveals a real problem in the evangelical community: the only way we know to handle unwanted attraction is to withdraw from relationship. This avoidance is sometimes formally stated in church policies that forbid meeting alone with the opposite sex. Or, it’s advised in sermons that warn against forming any emotional bonds with someone who’s not our spouse.
While these policies and advice seem reasonable, I wonder sometimes if they’re not counterproductive. They can breed a fear and relational isolation that’s unhealthy. Plus, they eliminate any space for believers to exercise self-control, which ironically, can set us up for sexual sin.
As author and activist Christopher Heuertz writes, denying our urges is “like trying to hold a beach ball under water (–) the further down we push these things, the higher they come flying up when we finally do lose control.”
Attraction is inevitable – and unavoidable. Flee one temptation and you’ll surely encounter another. But, Scripture says “resist the devil and he will flee from you”; “put on the whole armor of God” and you will be able to stand. Instead of avoiding anyone who’s attractive, I suggest we learn to walk in the Spirit and admit our weaknesses to trusted friends. Then, we can discover ways to remain in relationship, yet still avoid sin.