Overcoming DisappointmentFebruary 19, 2008
Where does a woman's battle with sexual temptation start? According to Shannon Ethridge, our broadcast guest, it often begins in a heart of disappointment. On today's broadcast, find out how to replace disappointment with contentment.
Where does a woman's battle with sexual temptation start? According to Shannon Ethridge, our broadcast guest, it often begins in a heart of disappointment. On today's broadcast, find out how to replace disappointment with contentment.
Shannon: During the days that I was experiencing overwhelming extramarital temptation, I can look at what I was doing. Every afternoon was putting my daughter down for a nap and turning on "General Hospital."
And the story line was she was married to a guy that treated her horribly, and she was romancing a guy that was just so wonderful, and you were, you were cheering for them to get together.
My advice is don't watch soap operas, read romance novels, all these things that glamorize sex outside of marriage.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 19th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you've been reading romance novels or watching soap operas and thinking they were harmless, it's time to think again.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, since you and Barbara wrote your book, "Rekindling the Romance," I've just been doing thinking about the whole issue of intimacy and sexuality. Really looking at how mysterious and mystical this is in our human experience.
I think we live in a culture today where people think of the sexual drive in a relationship, and they think, "Well, that's a biological thing." But it is so profoundly connected to who we are, to our soul that there is a powerful mystery wrapped up in our sexuality, and in this culture today, that's become so trivialized, it's a reason why we have so many people who are emotionally damaged because they've been careless with their sexuality.
Dennis: You know, it is, Bob, and we're having a hard time in this culture finding God's plumb line so we can discuss this in a wholesome way where we deal with our past guilt, but we equip a generation to move forward to make choices in their own lives.
And, as adults, we have our own choices to make in the process as well. In fact, speaking of our book, "Rekindling the Romance," I was with a businessman the other day who said he just couldn't put it down. He said, "I told my wife, you've got to read this book. This is on target. This is absolutely on target." And his wife said, "He just kept telling me over and over and over again how on target it was," and I think, Bob, it's because what you're talking about – this whole mysterious thing that's a part of us as male or female and how our sexuality is tied to that.
His wife said, "Finally, finally, I started reading it, and I began to ask him how he was enjoying the book," because the book is written in two halves; the first half of the book by Barbara to women, the second half of the book by me to the men.
Dennis: And both Barbara and I are trying to equip husbands and wives to speak to one another in this mysterious dance that we're talking about here, and the other sex's love language.
Well, the husband that I was speaking of had been reading the wives' part.
Which describes how a man thinks, and …
Bob: Did you have to chase him over to his own half of the book?
Dennis: I did. I shamed him into it. I said, "You've got to get over to your half so you can minister to your wife in this area."
Bob: Well, I think we don't realize how fully connected our soul and our emotions are to our sexuality, and when we begin to realize that, some lights start to go on, and we begin to look at our sexuality differently.
Dennis: Well, we ran across a book that does that, especially for women, in a highly effective way. It's called, "Every Woman's Battle," and it's written by Shannon Ethridge. Shannon joins us here again on FamilyLife Today. Shannon, welcome back.
Shannon: Thank you so much. It's great to be back.
Dennis: Shannon speaks all around the country on this subject, along with a new book that she just co-authored called "Every Young Woman's Battle." She's a lay counselor as well as just an advocate for protecting the sexual integrity of women all across the country. She's a wife and a mom of a couple of children, and lives – well, I like the way it's described – "in a log cabin among the Piney Woods of East Texas."
I was driving down through there the other day.
Bob: In the Piney Woods?
Dennis: In the Piney Woods, and it is beautiful.
Shannon: God's country.
Dennis: Shannon, I need to ask you, as we think about this whole area of protecting the integrity of our sexual identity, where do we begin to help women develop a defense?
Shannon: Well, I think the most important thing for women to understand is that our sexuality is not what we do with our bodies. Our sexuality is who we are – mind, body, heart, and soul. So a lot of women just assumed that, "Well, I'm not being unfaithful to my husband," or "I'm not being unfaithful before marriage if I'm just flirting or if I'm just going out of my way to run into this guy or if I'm just e-mailing back and forth with this person."
The list could go on and on about the things that women engage in, and they don't understand that you're not guarding your heart, you're not guarding your mind, you're not guarding your spirit.
Bob: Wait – going out of your way to run into a guy, you're saying that's …
Shannon: If you're a married woman …
Bob: Okay, if you're a married woman, but let's say you're a single gal, and you know a single guy is going to come by, should you not go …
Shannon: It's okay to make yourself available. It's another thing to go out of your way to try to get him to meet your emotional needs.
Dennis: By dressing immodestly.
Shannon: By dressing immodestly or just – again, the term that we used yesterday was emotional prostitution. I feel as if women who use men to get their egos stroked, that this is jeopardizing our integrity in a huge way, because men are trying to guard their hearts and minds and eyes avidly, and for a woman to continue to dangle herself in front of him to get her ego stroked isn't good for either one of them.
Dennis: I want to get to this thing of developing a defense around sexual temptation. You've mentioned this now twice, this prostitution idea of using men, all right?
Dennis: That's really quite a startling statement.
Shannon: It's a graphic description.
Dennis: Yeah, it's found in the Bible, too. I think it's Proverbs, chapter 6 or 7 that describes men who are pulled into the trap of a woman like an ox going to the slaughter.
Dennis: Now, I think most of us, as men, are totally oblivious to how we're being prostituted?
Shannon: And so often women are totally oblivious to how this is what they are doing to men. They are thinking, "Well, I'm not luring him into bed yet," is kind of the thought that they have in their mind, but they are luring him into being visually stimulated by her, into lauding compliments on her and to making her feel good about herself and making her feel special. If she can't get that from within herself and from her God, she should not be trying to use men to meet that need.
Bob: And, really, the place all of this begins for her is in her mind.
Bob: She's got to have her mind renewed. She's got to have some attitudes and some thoughts changed and transformed.
You heard a speaker one time talk about the power of positive and negative thoughts and how that gets played out, and he illustrated it in a way that stuck with you.
Shannon: Absolutely. He drew some people up out of the crowd and said "Hold your arms outright and make the shape of a cross with your body and think of the most positive thing that you can possibly think of that's happened in your life." And then other people would come and try to push their arms down back to their sides, and if you were thinking those positive thoughts, the person couldn't do it. Your arms – you had strength in your body.
But then he said, "Think of the most negative that's ever happened in your life," and when the other person came by and tried to push their arms back down to their side, they just immediately fell, and what that told me is that negative thoughts zap our strength. Positive thoughts give us strength, and when we start thinking about all the ways that we're not fulfilled, and, oh, if we just had a husband, or, oh, if my husband were just more like so-and-so, if he was just better in bed, et cetera, et cetera, those drain our energies to pour into making our relationship better with our husbands and with ourselves and with God.
Dennis: So, as a woman is thinking, then, how is what she thinking affecting her sexual integrity?
Shannon: Well, the things that we think in our minds basically are just a rehearsal for how we would actually act if that situation were to actually come about.
For example, there were times, years ago, that I would think, "Oh, wow, well, if I was ever alone with that person, this is what I would make sure that he needed," I was thinking, because you know, "I just think he's a wonderful guy," and I would just be rehearsing the things that I would say …
Dennis: Were you married at the time?
Shannon: This was in the early years of my marriage. I really struggled in this area. I was thinking, "Well, I'm not being sexually unfaithful, I just want him to know how special I think he is. I just want him to feel cherished, that I really value our working relationship, and I think he's really intelligent," and I would just think of all these things that I would say to him, and then when I was in that situation and would say those things, and then I would wonder, "Why do I feel so emotionally stimulated by this person? Why am I feeling so tempted to act out and be unfaithful to my husband?"
Well, if I had just rehearsed more appropriate ways to show my appreciation of him, which, you know, for a co-worker, maybe just a pat on the back or "Congratulations about your promotion," or something like that, but certainly not rehearsing ways to get alone with that person and what would you say to them?
Then when those situations come up, you're going to walk into the trap that you have set for yourself in your own mind.
Dennis: So women need to rehearse mentally and think about ways to protect and guard their hearts and be careful they don't send a signal to a man that they want more than just to tell them how much they appreciate them.
Shannon: Absolutely, and some of the conversations that I've had to rehearse in my mind is, for example, if a co-worker offers to give me a ride somewhere, okay, how would I respond to that appropriately? And my appropriate response is, "Well, I so appreciate your offer, but I have a policy just not to be alone with men in a car," and just leave it at that.
Whereas, if I'm rehearsing, "Oh, well, what would I say to him in the car," and, you know, "Where might I distract him? Maybe we could go out for a soda, too," and that kind of – you know, it can really – it can compound on you and become something that you never intended it to be. So oftentimes women say, "I don't know how this happened." Well, if they just retrace their steps back to their original spots, you would see where it happens.
Bob: Is there a way to keep from doing it? Do you just have to recognize that you do it and just say, "Stop that, stop that, you bad person?"
Shannon: You have to recognize that the desire of your heart is to get your ego stroked, so oftentimes if you're walking in the flesh, but you can choose to walk in the spirit and go against your flesh.
Another example that I might could use, is I was on the campus of Liberty University not long ago in a class, and some people had heard about my book, and this gentleman came up and said, "I would really appreciate some time, perhaps, over lunch. I would just like to pick your brain." And my immediate response was, "I would be happy to do that as long as we can include a third person in our meeting."
Now, had I not rehearsed, how would I ever respond to someone who is inviting me into a compromising situation, I might have said, "Well, yeah, sure," it was flattering to me that he wanted to pick my brain, but immediately I knew, I need to be on defense, I need to have my guard up, and this is how I will do that, and it went very amiably, and he was very respectful of that boundary.
Bob: You've mentioned a couple of boundaries. You've said you won't ride in a car with a man alone, you won't have a meal with a man without somebody else there. Do you have a handful of others that are kind of personal boundaries that you've set?
Shannon: Absolutely. I don't have private telephone conversations with men. I mean, it's one thing if you're calling your refrigerator repairman, but if it's a co-worker or someone that I know more personally, I don't have private telephone conversations. I'm not in an office with a closed door with a man without a third person being present.
Dennis: How about online chat with a man?
Shannon: And that was exactly where I was going. I don't go into chat rooms, period. If I can't have a real conversation with someone, it's not worth my time. Virtual conversations, I think, are one of the biggest contagions and pitfalls that women could possibly fall into, and oftentimes when I have to e-mail a gentlemen, and I'm trying to be very careful about what I say and avoid sending the wrong signals, I will blind carbon copy my husband on it.
For me, it just helps me stick to the point and just that reminder of I need accountability always in my life in every area and not just in real life but also in cyberspace.
Bob: I don't blind carbon copy, I go ahead and put it in the regular carbon copy. There have been times in a work relationship, ongoing e-mail correspondence, where we're getting into some issues that are not just business issues, but it's kind of – some of the emotional issues that go along with it.
Well, my wife will show up in the cc: line of those e-mails, and she'll become a part of the process, and she knows why she's getting those, and the other person knows why she's getting those, and the other person appreciates it, and I've noticed the other person will start writing back and including my wife in there as well.
Shannon: And that is so great. You can never be too cautious, never.
Dennis: I don't see many people who are erring on that side. I see a lot of people erring on the other side.
Bob: You've got some helpful accountability questions that you came up with – three of them – that are just a good way for a woman to gauge am I maybe drifting in the wrong direction here? What are those questions?
Shannon: Well, the first one is, "Does this glamorize ideas or situations that oppose my Christian values?" I think that's so important especially in the television shows that we watch – does this oppose my Christian values, which means sex only within marriage not outside of marriage.
Bob: You know, I've watched movies, on occasion, where you see the hero and the heroine, and they're not married. They're married to other people, and you find yourself in the middle of the movie cheering for them to get together. I mean, that's how the movie – it's designed so that you'll cheer for them to get together, and I've looked, and I've gone, "Now, wait a sec, why do I want these two to get together?" But that's how the plot was leading you …
Dennis: Emotionally, they lay some real traps for you.
Bob: You can see these two connecting, and you go, "Boy, it would be so good. Why did they wind up with that jerk," you know, and …
Shannon: And during the days that I was experiencing overwhelming extramarital temptation, I can look at what I was doing. Every afternoon I was putting my daughter down for a nap and turning on "General Hospital," and the story line was she was married to a guy that treated her horribly, and she was romancing a guy that was just so wonderful and you were, you were cheering for them to get together, and …
Dennis: So your advice is?
Shannon: My advice is don't watch soap operas, read romance novels, all these things that glamorize sex outside of marriage.
Bob: Yes, things that conflict with …
Shannon: Or extramarital temptations.
Dennis: All right, what's the second one?
Shannon: The second one is, is it uplifting to my spirit and does it make me grateful for what God has given me or does it make me depressed and dissatisfied? I don't want to put in mind anything that would make me not appreciate the husband that God has given to me, and the family that God has given to me, and, again, shows like "Desperate Housewives," just – it glamorizes that whole concept of the marriage and the family, that's not going to be what fulfills you. What you really want is somewhere outside of your house, outside of what you already have.
Bob: And I know we've made this point, but I don't think we can make it too often – if you allow the seeds of discontent for your mate, if you water them – if you don't dig them up and throw them away …
Shannon: Uproot them.
Bob: They're like weeds. They don't need to be cultivated to grow. They just need to kind of be scattered to the wind and ignored, and they'll grow up in a day.
Bob: We have got to be on guard against that kind of discontentment because it's the first step toward real problems in our marriage.
Shannon: Absolutely. And the third one is "Does this cause me to think about things that build my character or does it tear it down?"
Dennis: Give me an illustration of what that looks like for a woman?
Shannon: Well, for example, if a woman chooses to go into Internet chat rooms, does she find herself saying things that she wouldn't normally say if someone else were standing over her shoulder reading what she just wrote. And so you're jeopardizing your character by saying things that you wouldn't normally say in the presence of others.
Dennis: You know, you've kind of helped explain why these chat rooms can be so damaging, especially to women. I don't think the chat room is nearly as tempting to a man as pornography.
Shannon: Maybe not as tempting, but he will use chat rooms to lure a woman to himself, because he knows that this is women's weakness.
Dennis: Exactly, but he's playing on her emotions.
Dennis: And what she's doing is she's toying with men – back to that –
Shannon: Emotional prostitution.
Dennis: That's right, and some of those forums can be places where women – shall I say it? Flirt.
Dennis: Now, one of the great moments on FamilyLife Today was when Bob and I had Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who is a single woman, not married, and we asked Nancy, "Is it okay for a single woman to flirt?" So I'm going to put you on the spot, Shannon.
Dennis: I think I know what the answer is about a married woman flirting with anyone other than her husband, but what about a single woman?
Shannon: You have to understand that the definition of the word "flirt" according to Webster is to "behave amorously without serious intent." In other words, to act is if you're interested in a relationship when, in fact, you are not. I don't think that that displays character and integrity to flirt with someone when you really have no intention of engaging in a relationship with that person.
Dennis: Amorous, amorous, though?
Shannon: "To behave amorously without serious intent."
Dennis: And what does the word "amorous" mean?
Shannon: As if you are wanting love, amor, amore – amorously. And therefore, for a single woman who has someone that she is interested in, that she is interested in having a relationship with, you're not flirting, because, again, to flirt means to behave amorously without serious intent. You're simply maybe trying to get to know them or trying to get attention, but to flirt, I don't think is appropriate for any woman of any marital status of any age, because it's teasing. The word that you could use for that is "teasing." It's like dangling meat in front of a hungry lion – "Don't you want this? Well, sorry, you can't have it." That's not appropriate.
Bob: Well, and I think one of the key issues here is whether the woman, in this case, the flirter, is initiating, because we'd really need to pull back and ask the question – is that healthy? Is that right? Should a woman be the one who is initiating amorous attention from a man?
Shannon: I personally don't believe so. I mean, a lot of women would say, "Well, it's okay to make yourself available until – to send signals that you are interested in a conversation or something of that sort, but I don't think that's flirting because, again, the definition of flirting is to behave amorously without serious intent – or to tease.
Dennis: So a young man shows a little interest, it's okay to say, "Yeah, I'm available." That's not flirting.
Shannon: That's not flirting.
Dennis: That's …
Shannon: That's speaking in sincerity. If you're available, you're available.
Bob: And it's okay to be playful and engage playfully in those things. Again, as long as you're not dangling something that you're going to pull back.
Shannon: As long as you're not teasing.
Dennis: In fact, what we're challenging women to do here is to face their temptations with the opposite sex head on. And I like where we focused most of our broadcast today – not on flirting, by the way. Although I think it's good to talk about that, but more on the area of boundaries, building some personal boundaries around your life that anticipates the issue.
Shannon refers to it as rehearsing – what you think and what you're going to say before you have the opportunity to say it, and this is a generation of young women who I believe, more than ever, need to know what they're going to do in advance before they face the temptation, because it's clear – temptation has ensnared many a young woman and a young man.
Bob: There may be some women who heard about the title of your book and, as you said earlier, they don't think, "Well, this is my battle." At some level, this is every woman's battle.
Shannon: Every woman who is living and breathing, this is her battle. It may not feel like a battle today, but at some point in her life, from cradle to grave, you are going to face emotional or sexual temptations, and you've got to have a strong line of defense to come out victorious.
Dennis: And so just because you may be on top of it today and not have a problem today doesn't mean …
Shannon: That's right.
Dennis: … that around the corner there may be lurking a temptation that could truly tempt you to stray.
Shannon: It goes back to that Scripture, "Be careful if you think you're standing firm because" …
Dennis: "Lest you fall."
Bob: That's right. In fact, one way that you can be careful is to get a copy of a book like the one you've written, Shannon, "Every Woman's Battle." Get together with some other women and have some open, transparent, candid conversations about where you struggle in this area and talk through it together. Get the issues out on the table.
If you have a daughter, get a copy of "Every Young Woman's Battle," and, as a mom, go through that book with her. And, again, have a transparent, open conversation about this area of life. You can't just ignore it. We've got to address it in this culture today.
We've got both of those books in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if our listeners are interested in getting a copy of either or both of the books, you can go to our website at FamilyLife.com. You can order online, if you'd like, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and you can place your order over the phone. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, get in touch with us, and we'll make arrangements to have the resources you need sent to you.
And, you know, the old sports adage is that the best defense is a good offense. I think that applies to some of these issues in marriage as well. Probably the best way for you to be spiritually protected as it relates to the issues we've talked about today is for you, first of all, to be in God's Word, spending time in prayer, and then spending time together, growing spiritually, as a couple.
Dennis, you and Barbara have just completed a new book that's a follow-up to the bestselling devotional you wrote for a couples a number of years ago called "Moments Together for Couples." Your new book is called "Moments With You," and this week we want to send a copy of that book to any of our listeners who will contact us and make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We are really hoping that thousands of couples will get a copy of this book and start spending time together each day reading the page for that day. There is a discussion question or a couple of questions at the end of each devotional. There is a Scripture you can look at together; suggestions on how you can pray for one another that day, and we're hoping that couples will not only get a copy of this book but start using it each day in the morning or in the evening, whenever you can have time where just the two of you can be together.
We'll be happy to send you a copy of this book when you make a donation either online at FamilyLife.com or when you call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone. If you're donating on the website, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, type in the word "moments," and we'll know to send a copy of this book to you. Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY just mention that you'd like a copy of the devotional book, "Moments With You," again, the book is our way of saying thanks for your financial support of this ministry, and we appreciate your partnership with us.
Now, tomorrow we want to talk more about this issue of temptation and lust for women. We want to talk about the danger of comparing your husband to other men – how that can just head you down the wrong path. We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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