One of the constant conversations on this blog is the idea of attraction. I’ve written a ton about it and even have whole posts about it.
Today I want to sort of clarify a few thoughts about attraction. Many of these I’ve said before but I thought it might be good to put a few main thoughts into one post.
First off it is important to understand that the feeling of attraction is never, for any person, a choice. It is not an in the moment conscious decision. From day one, none of us, or at least no one that I know, has ever said, “I’m going to feel attraction for this person and not this person.”
This is true for every person. This is even true, if I may be so bold, for people who would be attracted to the same sex – once or always. Attraction is a gut level feeling. I see someone or meet someone and I’m attracted, or I’m not.
Let me say again, the feeling of attraction is not a choice.
However, what we do with that attraction is a choice. This is also true for every single person.
Attraction of course awakens desire to do something about said attraction. But the truth is that I don’t have to, often should not, and frankly sometimes am commanded not to act on that attraction.
Here’s an obvious example. Let’s say that I’m married. I feel attracted to someone who I’m not married to. I’ve made a vow not to act on that attraction. I’m commanded in the scriptures not to act on it.
Here are a couple of other examples. Let’s say that I’ve made vow to celibacy. I meet someone and I’m attracted. My desire says that I want to act. But because of the vow that I’m committed to honoring I should not act on that. Just because someone is called to celibacy does not mean they never feel attraction or never have the desire to act on that.
Or let’s say that I’m attracted to someone that I know is not a believer and/or is bad for me and my walk with the Lord. I’m for sure attracted, but I don’t have to act on it.
This leads to a second point about attraction: There are many things that influence the feeling of attraction. Some of these things we can actually work on and might impact over the long run who we are attracted to.
Things like past sexual events in my life, what I believe about myself and God, looking at porn or reading “romance” novels, how I’m feeling that day, or even how much I’ve had to drink can influence my attraction to someone.
I can also feed or not feed attraction. If I am attracted to someone that I know I need to not pursue, then I can either feed that or not. If I start to respond to it, or put myself in the position where the attraction will grow, then I’m setting myself up. This leads to the classic, “I know it’s not right, but I can’t help what I feel so I’m going to act on it at least a little” scenario.
Instead, I can admit that I’m attracted, but recognize that I shouldn’t pursue it and avoid situations that will further that attraction and increase the pressure to act on that feeling. You may not be able to help what you feel, but you can for sure help what you do with it. Again, attraction and acting on attraction are two completely different things.
The inverse here is also true of attraction. Some people get frustrated because not enough people find them attractive. We need to recognize that we can work on being more attractive. We can learn what is and isn’t attractive. We shouldn’t have in our mind that we have to “perfect” to be attractive but that’s not a reason to not attempt to be attractive to the people that we want to pursue or be pursued by as the case may be. I’m not talking about being “fake” here, but you aren’t going to pursue someone that you aren’t attracted to, so you can’t expect that from someone else.
Finally we have to think about how we handle ourselves when we feel attraction to a qualified person. Do we start to try too hard, cling too much, become needy, desperate or controlling. Or maybe the opposite. Do we run, avoid it because we don’t know what to do with it.
Here’s what we can’t do. We can’t pretend that attraction doesn’t matter. That is living in the pretend world. It absolutely matters. Attraction is from God. Now it’s all jacked up thanks to sin, no doubt. But that’s true of everything.
There’s a lot of freedom here. If we can understand that attraction is not a choice but that action is, we can work on both. If we equate the two, then we will constantly be in trouble both in how we view ourselves and others. I need to run both attraction and acting on it (or not acting) through the lens of my walk with Jesus.