Attraction Vs. Action

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.

15 thoughts on “Attraction Vs. Action

  1. Hi Justin. Thank you for your website. This is great information! I have a question about attraction. Are there degrees of attraction or is attraction binary?

    • Hey Sam

      There are for sure degrees of attraction. However, I do think in the moment you are ether attracted or not. But there could be degrees in that as well. Also, you could literally be attracted to someone one day and not the next. It’s in constant motion and it’s affected by so many things. That’s why this particular idea of not “having” to act on it is so important.

  2. I think I get what you’re saying about what women find attractive not being about appearance as much as it is with men. But it seems to me that those things women find attractive can be perceived or not perceived in a man only after a man and a woman have had time to get to know each other. So if a man works on being attractive in those regards but there are still no women attracted to him, what is he to do from there? Is there even anything he can do after that? If a woman isn’t already attracted to a man right from the very get go, I don’t see how the work a man may do in becoming more attractive in the non appearance-related things women value can even have a chance to pay off, unless maybe a woman knows a man for quite some time before she starts to officially date him.

    • To some degree this could be true. If the focus is get a particular woman to be attracted to you it’s for sure true. However, it impacts how you carry yourself, which then impacts women’s initial attraction as well. The good news is that often the non appearance related things can be improved upon.

      The point here isn’t to figure it all out as much as be aware of it, work on it as you feel led, and then act from there. I think attraction, especially for a woman can indeed grow.

  3. Very good explanation! I would also add that since it’s not a choice, I also can’t make myself be attracted to a man who is a wonderful guy “on paper” but the chemistry just doesn’t work in real life. I feel this is an important point because there are a lot of people (myself included!) who can get upset when we are rejected; “Why don’t you at least give me one date?” or “Christian girls say they can’t find a good guy, but I’m standing right here!” for example. It’s so rare to meet a viable candidate for marriage that I sincerely feel sorry when I can’t generate attraction. At least reading this reminds me that it’s not my fault! Thank you.

  4. This post, like all others about “attraction” in a Christian sense puts all the burden on the guy, and the passiveness on the woman. Guys have to “work” to make themselves attractive to women. Guys have to jump through hoops, change their outlooks, and in many cases be something that “God has not called them to be” but to “Be something that makes him attractive to a woman” (and that usually involves bad / rebellious / antisocial behavior(s)

    But since women have ZERO choice about who they are attracted to……..have heard it a TRILLION times in my life “We girls just can’t help who we fall for”…………..so it’s all predestination? No free will? Zero responsibility for choice?. She just cannot help who she falls for and finds attractive. The soul mate thing…..even though she claims she doesn’t believe in that……….it’s a mess, and frankly in the church, women have brought most of these contradictions upon themselves.

    I have heard the “joke” and plain speech comment from single men in evangelical circles / churches now for almost a decade and I saw it in the very real secular world while spending most of my 20’s and 30’s living in San Francisco:

    You have exactly 10 seconds to “impress” a woman. If she doesn’t find you attractive within that ten seconds. You’re done. No matter what you do. We have conditioned women in the world and in church that they have zero fault in anything. They make “good” choices. They can’t help it.

    In churches large and small IF you get a date, and let’s say……….it doesn’t work out. Guy is nervous, hasn’t been on a date since Clinton was president. Woman determines he has ZERO confidence, would be a terrible husband, and she really wasn’t attracted to him anyways……..he’s TOAST in the church now concerning dating. Every woman will NOW know that he didn’t hold the door open when she got out of the car, or he used the wrong fork for salad, or he didn’t exude enough (cough) “confidence” (she means arrogance), and he tripped over his feet while walking down the street with her, the list goes on……obviously by her logic (which is never questioned) the man is not “being the man God called him to be” and thus…she tells all her girl friends in church about him. “He’s nice but” or “He just needs to keep trying” or some such fake n’ phony put down. No woman EVER takes another woman’s rejects in social scenes like a church. Guy is doomed, but still has to hear every few weeks to “man up” and “grow up” and “ask women out they don’t bite”

    Women have a choice. Men have a choice. Attraction not being a “choice” is just an excuse for women for to sin, for bad behavior, getting sympathy about how there are “no real men left”
    and for men to be kept cowering in a corner. Not surprised many are leaving, have left, and want nothing to do with “nice Christian girls”

    • When was the last time you asked someone from church out? Or are all church girls too sinful and shallow (salad fork, really??) for you since they’re obviously having all of these conversations right in front of your face or you wouldn’t know what’s being said so clearly. I can tell you that a female friend of mine tried to express interest to one of my – as you say, “rejects” – and he wouldn’t give her the time of day. He was interested in only me so it didn’t matter that I told my friend that I wasn’t interested, but that if she was interested, she should proceed to let him know. In fact, I had a party and invited a couple of men I wasn’t interested in, telling them that single women would be there because I knew someone else might be interested in them. They were really excited to be included.

      Anyone who comes at me with the attitude that I’m supposed to date him or else I’m a bad Christian girl will not get a date from me (or a party invitation). It’s pretty simple. Your attitude leads before you even open your mouth. Your post indicates that you have no respect for the women at church – including the ones you’ve never met. That is probably why you’re having trouble getting dates. You complain about the treatment you receive from women at the church and then you post this as if you aren’t just as guilty of being disrespectful. Seriously, the salad fork comment is ridiculous, and I know which fork to use – I’m not going to reject a guy who doesn’t if he meets other key qualities I’m looking for.

      And sorry, after a certain age, if you can’t carry on a normal conversation, that’s a problem. I’m not going to just go out with a guy because he says he’s a nice Christian guy when he hasn’t made the effort to strengthen some basic social skills or improve himself in other ways. I was once young and tongue-tied too, but I evolved because I wanted to live my life a certain way.

      You’re lecturing women about personal responsibility, but look at yourself first before you start blaming everyone else for your personal failures. This goes for EVERYONE who considers him or herself an adult. We all have to take responsibilities for our own actions and not blame the world when everything doesn’t go our way.

      • T.

        Please define “normal” conversation?

        I am well traveled, I speak and read two other languages fluently besides English. I have many things and activities that I am interested in for the sake of just being interested in them. I have a worldly past. A very serious and dangerous one. By His grace, I was discovered that I was not foresaken! Glory to Christ!

        The word you used “lecturing” I really find amusing. The moment a woman doesn’t like a stance, or opinion, or idea…the man of of course is “lecturing” her.

        I never mentioned in my post that a Christian woman has to date me, or go out with me because I am a Christian. I don’t believe that. I don’t expect that. Nor do I have to be Christ Jesus Himself in order to ask a woman out, or have an amazing career, a house, two cars, a vacation and health plan and money saved for my future childrens’ college fund. What gets me is this beat-to-death conversation on so many Christian pages about confidence, and attraction. It isn’t a choice. You decide after getting to know someone. Attraction does and can grow. Confidence is a word that is used to shut men up or used in very broad terms like the word “love” is today.

        How on earth did anyone in the USA ever get married pre-1970? What man had every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed? Sorry, that is what IS being sold in the Christian world for dating as a man. Be 100% perfect. Have your life and long term goals figured out and ready. You must know where you are at and where you are going. You have to be “the man God intended you to be”

        What if it pleases God that as a man you may never get recognition for the things of this world, for His sake? What if you are required to do something that other men (in and out of the faith) deem useless, and unimportant?

        If you read the Bible, tons of imperfect people had plans and they were foiled by their own shortsightedness. Even Jesus wasn’t attractive. The Word tells us “He hath no comeliness in form that would make us attracted to Him”

        Jesus wasn’t “attractive” in a cultural sense. Unemployed too.

        T, I’ve liked our convs on this page here and there over the years, and I believe we can still have good banter.

        As for asking women out? After 2013 when I was told “to leave the women alone and wait on God” I figured that was the sign that I was a creep, physically ugly or just not “good” enough for all these “amazing” women….and besides from all the postings, women can’t help who they fall for anyway….so what good would it be to dare pursue, or conform to a standard that is of the world, or even the cultural and confusing world inside Christian dating.

        Too many women in church every Sunday lament about “no men to date” and “no real men of God”

        Most women wouldn’t date one if he came along.

  5. I define normal conversation as the ability to carry one on about a variety of topics as opposed to not being able to have a conversation at all. As for lecturing, I don’t disagree that women need to take personal responsibility, but I do think you were on a rant against the women at church so I stand by that word.

    As far as 2017 vs. pre-1970, there are a lot of changes. First of all, those of us who came of age after the 70s were warned off from divorce in a way the pre-70s singles weren’t. I also think that women today were more likely to be raised to take care of themselves in a way older generations weren’t. So a lot has changed. The fact that people marry later – for whatever reason – makes a difference. Very few people have accomplished much of anything in their early 20s but as you reach your 30s and beyond, yeah, there are greater expectations. So if I’ve worked really hard to provide for myself a certain way, I don’t want to go backwards and struggle financially with someone even if he’s doing the Lord’s work. I can admire it, but it doesn’t mean I want to – or should want to – live the life that results of that. I also don’t want to be with someone who hasn’t worked to develop himself in other ways – socially or whatever. That doesn’t mean I think I’m perfect. I know I’m not – in fact, one of the reasons I’m pickier than I was when I was younger is because I know my limitations.

    I don’t know your situation and why you were told to leave the women alone. I’m sorry you were made to feel unworthy. Yeah, I think the church could do a much better job in how they approach single people who want to get married. First off, they should do no harm and they are failing miserably at that simple task. But the way you describe the women in your church above sounds mean spirited and is just not how the single Christian women I know behave. We acknowledge that there aren’t many men at all attending church – period. And frankly, at least at my church, the implication is that single women are just as unworthy of marriage as the single men. The attraction thing – I went out with a lot of men that I wasn’t attracted to in the interest of being open minded when I was younger and I usually regretted it. Some guy on FB – Humans of NY got blasted because he tried to be open minded and dated a woman he wasn’t physically attracted to and now sometime later, he’s still not attracted to her. He was trying to be open minded when he should have been honest with himself with what he could handle and what he couldn’t. When I read these posts about attraction and confidence, I don’t read them as saying men have to be attractive and confident and women don’t – I think all of us need to make ourselves attractive in our own ways and also accept that not everyone will appreciate whatever we’re bringing to the table and that’s okay.

  6. Why do you have to accomplish something in your early 20’s to be married?????????????

    By what right or standard? Plenty of couples started out living in the rented apartment. Saved for a house. Built a career, slowly got the promotion, gained skills. Grew together. Built something together. You still are assuming that to be married the “work” that is “you” has to be complete. What a sad take on marriage our church culture has taken, and if a woman isn’t married its a “man” fault because they are supposed to pursue. How dare men keep her single!

    You “think” I was on a rant, so you “stand” on that word. Pretty subjective and based on “feelings” rather than facts. I was speaking the truth. It wasn’t a rant. No man in church will call out the truth of: Men and women are different. Men and women need each other. Men and women are sinners. Adam and Eve each shared a blame in the fall.

    I am tired of every Christian book, pundit, webpage, celebrity pastor, Bible Study, men’s fellowship, men’s accountability group, men’s retreat, every ministry, every sunday school, every Christian movie, every Christian comedian, every podcast and every activity telling me and other men:

    You men need to move out of mommy’s basement / quit playing video games / be the men God called you to be / you need to man up / you all are addicted to porn / you have to guard every woman’s heart here as if she was you blood related sister / you have to make yourself more attractive to women* / Christian women only want a man who puts Jesus first and takes action / Ask women out, they don’t bite / women just want a good guy / this fathers day we’re honoring all the women who have to be ‘dad’ (thunderous applause) / you have to be bold for Jesus / you should have no business pursuing a woman until you have a good job and career / you don’t have to have it all figured out in order to find a wife / why don’t you men ‘grow some’ and ask women out / I’m calling in your man-card / if you are a man with a few social skills, a job, a heart for Jesus and you serve in church it’s your fault that you are not married, plenty of women are here who just want a man who loves Jesus / you’re expecting perfection and only Jesus is perfect / our new segment for men’s fellowship is how to ‘listen’ to your wife / Brother just focus on your gift of singleness and God’s gonna bring you the desires of your heart

    I can ‘deal’ with being single. I can deal with celibacy. What I cannot deal with or put up with anymore in the church or from any of the above areas I mentioned is that somehow every man in church who is single is somehow a social retard, with zero personality, no skills, no Gifts, no ambition, no charm, no life story / situation, poor hygiene……….and if he just “learns” about attraction “not being a choice” everything is gonna work out well, and if not? Attraction isn’t a choice anyway so just “man up” and follow Corinthians 7 and serve in church.

    I would rather and prefer to serve Christ, than church.

    I have pleaded in church offices about singleness and how men can be helped and uplifted. I have emplored women of faith to earnestly PRAY for the men of their church. I have been kicked off Christian single webapages because I dared called out women for part of this problem / situation we are in today.

    I want to grow in Christ. Serve. EVERYTHING for men in church now involves “manning up” and “listening to what women of God want”

    and since attraction isn’t a choice………..why bother?

    • Just to clarify – I wasn’t saying you have to accomplish anything in your early 20s to get married. I was saying that most people haven’t accomplished much at that age – therefore, when you marry young, the expectations aren’t as high about one’s accomplishments than they are for someone who is looking to marry at a later age.

  7. Jason. I’ll be honest I don’t really understand the fire when I write about attraction. I mean, I understand sort of. But I feel like I’m separating attraction out from everything else on purpose. In other words in an earlier post you said we need to define attraction. That’s sort of what I’m doing. I’m saying it’s an in the moment feeling. You can respond to it, not respond to it, check your own reasons for being attracted etc. Bottom line here is I’m saying that the feeling is not a choice. But the action in response is. To me, that creates room to operate. Without that, then yeah, only perfectly attracted people get married. But if we realize that it’s not a choice, everything we do with is a choice. Marriage is a choice. Going on a date is a choice. A great question is how attracted do i need to be to go on a date. I’ve written on that a couple of times. The answer is not a lot. At least not initially. At the same time, I’ve never asked out someone who I wasn’t at least somewhat attracted to.

    So here are a couple of questions for you, or anyone else for that matter.

    If how I’m defining attraction is wrong then how would you define it?

    If I’m wrong and attraction is a choice, the explain a time you’ve chosen to be attracted to someone.

    Have you asked girls out that you weren’t attracted to?

    I’m not asking as an argument. You know me way better than that. I’m seriously asking to understand.

    • My reply I was pondering and working on was too long and honestly. A thumping bore.

      Yes I have asked out women I wasn’t attracted to before and after being born again. The answer was always “no” or “no but there is amazing girl out there for you”

      You win. Attraction isn’t a choice. The only hope is for people who won favor with God from birth in the genetic lottery or men in the world who are not Christian….because all single men in church have not become attractive enough even though there is no choice in the matter.

      I will no longer comment on this topic in this post or future ones on this matter.

      As marriage continues to plummet in the church and more and more men who are there now give up to this impossible standard of no choice and just leave……not just their church you all can find more reasons to just deal with it. Besides there is no marriage in heaven…..so what difference does it make anyway and if a woman decides to have a baby out of wedlock, Jesus will forgive and He loves babies anyway.

      Sorry for upsetting everyone.

      In Truth.

      Jason

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