Guarding Your Heart
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Shannon Ethridge, a wife, mother and author of the book Every Woman's Battle, tells women that their greatest defense against sexual temptation is a good offense--specifically, a guarded heart.
Today on the broadcast, Shannon Ethridge, a wife, mother and author of the book Every Woman’s Battle, tells women that their greatest defense against sexual temptation is a good offense–specifically, a guarded heart.
Guarding Your Heart
Bob: A married woman needs to guard her heart to protect herself from sinful attraction to a man to whom she is not married. But what do you do if there is a handsome, kind, spiritually wise man? You can't just pretend he's not there. Here is Shannon Ethridge.
Shannon: Well, there's a difference between noticing that something is there and comparing your husband and thinking of all the ways that he doesn't measure up. I notice that there are attractive, godly, wonderful men in my environment, but that doesn't mean that I have to think of all the horrible things about my husband, and I frequently tell myself, "My husband has a lot of that, too, and he's spiritually passionate, too, and he's a great dad, and he's a wonderful provider, and he's crazy about me and, Lord, thank you for godly men, especially my husband."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 20th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What do you do if you're comparing your husband with other men, and you find he's lacking? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We've already heard from a listener this week who, as we've been talking about the issue of sexual temptation for women, contacted us and said, "I can really identify with what your guest was saying. I knew that God was speaking directly to me through you on these programs. I actually had to pull the car into the parking lot and stop and listen to all that you were saying. I was moved to tears because I struggle with the same exact thing you were talking about. I actually made myself late for work listening to the entire program.
I immediately went and got a copy of your book" – talk about the book, "Every Woman's Battle – "and I got a copy of the other book, "Every Young Woman's Battle for Daughters." What really struck me in your book is how we women can actually use men just to satisfy our need for attention and affirmation. I know, for me, I wasn't looking for sex, I was looking for attention and for affirmation. Sex was the payment for the attention I received. I didn't even realize I was guilty of this until I read your book – how selfish to use men to make me feel good about myself. Go is using you in a might way."
That's a powerful testimony.
Dennis: It really is and, again, that book is "Every Woman's Battle," and Shannon Ethridge is the author of that book. Shannon, welcome back.
Shannon: Thanks so much, Dennis. It's great to be here with you and Bob.
Dennis: Shannon is a speaker in addition to being a lay counselor, a writer, and you have to be surprised at the response to your book. I mean, writing a book to women about sexual temptation for men? Oh, yeah, sure. That's an automatic. But for women? Are you shocked, frankly?
Shannon: I am shocked. It just confirms all of those years that it was a such lie; that Satan was telling me that you must be the only one who thinks like this. Gosh, what's wrong with you? You must have more testosterone than you do estrogen or something. I really thought there was something wrong with me that I struggled in this area so much.
But it's been a great affirmation that, you know, temptation has seized you, but what is common to woman, and God is faithful. He does provide a way out, and I'm so thankful that God is able to take my lemons and make lemonade out of it and share with women the inspiration of the things that he has done in my life.
Dennis: You and Greg have been married for more than 15 years. You have two children, and you speak all across the country. As you've interacted with people, and they've come up, they've written e-mails to you. As you just said, you're not the only person that's struggling with this.
Now, do you think this is the result of a sexually permissive culture? I mean, 30 years ago would this have been the same issue as it is today?
Shannon: I don't think so. And a lot of older women, when I told them I was writing a book called "Every Woman's Battle," and they would ask, "Well, what is every woman's battle? Is it eating? Is it shopping?" And I'd say, "Well, no, it's a book about sexual temptation." Oh, no, that's not my battle.
But it's funny how some of those same women have come back to me since the book has come out and said, "Wow, I read it just out of curiosity, and I saw myself on so many of the pages, and I felt so convicted by things that I did not even know were sinful."
And the person who e-mailed you is a great example of emotional prostitution. We really do not understand how wrong it is to use another man to get our ego stroked. And healthy comparisons, I mean, the list goes on and on of things that women engage in, not understanding that this really is unfaithfulness – maybe not physical unfaithfulness but mental and emotional and spiritual unfaithfulness to our husbands and to our God.
And so often people think that "Well, you know, sexual issues, yeah, those are a struggle for men but not really for women, and they do not understand how powerful the emotions are and how we when we allow our heart to go in a certain direction, our body is right there after it, as well as our minds, and that it can become an all-consuming thing.
There are many female sex and love-addicted women out there who do not even understand the magnitude of the addiction that they're dealing with.
Bob: I think this is interesting – you say that the issue of disappointment in the heart of a woman is the trigger issue, it's where things start.
Shannon: Sure. And I think those disappointments come when we start comparing our husband to other men. I think the one common denominator in marriage that women experience is they compared their husbands to every other man on the planet and think of all the ways that their husbands don't measure up. And that's how I start the book out; that I was having extramarital affairs with five different men at one time, and I go on to explain how, you know, my husband, he wasn't as good looking as this one; he wasn't as funny as this one; he wasn't as smart as that one; he wasn't as spiritually passionate as this one.
I wasn't having sexual affairs with any of these men. What I was doing, though, is comparing my husband and discounting his personal worth, and I wasn't realizing that this was causing me to be just as disillusioned in my marriage as sexual affairs would.
Dennis: I want to ask you a question because you're hinting at something here that has always puzzled me. I don't think there has ever been a time within the Christian community where we have ever talked more to young ladies about how young men think in our youth groups.
I mean, I think by the time the average young person graduates from a youth group and goes to college, he or she has had to have heard 25 to 50 love, sex, and dating messages, all right? And how the opposite sex thinks.
Dennis: And yet, for the most part, I don't see any dramatic difference – and I'm not picking on women here. I would say this would be true of men as well, but when it comes to women and the way they dress and what fuels some of their flirtatious – well, at points, immodesty – you're saying that this heart of disappointment is fueling the need for them to override everything they know about men and about how men are visually wired, and they're going to go ahead and dress in a provocative manner.
Shannon: Because they need to have their egos stroked. That is so important to the heart of a woman. And, granted, I know that men are very visually stimulated and physically driven but I, personally, am very tired of young women saying things such as, "Well, it's all a guy's fault. If they wouldn't try so hard, we wouldn't have to work so hard to say no." And what those young men say in response is, "Well, if you weren't dressing as if that's what you wanted, we wouldn't be tempted to try so hard."
And that women have got to stop pointing the finger at men. It takes two to tango. Men take a hint pretty well, and if we weren't hinting as if that is what we wanted, then men wouldn't be struggling with that so much. We've got to take responsibility for our own actions and look at our own lives.
Dennis: You've just helped explain why, as I raised four daughters through the teenage years, why over and over and over I had these little talks, mini-sermons and major sermons …
Dennis: Yeah, soapboxes – on what you're going to wear to school, on what you're going to wear to church, and you need to know that, really, by comparison, I don't feel like my daughters were immodest, but I still had some points where I would say, "There ain't no daughter of mine going out in that."
Shannon: Good for you.
Dennis: You know? But I could never figure out, at points, why one or two of them didn't get it. And you're saying this emotional need for affirmation overrides all of those sermons and there is so much need for this. Well, they still hear what I've said, though.
Shannon: But it causes them to lose their judgment, their better judgment. When I look back over my teenage years and even my early married years, I can see so often how I knew better than to do some of the things that I did and wear some of the things that I wore, but I did it, anyway, because of the desperate need.
Dennis: Okay, okay, so I've got to ask the question every dad, every mom, wants to know right now– so what are we supposed to do? Keep on getting on your soapbox.
Shannon: Well, by all means, don't stop telling your daughters, "No, you can't wear that out of this house," but what young women have to learn to understand is how their heart is driven and how they are very emotionally stimulated, and there is a chapter in "Every Woman's Battle" and several chapters in "Every Young Woman's Battle," about exactly what does it mean to guard your heart? You know, we hear this all of our lives – guard your heart, it's the wellspring of life, but it seems like such a gray issue of how do – and they wonder – how do you do that?
And so we decided to colorize the issue, and we painted green, yellow, and red light levels of emotional connection so that women would know when they need to slow down at take caution, and when they need to stop and avoid those situations altogether.
Bob: Let me take you back to the issue of comparison that you talked about earlier. A wife, a mom, who is listening and thinks, "How do I keep from doing that? I mean, I'm around other guys. I can't help but not see that this one is more handsome than my husband, or that this one is more spiritual" – it's just there, how do you not compare?
Shannon: Well, there's a difference between noticing that something is there and comparing your husband and thinking of all the ways that he doesn't measure up. I notice that there are attractive, godly, wonderful men in my environment, but that doesn't mean that I have to think of all the horrible things about my husband, and why I'm not happy. I frequently tell myself when I notice something attractive about a guy, I tell myself two or three wonderful things about my husband in my mind. And so that if there is any comparison, I’m basically stacking the odds for my husband instead of against him and going, "My husband has a lot of that, too, and he's spiritually passionate, too, and he's a great dad, and he's a wonderful provider, and he's crazy about me and, Lord, thank you for godly men, especially my husband."
And that way, I'm not tempted to go in a direction other than my marriage.
Bob: And you're saying this issue is a guardrail issue for sexual temptation. This whole thing about comparison is one of those gates that you don't go through because if you do you're on the wrong path.
Shannon: Sure. I mean, any man that a woman is going to stumble and fall into an affair with, it's not going to be a man that's not as good as her husband, in her mind. It's going to be a man that she thinks is better than her husband, and when we start those comparisons and thinking of all the men that are better than our husbands, that's when we are on dangerous ground.
Dennis: In fact, Shannon, you illustrate what Paul exhorted folks to do in Philippians, chapter 4, verse 8, and I want to give you the punch line of Philippians 4:8 before I tell you what he commanded. He told us to let our mind dwell on these things, okay? Let your mind dwell on these things, and he says, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worth of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."
And what you're saying, Shannon, is instead of letting your mind be derailed and tempted to compare your husband unfavorably with some man that you look at from afar, who, if you really go to know, would have his own Achilles' heel.
Dennis: You're saying, instead of comparing my husband unfavorably with him, I'm going to think about what's true and honorable and right, and the things that are praiseworthy about my husband.
Shannon: Absolutely. And a really interesting story I heard not too long ago – one of the men that I explained that I was having an extramarital affair with in the beginning of "Every Woman's Battle" is Clark Gable. I just thought he was so smooth and so suave and so debonair, and every Friday night I wanted to rent a Clark Gable movie.
Dennis: I was going to tell you he's dead.
Shannon: Yeah, I kind of figured that out. But recently I heard …
Dennis: You're not that old.
Shannon: I'm not.
Bob: But there are some Cary Grant fans who feel just like you do.
Dennis: Yeah, there you go.
Shannon: Yeah, or Brad Pitt fans or whoever the guy is. But I recently heard that several of his leading ladies made the comment that they enjoyed working with Clark Gable except for his horrible breath, and what that said to me is that you know what? Even he had his Achilles' heel, and he had his downfalls.
But with my husband, it was he left cabinet doors and drawers open. I would walk into a room, and all these doors and drawers are standing wide open, and lights are still on, and I would just think, "Why can't he just close a door and turn off the light? It's not that hard."
In hindsight, I just think that was so petty of me. If that's the worst thing I can figure out about my husband, I'm doing pretty darn good. No matter what man that you ever wind up with or no matter who you could marry, he's going to have his downfalls, he's going to have his shortcomings, he's going to have those little pet peeves that drive you nuts. But marriage is learning how to give one another the grace to be human and, in our humanness, we all have our shortcomings.
Bob: And if you dwell on those disappointments, if you allow your mind just to soak in those disappointments …
Dennis: Who can stand?
Bob: That's right.
Shannon: You can make yourself very unhappy doing that.
Bob: And you can make yourself very open to the mirage who comes along at church or at the grocery store or in the carpool line, and that's what it is – it's a mirage because you never could smell Clark Gable's breath in the movie theater. It smelled like popcorn in the movie theater.
Shannon: I imagined that he had wonderful, minty breath. Ehhh, I was wrong.
Bob: And the closer you get to anybody, you see the warts and the potholes, you see all the things that you never saw from a distance. Everybody has got their own set of issues with them, but if a woman – or a man, for that matter – just allows your imagination – I know one of the myths you talk about in the book is that it's okay for you to imagine someone else when you have come together intimately with your husband; that that's an innocent fantasy that's not going to do any damage to your relationship. You're saying that's not innocent, and it's not safe.
Shannon: No, it's absolutely not, and it's undermining your sexual fulfillment. If so many women want intimacy and fulfillment, those have become the two buzzwords in a woman's heart – "I want intimacy and I want fulfillment." Well, the word "intimacy" could best be understood by breaking it down into syllables – "into me see" – which that means you see not just the good but the bad and ugly, too.
It's in those passionate moments that we – you know, when we start fantasizing about another man, our fulfillment is not coming from our marriage relationship. It's not coming from our marriage bed, it's coming from the idea of someone else, and we need to – I encourage women – open your eyes, don't close your eyes and just start drifting off, fantasizing about another man; that this is the man that you have committed your life to.
I heard this great saying of "Choose the one you love and love the one you choose," and open your eyes and connect with him; that this is where the source of your fulfillment lies, and so many women miss it because they close their eyes, and they drift off to a place where fulfillment can never be found. Fulfillment is always out of our grasp when it comes to fantasy. But, in reality, fulfillment is ours in the marriage bed because that's how God designed it.
Dennis: There will never be fulfillment if you're not having it with a real person.
Dennis: In a real relationship. And you know what you get with a real person in a real relationship? You get open doors, open drawers, open cabinets …
Bob: … bad breath …
Dennis: … bad breath.
Shannon: Toothpaste tubes that are squeezed in the middle.
Dennis: And we could call Barbara, and she could give you …
Bob: … her list.
Dennis: Her list, and Mary Ann with Bob.
Shannon: And Greg could give you one of my – or several of mine.
Dennis: Yeah, yeah. But, you know, the thing that we want, that this generation wants, is we want the Clark Gable, the airbrushed …
Shannon: The edited version.
Dennis: Yeah, and our lives revolve so much around media where we see all these airbrushed pictures, but a real relationship doesn't happen that way. You're going to disappoint one another dramatically. You're going to hurt each other occasionally, and that's why I like the Bible, because the Bible talks about real relationships with real people and talks about how you can forgive and how you can ask for forgiveness.
Shannon: And if we use perfection as our measuring stick, we also have to understand that that's going to be the measuring stick used against us, and if I start expecting perfection out of my husband, he's going to start expecting perfection out of me, and I know myself. I can't give him perfection, and so I'm going to give him grace to be human, and I'm going to be thankful for the grace that he gives me to be human.
Bob: What fuels the romantic fantasies in the heart of a woman? We know for men that the issue of pornography can be a fuel to a man's sexual sin; to lust. What is it for a woman?
Shannon: I think there are several out there – romance novels, soap operas, Internet chat rooms. There are many prime time television shows on these days I believe are fueling this fire, especially this "Desperate Housewives." I think that it's just perpetuating the myth that there is something bigger and better out there; that the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence, and that is just not true. You just have to learn how to fertilize and nurture your own grass. You know, make it better than anything else that's out there.
Dennis: And I go back to your illustration of choosing to think about three things that are true about your own husband rather than being caught in the trap of unfavorably comparing him and then slipping into an emotional affair with a person of the opposite sex. You know, if you think about what "Desperate Housewives" is all about, and I admit I've only seen a part of one episode, but it looks to me like it's about these …
Bob: It's dissatisfied women, isn't it? I mean, isn't that the whole idea?
Shannon: Who are being unfaithful to their husbands, or single women who are in pursuit of a man because they feel incomplete; a wife who refuses to have sex with her husband because she's not interested, and the reason is she's having sex with a 17-year-old gardener. Those types of plots, in my mind, those are not beneficial to any woman. And, you know, "It's just entertainment." That's not healthy entertainment. Whatever we put in our minds, those are the kinds of things that sink down into our hearts and then eventually come out of our mouths and out of our lives through our behaviors.
Dennis: Yeah, I couldn't agree more, and I think the application for today is, first of all, if you're a woman, I think you need to have a heart check. Where is your heart? Is it wholly God's and wholly directed toward your husband? Or are you dabbling with others who you may be comparing your spouse with unfavorably?
Bob: I'll tell you a good way to do the heart check that you're talking about. On page 15 of Shannon's book, there is a survey – are you doing battle? And, with your permission, we want to put that on the website and …
Bob: … and let folks go there, take the survey, and it's a good diagnostic tool to say, "Am I in the midst of a battle that I didn't even realize I was in the middle of?" Our website is FamilyLife.com, and you can simply go there and click on today's broadcast, and there will be a link there to the survey, and you can see how you're doing.
Dennis: And I think there are two applications for the men who are listening today. I think this same, subtle myth can be slipped into by men. They can unfavorable compare their wives with women at work, women at church, and they can experience an emotional affair.
And then I think the second application for men – breath mints.
Bob, you and I need a breath mint. We'll never make …
Bob: Clark Gable.
Dennis: … Clark Gable status.
Bob: Oh, these are good.
Dennis: Well, I bought them at Starbuck's for coffee breath.
Bob: Well, and, frankly, my dear, I am glad to have one of these.
When you get to our website at FamilyLife.com, let me encourage you, in addition to taking the online survey, get a copy of the books that Shannon has written – the one for women called "Every Woman's Battle," and the one for moms to take their daughters through called "Every Young Woman's Battle," because these books really do give you the help you need, the diagnostics you need, to wrestle with these issues biblically and to be on guard, be on the alert, so that you don't stumble in these areas.
We've got both of these books in our FamilyLife Resource Center and, again, when you go to our website, FamilyLife.com, on the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click in that area, it will take you to the part of the site where there is more information about the resources that are available. That's where you'll find the online survey we talked about.
The website, again, is FamilyLife.com. You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY, if you'd like to order these books over the phone – 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you contact us, we'll make arrangements to have copies of these books sent to you.
Let me remind you, if I can here, too – the reason that we try to make these kinds of resources available and have a website that has transcripts of our program and you can stream the audio of our program, you can find articles online that deal with subjects like this. The reason for this daily radio program is because we want to help effectively develop godly families. We want marriages that are strong and secure. We want moms and dads equipped to know how to raise the next generation. Our mission here at FamilyLife is to effectively develop godly marriages and families that will change the world one home at a time.
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The way you do that is, as you fill out the donation form on the Internet, you'll come to a keycode box. You just type the word "moments" into that box, and we'll be happy to send a copy of this book out to you. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make a donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like the devotional for couples or the book, "Moments With You." Again, we're happy to send it out to you, and we really do appreciate your financial partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.
Now, tomorrow we want to talk about the best way to feed a squirrel, and it really does apply to the subject we've been dealing with this week. We'll explain it all tomorrow. I hope you can be back 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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