The power of sexual thoughtsWritten by Focus on the Family
What's inside this article
Meet Nate. In high school he was everyone’s best friend. He played sports, had a girlfriend and got good grades – and he knew how to have a good time. He was the life of the party! But during those high school years, something happened that would change his life forever.
Meet Jeremy. At first glance, he seems a lot like Nate. He was a jock, a musician and a straight-A student. He had tons of friends and was always busy. But in college, his life took a dramatic turn – for the better.
Two guys. Their lives heading down very similar roads. That is, until they reached a significant fork in the path. It demanded a choice – a choice about purity. One chose abstinence. One didn’t.
Can you relate?
Both would tell you it wasn’t an easy decision. There’s a lot to think about when it comes to sexuality. And while it’s a fact that by the time teen guys are 19, the vast majority have received some sort of formal sex education, many of you are still scratching your heads, wondering how all these facts translate into real-life decisions.
If you can relate to this confusion, keep reading as Jeremy and Nate shoot straight about this very personal area of their lives.
Nate – The perfect life? Younger years
When I think back on my childhood, I have some great memories. Mom stayed at home. Dad was a doctor. Every material desire we ever had was met. Fun trips. Great clothes. Cool toys. At the time, I thought I had it all. Looking back, I realize that wasn’t true. While we were handed every thing we ever dreamed of, we were never given the opportunity to experience the one thing that would leave a lasting impact – a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Sure, Mom took us to church. She was a “Christian.” Dad was not. He worked at least six days a week, so Sunday morning was his only chance to catch his breath. That left Mom to take us kids to church on her own.
My folks really worked hard to love us. In fact, they turned all their attention to that task – even at the expense of their own relationship. Dad wasn’t a good communicator, and he wasn’t around a whole lot because of his job. So when my parents were together, they didn’t deal well with conflict. Once every couple of years, we would find Mom crying about some problem she was having with my dad, but most of the time she just kept it to herself.
Let’s talk about sex
I clearly remember the first time I heard anything about sex. I was in the fourth grade. I was walking home from school with my friend Jay. Just paces away from my door, he proudly announced that he’d French-kissed a girl! As this bragging statement came pouring out of his mouth, he turned to me and asked, “You don’t know what a French kiss is, do you?” I tried to convince him that I did, but my curiosity finally persuaded me to admit my ignorance – in hopes of becoming truly educated. So, Jay enlightened me . . . or so I thought. “It means lying in bed with a girl!” That was my first learning experience about sex.
The following year, we had sex education in school. Frankly, Jay’s “lesson” was just about as meaningful. There we sat, a bunch of prepubescent guys. And our grandmotherly teacher pulled out a ruler and started talking about erections! Embarrassing? Totally. So much so that we tried to ignore the horror by drawing pictures and throwing paper at each other.
I’m sad to say that I learned the most about sex through experimentation. As my body started to change and my sexual desires increased, I let my hormones do the walking. Not having the opportunity to grow up in a Christian home, I’d never heard that you weren’t supposed to have sex until you were married. My parents never talked to me about sex. I think they just hoped I would be smart enough to steer clear. But all my peers were doing it. It seemed like the natural thing to pursue. Now all I had to do was find a willing participant.
By my junior year of high school, I felt fairly confident that I was the only “cool” guy left on campus who hadn’t had sex. I’m sure plenty of you have been there. Until then, I’d always been the life of the party and on the cutting edge of everything. Suddenly, my friends had done something I hadn’t. I thought I was missing out.
With this “problem” on my hands, I turned my attention to a girl I’d met. Sure, I liked her. But more than anything, I wanted to have sex. So, we dated. It didn’t take long for me to convince her that we were in love and that it was time. I basically brainwashed her. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the truth. We had sex one time. This was a pretty defining experience for me. To be perfectly honest, I was disgusted by the whole thing. With myself. With her. I felt as though I had conquered that which I’d set out to conquer. Still, I never felt emptier in my life. The next day, we both went on vacations with our families. Some vacation! I spent the whole trip dwelling on what I’d done. Was she pregnant? What would she expect from me now? What was I thinking? I broke up with her the next time I saw her. (To be continued)
Girls speak out
“Before I wholeheartedly committed my life to Christ at 15, I went though a pretty wild phase for a couple of years. While my parents and teachers still thought of me as ‘the good kid,’ I had headed down an entirely different path – drinking, smoking and kissing boys. I know the last part of this equation sounds kind of funny, but looking back I realize that this ‘phase’ really shaped the way I viewed intimacy. In my mind, it was all just a game, literally! I can remember hanging out with mixed groups, playing round after round of ‘kissing tag.’ The object? To kiss as many guys as you could! At the time, I thought this was fun! Only later did I realize how callous I’d become to the true meaning of intimacy and purity.” – Sarah
Jeremy – Purity redefined: Growing up
Both of my parents came from less-than-ideal backgrounds. Knowing this, you might expect that my childhood had a similar fate. Not the case. When they married 20 years ago, my mom and dad determined to take hold of God’s promises of grace and redemption. They vowed to remain committed to the Lord and to each other. As they grew in their faith and in their marriage, they developed Christlike qualities that laid a strong foundation for the family they would someday have.
When it came to healthy conflict, my mom and dad could have written the book. I don’t have a single memory of them yelling at each other, or at us for that matter. I would be lying to say they always saw eye to eye. Get real. Who does? Nevertheless, when disagreements arose, they talked about it and worked it out.
Needless to say, my growing-up years were really great. Playing basketball with Dad. Music lessons with Mom. And endless hours exploring the outdoors with my younger brother. When I was four, I committed my life to Christ. I know this seems pretty young, but I’m confident that on that day he embraced me as his child. Naturally, as I became older I understood this decision better.
Unlike a lot of guys, I learned the most about sex from my parents. Their basic philosophy was, If he's old enough to ask, then he's old enough to know. Obviously they gauged their answers according to my maturity level at the time. In other words, they never gave me more details than I could handle.
Still, early on I did have a good grasp of the birds and the bees. As you might guess, this knowledge caused some pretty funny moments in my younger years. One Sunday afternoon, at the ripe old age of five, I ran to the door to answer a neighbour lady’s knock. When she asked me where my mom and dad were, I simply explained that they were back in their bedroom making love. Before I knew it, my mom appeared behind me in the doorway – beet red.
In spite of these moments, I’m really thankful that my parents were willing to shoot straight with me on this subject. They set a tone. I knew that I could always get the real scoop on sex from them. I think a lot of parents don’t feel comfortable broaching this subject with their kids. It’s awkward. Embarrassing. But the truth is, if the parents don’t, teens will go find their information from someone else. And that’s a scary thought considering the “information” I was offered by my peers.
My point? It’s so important to find somebody (if not your parents, then another trusted Christian adult) whom you can talk to about sex. Teens aren’t supposed to have all the answers. And innocence is not a bad word. The sad thing is that the world would have you believe it is! TV. Movies. Music. If we follow the messages that these sources send, we will all end up in a huge pile of regret. Don’t fall prey to this trap. Your choices in this arena are far too important for that.
High school was good, and it was bad. For whatever reason, a lot of the kids in my class were into drinking, drugs and messing around – stupid stuff. In an effort to keep myself busy and out of trouble, I became involved in everything. I played basketball, ran track and was in the “Youth Against Drug Abuse” club. I was also in a jazz band. I guess I was what you’d call your classic perfectionist. My first B crushed me. I never measured up to my own standards. By the end of my freshman year, I was convinced that the only one in this world who liked me was my dog, and even that was questionable at moments.
To top it off, I was dating a girl who occupied every ounce of the “free time” I had – which wasn’t much. She was extremely possessive and very jealous. She got mad when I talked to other girls. She hated most of my friends. Not exactly what I’d call a great friendship. Ironically, the more dysfunctional the relationship became, the more physical we got. We never actually had sex. Still, I’m not proud of what we did do.
If you haven’t guessed, I just told you the “bad” parts of high school. Not surprisingly, at the end of my freshman year, I snapped! Looking back, I can see why. I was trying to find significance in everything but God. Good grades. Athletic performance. A girlfriend. You name it, I tried it. You can see where that got me. Thankfully, God picked me up and placed me on a different path. But not before I explored a few more avenues of my own. (To be continued)
Girls speak out
“Honestly . . . for a long time I didn’t even feel the effects of having sex. I didn't have those emotions of regret and guilt right away – I just didn't. But they did eventually creep in. I started to understand that sin has hard consequences. Some of these effects play out in how my ex and I relate to one another now. We’re still in the same town, so inevitably we bump into each other. If I’m lucky, he’ll greet me with, ‘What's up?’ It hurts my heart so bad to think that we went from being as intense and intimate as two can possibly be to a ‘what’s up’ and a high-five. It tears me up inside. He has another girlfriend now. I can't help wondering what she knows. Does she know about me? Has she heard about our sexual relationship? Are they doing what we did? And to think there was a point at which I thought I was going to marry this guy!” – Jana
Let’s pick up where we left off with Nate . . .
Months down the road, I met another girl. This one was different. She consumed my heart. She was amazing! Not long into our dating relationship, we were tagged the “Ken and Barbie” couple of our high school. I felt at home with her. I loved her. I tried to honour and serve her. I tried to do all the things my heart said to do. The trouble was, I didn’t have any solid standard (a faith in Jesus Christ) to work from. Instead, I relied on the two “guiding principles” I knew – my emotions and my peers.
When it came to sex, my peers were all doing it, and my emotions weren’t about to argue! My girlfriend and I had both had sex with one other person before but felt that it would be different between us. A year and a half into our relationship, we decided to go all the way. You know, it’s ironic. The Bible talks about the law of the Lord being written on the hearts of man. Although I wasn’t a believer at the time, I knew that what we were doing was wrong. For starters, we were consumed by the possibility of her becoming pregnant. This fear haunted us every day of our lives. We knew that we couldn’t deal with that consequence, but still, we continued to be sexually active.
Then, for reasons beyond my understanding at the time, the light came on. It happened one summer night. I had planned a romantic escapade for my girlfriend and me. Her parents’ house (parents not included). Filet mignon. Lobster tails. Jacuzzi. Flowers. The whole bit. Naturally, the night ended up in her folks’ bed. It was perfect, and it was perfectly wrong. I’d felt this way before, but never this strongly. It was horrible! It was the most intimate moment of my life but played out in the wrong context. It was God’s gift – perverted. For the next four and a half years, not a day went by without my being haunted by vivid images of having sex with her that night. I’m still haunted by those memories fairly regularly. That was the last night I ever had sex. Not long after, I broke off the relationship.
The turning point
That fall, I left for college. I’d grown more and more hungry for truth, but I still didn’t know where to turn. So, I headed to the Greek system. I thought I’d find excitement. Brotherhood. Meaning for my life. And surprisingly, I did!
It was there that I met Hannah. She was different from any other girl I’d ever met. I often spotted her in the front row of the dance parties at 4 in the morning. But she was different. She was right there in the midst of it all, but not really. She didn’t swear. She didn’t talk about other people. She didn’t sleep around. There was something unique and beautiful about this girl. The more I got to know her, the more I’d hear her talk about God in a very real and personal way. She’d talk about praying for people. God was part of her everyday conversation. Honestly, that kind of scared me. I’d never heard about God outside of Sunday morning church.
Still, I believed her. I trusted her heart. I could relate to her in so many ways. Our personalities were similar. She had the same passion for friendship and fun. But she also had a peace that I could not comprehend. So I set out to find some answers. I’d stop by her room almost every night for about 10 minutes. I’d tell her about my day and ask her about hers. Finally, at the end of our freshman year, she had a chance to tell me her story and share her faith with me. That night, I invited Christ to be Lord of my life. For so long, I’d been searching. Finally I’d found what I was looking for. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ!
You know, once the experience of sex is made a reality, it becomes a stronghold for Satan. Even now, I continue to fight reappearing images from my sexual relationships in high school. Guys are so visual! These scenes become imprinted in our minds – and they are nearly impossible to shake. Satan has an amazing way of paralyzing us with guilt and shame.
The journey back from committing deep sin is a hard one. I longed for someone to come alongside of me and say, “I’ve been there, and I know how you are feeling. God loves you – and forgives all sin. That’s why he came – for the broken, not the whole.” Hannah did that for me through introducing me to Jesus and his amazing grace.
As I grew in my faith, I learned a lot about forgiveness. First, through receiving his forgiveness for the things I’d done, and then through seeking out those people I’d hurt. Three years after I’d slept with that first girl, I called her up and asked if we could meet and talk. I asked her what had been going on in her heart since we last saw each other. And she told me, straight up, that my actions and my irresponsibility had scarred her deeply. Because of me, she knew that there were creeps out there who would take advantage of her. As hard as it was, I needed to hear that. I needed to ask for her forgiveness. It was critical for me to allow God to redeem that. It is so freeing to not carry that burden around anymore.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Through all of my challenges, I’ve learned that God never intended for us to give our hearts to more than one person. I know that might sound radical, but think about it! Sure, the world tells us that our physical relationships are a casual thing. It tells us that kissing is harmless fun. And emotional ties are expendable. But that is a lie. If we choose to buy into this philosophy, we are playing Russian roulette with our hearts! And that is no laughing matter.
Since I started putting God first, he has done some amazing things in my life. For starters, he has drawn my entire family (including my dad) into his loving arms! He’s also put a wonderful young woman in my life. The most defining thing about our friendship is that we both love the Lord, and we’re both running toward the Cross. The only commitment we have is to God. There are four realms within our relationship that we talk a lot about. Emotional. Spiritual. Intellectual. And physical. It’s critical to keep these in balance. We have to constantly ask ourselves and each other whether these four areas are in check with this season of our relationship.
The first time I ever went out with my high school girlfriend, we sat on the couch and talked until 3:30 in the morning. We looked eye to eye and never even thought about kissing. It was amazing! When I finally went home, my heart just wouldn’t stop pounding. The last couple nights of this relationship, we spent the entire night on the couch – fooling around. We didn’t talk at all. Our relationship had obviously changed. We were out of balance. Our physical relationship had taken centre stage, leaving little or no room for the other three dimensions. And the results were nothing short of tragic.
I have learned a ton from my earlier mistakes, and so has the girl I’m in relationship with now. We’ve chosen to stay away from the pressures and expectations the world puts on couples. We’ve chosen to abstain completely from physical intimacy. Am I crazy? I don’t think so. It’s just that simple. So how does this translate into my present friendship? I’ve resolved that I am in no position to ask her to commit anything to me until I feel God is leading me to say, I commit my life to you. I will be there through sickness and health. I will never leave or forsake you, so help me God. Will you be my bride? I look forward to that day with great expectation.
Girls speak out
“While I know that I've experienced God’s grace and his forgiveness in my life, the emotional consequences of my decision to have sex are tough – just knowing that when I get married, I won't be a virgin. Probably the hardest thing to swallow is the thought of having sex with my future spouse. I realize this may sound a little bit weird, but I have a lot of fears surrounding that. What if he notices that I know how to do something I wouldn't have known how to do otherwise? How will that make him feel? What if I compare him? Or what if he feels like he is being compared? That kind of stuff just kills me.” – Jana
What about Jeremy? – Behind closed doors
With my freshman year behind me, things really started looking up. I broke up with my possessive girlfriend. I stopped trying to gain significance through my accomplishments, and I sought out a great group of friends. For the most part, the people I hung out with weren’t sleeping around. That’s not to say that there was never any pressure, but it does make it a lot easier to remain pure when your friends are committed to abstinence. Frankly, I wasn’t afraid to tell people that I was a virgin. Sure, sometimes guys made fun of me. I didn’t have all those “conquests” they lied about in the locker room. But that was okay by me.
Still, that’s not the whole story. Toward the end of high school I was introduced to pornography. As a Christian, I thought I knew everything there was to know about sexual abstinence and purity. I was so wrong. It began with a curiosity I never should have explored. My brother got into it before I did. I saw some of his stuff – nothing hard-core, but it was there. And so, the struggle began. I felt dirty the entire time. Pornography is like a drug. I can’t tell you how many times I told myself I was not going to be tempted by it anymore, only to be drawn back within days. By the grace of God, I’ve beaten this addiction. It wasn’t easy. And it didn’t happen overnight. When I look back on my battle, I’m disgusted and repulsed – but also, I’m forgiven.
Let’s face it, guys are visually stimulated. Pornography is a trap just waiting to latch on to anyone who’s willing to stick one foot in. There are a lot of guys out there who think as long as they stay away from Penthouse, they’re okay. That’s a lie. They are fooling themselves. TV has added a ton of fuel to this already explosive fire. It has saturated our society with false realities about sex. We need to guard ourselves from accepting these messages as normal. We need to be aware of what we’re watching. I’m telling you, pornography will not bring satisfaction. It’s a lie. It is presented as the benefits without the annoyance of the relationship. That’s far from what God ever intended for his children.
I’ve learned a lot from my experiences. We live in a society that rates women on how they look. We have a choice as to whether we’re going to perpetuate this mindset. As Christian men, we have an obligation to stop this mentality. We need to build women up and tell them they’re beautiful – not because of their outside appearances, but because of who God has created them to be on the inside.
For me, hand-holding and kissing is as far as I’ll go outside of marriage. And I don’t even want to go that far for a long time. If I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life with a person, I have no business even doing these things!
In the past, I have definitely crossed this line. And you know what? It’s not what society makes it out to be. Yes, I am a virgin. But only in the literal sense of the word. I’m not proud of that. I will have to carry that reality into my marriage. Yes, I’m forgiven, both by God and those girls. Still, it hurts me deeply to know that I have already experienced some things that were meant to be between one man and one woman only. I’ll tell you what, my mistakes have only further confirmed the need for me to have very strict physical boundaries.
But honestly, without accountability this commitment would be nearly impossible to carry out. It is critical for guys to have an older Christian man in their lives to whom they can take their questions and their life experiences. Someone they can talk openly with. Sexual purity is a big deal. Think about it. Whose input are you going to trust? A Christian man seeking after Jesus? Or the dude you sit next to in algebra? It seems pretty obvious when you put it like that.
The future’s bright!
Along the way, I’ve gained a better grasp on what I desire in a wife. First and foremost, she has to be actively pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ. She also has to have a sense of humour. When I’m done with school, I plan on teaching music, so it would be nice if she likes music. I want someone who is self-assured. Loving. Caring. Nurturing. I need someone who is going to bring out the best in me, and I in turn can do the same for her. I just want her to be beautiful on the inside. Honestly, the outside package is not the primary focus when it comes right down to it. Ultimately, I want to find somebody who shares my Christian world view so that each of us continues to draw closer to God and to each other.
I think my mom put it best when she told me that when she and Dad got married, she liked him. Obviously, she loved him too. But she knew that the world misconstrues love. The world says love is physical attractiveness. Love is intelligence. Love is charisma. Love is performance oriented. No! Love is . . . you have Christ in your life. Love is . . . you have a caring heart. Love is . . . you're wise. Love is . . . you're humble. Sure, you have to dig a little deeper to find these qualities. But that’s the beauty of it!
Girls speak out
“I'm not in a relationship right now, but you can bet that I'll handle things much differently from now on. I will make sure my boyfriend has a very strong conviction about maintaining sexual purity. If someone loves me, truly loves me, he will care enough to keep me pure. That will be top priority. I will look for a guy who takes the initiative in setting this standard from the start. That's so important to me. One of my friends had a great idea. She and her boyfriend sat down together and drew up a list of things they would not do physically. Their ground rules are in place.” – Jana
© 2000 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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