Excerpt from Biblical Sexuality & The 21st Century Rev. Jayson L. Graves, M. MFT
Core wounding and the roots of sexual temptation. These next two sessions are where we’re going to get a little bit more into the waters of the psyche, the way that God created us with a mind, or psychology if you will; the study of the psyche. The study of what God created that we call the soul that sometimes people don’t value in the same way that they’ve value theology; the study of God. I believe that both exist and both are important.
In fact, the Scripture says, Be sanctified body, mind (or soul), and spirit. We need to look at things in a way that honors the way God created us, which is, body, mind and spirit. I wonder if he intentionally put spirit last there. Even though it’s the most important part of us it’s the one that lasts the longest. It lasts forever. The soul, the body for those of us in the church, is the one that tends to get neglected a little bit. Just like people in my profession, psychologists, tend to neglect the other two, the body and the mind. We overvalue the psyche. People in medicine overvalue what? The body. To the neglect of the other two. James 1:13-15, “When tempted no one should say God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire is conceived it gives birth to sin and sin when it is full-grown gives birth to death.”
Temptation is serious. Temptation is something that we ought to be really careful about. Ultimately if we agree with temptation, and if we enter into those serious mistakes then it leads to spiritual death. Are their spiritual roots and spiritual woundings to sexual temptation?
The thing about it though is that of the six different types of root areas usually these are some of the most uncommon. I get that’s counterintuitive because normally we think of this in the body as a spiritual problem when actually a person’s faith, their spirit or their spirituality is one of the strongest assets that they’ve got going for them; at least with my clients. My clients tend to be about 99% conservative Christians. People coming to me might have some roots in this area but it’s really few and far between. The Spirit in the Hebrew is Ruach in the Greek is pneuma. In these places the spiritual roots have to do usually with things like ritual abuse, spiritual oppression, sometimes possession and there so vastly low in prevalence, but yet so high the way we think of them that often times it leads to a person experiencing feeling a lot of feelings of shame.
Satan has great influence over this world. Does he want to hijack our sexuality? Of course. If he can do that he’s got quite a grip. I Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside of his body but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” This gets into a different root area, neurological type roots. Why is a sin or a mistake something that gets into being against your own body when it gets to be of a sexual nature?
When an individual sees something with their eyes it instantly goes to the limbic region of the brain. It processes information to see is this a threat to my survival or not? And if it’s a pleasurable thing, a survival thing or a sexuality thing it kicks off a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that just says gotta have more, gotta have more, gotta have more. It’s a pleasure chemical. If an individual sees a trigger and they let it in and they stare at it and they focus and they give it their attention the system just continually floods itself with dopamine. Then we believe another chemical called norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter, which is associated with memory, says where can you get more of that, ok this is where you can go. You can go online and Google this or that. Then if an individual follows that craving all the way to the end and acts out sexually that’s when the chemical oxytocin is released which is a bonding chemical.
That’s the chemical that mothers produce after they give birth to their children. So think of it … An individual looks at an image online, these chemical reactions are taking place, they act out; oxytocin is released and in a sense at the limbic part of the brain becomes bound to the computer and those images.
Our brain is part of our body. The mistake or the sin is against our own bodies because it affects us at a neurological level in our brain. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? Ring the bell. Feed the dog. Over and over again. After awhile you ring the bell and what happens? The dog starts to salivate. Ringing the bell is the stimulus, feeding the dog is the reinforcement, and the salivation is the conditioned response.
I Thessalonians 5:23, “Be sanctified body (or in your brain), mind, and spirit. That’s why we have to take focus on the body. We have to focus on physical and physiological things having to do with the way we are, the way we’re functioning, and how we’ve been affected by some of these processes.
Let’s look at psychological roots. We just talked about neurological roots… Matthew 13:15 talks about the soul. When we’re talking about the soul here instead of the ruach or the pneuma we’re talking about nephesh – or the psyche. The nephesh in the Hebrew and the psyche in the Greek have to do with that soul. It’s the part of us that makes us the special unique person that we are– our feelings, our emotions, the relationship dynamics on our end that we experience between other people. Also, our likes and dislikes things like that. We can conceptualize it as the heart or the mind. Those words are used synonymously and interchangeably.
Listen to what Scripture has to do with the soul and the picture it paints about it. Then we will look at how those roots get affected. Matthew 13:15, “For this people’s heart has become calloused. They hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes hear with her ears understand with their hearts and turn and I would heal them.” From this last Scripture God wants to heal our heart. Our heart gets affected in myriad ways but God wants to heal that heart. Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Ephesians 4:17-20, “Now I say this and testify in the Lord that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding alienated from the life of God because the ignorance that is in them due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and they give themselves up to sensuality greedy to practice every kind of impurity but that is not the way you learned Christ.” Why would we commit adultery in our heart when we just look at somebody lustfully?
The process emotionally really there’s not much difference. Whether we do it in this way in an imagination or a fantasy way versus if we do it in reality. We get affected in the same and in similar ways. It’s important that we really shepherd our hearts around how we think about sex and how we think about people so as not to objectify them. You’ve heard the saying, As a man thinketh so is he. The way we think in our mind and the way we think in our hearts has effect on us to the point that it can influence us one way or another. Even to the point of hardness of heart. Like any kind of sin mistake we get calloused over time. We become hardened to the things that God meant us to be sensitive towards especially that relationship between him and us and our relationships between others. Our vertical spirituality gets affected—our relationship with God. Our horizontal relationship gets affected.