Monday, February 03, 2020

Anonymous Asks (78)

“Is what I feel love or lust?”

That’s a very binary question. There are a few other possibilities worth exploring.

Some people enter into a relationship looking for neither love nor lust. I know of several women who, in their mid-thirties, settled for a man they neither loved nor lusted after primarily because they wanted children and didn’t want to raise them alone. Mostly, they felt out of time and out of other options.

Not ideal, but those are definitely real feelings. And there are lots more.

Bad Reasons to Relate

Some people get into relationships because of strong cultural or family expectations placed on them by others. It’s easier to go along with the program than fight city hall. They are feeling dutiful, or maybe intimidated.

Some people get into relationships because they can’t stand being alone. They are feeling needy.

Some people get into relationships because all their peers are doing it and they don’t want to be left out. There’s nothing worse than being the lone singleton in what used to be a pack. What feeling is that? You tell me.

Some people start relationships with no strong sense of either love or lust, but stay involved because nothing better has come along. They are feeling protective of a long-term investment.

Keeping all that in mind, the distinction between love and lust is still a question worthy of consideration. I am going to use the word “lust” as simply synonymous with sexual desire, though I know others occasionally use it in a pejorative sense, referring to the baser sexual impulses. In a perfect world, one lusts after one’s wife (or husband, as the case may be). They are both the object of your love and the object of your desire.

Yeah, okay, that’s rarer than it should be.

Only Lust Can Break Your Heart

Also, I’m not sure it’s a problem to lust after your intended, always assuming the interest is reciprocated. The Song of Solomon certainly implies strong feelings may be perfectly legitimate while courting. That’s feelings, of course, not premature acting out.

Maybe we could rephrase the question as “Is what I feel ONLY lust?” If it is, that would be a problem. Unmoderated by Christian love, lust is indeed a potential source of serious sin and occasionally dire consequences. Ask Amnon. Or Shechem. And if it’s a problem, then we should probably try to suggest how we might distinguish the lust-only state from the condition of loving someone while deeply desiring them, which is an entirely reasonable place to be, if a tad uncomfortable at times.

This is why people get married, folks.

So how do we tell the two states apart? Well, perhaps it is trite to turn to 1 Corinthians 13, but here we go anyway ...

Love and Lust

Love is patient. Lust needs to be satiated. Right. Now. Preferably yesterday.

Love is kind. It wants to make your life better. Lust is all about me. For the person consumed by nothing but lust, kindness is only a tool to get me what I want, not a way of sharing the love of God with others.

Love does not envy. Lust has no problem with it. It goes anywhere, can be attracted by almost anything, and is no respecter of legitimate barriers.

Love does not boast. Lust can’t wait to tell everyone about my latest conquest. Alternatively, lust cannot wait to despise its object once he or she gives in. Thing is, you can’t know which until the whole thing plays out. That’s a great reason not to let it play out.

Love is not arrogant or rude. Lust? Both, potentially.

Love does not insist on its own way. Lust can’t think of anything else but its own way. What its object desires is a non-issue.

Love is not irritable or resentful. It trusts God to bring to consummation those unions God has blessed. Lust chafes at every setback, huffs at every delay, and blisters at the most legitimate intrusion on its agenda.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing. Lust doesn’t necessarily recognize moral limitations and strictures.

Love rejoices with the truth. Lust rejoices with success.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Lust? Well, this “all” business sounds like a little too much work ...

Love never ends. Lust burns out in short order. Lust is no long-distance runner. It is a sprinter, and sometimes a dilettante.

Be Intoxicated

By all means, bring your desire into your marriage. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. “Be intoxicated always in her love.” Intense desire moderated and controlled by Christian love is an ideal state to be in.

Intense desire unchecked? Not so much.


  1. You are now entering the realm of psychoanalysis and the question is (of anyone doing so) - what are your qualifications (and really also - what are your motives?).

    With regard to motives it is OK, and even preferable, to introduce a Christian perspective to this topic since that is thoroughly guided by values.

    With regard to qualifications it takes appropriate attidudes and thinking skills to work through the contemporary muddle of this topic.

    If you belief in a caring (Christian God) creator then, looking around you at the problems that lust creates, you might wonder was it really necessary to arrange things this way? A way were addiction of all types works on the same centers that are intended for assuring the continuation of the species? What is meant by that, intended by that, what is the purpose of doing it that way? After all, it just means more work for God to cut through all that muddle and find and evaluate the remnants worth saving in us. The purpose might simply be similar to doing strength training which builds character. It is the old "I am setting fire and water before you" make your choice (because in the long run your choices will define you and make it clear to God and to all who you are (who you have allowed yourself to become)). Note that the important fact is to remember that God is not interested in your choosing a trajectory that leads to perdition but in you choosing to come to rely on his fatherly care, compassion and therefore intervention.

  2. Well, not so much with the psychoanalysis. I'm simply listing motives people have either told me or that I've read about. There are also situations in which a combination of motives are at work.