Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Get My Mind off the Opposite Sex?
‘DAY after day, the media chips away at teenagers’ moral fiber with taunts and teases about sex; rock songs screech in their ears about sexual relationships; a barrage of best-selling romance novels wrap sexual reality in fantasies sweet enough to swallow like candy.’ So said writer Lesley Jane Nonkin. Yes, as a teenager, you are bombarded with encouragement from the media to think about the opposite sex.
Of course, it is normal to have some interest in the opposite sex.* But when romantic thoughts, daydreams, and fantasies so dominate your thoughts that they interfere with your sleep, prayers, homework, Bible reading, or household chores, then it indicates that the situation has been dangerous for some time. Indeed, such an unhealthy preoccupation could lead to wrong conduct.—James 1:14, 15.
Not that you should stop noticing that girls—or boys—exist. But as Proverbs 23:12 says, you need to “bring your heart to discipline.” No, there is no easy solution, no magic pill to help you do this. With effort, though, you can bring your thinking more into balance. Let’s look at a few practical ways you can do this.
Watch the Company You Keep
Take a close look at the company you keep. Admits one young man: “Everybody around you talks about sexual immorality as if it were as normal as going out to eat.” Can constant exposure to such talk affect you? Undoubtedly. According to one survey of youths, three quarters admitted that “being like (or unlike) the crowd governs their attitudes toward sex.”
What about your friends? Does every conversation lapse into an intense discussion about someone of the opposite sex? Does such talk tend to get out of hand and become lewd or suggestive? If so, joining in—or simply listening—will make it difficult for you to keep your mind focused on chaste things. The Bible exhorts: “Put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth.”—Colossians 3:8.
It will be hard to apply this counsel, however, if your companions have little appreciation for Bible principles; their attitudes are sure to rub off on you in time. (Proverbs 13:20) Consider the experience of one Christian girl, who said: “I didn’t want to tell the kids in school that I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So they talked freely to me about sex all the time.” Before long she became involved in sexual immorality and got pregnant. Proverbs 9:6 wisely exhorts: “Leave the company of ignorant people, and live. Follow the way of knowledge.” (Today’s English Version) Yes, surround yourself with friends who share your Christian morals and standards, friends who will build you up spiritually—not tear you down.
Of course, even young Christians who generally show a godly attitude may “stumble in word” from time to time. (James 3:2) When that happens and a conversation starts going in the wrong direction, what can you do? The Bible tells us that King Solomon became infatuated with a young shepherd girl. She, however, did not return the romantic interest. When some young companions tried to arouse her feelings for Solomon, she did not allow herself to be bombarded with romantic talk. She spoke up, saying: “I have put you under oath . . . that you try not to awaken or arouse love in me until it feels inclined.” (Song of Solomon 2:7) In a similar way, you may need to speak up when talk gets out of hand. No, you do not necessarily have to lecture your friends. But you might try simply changing the subject, steering the conversation in a more wholesome direction.
Entertainment—The Need to Be Selective
Another area of concern is entertainment. The latest movie, video, or disc may look appealing. However, the Bible reminds us: “Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:16) As mentioned at the outset, much of today’s entertainment is designed to arouse sexual feelings. Popular songs and films, for example, have become increasingly explicit—often pornographic.
How might it affect you to expose yourself to such entertainment? Says writer John Langone: “A number of studies have shown . . . that when we are exposed to erotic material, we tend to talk more about sex. Sometimes, this exposure leads us to try things we wouldn’t ordinarily try.” Yes, ‘setting your mind on the things of the flesh’ will only harm you. (Romans 8:5) It will distort your view of love and sex and fill your mind with unclean fantasies. The Bible’s counsel? “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) So steer clear of films, videos, and discs that stimulate romantic desire.
A single Christian man once gave this bit of practical advice: “Don’t feast on unwholesome things just before going to bed. Many late-night TV shows are quite suggestive.” So are many books. Confesses a young Christian named Sherry: “I used to read romance novels. I would fantasize about sex, dreaming about the high life and bed-hopping.” Her mind full of romantic fantasies, she easily fell into necking and petting with a young man. Problems like that can be avoided if you stick to wholesome reading material—like this journal and its companion, The Watchtower. Such reading has helped many youths to ‘set their minds on the things of the spirit,’ instead of on the fallen flesh.—Romans 8:5.
Get Rid of Those Fantasies!
At times thoughts about the opposite sex may just pop into your mind without warning. Confesses 17-year-old Scott: “There are times when it becomes very difficult for me to keep my mind off sex.” Or perhaps you simply see a good-looking boy or girl. Before you realize it, you find yourself thinking about him or her. But it is one thing to notice that someone is attractive and a different thing entirely to do what Jesus warned against, namely, to ‘keep on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her.’ (Matthew 5:28; compare Proverbs 6:25.) When you are too young to marry, wallowing in tantalizing romantic fantasies can only depress and discourage you.—Compare Proverbs 13:12.
Scott thus says: “What helps me is to change the subject—get my mind off the thoughts that cause me to feel excited. I remind myself that the feelings or urges will go away in time.” (Compare Philippians 4:8.) The apostle Paul said: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave.” (1 Corinthians 9:27) Similarly, you may have to get tough with yourself when thoughts about the opposite sex try to take root. If the thoughts persist, try some physical exercise. “Bodily training is beneficial for a little,” and a brisk walk or a few minutes of calisthenics may be all you need to help you get your mind back on track.—1 Timothy 4:8.
Many youths have also found that “having plenty to do in the work of the Lord” is particularly helpful. (1 Corinthians 15:58) Young Debra put it this way: “I find that the trick is to stay busy until you drop.” Getting thoroughly involved with the Christian congregation and all its activities can do much to help you keep your thinking in balance.
Try as you may, though, it may still be tough at times for you to get your mind off the opposite sex. If so, get some adult support. Perhaps you could talk matters over with one of your parents. Consider what young Carl said: “It has helped me to talk things over with someone older and experienced. The franker the conversation, the better.” Above all, do not overlook the help you can get from your heavenly Father. “When I feel sexual urges coming on,” says one single Christian man, “I really make myself pray.” States the Bible: “Let us, therefore, approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.” (Hebrews 4:16) No, God will not take away your interest in the opposite sex. But with his help, you can discover that there are many other things to think about.
See the article “Young People Ask . . . Why Is It So Hard to Keep My Mind Off The Opposite Sex?” in our July 22, 1994, issue.
[Picture on page 17]
If talk about the opposite sex gets out of hand, have the courage to change the subject