Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Make These Feelings Go Away?
“As offensive as I now find homosexuality, at times I find myself attracted to it. These feelings disturb me, sometimes day and night. I have prayed to Jehovah continually, ‘Take away these terrible feelings!’ Will they ever go away?”—Dennis.*
A NUMBER of Christian youths—male and female—have made similar desperate pleas for help. They feel inclined toward homosexuality but want no part of the promiscuity, disease, and moral bankruptcy that characterize that life-style. More important, they want to please God, and in his Word he pointedly condemns homosexuality.—Romans 1:26, 27; Colossians 1:10.
It is often claimed that homosexuals cannot change. This is not true, however. Some early Christians formerly practiced homosexuality, but they changed. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Yes, contrary to popular myths, people can and do change. However, while a youth may successfully avoid homosexual acts, he or she may find it difficult to eliminate entirely homosexual desire. Confessed one young man: “I’ve tried to change my feelings. I’ve prayed to Jehovah for help. I read the Bible. I’ve heard talks on the subject. But I don’t know where to turn.”
There is no magical or instantaneous cure. Dennis recalls: “I pushed myself into promiscuous heterosexual activity in an effort to become a ‘man.’ All of this was in vain and only created more pain.” Nevertheless, by applying Bible principles, one can cope with such feelings.
Recognizing Wrong Thinking Patterns
First of all, realize that actions are preceded by thoughts. (Isaiah 55:6, 7; James 1:14, 15) Indeed, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer notes: “You cannot have a feeling (emotion) without first having experienced a thought.” So at the root of homosexual desires may be a pattern of distorted thinking regarding oneself, the opposite sex, love, and so forth. Before one can ‘make one’s mind over’ and change such thoughts, one must first identify them. (Romans 12:2) Doing so can give one valuable insight into just why one is drawn to members of the same sex.
How can a person do so? One way is to pray, as did the psalmist: “Search through me, O God, and know my heart. Examine me, and know my disquieting thoughts, and see whether there is in me any painful way.” (Psalm 139:23, 24) It may also help to discuss one’s feelings with a discreet and mature Christian. As Proverbs 27:17 puts it, ‘iron sharpens iron.’ One young man thus confided in a Christian elder who was known for being understanding and compassionate. It was by no means easy for him to trust someone with his secret, but a valuable relationship developed. “I can talk to him about anything,” he says. The elder not only listens but, by skillful questioning, helps draw out the young man’s feelings and thoughts.—Compare Proverbs 20:5.
If a male has had a rejecting father or an abusive one, he may find that his attraction to the same sex is little more than a futile attempt to fill a need for fatherly love. Having never had a male role model, he may also feel what Dr. Joseph Nicolosi calls “a sense of weakness and incompetence with regard to those attributes associated with masculinity, that is, power, assertion, and strength.” If a person takes inventory of the specific traits in which he feels deficient, he may discover to his surprise that these are the very traits that he finds attractive in other men.
Cruel “Lessons” From the Past
Other youths come to realize that their problem is related to past traumas. Recalls one girl: “I was exposed to pornographic material with homosexual themes. I started to develop unnatural desires.” A young man states: “I was a victim of incest by my father. As a result, sex with a man seemed normal to me.” Such painful experiences may teach victims to dislike or even fear the opposite sex or to equate love with physical intimacies. One victim thus describes her sexual desires as “an emotional, not a physical, need—a need for tenderness and understanding.”
Admittedly, though, the causes of homosexuality are complex, and many cases defy simple explanation.* Regardless of what has caused faulty thinking, however, there is much one can do to correct it.
Making One’s Mind Over
The best way is to use God’s Word. Take, for example, a young man who finds himself attracted to men who display the masculine qualities he feels he lacks. Or a young woman who is fearful of the opposite sex. One way that both can develop a healthier view of masculinity is to study the example of Jesus. (1 Peter 2:21) He was a perfect model of masculine power balanced by gentleness. (Matthew 19:14; John 19:5) One young man thus finds it helpful to study the book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.* “Getting to know Jesus redefines my image of what a man should be like,” he says.
Meditating on Bible texts that deal with such subjects as God’s view of sex, love, and same-sex friendships is likewise helpful in correcting one’s thinking.—Genesis 1:27, 28; Ruth 1:16, 17; 1 Samuel 18:1; Proverbs 5:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
It is also important to avoid dwelling on wrong thoughts. Oftentimes these urges are particularly powerful when one is lonely, depressed, or disappointed. (Proverbs 24:10) “The only way to change what we are is to change bad thoughts to good ones,” says one Christian woman. When an unchaste urge comes over her, she reminds herself of God’s view of homosexuality. A teenage boy says: “Whenever I have homosexual urges, I meditate on my favorite Bible text.” (Compare 2 Corinthians 10:4; Philippians 4:8.) Others have found it helpful to fall asleep to the sound of the various Bible-based Watch Tower Society audiocassettes.
Just as how we think affects the way we act, how we act can affect how we think and feel. So one must also cease behavior and association that trigger or reinforce wrong desire. (1 Corinthians 15:33) One may also need to ‘keep on guard’ when it comes to public rest rooms, beaches, locker rooms, and other places that could expose one to temptation.—Psalm 119:9.
Masturbation is another unhealthy practice to avoid. For many homosexual men and women, it is an out-of-control compulsion. “I’ve had trouble with masturbation since I was six years old,” confesses one young man. “Sexual fantasizing reinforced my homosexual feelings.” Fight this unclean habit!*—Colossians 3:5.
On the other hand, it is also important that one establish healthy patterns of behavior. Some have suggested that if a young man develops masculine traits, he may be less attracted to other men. Of course, a young man may not know how to do this if he never had a strong male role model as a child. He may even be ill at ease with his own body and feel awkward or unmanly. Engaging in physical work, moderate exercise, or relaxing sports activities often helps in this regard. (Compare 1 Timothy 4:8.) But just as the young man Timothy became like a son to the apostle Paul, one may find it particularly helpful to develop a healthy understanding with a balanced older Christian man. (Philippians 2:19-22; 2 Timothy 3:10) By establishing clear behavioral boundaries and cultivating open communication, such a relationship can be warm and trusting, yet free of any erotic overtones.
Above all, one must take a strong spiritual offense. Regular study of the Bible, prayer, and sharing one’s faith with others help keep one’s mind on a spiritual track. (Psalm 55:22; 119:11; Romans 10:10) At times feelings of unworthiness may make it hard to be around fellow Christians, but the Bible warns against isolating oneself. (Proverbs 18:1) Wholesome association with Christians of both sexes can help one to stay balanced.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
If you are plagued by homosexual desire, these suggestions may prove helpful. Do not be overly discouraged, though, if the bad feelings persist. God understands your feelings and has compassion for those who struggle to serve him. (1 John 3:19, 20) In the new world, mankind will experience the healing of all the maladies that afflict us. (Revelation 21:3, 4) In the meantime, rely on God and fight against wrong desires. (Galatians 6:9) With time and determined effort, perhaps even the wrong desires themselves can diminish.
(Beginning with our next issue, “Young People Ask . . .” will appear once a month.)
Some of the names have been changed.
See “Young People Ask . . .” in our February 8, 1995, issue.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Chapters 25 and 26 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work (published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.) contain practical suggestions to help a youth overcome this addiction.
[Blurb on page 22]
Develop a healthy view of masculinity by studying Jesus’ example