Susannah: a confession

#pornfree is going well (though the real test will be how I recover from a fall). That leaves one last bad habit to confront: looking.

Going back to the office after a long time WFH is a good time to break bad habits, and this is a good bad habit to break.

I have nicknames for a few of the women in the building — Clip-clop, Slinky, Pneumatic, … — I keep an eye out for them, entertain daydreams and fantasies. The woman in the office next door, my nickname for her is just Slut. Her presence is the strongest trigger — her voice, her footsteps, the sight of her waddling along the corridor, the sound of her car arriving — can flip me into a sudden overpowering hunger.

The David and Bathsheba story is not really useful here, in fact it’s rather gratifying to the voyeur: David gets to do what he wants to the girl, and she doesn’t have a speaking part (iirc) so remains an object of desire to be used as desired.

Slut’s real name is Susan. I looked to see if there were any Susan’s in the Bible, and found the “deuterocanonical” Daniel 13. I read it, transfixed and horrified, as if under a spotlight, feeling as if the story had been written directly about me.

9 And they perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments. 10 Both were overwhelmed with passion for her, but they did not tell each other of their distress, 11 for they were ashamed to reveal their lustful desire to have her. 12 And they watched eagerly, day after day, to see her.

I want to use this story as a memory aid, a “reverse trigger”.

The men ambush Susannah when she is alone, and threaten to accuse her of adultery if she doesn’t let them “lie with” her. Susannah refuses and calls for help (“it is better for me not to do it and to fall into your power than to sin before the Lord.”), she is accused and condemned. The young Daniel intervenes and cross-examines the men, and they are exposed, humiliated, and executed.

Unlike Bathsheba, Susannah is a strong and memorable character in the story — stronger and more central (her steadfastness and faith) than Daniel really, though the happy ending is important.

The men are repugnant and weak, each acting as a tempting devil for the other. In cross-examination, Daniel describes each of the men as being cut or sawn in two. That is the experience of being overcome with a repulsive desire.

Two strong images to hold on to and use are:

  • the men being sawn in two by their weakness and their desire:
    “this repulsive desire that cuts me in two”
  • the root cause of the men’s sin, their failure to look to Heaven:
    “Let Me Look To Heaven” LML2H

Have the second pinned to the wall somewhere visible in my office. Be ready to use them both.

Lent: Repent, “Turn Away”

Repent

Until yesterday I had always thought of repentance as contrition, in the sense of feeling bad about my sins, bemoaning all the bad things I had done. I had thought of it as entirely oriented on the past.

Reading about Lent I learnt that repentance had another, future-oriented, sense.

In the Wikipedia entry on repentance:

Generally in the Old Testament the term repentance comes from the Hebrew word group that means “turn away from.”[3]:1007 Sometimes this word group is employed to request a turning from sinful activity (Jeremiah 8:6). In the New Testament the μετανοέω/metanoeo word group can mean remorse but is generally translated as a turning away from sin (Matthew 3:2).[3]:1007

[3] T.C. Mitchell, ‘Repentance’ New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996): 1007–8.

And in my Oxford Companion to the Bible:

The phrase “turn away from” really hit me.

For one thing, it means the Bad Thing is already in front of me. It doesn’t mean, “don’t do X” or “you used to do X, in future you mustn’t”. It means something more like, “you are doing X now — stop it!” or “you are about to do X — take a detour!” It seems very immediate. It also seems to say, “it’s not too late.” It seems perfect for when temptation comes and finds me.

The physicality of the phrase also — almost shocked me. Physically turn away from what I am doing, from what I am looking at.

Me

I read the Wikipedia entry on my phone on the bus into town and was quite disturbed by the phrase “turn away from” and everything it was stirring up inside me.

The bus stopped and a babe in leggings walked past me to get off. Without thinking my eyes went to her behind. The phrase was there, “turn away”. Again without thinking I found myself looking out the window.

In town my bad habit of eyeing up women was confronted again and again with this phrase. If my gaze had latched on to some woman in front of me it would lift my gaze away. It even seemed to work pre-emptively: if I sensed a temptation in the corner of my visual field, this phrase would find me something to look at in the other direction. Writing in the cafe I would sit and write. Walking along the street I would look where I was going and think about what I was doing.

I was in town today again. Both days the phrase was with me, helping me.

So “Turn Away” is my Word For Lent. I am going to hold on to it tightly, and it is going to help me “give up” eyeing up women.

Why do I want to write about all this cringe-worthy stuff here?

  • Wrestling with these issues is the whole point of the blog and of this online persona.
  • Taking the time and care to write up these experiences and decisions (hopes), makes them firmer in my mind.
  • If any “fellow sufferers” pass by and read, it might help them.
  • Words of support and encouragement are always welcome of course :) anytime :)
  • Words of admonition and correction are also always welcome. I want to learn, I can take criticism and new ideas, and if necessary, I can disagree in a respectful and friendly way.
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