For a while, I’ve been practicing not looking at men. I don’t mean “looking” at them – I mean looooooking at them. I even exchanged my primary crush on the bald beauty of Bruce Willis for the striking stature of the Chrysler Building.
Recently, though, I was with a male friend and commented on how much I respected that I’ve never seen him stare at a woman. Ever. (And yes, he’s completely heterosexual.) “It’s not easy,” he said. “But I set my mind to it and it comes easier with time.” He said he thought it was probably more difficult for him to not let his eyes trail a woman than for me in my efforts with men. So I tried to put myself in his shoes and perform a one-week experiment of not staring at women.
Initially, I thought I mostly looked at women to admire their fashion. I was wrong. Way wrong. On day one, I realized that I would stare at an attractive woman in workout clothes longer than a well-dressed but unattractive woman. I deduced that my purpose in looking at women was actually to assess their value, to judge them as “worthy” or “unworthy” of love. The attractive people were “worthy,” of course. This disgusted me about myself.
I realized that, in my weaker moments, I compared myself to other women. Someone once told me that comparison is a joy-stealer. Not only that, but it ignores the image of God that He has placed in that person.
If it makes me sick to see men leering at a woman, why would I let myself do it? Of course, I don’t offer the pathetic catcall that he does, but I’m still focusing on the same things. Maybe he’s lusting after her, but I’m judging her. It’s causing me to stumble too, just in a different way... I stumble into pride or vanity or self-condemnation.
By the end of the week, it had become much easier not to look. And a funny thing happened—I think I developed a stronger sense of confidence. I always thought I had a pretty healthy self-image, but this trained me in a new way. I even found that I had less of a desire to linger on TV shows or magazines that featured a parade of beauties. I didn’t want to judge myself against their standard or judge them against my own.
I’m doing what I can to kill this thing in me… this monster of self. So I decided to keep it up—not just for that weeklong experiment, but as a general method of operation. In an unexpected way, this new restriction kind of set me free. Weird.