Question: I struggle greatly with craving female affection and approval, especially romantic and sexual affection. I crave being prized by a woman in those ways. To have that means I am a worthy man. To not have it means I am nothing. I understand that this is idolatry, but I really don’t know how to overcome it at all. How does God’s Word shed light on the lies implicit in this idolatry?
Answer: I’m glad you asked. I think women often can identify with your problem but men struggle with it too. The first step is recognizing your problem and correctly identifying it. So many times we get stuck because we can’t even see that what we are seeking is idolatrous. So you’re on the right track.
In my book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship I say “When we give someone the power to define us, we give them the power to control us.” That said, you have given women the power to define you as worthy or as nothing, depending on how they treat you or whether or not they desire you sexually. The tricky part in all of this is that God has wired us to desire to be desired and wanted by the opposite sex. If we had no desire in this area, there would be no marriage or no children. When God told Adam that it is not good to be alone, he created Eve as a partner, to help him, to encourage him and be his lifelong companion.
That said, your problem goes deeper than a desire for connection. In fact, you didn’t state it but you very well may be married. There are those who are married who still crave attention, affirmation and approval from the opposite sex. He or she feels insecure as a person and continually looks to external markers (in your case women) to prove or validate personal worth.
Your question is how does God’s word shed light on this idolatry? The answer is two-fold, putting off and putting on (Ephesians 4). I’m sure your familiar with Paul’s writing since you’re articulate in the themes of idolatry but your internal orientation (identity) is people centered (specifically female centered) instead of God centered. Although intellectually you know you are valued and loved by God that feels insufficient to your internal identity and well-being. You’re feeling self NEEDS a female voice, a woman’s touch, her approval to say you’re OK. Your craving is driven by an anxious need to confirm your maleness and your worth. Paul says, “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.”
What is the deception, the lies that you may need to put off? “I’m nothing if I’m not desired by a woman.” “I NEED to have a woman want me in order to feel OK.” “I’m afraid to be alone.” “I’m worthless without someone loving me and affirming me.”
Scripture is rich with the themes of God’s passionate love for his creation and his pursuit of us. I think some reading in Jeremiah would be helpful, especially the first 10 chapters. The Israelites abandoned the one and true God for lies, for worthless idols, broken cisterns, false gods. They believe these other gods will satisfy, but they never do. Think about it, does the embrace of a woman ever erase the deep inner emptiness that you struggle with or does it merely sooth the top layer? Even when you’re with someone who is affirming you in one moment, the next moment you’re anxious whether or not it will last.
So how does one put off deception and put on truth? How does one break free from those inner lies that have such deep roots and renew his or her mind with the truth so that we actually feel different inside?
Identity is formed and forged in relationship. Therefore you need to spend time in God’s Presence. His words are healing but only when we take them in and believe them. Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent forth his word and healed them.” This doesn’t merely mean studying scripture and memorizing versus that tell you God loves you. It means that The Word that became flesh, (Jesus) as John tells us in John 1, becomes more real to you and that his Presence and his words sink deep in your inner being and change you.
There was a woman in scripture who had a similar problem as you do. Read about her in John 4. She had 5 husbands and was currently living with a man who she wasn’t married to. She was a woman who craved male attention. Jesus offered her something that would truly satisfy her craving. He called it living water. In this single encounter with The WORD, this woman was transformed. She no longer was just an immoral, Samaritan woman. She knew she was a deeply loved woman. Her identity changed and we see evidence of this when she ran back into her town, telling the people about her experience and they actually believed her. They must have seen the change in her.
For most of us, this process takes longer than a single encounter. We need to learn to practice his presence and Satan does everything he can to keep us out of the presence. I’d encourage you to seek out some personal counseling with a godly counselor that can help you take these next steps.