Daniel Dowling shares the biggest challenge in his formation as a man, and how he conquered it.
A man is defined not by what he takes from a woman, but by what he gives.
The main struggle of being a man has always been the becoming. During my formation as a youth, I had the idea that men were measured by what they took from women; it was part of the culture. Junior high and high school weren’t about preparing for a lifelong love, but about seeing how much a guy could get away with.
My friends and I got away with a lot, but we lost a whole lot more.
I didn’t know that you can’t take from a woman without taking from yourself, or that a man only has what he gives. So I chased pleasure in the beauty of women, and I delayed my manhood.
A man is characterized by the life giving qualities he brings to his community; by virtue. The key that unlocks our greatest potential as men is a desire to serve and to make sacrifices for the ones we love. That desire is preprogrammed into every human being, but is often short-circuited by social standards.
The first response we have when struck by beauty is to make gifts for the ones we admire. Men who court women take any opportunity they can to make their lover’s day brighter, and to share whatever they can. Women do the same in displays of affection and thoughtfulness. But something is interfering with our innate desire to give freely to the ones we love: it’s wrecking our relationships, and it’s preventing guys from becoming men.
This same thing almost stole my manhood for good.
How porn impacted me
I discovered porn in the 5th grade. From the moment I found it, I couldn’t go a day without sneaking around to get more. It was like a drug to me, and the high got me hooked. But the most profound likeness to a drug is this: for all the pleasure I got out of porn, I hurt myself so much more.
Every time I watched porn, I rewrote over my natural program to give. My young mind needed the instruction to look deeper into the needs of others, and to channel my sexual desire in ways that benefited my future wife, my community, and myself. But instead of learning to become a man through what I gave, I became addicted to what I could take. And I ingrained that toxic habit in a daily ritual.
We become what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. —Aristotle
When I watched porn I was over the moon, but I had to stab myself in the heart to get there. You might think that is an exaggeration, but my heart would actually have physical pain when watching porn. To me, the results of porn use were nothing short of devastating.
Because I was influenced by the drive to take, take, take, I struggled with giving in a relationship. Every new fling left me with less than I started with because I looked to satisfy myself first, and at any cost. Love became meaningless to me. Since today’s standards of romance are so low, I was labeled as a hopeless romantic. But I wasn’t a hopeless romantic; I was a guy who was inhibited from loving selflessly and courageously. Porn makes a difference.
The many talents I was blessed with remained dormant as long as I looked for pleasure in what I could take. Not coincidentally, my talents bloomed when I gave up porn; when I took seriously the responsibility of loving like a man.
After several failed relationships and years of aching for purpose, I decided to look deeper into the becoming part of manhood. I also looked into why men were being so rapidly outmoded in society, because I felt the two issues were related.
During my search it occurred to me that everything in life has life-supporting functions. Women’s functions can’t be argued, because they bear life. (And pretty much do everything, let’s be honest.) They naturally make sacrifices to be part of the life cycle; every menstruation is like a miniature child-birth, which can be intensely painful. Try talking to a woman about her struggles sometime. Just physically being a woman can be a big challenge for many.
It takes sacrifice to grow into womanhood no matter how you cut it, and in their sacrifices, women unveil their ability to give and add to life. In their trials, women are called to think of the life that will one day be inside of them.
This led me to question: What sacrifices was I making to play my part in community? How can I look outside of myself and to the needs of others? What trials were males skipping out on that made us obsolete? (We’ve actually been taken out of college textbook definitions for “family,” FYI.)
All the questions led me to the same answer:
Heterosexual men are naturally and intensely attracted to the opposite sex. Every guy has a level of sexual desire regardless of orientation, but what makes the guy a man is how he acts on it. Men are made by giving and growing through their sexual desire. And most guys are content to use sexual desire for personal profit.
As a younger person I inverted my sexual desire through pornography. Instead of responding to my natural attraction with creativity and courage, I programmed my mind to see what and how much I could take for myself. I became weak, mentally and emotionally. I missed so many opportunities to serve others through my talents; I missed the sacrifices that go into making a man.
My life began when I gave up porn
As the puzzle pieces locked into place, I saw the missing ingredient of giving in manhood. When I made the connections and started my journey of becoming, I was finally able to express the talents that had been subdued by a take-first lifestyle. I discovered my career in helping others to improve their lives through my talents, which made any passing pleasure of porn seem like a candle against the sun.
If life is all about how we look at it, then how could the take-first perspective of porn serve our greatest good? How can we build the unconditional love required in marriage if our first condition is the pleasure we get from someone? And how can we escape that condition if we condition ourselves with pornography?
I, for one, could not escape the conditioning of porn; so I opted for a better way. I knew I wasn’t going to go through the pain of menstruation and ovulation, so I looked for the challenges that would help me to give like a man. And letting go of porn was first on the list.
After I conquered that first obstacle, I adopted a give-first attitude that progressed with time, intention, and effort. I began to see women as the beautiful creatures they are, who are infinitely worthy of respect and cherishing. I changed my thoughts from, “What can I get?” to “What can I give, how can I grow, and where can I help?”
And on those thoughts I built a man I can proudly and confidently share with my community. I also built a career where I help men and women build strong families and lasting love. My life today is a constant challenge to improve myself and enhance the lives of others along the way. It’s also 10,000 times better now that I’ve given up porn and accepted my role as a man.
- What could you be doing with your sexual desire?
- Are you using it to share your gifts freely towards a more prosperous and peaceful world?
- Are you growing as a person through it? Are you inspired to love more unconditionally through it?
- Is your response to sexual desire emphasizing your manhood, or is detracting from it?
- Is your response to sexual desire building a lifetime of love with your spouse? Is it creating a world where women are deeply respected and cherished?
These are big and challenging questions, I understand. But learning how to love like a man is the biggest challenge we face. Will you accept it?
First published at Dowlingwriter.com