“What took so long?” my wife asked.
I squirmed as I thought about how I’d answer her question.
Normally I’d run outside, turn on the sprinkler system, and be back inside in less than a minute. But as I mentioned in the last chapter, on that particular Friday night I got sidetracked by something I saw through a neighbor’s window.
“I wasn’t gone that long,” I answered defensively.
“Bill, what took you so long?” she persisted.
“I saw a naked woman,” I whispered. I figured that if I answered her softly, she might not hear me.
“What do you mean, you saw a naked woman?” she asked in a loud voice — much louder than mine had been.
“You know,” I said. “I saw a naked woman while I was standing at the fence looking through our neighbor’s window.”
“What were you doing looking through our neighbor’s window in the middle of the night?”
I explained that my voyeurism wasn’t premeditated. “I saw the light on in their house and wondered what they were doing,” I said.
I liked seeing that woman. In fact, before I drifted off to sleep I realized I liked it a lot. I liked it so much it scared me, because I knew I’d be tempted to look again. And the last thing I wanted to do was tell the guys in my small group.
Every Saturday morning I would get together with three other men. We met to encourage and challenge each other as husbands, fathers, and followers of Christ. These guys were the spiritual leaders of the church. They were the men others looked to as role models. The last thing I wanted to do was admit to them what I had done. But I knew that the best way to deal with temptation is to get it out in the open. I decided that telling them was the best chance I had of cutting off this problem before it got out of control.
That decision led to a bigger surprise than the one I received while gazing through my neighbor’s window. At our next meeting, the three men looked at each other nervously after I shared my story with them. One of them shifted in his chair, cleared his throat, and said, “I know how you feel. I’ve been watching my neighbors for almost two years! From the second floor of our house, I can look right into their bedroom.”
No sooner had he finished talking than a second man said, “I’ve been watching my neighbor for a year. She’s a single woman in her mid-twenties and cleans her house in the nude. Because our houses are close together, I have a clear view of her at night.”
Both of these men said they had repeatedly promised themselves they would never look again, but they couldn’t resist the temptation. I wondered if the same thing would happen to me. Not wanting to take any chances, I did something to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. And my friends followed my lead. In chapter 11 I’ll tell you what we did to protect ourselves and our neighbors’ privacy.
As I left that meeting, I realized in a fresh way that there’s a dangerous side to the magnetic appeal of a woman’s body, a side that has the power to enslave a man, the power to make him do things that violate everything he believes to be right and good, the power to destroy him and those he loves.
The Dark Side
You’ve probably noticed that often the most attractive women are those you can’t or shouldn’t have. If so, you realize something about yourself that’s true of all men. Namely, we’re all fascinated by things that are off-limits. I know I am. Early in my life, I noticed that often the things I shouldn’t do looked better to me than the things I should do.
I remember being told not to eat candy before dinner. But candy always tasted better than dinner. And hot dogs always tasted better than broccoli.
Once I found a copy of Playboy magazine. I was fascinated by the pictures. My parents told me I wasn’t supposed to look at pictures of naked women. But I thought the undressed women I saw in Playboy looked better than fully dressed women.
When I started driving, the law told me to drive within the posted speed limit always. But going fast was more fun than going slow.
I wish I could say everything has turned around for me as an adult. A while back my doctor told me my cholesterol is in the high-risk range. As I left his office, he handed me a list of foods I’m not supposed to eat. Did the list give me permission to eat ice cream and chocolate cake? No way! Most of the foods I love to eat are off-limits. And my doctor’s recommended diet tastes like Styrofoam and water.
As an avid sports fan, I enjoy reading Sports Illustrated. When the annual swimsuit edition comes out, I don’t look at the cover and say, “What a dog.” As beautiful as my wife is, I still find other women appealing. In fact, they’re often more appealing to me than Cindy.
The first time I shared this secret with my wife, she was hurt, although deep down I think she already knew. Cindy feared she had lost her appeal — as though my being attracted to other women was somehow her fault.
“It’s not just me!” I assured her. “All men are that way. Look at the rich and famous men who marry a Hollywood star only to tire of her beauty in a few years, toss her aside, and then marry another, younger one.” I told Cindy that my being attracted to other women didn’t mean I wasn’t capable of having her be the most appealing woman to me. But keeping her in the number one spot would require both understanding and discipline: understanding of myself and why other women often look better to me, and discipline to make choices that will focus my sexual energies on my wife.
From When Good Men are Tempted, Copyright © 2005 by William Perkins and published by Zondervan. Used with permission.
Bill Perkins has served as senior pastor at several churches. He is the president and founder of the Million Mighty Men and the author of several books, including When Good Men Are Tempted. He is also a contributor to The Leadership Bible. Bill and his wife, Cindy, live in West Linn, Oregon.