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3 Easy Ways To Know If You Are Looking Or Lusting

by Carl Thomas on January 30th, 2018 in Favorites, Men, Couples

Is looking the same as lusting?

You’d think that the answer that question would be pretty obvious, but I believe more often than not, people get confused when it comes to these two topics (especially Christian people).

Here’s the thing:

You can lust after anything, not just the opposite sex. 

You can lust after money.
You can lust after a car
You can lust after power.

And the list goes on.

The word lust simply means having a passionate or overmastering desire or craving for something. It’s just that, in our culture, we generally connect lust with “sexual lust.”

Looking, however, is a bit different.

I can look at something without having a strong desire for it.
I can even admire something (like a car) without lusting after it.

But because sexual matters are so sensitive, we often have a hard time trying to distinguish the difference between looking and lusting when it comes to those we’re attracted to.

Your spouse probably would have no problem with you saying, “Hey, that new sports car our neighbor got is pretty great-looking.”

However, try saying that same thing about your neighbor’s spouse.
Wow! It’s off to couch city for the next few nights.

But the truth is, looking and lusting are entirely different. The reason we have a hard time recognizing this fact is either because of “religious guilt” or insecurity.

So, for those of you who are constantly asking yourselves, “Am I looking or lusting?” here are 3 ways you can tell:

1) You just can’t look enough.

Hey, she’s good-looking.
I get it.

You didn’t ask to see her; she just ended up crossing your path today.

Looking at her and noticing that fact is not wrong. And it’s not lust.

But how many times do you need to go back to the well for a drink?

Chances are if your head keeps turning like it’s on a swivel, you’re doing more than just “looking.” You are looking for a reason.

And often that reason is lust. You like what you see and you want to see more because there is some strong desire there.

2) You are “coveting” what you see.

Take my earlier example of the neighbor with the “new” good-looking spouse.

Whether you end up on the couch or not, the truth is, you are not lusting after your neighbor’s spouse simply because you acknowledged that they have some visual appeal.

However, if you follow up your look and unwelcomed observation with the thought, “Boy, I wouldn’t mind if that person was my spouse,” then there is a problem.

You now have crossed the line.
You are coveting.

Coveting is an older term we find in the Bible a lot but basically means “to have a strong desire for.” So in this case, since your “strong desire” is for someone other than the person you’re committed to, then it’s safe to say you’ve wandered into the lust territory.

3) It makes your “special areas” all warm and tingly … and you want more.

Now, I know I may catch some heat for this one, but the truth is men are wired very differently than women and respond accordingly.

While women visually process things, men are far more visual, and our biological responses to what we see are practically hard-wired.

If a man sees a woman who’s very attractive (and especially dressed in a provocative nature), he is going to feel some sort of primal response. In other words, his brain is going to let him know it likes what it sees.

Not much we can do about that.

However, it doesn’t have to go any further than that. There are ways to keep that look from drifting into the lust arena (I wrote a post on that HERE).

But, say you feel all warm and fuzzy and decide to let that look linger because you want more of that feeling. Or, after you are done looking, you keep recalling in your mind what you just witnessed and how great it made you feel.

Well, now you officially crossed over into the lust area.

You see, the first situation is a physical and biochemical response. But the continuation is an intentional decision to elicit sexual pleasure from what you’ve seen.

And if what you’ve seen is not your spouse, then it’s time to have a talk with that accountability partner of yours.

Hey, I understand. This topic is a little sensitive.
Especially if you are talking about it with your spouse.

But don’t confuse looking with lusting.
Don’t let religious guilt or insecurities lead you to self-imposed and needless shame.

But at the same time recognize that looking can lead to lusting very quickly if left unchecked. 

So be aware.
Be intentional.
Be accountable.

And seriously, be honest enough to talk about this stuff.



  • Francisco

    Thank you this article made things clear and was helpful. The “Husbands it’s okay to be attracted to images of other women” article was risky for me to read. I was partially hoping to excuse lusting while looking. Thank you for giving some clarification on the difference!

  • Peter

    Hi fellow Men,
    I’ve been Addicted to Porn for close to twenty years (started at early teenage years) and only after being married +2, I’ve made a decision to tell my wife about my long hidden destructive addiction.
    Trust and confidence were lost but I don’t regret this move to come clean.
    Now after 18 months, I stumbled again because I fell asleep on my watch, not using all the filters, I stumbled with “google Images” and realized that I need to take some extreme measures again.
    My biggest fear is to tell my wife that I’ve stumbled with looking at pictures I shouldn’t have watched. I really can’t brake her heart again…
    I know God’s promises for me are true and hold them close as He is the great Healer and the one Who sets us free.
    The feeling of disappointing God again, my wife’s rebuild trust and myself is overwhelming, but I know that the battle field is in our mind.
    Please don’t fall asleep on your watch!
    Please make sure to crown Him daily as “Jesus, the Lord of your life” and know that Purity and Holiness is what God wants for all of us, Men and Women alike.
    Don’t trust your limited strength to stay pure, trust in the one who is really able to keep you away from Porn by the power of His Spirit.
    In Christ Love
    Fellow addict and soldier

    • claire

      Tell your wife. She will appreciate that more than just finding out.

    • Bob Foy

      “I have had lust in my heart”. President Jimmy Carter. Me too.

    • Jessica Gibson

      As a woman who was in your wife’s shoes I can say it will be hard for her to hear and trust again. It’s kinda like going back to square one. That being said I did forgive after my husband stumbled. What helped was him learning from his mistakes and me seeing him putting the effort into beating his addiction. He read books and shared with me what he learned. I would highly recommend “every man’s battle” but I think the heart change came from “finally free” by heath lambert. Both really helped him and me. For her I recommend “the healing choice guidebook” by susan Allen.
      She will need to know she is beautiful to you. She might need space. A 90 day sex fast really helped my husband break his addiction and helped me heal. My husbands willingness to do those things showed me that he valued me and our relationship more than sex. I’ll be praying for you both. God bless.

  • E

    Hello men of god i have struggled with porn for 15 odd years my heart breaks every time i fall again i know that only Jesus can make me pure please pray as this week has been tough after 3-4 months of breakthrough not indulging in porn

    • Bob Foy

      Trust Jesus and He will help you; we all are sinners.

  • Aaron Velazquez Jr.

    Good blog post. Can anyone pray for me? Yesterday, I masturbated. Today, around 1 to 2, and 4 to 5 in the morning, I masturbated twice while watching porn. I am sad because I relapse. I am not addicted to it, but I am afraid I will fall into this again. Thank you for reading comment, and God be with you. Peace. 🙂

    • Bob Foy

      “Those who sin are slaves to sin”, but God is merciful, and never scorns a repentant sinner, love God, for He is good and His mercy endures forever

    • Reidar Vik

      We feel despair when we fall, and the enemy wants us to stay there. What has helped me as a believer is that the work of Jesus can not be undone. I am a child of God. He won’t leave.
      Try to figure out if there’s a pattern. What happened the day before? What was the circumstances?
      Keep your laptop and your phone far from your bedroom (and bathroom?) always.
      Use a blocking app like simple blocker to block sites that you don’t wanna open again.
      Seek the Lord daily with a physical bible in a place without distractions – just some verses to give your mind His thoughts and wisdom.
      There is always hope.

  • claire

    Men tell your wives. Talk to them. Thats better then them finding out because they know in their hearts anyway.

  • CAN

    This article shows up in my email literally 12 hours after some research on my own on this very topic. I feel as if my thought on lust has been skewed as put in this article, due to religious guilt. As a live breathing male I do find myself admiring attractive examples of the opposite sex, I’ve always attributed this to my male biological responses but struggled with it as I always felt I shouldn’t even look at all….. that it was wrong to do so. I have, in the past, used porn to fill a void I’ve had in my own marriage…… fueled by insecurities. Hence why I’m reading it his article. This article has been more than eye opening for me, it helps me feel normal instead of perverted for admiring (as opposed to longing for or coveting) a good looking woman. Now I have a clear idea of what is right and wrong. THANK YOU for this article! God is great…… and I don’t find it surprising this article showed up for me today! He knew I needed it.

  • Jessica Gibson

    My husband says “if you are looking at he in a way you wouldn’t look at your sister, it’s lust.” I can appreciate that my sister is attractive, but I’m not checking her out.

  • Terry Lane


    I have returned to Christ after about a decade of being an atheist.

    Through the power of our Savior and the intercession of the Saints I have conquered my porn addiction.

    I had even competently stopped masturbating for a couple of months.

    However, it seems I have just fallen out of the frying pan and into the fire spiritually. There is a Christian woman I work with and we sometimes talk in my office during lunch. However, last week while we were talking she would sit in a way that showed me more than I ought to see and lusted after her and then masturbated upon coming home because I failed to stop thinking about her.

    I have confessed my sin to Him but I’m wondering what should I do about it. Should I talk to her about it? How? Mentioning something like that could get me in a lot of trouble in this age #MeToo. Should I just not spend any more time with her? Keep in mind she is a Christian and she would not be a stumblingblock on purpose.

    This incident has me reeling. This is not the sort of sin I would have even committed as a porn addicted atheist; I was too busy looking at porn to look at real women. In fact, that was the reason I got into porn in the first place, so I would not lust after real women. Even though I was an atheist and did not care about sinning, I was well aware that lusting after women could potentially lead to hellish legal and economic consequences, and this was before the whole MeToo brouhaha.

    Since returning to Christ I thought I had overcome lust because I had overcome porn (for now). Have any other men had the same problem when quitting porn? If so, how are you dealing with it? I read the article the author linked to and I was able to look away for a couple of minutes but her immodesty became too much for me after that.

    I really want to follow Christ and also keep my employment prospects and stay out of legal jeopardy so I would appreciate any advice.

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