An Addict's View on Shmiras Einayim
As someone who is 20+ years clean in SA and (as it seems from your writings) has learned how to surrender lust, I wanted to ask you about shmiras einayim in the street, which is something I struggle with a lot. Are you always successful in guarding your eyes on the street? Do you ever catch yourself lusting? If not, what is your mindset that helps you in this regard?
I have good and not as good moments. But I am only very rarely conscious of the concept of 'shmiras einayim'. I believe that as soon as I think about it in that terminology I'd be challenging lust or trying to prove that I am really very good. Those are both dangerous and, I feel, immature for me. An ego trip. Because that's all about me, my holiness and me. And if I think that way, very soon things will go wrong for me.
So instead, I treat it completely secularly, as a very stupid thing for me to get involved with. It has nothing to do with holiness or religiosity, rather, it's just not the portion Hashem has given me and no wishing will change that. Is that a religious matter? I don't see how.
Make sense to you, or still sounds religious or strange in some way to you?
Question – Part 2:
Makes sense. Does this mind-set always work for you?
Dov Replies, Part 2:
It works for a lifetime, it seems. If I ever stray, I pay for it and there's never any escape. But again, the pain resulting from any straying is a secular pain, not a religious one at all. It's that, if I take this lust then I'm going to have to pay for it by letting it go (which is always painful), or else I will temporarily lose my serenity, satisfaction, and connection w Hashem/wife/everyone. Because as soon as I lust, I become a fake. And also because when I lust, I become truly poor. As chazal tell us, כל הנותן עיניו במה שאינו שלו - מה שמבקש אין נותנין לו ומה שבידו נוטלין הימנו - "whoever gazes at that which is not his, he is not given what he wants, and even that which he has they take it away from him". This means that he loses what he's got because he must lose satisfaction in what he already has because it's no longer good enough for him. Guaranteed. And since chazal use the plural "not'lin mimenu (they take away from him)" they mean that it's not a punishment, but rather just a result of human nature and natural law applying to gentile as much as it does to Jew. Appreciation evaporates in the presence of lust. Or as Roy (founder of SA) put it, in the White Book, "Lust kills love." Our loves are too hard to hang on to when we lust. Chazal put it this way: We become truly poor when we lust - not just due to zera levatola leading to loss of parnossa, but rather because of the reversal of "Eizehu ashir? Hasomeyach b'chelko"! No person in the world is as dirt-poor as the luster. (See Maharal hagada shel pesach on 'korban pesach')
So I typically give up lust, b"H. But this isn't religious for it's not a fulfillment of "You shall fear your G-d". And the day that I start to rationalize, "Well, I might as well fulfill that mitzva too, no? Why not do it also out of fear of Hashem??" - will be the day I sign my own death warrant. For I didn't get free from acting-out my lust during all those years I was in active addiction - for the sake of Heaven, did I?
I acted out and played on the Teshuvah merry-go-round for over 20 years because (as I believe Hashem accepts and we all know) the truth is that Fear of Heaven just doesn't mean enough to me, sad to say. The truth is neither good nor bad, it's just the truth. And, ironic as it may seem, I believe it's a matter of avodas Hashem itself, to accept the truth and not to allow myself to slip into religious ego-mode and pretend, "I now fear Hashem enough to finally quit for the right reasons". The Chofetz Chayim zt"l used to quip, "You know, being a fool is also assur."
May Hashem continue to save me from climbing back onto that merry-go-round. Omein.
Make sense to you?
I think it explains what's going on for a frum addict in real life. And it exposes the cost of being an addict in terms of lost religious ego-satisfaction. I don't think it's a tragedy, mind you, because look at our life now! It's far better than anything I'd ever have wished for, all told.
So, if a frum yid doesn't want to lose the satisfaction, opportunity, and reward of "You shall fear your G-d" - then he/she just ought to make sure not be an addict! :-)
After writing this, Dov followed up with a note:
Warts and all, I think this may be the clearest I've ever explained this stuff, so far. I hope this can be useful to GYE members somehow, because it's so important to clarify the real difference between 12 steps and Teshuvah on a practical level. The fantasy that 'one can dance at two weddings' is rampant, and the resistance against 'facing the facts' is as strong as the ego itself.