Looking at the Sun
How can I go in the streets in Brooklyn or in Manhattan when the women are dressed the way they are? What does Hashem want from us!? We are not malochim??
This is a very good question. Let me try and answer with a parable.
Imagine you suddenly developed a strong desire to look at the sun. Every time you went out to the street you would feel the pull and look up at the sun. After a few days though, you felt your eyesight was starting to fade. The rest of the world began to look dark, colorless and blurry. So you went to see a doctor and the doctor tells you that looking at the sun is dangerous and harmful to your eyes. He warns you that if you continue sun-gazing, you will lose your eyesight completely! You leave his office shocked, and you make a strong decision to stop this nonsense. You finally understand that the harm and pain it causes you far outweighs the pleasure of looking. From then on, even though the sun is still there every time you walk outside, you keep your eyes down. Within a few short days you are delighted to find that your eyesight is healing, and you can once again enjoy the beautiful world around you in full clarity and color.
It is the same with Shmiras Ainayim. Yes it is true that we naturally have a strong desire to look at these things, and yes, they are there every time we walk outside. But it is only difficult for us as long as we don't fully accept how harmful it is to us. As long as we keep battling in our minds whether life without lust is truly better, we will keep struggling mightily with this nisayon. If we haven't made a strong decision yet in our minds that this is bad for us, then each time something tempting walks by our brain tortures us with questions: "Why do I ignore lust? Why do I not give in to it? It looks so good! Maybe I've been wrong all along? Maybe this is where it's really at?"
But when we think deeply into it, we realize that even if we would get all our desires, the pleasure would last only a short moment and leave us feeling empty afterwards. We know from past personal experience and from so many other people's stories that a life of lust is a life of emptiness and pain. The more we feed it, the more it wants. It is never satisfied. Even if we would have all those "tempting things" out there, we would be left afterwards wanting only more and more, desperate to fill the huge void that it leaves in us... And we know that lust takes us away from all the good that Hashem has in store for us. It severs our relationship with our Creator, with our wives and children, and even our relationship with ourselves.
When we realize all this and come to the conclusion that lust is really DEATH, we are finally able to make the decision in our minds that we don't WANT this. It is poison for us. At that point, even though the temptations may surround us all over, we won't find it so hard to gently close our eyes and turn our hearts away. Because we know that even if we would HAVE all that our eyes are pulling us to see, we would only be left with darkness, pain and void. We would lose all that is truly precious to us and still never be satisfied.
So long as we haven't made this strong decision though, even our Avodas Hashem is with half a heart. We still "aren't fully sure" that this is what we really want. And when we see something tempting in the street, we suddenly find ourselves struggling ferociously and asking ourselves if perhaps that is really it.
But once we reach the understanding that lust is poison and darkness for us and we finally make a strong decision, we will no longer feel such a struggle. And as we learn to surrender the lust, our "eyesight" will begin improving. The world will start to become a happier and better place. Our davening will become more real, it will be with a FULL heart instead of half-heart. Our love for our wives and children will become more beautiful and meaningful than ever. Shabbos will feel like Shabbos, learning Torah will become more meaningful. We will finally be zoche to understand what it means to serve Hashem "bechol Levavcha" - with a full heart.
Rabbi Mordichai Lechovitcher, one of the great Chassidic masters once said "How bitter is the world when one lies inside it, and how good is the world when one is on top of it".
Hashem has placed before us two paths. Let us choose LIFE with a firm decision and a full heart.