Yesterday I launched a three part series called “The Laws of Attraction.” We’re studying words that unmask the progression of desire so we can be self aware enough to avoid doing something particularly stupid… whatever stupid happens to be for you. For me, a married man, stupid would be an affair of any kind. Or commandeering a blimp bound for Dublin. You get the idea.
Yesterday’s word was attractive. When we find some thing or some one attractive, it means we find them appealing to such an extent that a potential exists for us to be pulled toward them. So now let me introduce you to word number two: attraction.
Attraction, the dictionary says, is “A force under the influence of which objects tend to move toward each other.”
If attrac-tive refers to things that have the potential or to pull us, attrac-tion is referring to that potential being realized. The power itself being activated. I think this is what Love Doctor Solomon was talking about when he warned (three times, actually), “I charge you by the gazelles and by the does in the field, do not arouse or awaken love awaken love until it so desires” (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4).
I’ve never invoked gazelle power, so this must be serious. Especially since the advice is coming from a man who’d aroused and awakened love before it so desired more times than Gene Simmons has. It’s like the former crackhead with five brain cells left using the last vestiges of his creative juices to say “don’t… do… drugs.”
But back to the power, the pull. Again, to admit someone is attractive is to concede that we feel drawn to them. We acknowledge the pull for more. More looking. More talking. More touching. More cake. More of whatever we find appealing. To embrace attraction means to fall under this very real power.
This week I while watching TV a pretty woman caught my eye. She was attrac-tive, meaning I found her appealing and recognized the pull. And then, for just a second or two, I not only recognized the pull, but felt it. Felt my resolve giving way. But then shut the power down, no harm, no foul. That’s the point of all this, remember?
There is such thing as innocent attraction. Every successful relationship you’ve ever enjoyed has used this principle. You find someone appealing—smart, let’s say, or witty, or generous, or courageous, or gracious. Or they, too, like playing Skyrim or watching Dr. Who. If you developed the relationship beyond the initial “Huh. I like this person,” it’s because you consciously let yourself fall under the power of attraction. You moved closer together.
There is such thing as innocent attraction, but there is no such thing as attraction that can’t become twisted.
Back to the pretty woman on TV. Unchecked, attraction rolls downhill until it gains speed and momentum. Attraction that gains momentum fundamentally changes as it picks up speed. Unchecked, it becomes the other word Solomon used: Arousal. And arousal is powerful. We can usually reject or even turn off the power of attraction, but once arousal kicks in we might as well be the little boy sticking his finger in the dam trying to stop the inevitable flood.
We almost always underestimate the power of arousal. The rush of tasting whatever we’re feeling drawn to overrides our rational mind, which means arousal must be managed responsibly at all times. It must have clear boundaries, or it can become addictive.
The problem with arousal is that it is almost entirely emotional, and you can’t be emotional and rational at the same time. Either you’re feeling something and owning the moment, or you’re analyzing that moment. Not both. As Klyde S. Kilby once said, “Fellas, you can’t kiss a girl and analyze the kiss at the same time.”
Studies show that when aroused (particularly sexually) otherwise normal people will do foolish and even perverse things they would never dream of doing while rational. So be warned: When you find someone attractive and simmer there, you have activated the force of attraction. And if you let that attraction gain momentum, you will become aroused. And if you become aroused, your body will be primed for experience, not meditation or prayer. If this involves someone of the opposite sex, look out.
But again, even arousal isn’t inherently bad. It means “to evoke or awaken… excite or provoke.” It’s a vital part of sex and romance, created by God to amplify attraction and help people connect meaningfully. If you’ve ever leapt to your feet at a football game (or watching the Sherlock season finale) you’ve been aroused, maybe even rightly so. If you’ve ever felt strangely whole while savouring a barbecued steak, crackling fresh off the grill, that’s arousal.
Taking this a step further, if you’ve ever fallen under the conviction of the Holy Spirit during a sermon at church, it’s because you’ve fallen under the power of divine attraction and you’ve been aroused to respond to his work in your soul. Arousal is a gift from God that makes passionate experience possible.
The problem, I think, isn’t with arousal. It’s what we allow ourselves to be aroused by, and what we do with it once the genie is out of the bottle.