Sit down and have a cup of tea; this is going to be a long post. It’s okay if you need to take a break in the middle and come back for the rest later. :p
thedragongirl77 wrote:I didn't think i would get responses as fast as I did to my problem. I'm so happy to have found a community of christians who can be both anime nerds and christians. I have never met anyone in real life like this, many things separate me from the rest of my school, including my anime and christianity. I have a hard time making friends in general and I'm happy people care about me. I might be falling into depression lately...basically I got a lot of problems over here. I've found a sense of peace, balance between my spirituality and my interests. Thank you, Christian Anime Alliance.
Very glad to hear it! Please do stick around and be part of the community; as John_Smith said, we are happy to have you.
thedragongirl77 wrote:As for how much of a crush this is, it varies. I have had deep lust some day, (sinful i know, please pray)(and jealousy towards the two other characters he had sex with...fictional character, not sinful, right??) to wanting to cuddle up to him, to being in the same room as him. Average is basically wanting to touch his abs...AAAAANYWAY~
Am I going to be the first one to address this? I guess so.
First of all, please don’t feel that there’s any need to feel guilty over the fact that you have
crushes on fictional characters. To crush either on a celebrity or a fictional character—someone unattainable—is extremely common especially when you’re young and I think it happens to pretty much everyone.
But given the fact that you have
a crush, which is sort of involuntary, what you choose to do with those feelings and thoughts, basically whether to dwell on them or not, is a matter of choice. Try thinking about this issue as if it were a friend of yours having these kinds of thoughts and not you. If your friend had the kind of fantasies that you describe, would that be helpful to her in any way? Would it be helpful for her salvation? No. Would it help her become a better person? No. Would it help her learn how to have relationships—romantic or simply friendships—with real young men? No. Would you be concerned and wish for something better for her? If it were me, I would.
In particular, let’s go back to that second-to-last question for a moment. Fantasizing too much can actually be damaging to relationships with people, and the reason is because it gives us instant gratification without our having to work for it, whereas gaining intimacy with a real human being in a real relationship is difficult and takes work. (In a different thread Okami was sharing about this, so thanks to her for really hitting the nail on the head about this issue.) So when we allow ourselves to be addicted to those kinds of thoughts, it teaches us to seek that easy, fantasy gratification from our fantasy world rather than doing the hard work that is required for two people to come closer together. Basically it is a harmful habit, and as much as possible I’d encourage you to think about things in this way: that fantasizing is something that is harmful to you, or at the very least not helpful to you, and not get caught up too much in feelings of guilt or to think of it with a guilt/punishment mentality.
Also along the same lines, there’s a study by Cornell University
that found that teenagers who spend more time thinking about romance also have higher rates of depression, so it’s just not something that is beneficial.
Again, please don’t take this to mean that it’s bad to enjoy fiction or that you’re not allowed to have crushes on fictional characters—there is nothing wrong with enjoying fiction, and developing crushes on fictional characters is pretty normal for the stage of life you are in. But think about how much time you are spending dwelling on crushes on fictional characters and living in a mental fantasy world. If it occupies so much of your time that you are really constantly mentally absorbed in that kind of thing, then I would really encourage you to pursue some other interests also to give you some outward focus and break out of that encircling fantasy world that you can get sucked into. This could be whatever you enjoy, whether it is volunteering, sports, making art, singing, dance, playing with children, but preferably something active and/or creative, so that it gets you out of that mentality of fantasizing for a little while (so preferably not video games or reading fanfiction, not that those things are themselves bad either, they're just not the most helpful counterattack)—and again, not that this means it is bad to watch anime or that you have to stop watching anime, but just that it might be good for you to have another hobby in addition
to anime that can help you get out of that absorption in fantasy.
Coincidentally, I just happened to as my pastor just a few days ago about what practical suggestions he has for redirecting fantasizing thoughts (in my case, it is mostly towards real people, which is not any morally better because I am sinning against the person I am fantasizing about). He had some good suggestions, and I also have a couple of other practices that I have found helpful. Most of these are going to be specific to Eastern Orthodox Christianity because that’s what I am, but please don’t feel like I am trying to force these things on you or promulgate Orthodoxy. (I’m not trying
to promulgate it, it just comes naturally. :p That’s a joke, but it's also kind of true.) I am just putting these suggestions here so that if you want
to try them you can, and if they help you, that’s great, but if they are too foreign to whatever your own denominational background is and you don’t feel comfortable with them, then please don’t worry about it. Maybe you can even think of a way to do something that has a similar basic idea but would be using the spiritual practices of your own church instead.
These were my pastor’s suggestions:
1. Remember the presence of God.
2. Give that person’s name to God in prayer. I guess this applies a whole lot more to a real person, huh. But in the case of a fictional character, maybe you could connect it to remembering the presence of God by then mentally presenting to God your feelings about the character, knowing that God is present with you and that he sees your thoughts and feelings. Tell him how you feel and ask him what he wants you to do with that, what is pleasing to him. It becomes a whole lot harder to continue fantasizing that you know is bad when you are thinking about the fact that God is present and with you.
3. Remember who you are as a human being, that you need to relate to other people as human beings as humans, in the wholeness of everything that they are as persons (mind, body, soul, their background, their own needs and emotions, rather than isolating just the physical aspect and treating their body and their physicality as an object and ignoring the rest of who they are as a person, which is what lust does), and not objectify them. (Again, this makes more sense in regard to fantasizing about a real person.)
4. Make the sign of the cross. Maybe you don’t have this in your denomination, and if it makes you uncomfortable, that’s okay, you don’t have to try it. I am just putting it here just in case you do want to try it or do find it helpful. Just to give a little explanation, though (I personally didn’t feel comfortable making the sign of the cross until after I understood why
we do it): in Orthodoxy we make the sign of the cross whenever we begin or end a prayer and also whenever we say the name of the three persons of the Trinity, so for us it is really connected to prayer—it is
prayer. Given that background, when we just make the sign of the cross by itself, it immediately creates a prayerful attitude and it is basically a wordless prayer, a way of calling to mind the presence of God and putting oneself in a prayerful mindset without using words. It’s also a reminder that we are under the power of the cross of Christ, that the cross has
power, that as Christians we are united to him in his cross, death, and resurrection, and so on. The fact that it is a physical gesture is helpful because it involves the physical body in prayer so that prayer becomes something we do with our bodies, too, not just
with our minds and spirits separated from our physicality.
5. Try getting up and doing something physical. For example, do something physical with your hands to keep them occupied, or take a walk, or maybe even just get up from where you are sitting and stretch for a moment to break away from those thoughts or create a mental reset. (Psychologically, when you get up and move a little bit and then sit back down it feels like you are getting a fresh start, not just continuing the same task, which can be helpful for getting a “reset” or “restart.”)
And these next two are things from Orthodox spirituality that I personally have found helpful for issues of lust and fantasizing:
1. The Jesus Prayer. It goes, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” There are other variations on it, mostly shorter ones, for example, you can shorten it to just “Lord, have mercy,” and the more you are struggling or in crisis, the better it is to use these very brief cries for help because of their immediacy and intensity (“arrow prayers” is a term I have heard used in Protestantism—when you are in spiritual crisis and you just cry out to God, “Lord, help!” or anything along those lines). Anyways, the Jesus prayer is said repetitively: you just say it over and over again. This is another way of calling to mind, and keeping continually in mind, the presence of mind. The idea is not that God is going to hear you better or listen to you more if you say the prayer more times; it’s the opposite, that you will hear God better and keep the presence of God better in mind if you say this prayer continually. This is the Eastern Orthodox solution to the biblical command “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Again, just like what I was saying above about having the presence of God in mind, I find it a whole lot harder to continue fantasies that I know are bad if I am saying the Jesus prayer. Rather, I don’t
fantasize when saying the Jesus Prayer. Fantasies are incompatible with it. And you can usually still do other things while mentally reciting the Jesus Prayer, depending on what it is that you are doing.
2. Fasting. Again, I don’t know what your denominational background is and whether you have had any experience with fasting or not—I know that Catholics have fasting and a lot of Protestants try various types of fasting (whether with or without some structure in the church community and following the church calendar depends on the denomination), so it is something sort of broadly applicable across Christianity but the form it takes varies widely based on what your denomination is. For us, on days when we fast we are basically vegan with a few differences; we don’t eat meat, fish, or dairy products. Anyways, it was very well-known and commonly recommended in the early church to use fasting as a way of fighting against lust, but some
Protestant denominations have sort of forgotten this or are in the process of rediscovering it as if it is something new. Basically, if you allow yourself to be a little hungry, a little weak, a little bit tired, then you might find it easier to avoid lustful thoughts (thought it also depends on you to not seek out or spend time on things that provoke lust) because your body doesn’t have the energy to spare on sexuality. DO NOT take this to an extreme that ends up negatively affecting your ability to go to school and do your studies and everything that you need to do as usual; make sure you are still taking care of yourself. I would really not recommend fasting as in “not eating anything” but instead just refraining from certain foods (go vegetarian or vegan for a little while), cutting back on or refraining from kinds of entertainment that are not edifying to you (maybe start by turning your attention to a different anime that has more wholesome content rather than trying to cut anime out of your life), and spending more time in prayer. And if you are going to try fasting, please make sure to join it to things like works of mercy (volunteering or doing things to help people around you) and prayer. We have a saying that refraining from food without the other two, acts of mercy and prayer, is “the fasting of demons” because demons never eat but that doesn’t bring them closer to God.
All of the practical strategies above presuppose that you want
to break away from lustful or fantasizing thought patterns. This can be hard and can often end up being a mental mind game because often when you are in the middle of those fantasies you don’t want to stop because you are enjoying them. (This is something my pastor pointed, out, but I can also corroborate because I’ve been in that place myself.) The best time to respond and redirect your thoughts is when they first enter your mind, before you start dwelling on them. Have you heard that psalm verse (it’s a pretty disturbing one taken literally) that goes, “Happy is the one who seizes your [the Babylonians’] infants and dashes them against the rocks” (Psalm 137:9)? The leaders of the early church interpreted the Bible allegorically a whole lot more than we do nowadays, and they teach that we should interpret this verse as referring to those sinful thoughts, lust being a prime example, that enter our minds just as stray thoughts at first but then grow bigger and bigger the more that we look at (think about) them. The person who seizes that thought right away when it first enters the mind and dashes it against the rocks, metaphorically speaking, is blessed. These things take root in our minds and grow, and like plants they are easiest to uproot and destroy when they are small. So as much as possible, try to do that mental redirection right away. If you find that you don’t want
to get rid of your lustful thoughts or your fantasizing, then try going back to thinking about the questions of whether those fantasies do you any good and to the fact that they don’t do you good but are actually a bit harmful. This is not about “I’m sinning and I deserve to be punished” but about God desiring your healing and your salvation and for you to be able to live in a way that has all the richness and fullness and goodness of life as it was meant to be lived.
I wish you the best in your journey as you learn to try to navigate these kinds of issues. To quote Angela Aki (J-pop singer), “The stormy sea of adolescence is harsh, but keep moving forward to the shore of tomorrow!”