Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I am a single Christian man, and I am trying really hard to maintain my walk with God. However, it is becoming more and more difficult, especially in the church environment. I am an active member in our single’s ministry, and I have had conversations with a lot of women who say they are good in their singleness. However, this is far from the truth because I have slept with many of them.
At times, I feel so lost in church. A lot of single Christian people talk about being good, but they are active participants in this 21st century sexual revolution. Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying all Christian men and women are having sex. However, I meet more who are sexually active than I meet those who are celibate. Why is it so difficult for single Christians to abstain from sex?
Christian Single but Sexing
Dear Christian Single but Sexing,
I can relate to your struggle regarding your walk with God. I, like you, felt lost in the church as well. I believe many single Christians have difficulty abstaining from sex because they do not know how to successfully cope with or resolve cognitive dissonance.
The term cognitive relates to our mental thoughts or cognitions. And the term dissonance relates to inconsistencies between one’s actions and one’s belief. Cognitive dissonance is best defined as an uncomfortable and intense mental state that occurs when a person holds to conflicting thoughts in their mind at the same time.
For the most part, a large percentage of single Christians develop cognitive dissonance in relation to their sexuality and spirituality from bad teachings and observations. My cognitive dissonance started in childhood. I remember going to church several days out of the week and listening to adult Christians talk about the importance of being devoted to God, abstinence and celibacy. However, many of them had children out of wedlock and were cohabiting.
Cognitive dissonance can occur in many areas of life, but it is particularly evident in situations where an individual’s behavior conflicts with beliefs that are integral to his or her self-identity. For example, consider a situation in which a man, who places high value on being a “good” Christian and faithful servant of God, sleeps with his girlfriend on a regular basis.
- Identity: Christian
- Behavior: Sleeping with his girlfriend and committing fortification.
- Conflicting Beliefs: Faithful Christians do not have sex before marriage because it is sinful and disobedient toward God; I am entitled to experience love and physical intimacy regardless of my marital status.
In order to reduce this conflict/dissonance between his beliefs and behavior, he can take one of three actions:
- Change his behavior – stop having sex before marriage.
- Justify his behavior by changing the conflicting cognitions or thoughts – Faithful Christians are not perfect people and will commit sin occasionally like everybody else, so I should not be judged for having premarital sex.
- Justify his behavior by adding new cognitions or thoughts – God is a forgiving God, so He will forgive me if I just ask for forgiveness and repent; everyone falls short of God’s glory so I am no different.
Cognitive dissonance is a very powerful motivator, which will often lead us to change one or more conflicting beliefs or action. Cognitive dissonance also plays a role in many value judgments and decisions that we make. By becoming aware of how conflicting beliefs impact our decision-making process, we can improve our ability to make healthier and better decisions.
As a single Christian man or woman, you cannot have one foot in the church and one foot in the world. As a single Christian man, you cannot have your heart in the church and your penis in a woman. The only way single Christians will be able to abstain from sex before marriage is to recognize their cognitive dissonance, and learn how to cope with it in an effective manner…stop making excuses for fortification.
Ladies, check out my answer last week on how to stay “good” in your singleness.
BMWK, what other areas in your life do you experience cognitive dissonance?
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.