How do Jews feel about lust? I was raised Christian, and know how the church feels about it. I’m just wondering where Judaism stands on the issue.
Judaism views lust as follows: We acknowledge the fact that G‑d created us with such feelings, and it’s certainly not an aberration to feel lustful. However, we are expected to be sufficiently aware of our higher calling, utilize our intellect, and muster enough inner fortitude to overcome our bodily drives. Excusing oneself by saying “It’s only human nature” is a sorry way to live, and slides you swiftly down a slippery slope.
The million-dollar question is: How? How on earth can a healthy young man or woman be expected to suppress or ignore their natural urges?
There are a number of answers and tips. I will mention only two basic ones here.
The first is to know that we don’t need to defeat and eradicate our urges—just to overpower them when they arise. Understanding what is and what isn’t expected of us is very important, because the number one obstacle to overpowering lust is guilt. Once you’re feeling guilty, you are sapped of any willpower, and the vicious cycle of giving in to temptation, feeling guilty/regretful, getting over the guilt and doing it all over again sets in.
The second tip is that the Torah teaches us that a psyche devoid of spirituality and meaning is a breeding ground for unbridled lust. An empty mind is a blank screen waiting to reflect a fleeting lustful thought or image. So we study the Torah daily, and by doing so, we beef up our spiritual immune system. The Talmud teaches that “if this disgusting one (temptation) has encountered you, drag him to the study hall.”
This is also the meaning of the Talmudic statement that the evil inclination appears to be as minuscule as a hair to the righteous, and as intimidating as a mountain to the wicked. The stronger you are, the less of an impact temptation has on you.
In a nutshell: know your goal, beef up, and you will be fine.