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The Upside-Down World of “Every Man’s Battle”

If only I made the list of reviewers that receives the good books!

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Apparently I’m now a verified book reviewer, as these (bad) books keep coming to me in the mail, unannounced and unexpected. I guess the publishers get them out to everyone on a certain list and I’ve made the list. If only I made the list that receives the good books! But I still don’t want to get kicked off for writing negative (*honest*) reviews of every book they send. So.

Every Man’s Battle. Where do I begin?

I first read this book in middle school, and recall it being relatively unhelpful. The main premise was to guard your eyes and only let them take in good things. Not a bad move. But then the entire book was built around this.

Bounce your eyes, the authors implored from cover to cover.

And that was it.

Additionally, the authors felt it necessary to include detailed descriptions of porn they had seen or times they were caught gawking at a beautiful jogger in LA. Do they simply say they were checking out the jogger? Of course not! That would be too easy! They go into detail about the sweat on her golden flesh and the bikini she was wearing as well as the form and shape of her various body parts (p.4).

In a book on fighting sexual urges, they sure did a great job of putting those urges right back into you. It’s like a DJ’s mashup of 50 Shades of Grey and a nun slapping your wrist with a ruler. Like they were spanking you while telling you to stop crying, or telling you not to swear by playing Lil’ Wayne music.

Are you confused yet? Because I was.

I cracked open the 20th anniversary edition, hoping it would be a different experience than the original. Maybe they had learned a few things in the past 20 years, like the takeaways from Joshua Harris’s shame culture or the purity movement which left countless ex-vangelicals in its wake, outside the church walls and angry. But no — the main premise still seems to be Just learn to control yourself better!(ch.1–20) Bounce your eyes away from women!(ch.11) Live in constant fear of sliding down the slippery slope into an affair with your friend’s wife! (p.176)

For any true porn or sex addict, these plastic affectations will do little to heal wounds, motivate, change, or make any lasting adjustments to their lives. My knee-jerk reaction is, Well yes! I sure wish I could simply turn it off, control myself better, and STOP ACTING OUT. That would be nice!

Sadly the book opts to remain on the moralistic surface, as if making behavioral changes will heal your deep-seated trauma, insecurities, and otherwise wounded heart. In a very reductive thesis, the authors seem to equate men with brute savages who, if they could only pull their acts together, would be better husbands, warriors, and fathers. (Emphasis on warriors, since everyone reading this book will undoubtedly be picking up their spears and scimitars in the near future and taking out their enemy: THEIR OWN SOUL. Again: confusing.)

The condescending nature of the authors’ tone is also not helpful: We have made it…follow these steps and you can too! they seem to say throughout the book.

If you’re looking for real help in this area, I highly recommend Surfing for God by my friend Michael Cusick. Nothing is more insulting than reading a book on sex addiction written by people who have never or barely struggled with it (Aw, you looked at an attractive jogger once? Man, must be nice to only struggle a few times in your life). Cusick’s book instead addresses the deeper issues which lead to men acting out, treats men as humans rather than decision-making machines, and doesn’t demonize the intensity of desire. It also helps that he was an addict for many years and truly trainwrecked his life as a result; he speaks as someone bouncing back from rock bottom.

If you’re thinking of picking up Every Man’s Battle, hoping that perhaps this new edition has remedied the sins made in the previous edition, I’m sorry to inform you that no hope can be had. If, however, you want a moralistic finger-wagging blended with a few erotic descriptions of women’s figures, then this is the book for you!

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4 comments on “The Upside-Down World of “Every Man’s Battle”

  1. Lambert Dolphin

    Agreed! This is an old paradigm book from dead orthodoxy. Performance oriented. Deals with externals not motives and it’s not about knowing Jesus as a Person. In it’s day the book was helpful for many. The cultural was less broken then. The interior life mattered less.

    Go ahead say what you feel and let the chips fall where they may.

    Like

  2. “Well yes! I sure wish I could simply turn it off, control myself better, and STOP ACTING OUT. That would be nice!” – But surely the main point needs to be that maybe desire isn’t such a terrible thing, but is, in fact, a life giving, energising force that is made by God as another source of joy in the world – if only we’d stop labelling it as bad and trying to squash ‘battle’ with it? I get that addiction can be a problem when it leads to the hurting of oneself or another person or gets in the way of the norms of living life, but ‘sexual purity’ may not only look like total abstinence.

    Enjoy the sensation of desire.
    Just don’t be a creep or harm anyone in the process.

    Like

  3. Your take on this book is intriguing to me. I actually read this book a couple of years following my divorce from a man addicted to pornography which partnered with abusive behavior, unfaithfulness and irresponsibility. At the time, as a woman, I was grateful for it and found it helpful in understanding more of the battle men go through in this area. I do agree that taking a moralistic approach does nothing to eradicate and heal the broken areas of life that lead us into addictive patterns, and I can see that in this book. The dilemma, it seems, is that any situation is as simple as making a choice (to avert eyes, etc.), and yet complicated and even difficult in the walking out of the choice. Anyone addicted to anything has to come to the place of deciding they don’t want to live that way any longer (choice), and then take steps to heal which may include external behavior but mostly consists of inner healing. When I realized I was becoming addicted to drinking, I had to choose not to keep alcohol in my proximity, or go out to the parties where that behavior was encouraged. That is, until Jesus healed the broken places in my life that were the reason I sought out alcohol as a distraction, numbing agent, diversion, etc. Now, I can drink or not, have wine in my home and the need isn’t there so the addiction isn’t either. I get that all addiction has a chemical component to it as well so I’m not suggesting it’s easy. But it is simple. I appreciate the points you make, but I also wouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater…as they say. We become moral because we love Jesus and want to live in his ways which bring us the very best life. But morality alone just makes us self-righteous which isn’t like Jesus at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Are all Christian books this bad?? – ethan renoe

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