I could just end the post there, couldn’t I? But perhaps I should also fill this blank space . . .

I don’t often blog about my life’s current happenings; it’s usually a lot of flashback-storytelling. If I’m gonna blog in the present tense, I do have a separate personal blog for that; or, I can journal about something or talk about it in counseling or share with a friend.

(Or stuff it all inside myself, but that’s another blog entirely.)

Alas, every once in a while I feel that pinprick in my soul that I need to share something I’m currently wrestling with here.

Ugh. Pinpricks of the soul are so annoying.

Let’s cut to the chase then. Anyone else feeling super tempted during this pandemic? Especially the longer this thing drags on?

Because I’ll be the first to raise my hand. I’m feeling super tempted. I’m feeling super restless. I’m actually feeling super-duper tempted and restless.

People ask me all the time how I “do it.” How do I live this life of following Jesus faithfully with my sexuality? How do I not watch porn or not hook up with guys or not pursue any other illicit online outlets?

My advice to others has always come down to exercise and relationships.

As a feelings-based person (as opposed to a thoughts- or actions-based one), it’s vital for me to escape that devastating feelings-vortex inside myself. To connect with my body in regular, tangible ways.

Namely, exercise, exercise, exercise.

But not just walks around the neighborhood or yoga in the living room. Vigorous exercise. I gotta kill it. Again and again and again.

Pre-COVID, CrossFit was such a vital outlet for my physical health. And my mental health. And my emotional health. And my sexual health. All the healths. Nothing else I did had such a sweeping effect.

I achieved greater physical health.

And so I felt more confident about my body.

And so I envied other guys’ bodies less.

And so I lusted after other guys’ bodies less.

And so I wasn’t nearly as physically tempted by other guys.

When the pandemic first hit, I did my best to work out from home. But it just wasn’t the same. And then when I got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, all notions of vigorous exercise vaporized for months.

It only figures, then, that if you remove one of my biggest sources for combatting temptation — I’d experience an uptick in temptation. And I have. A significant uptick, actually.

Again, it’s hard to write about all this in the present day. I wish I’d figured this out by now, months into a pandemic, months into an autoimmune disease. But I haven’t.

Some nights temptation hits me, and temptation hits me hard. I often feel powerless to fight it, because I feel powerless in an ailing body right now.

I often feel a lot of pressure to be the one to have “overcome.” Nobody is necessarily telling me this directly, but I feel it indirectly with comments and emails, and I certainly inflict much of this expectation on myself as someone running this website and hosting a podcast and otherwise leading our little community.

There’s a lot of shame in admitting my weaknesses. But also freedom. It feels good to type it out.

I want to be a healthier leader, but I also just want to be a healthier human. From my physical health to my emotional health and sexual health, I’m simply not where I want to be. Where I need to be.

I often fall into that “I’m all alone” trap, that I’m “the only one” struggling with whatever fills in the blank. But I’ve been around long enough to know these are flat-out lies.

It’s why YOB exists, after all: to remind you, again and again, that you are not alone.

I need to remind myself of this truth, too.

It’s important to recognize and reaffirm that everyone on the planet has needed to readjust sections — sometimes entire libraries — of their lives because of this virus. New workout rhythms. Certainly new relational rhythms.

The other huge way I’ve combatted temptation in recent years is by being in regular connection with others, especially other men. And while I’m grateful for the wonders of the Internet, being able to connect digitally with my local church as well as with fellow YOB guys all around the world, it’s just not the same as face-to-face contact.

I miss gathering in a room with people where I live. I’ve not done that in months, and it feels absurd admitting that.

Being immunocompromised in a pandemic, I’ve been more than a little careful not to expose myself around others. No large groups, no physical touch.

On the one hand, I’m being safe. But safe has consequences the other way, too.

While I’m taking less risks physically, I’m also taking more risks emotionally. I don’t see others as much, and I don’t touch others at all.

What a strange world to have gone without touch for so many months. We weren’t made for this. Even the least touchy-feely among us.

Autoimmune disease or not, I know so many of us are feeling more than a little touch-deprived right now; again, you are not alone. I feel it, too.

Normally I go back through and edit a post several times before posting, but I’ve only given this particular post a single run-through, wanting it to come across as raw and real as possible.

If your temptations are off the charts because of this pandemic, because of the isolation, because of the fear, because of the lack of touch, because of the hopelessness hanging in the air —

I get it. I’m living it, too. I’m tempted, too. And I hope we can all be honest about our temptations in this community. Starting with me.

How are you managing temptations during this pandemic? How are you staying connected with others, and how are you staying connected with God?

  • Hi Thomas! First of all, thank you for speaking from your heart and being readily transparent. In a world where people are so ready to put up facades of any and all kinds lest any weakness shows, it is so refreshing to see when that is not the go-to move.
    Reading your article made me think of the ways that I have experienced this pandemic in my own life. As I think back over the past several months since it hit, I can see quite a few changes in my daily life. Some of my commitments (e.g. church small group, counseling) are via Zoom. My state also has required face masks in many public places, to include grocery stores.
    As far as temptation goes, I started out strong in March. I upped the ante as it were in my commitment to living a life free from the snares of porn and such. I did slip up one time in the middle but have come out stronger now. I have decided to meet with a 12-step group rooted in Christian tradition. We are able to meet in person every Tuesday. It is such a relief to have that.
    I have also decided to take an active approach in my physical fitness. For the past few months, I have been working with a personal trainer. He comes to my house and we sweat out to modern rock songs. It is amazing the effect that it has on my mood and body. I have lost a total of 10 pounds!
    I also plan on undergoing EMDR therapy with my counselor to address some past childhood trauma. I am both excited and a bit scared at this endeavor. I know that it will ultimately yield fruitful results but am afraid of the pain that will come too.
    I have also made a new friend who lives in Brazil. We talk nearly everyday and support each other in our Christian walk. I liken it to a kindred friendship.
    To be quite frank, God has blessed me beyond measure in spite of this pandemic. I have really learned to lean in to Him and His presence. I can only imagine the kind of struggles that you are going through. Like you, I also have strong emotions and can be swayed by them often. If there is any way that I can support you (i.e. Facebook chats, prayer, etc.), please let me know brother!

    • Thanks for the love, Drew! Awesome to hear of your growth during this season. It’s an encouragement to me to continue taking initiative despite the challenges or new environments I find myself in because of this pandemic.
      All the best to you, including with your new workout regimen! Awesome stuff. Keep it going.

  • Oh man I totally feel you here, Tom. Being stuck in the same place and being unable to see the people you love or get a change of scenery has been brutal. Also being stuck with a lot of work and stress definitely sends one running to temptation as well. Exercise can help but my gym has been closed forever due to the pandemic and I feel gyms are still too risky to go to. I want to bike more but the weather doesn’t cooperate. So frustrating. I have been able to visit some friends and when I do and get my heart full, the temptations go away at least for a while.

    • Ugh, I miss my old gym. But I also feel you on the riskiness factor. I hope we can all get back to working out the way we prefer soon! Glad you’ve been able to see some friends, Eugene. If it was ever unclear before now, I see the vital necessity in staying connected with others. For so many elements of health.

  • Thank you so much for writing this, Tom! I love how raw and honest you are in this post.
    I have been 1000x more tempted during this year. Due to the pandemic I had to move back into my parents’ house where I do not have a very close relationship with my dad and it negatively impacts my mental health. I also do not have a community here anymore — high school friends that I only talked to during holiday visits and am not very close with and no sense of a home church after being gone for over 5 years. Potentially due to giving into temptation more frequently I have now been experiencing pain in…one of my family jewels…and my groin for almost 3 months now. Doctors aren’t totally sure what it is but don’t see it as something serious. And though I don’t share a similar experience to being immunocompromised, I can very much relate to your sentiment about physical exercise. I love working out and it has helped me feel comfortable with my body, but because of my pain I have had to significantly reduce the intensity of my workouts if not completely cut it out. And then I start to feel even more temptation because I’m losing all of the progress I have made with my body. My heart echoes your writings and so it is affirming to know that I am not alone and that in this community we can pray for one another.
    God bless, brother

    • Thanks for the support Jay, and thanks for sharing where you’re at. Prayers for whatever is going on with your body! I hope you find healing soon. Prayers also for your living situation, as that sounds like a really hard dynamic. May we all rediscover these healthy rhythms. God help us with our temptations until that day, and beyond.

      • I really appreciate that, Tom! Praying for you, too, as you navigate life with an autoimmune disease especially during a pandemic. Much love, brother.

  • In short, yes! When I tack on being unemployed and feeling crappy about myself and discontent w/ my body, it made for some difficult days this past winter and spring. But since finding employment and being more active again this summer, I have been able to fight the urge and am doing better. Plus I get many of my guy needs met through close, affectionate male friendships and relationships outside of my marriage. However, I always need to be diligent b/c those old temptations and cravings are still there, always bubbling under the surface.

    • Glad to hear you’ve found new employment, Christopher. I’ve definitely struggled with temptation during those seasons without work or a sense of direction/purpose. May we all be diligent about those beneath-the-surface bubblings. Love how you worded that.

  • For real. The pandemic has shown me how much of my recent past has just been coasting, taking for granted the relationships and structures I had in my life to support my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And man, COVID (and I would venture God) sure threw a wrench in that. While it has been rough (really rough at times), I’ve begun to appreciate how Christ works in the darkest places/times of my life. I’m generally averse to change haha, so for me, it took being wholly broken down to realize how incapable I was at working through things on my own strength and how essential He is at sustaining me. Been reading a bit of Henri Nouwen’s work recently and have been impressed with his reliance on Christ as a constant companion. Of course, I have had to be much more intentional at building (re-imagining) what community and physical activity looks like for me. But when it comes down to it, falling helplessly into the arms of Christ has made the biggest difference in my spiritual life recently. It was only after giving up hope in my own abilities that He opened up doors to spiritual fullness and communities I hadn’t considered (i.e. YOB, Revoice). Regarding the feeling that to lead we must have “arrived,” the leaders who encourage me most are those who haven’t, are open and honest about it, and point to Christ as the source and perfecter of their faith. So thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Thanks for reading and responding, Matt. You’re right in that my favorite leaders are also the humble, open ones. I hope my openness can continue to encourage you and others.
      Gosh, I can relate with that description of “coasting.” Coming out the other side of this pandemic, along with my autoimmune disease, I will certainly have a new appreciation for all the things I’ve taken for granted. Meeting together. Working out. Achieving good health in the broadest of meanings.
      Keep falling into Christ’s arms. No better place to be, brother.

  • I’m struggling with anger big time, all the news & politics can trigger intense anger & I don’t know why. I’ve never been a particularly angry person. I’m trying to tune it out but that’s harder than it should be. Staying connected with God is the only sure fire way of dealing with it. Silver lining is that anger chases away lust, or it’s just different kind.
    And Tom, I look to you not cause you’re perfect but because you’re compassionate, courageous and you persist, you keep going despite facing the same struggle. It’s not so much I look up to you as look ahead to you further down the road on this common journey. And unless you start hawking porn subscriptions, I’m still gonna be looking to you. Even if you do, I hope God gives me the grace to help you up to continue down the road.

    • I wanna add that it’s not just Tom, all you guys that put yourself out there and write your story, thanks, I’m looking to you as well. It’s not just being closed down cause of the virus, ssa tends to close things down and isolate, and it’s super encouraging crossing paths thru the stories.

    • Ugh, thank you Alan. Times like these remind me how grateful I am for this community. We are all supporting one another, readers and authors alike. Thanks for filling my well a little higher with your encouragement. I feel you on the anger of these times. May we all learn to rest deeper in God’s sovereignty through this insanity.

      • It’s not a good place to be, is it?Anger can make me feel so self-righteous and that’s never good, it crosses the line from the good that comes from hating what’s evil. Finding that line feels like navigating ssa issues, just in a different ocean.
        If you ever post about it, I hope you include your art. Images can take you places better than words, or the places you don’t have words for.

        • I have considered writing a blog on how the idiocy of the current culture war gets in the way of discussions about faith and sexuality. I will most definitely make a featured image for it.

          • You’d do great if you do Eugene, the current culture gets in the way of faith regardless of sexuality. There’s a lotta straight Christian guys not doing a great job navigating the rough times right now.

  • Tom, thanks for being real as you always are. I’m coming up on one year since I told my wife (well, anybody) that I have SSA. “Unwanted” by Jay Stringer opened my eyes that there are clearly reasons from my childhood and teen tears that got me bent. I’ve been in counseling and I actually have received so much healing and understanding that is helping me to better cope and escape temptation. My community of SSA brothers are one of the keys toward my race toward possible complete healing. I’m doing so much better than being closeted those 38 years! But have I been tempted more these past six months during Covid? I have to say yes. It seems the temptations are stronger and more frequent than at any other time in my life, although I’m handling them better and bringing them to Jesus. I have some theories about this. First, Satan wants me to fall-plain and simple-and he keeps sending his minions my way. Second, my healing is coming through the community of SSA brothers, but it also disturbs my thought life. I have brothers to call immediately, like yesterday, when I was tempted to edge. Solved-they prayed for me and encouraged me. But, sometimes, as I hear another brothers story, and it doesn’t need to be graphic at all, he shares past experiences and my mind can go wild thinking about what he might have done or how he felt in doing those sexual acts I have not experienced. So, I have to bring those thoughts to Jesus and He helps me. Even though I’m getting healed, it’s not a perfect process, and I don’t really believe in complete healing-I wish I did and God could certainly do that. But, have I actually been more tempted? Yes.

    • What a thing to have people you can call on during times of temptation. Thanks for sharing, Michael. What a journey you’ve undoubtedly been on for the last year since opening up to your wife. And now in the era of COVID. Continued blessings to you, brother.

  • Thanks for sharing the harder stuff, Tom! I think the quarantine lifestyle effected each of us in similar and different ways. I hope that someday soon we can “get back to it” (whatever that means), so that I can have people over hug and play and laugh! There are ways to still do such things in covid, but it’s definitely not the same.
    (Also CrossFit bubbles to the surface yet again. It’s moved from honorable mention in the YOBcasts to honorable mention in the blogs!! WHOA)

    • I know, I know, I thought about leaving out the whole CROSSFIT mention, but I just couldn’t help myself. I needed to emphasize my physical outlet was more than mere “exercise” but a REVOLUTIONARY new physical regimen. Known as the one, the only, the repetitive . . . CrossFit.
      In all seriousness though, I do hope the day is soon approaching when “getting back to it” is within reach. Thanks for supporting YOB with the podcast and the blog, Keegan!

  • Tom, thank you so much for this post. Part of leading is being the first to take off the mask. No shame in struggling, we are all struggling along with you. And its encouraging to know you struggle alongside everyone else as well. Temptation has definitely been much more difficult in this pandemic. I like my alone time, so it hasn’t been all bad. But I do need good community and physical touch to help keep me from turning to sin to satisfy those desires.
    It’s interesting to see God working in all of this. Exercise was quickly becoming a big help for me before this pandemic also. Social time, physical touch, all the usual. And those all seem to be really good things; God knows we are not meant to be alone in life. That said, it feels like God has stripped away the “healthy” outlets in this pandemic also. It feels to me like a lesson in turning to Him for our needs- turning to Him for shelter from the storm of this world and the grasp of my sin.
    Even good things become bad when they take the place of God. So perhaps this is a reminder that God lies behind all of those other healthy outlets, working through them. Perhaps its not about the object itself (exercise, physical touch, community), but finding God through those things.

    • You’re welcome so much for this post, Aaron. Thanks for partnering in this YOB endeavor with me and all of us! Even when I feel “alone” because of the COVID/disease dynamic, I know I am far from it thanks to guys like you. I definitely want to do a better job of finding God through my outlets of exercise, human connection, etc. as you described. Or when those things are lacking…where is God still? Because I just have to believe He’s working, even in the hard voids of seasons of lack.

  • Tom, thank you so much for sharing!
    I agree with Alan that I don’t look up to you because of your “perfection”, but because of your walk, your honesty in showing your imperfections. Here I see how God is in action every time when people open up their hearts in sincerity and vulnerability. This is like a magnet.
    I can say that the isolation was actually bearable for me and maybe even with less temptation than usual. The problem was more the comeback into society. After a fairly organized isolation I was overwhelmed by seeing people again, especcially seeing atractive men around me. At once it was summer, I was surrounded with people, everyone lightly dressed and me totally unprepared. This was the greatest struggle for me, to bear the overwhelming attractions that came with seeing men again.
    I’m stil battling this one, though now more easily.
    I think prayer is helping me. I’ve made up a daily praying routine, which consists of visiting my church for prayer and mass service. Spending regular time with Jesus is really a medicine…
    Thank you for everything. Blessings, brother!

  • Thomas Mark Zuniga

    I'm a storyteller and story-liver in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our bimonthly podcast. I've written a couple books, including a memoir in 2013 where I first came out to the world. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, an Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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