Every guy has received a warning about “the second glance.” Here’s how it works: When you see an attractive woman, you are morally responsible for the second glance, not the first. Because you cannot help seeing what is there in front of you, the second glance is the one where you will display sin or virtue. It is here that you make the moral choice—the choice to lust or the choice to direct your eyes and your thoughts to something that honors God.
I have never been completely comfortable with the second glance logic. More on that in a moment, but first we need to see that this is not only a guy thing.
Women can have the same issue or one that is very closely related. For some women the issue is identical—looking with lust. For others it may be something else, such as alighting your eyes on someone who doesn’t fit in and then allowing yourself condescending thoughts about her. It may be thinking unkind thoughts about the immodest woman or the too-modest woman or the woman whose children are dressed so perfectly or so imperfectly. Whether you are a man or woman, you will be tempted at times to allow your eyes to direct you to people who will then take your thoughts in unholy directions. It is a universal problem.
Back to the question: Is it only the second glance that counts? Yes and no.
We have no ability to avoid seeing so much of what we see in the world. At some point we will all see something that feeds one of our great temptations. We will see someone who is dressed wildly inappropriately or someone who is shamelessly intending to draw attention to themselves. And then it is, indeed, the second glance that counts. Will we look again? Will we let our eyes linger? Will we look with lust or condescension or judgment? Will we allow this to be an opportunity to gossip? Or will we immediately and sinlessly direct our attention elsewhere?
But here is where it gets a little more complicated. I think we all know by experience that there is more than one way our eyes can take in the world around us. We can walk into church with our hearts content and enjoying the good things God has given us. We can walk into the mall with our minds submitted to God and eager to please him. And in those times we undoubtedly struggle a lot less with second glances.
But we can also walk into church discontent and grumbling about all we haven’t received. We can stroll through the mall with minds that have not been taken captive by better things. When this is the case, we tend to scan our environment looking for opportunities to lust, to judge, to linger. Our hearts are now in such a posture that we are eager to look at things that are forbidden and we should not be at all surprised when we find them and dwell on them. Just like David on the rooftop, looking for and finding adultery.
The second glance logic assumes that we are going through life in a morally-neutral or morally-upright posture so that there is really no connection between the first glance and the second. The reality is, though, that the second glance has often already been decided long before the first.