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I use a formula to help explain a very important cause-and-effect relationship. Not only is this formula statistically verifiable; I have seen the real faces and hearts of men, women, and children whom this formula has negatively impacted over the course of my counseling career.

The formula is: U + P = D. Let me decode this for you. U is a short way to say "you." P is a short way to say "porn or pornography or any other sexually inappropriate behavior." D is short for "destruction." The longhand version of this formula reads, "You plus Pornography (or other sexually inappropriate behavior) equals Destruction." Simple.

Fire is the best analogy for men who engage in ongoing and unchecked lust, fantasy, pornography, masturbation and other sexual behaviors that are not relational with their wives. Fire is great. Mankind has benefited from, survived with, cooked over and been warmed by contained fire for thousands of years. A fire in containment, like a fireplace or a stone-lined campfire, is a beautiful thing. It is both safe and beautiful to watch. Another contained fire that many of us men love is a grill. I enjoy the fire in my grill because I can slap on an ordinary piece of meat, add some spices, and in short order I have a culinary masterpiece for my family to enjoy.

Fire in a contained environment is a gift. Fire in an uncontained situation, however, can wreak significant damage. Again, you plus uncontained fire equals damage (U + P = D). I live in the western part of the country, where there are wildfires almost every summer. These fires either escaped from their containment because they were neglected or had no containment to begin with. A wildfire grows and grows and consumes everything in its path. It can consume a forest, the plains, houses and even human lives if they're in the way.

Sexuality is like fire in many respects. First, fire and sex are gifts to be enjoyed only in contained situations. The only containment for sex and sexual appreciation of a woman is marriage. Sex within a marriage is amazing, comforting, invigorating and deeply satisfying if it is relational. Our wives alone are God's perfect sexual will for our lives.

Unfortunately, some men sin and do not contain their sexual fire to their wives. Their sexual fire strays into areas of self-indulgence, lust, fantasy, pornography, masturbation, flirting, grooming and sexually engaging with other women. Sexual fire that leaves the confines of the fireplace, so to speak, has consequences.

Most men don't experience the consequences immediately, so they don't believe there will be any. They continue day after day, year after year, not realizing that their lives are being consumed. They are losing thousands of hours of time; allowing their spiritual, emotional and moral souls to be stunted; and having their worth destroyed by the fire of their sexual lust and all its manifestations.

That's only the beginning of this fire's consuming damage. I have talked to thousands of couples where the husband's lust and sexual behavior had burned out of control. One man was a prominent pastor. His behavior remained secret for years. When it became public, the consequences largely affected his wife and children. Years later, some of his children remain damaged, and this man had honestly believed his behavior wouldn't hurt anyone. His choices damaged his church, a very prominent church in his city, and thousands left the church community.

This church experienced a significant decline in size and global impact. Months after this event occurred, I was speaking in Europe at an international conference and met people from this congregation who were still significantly hurt and confused by this man's sexual choices outside marriage. This one man's decision continues to affect his church, missionaries, his city and many other areas of the world.

No man should experience this type of negative consequence in his own life, his family's lives and others' lives, even those around the globe. I want every man to have a clean life—one with a good effect on the world around him. A lifetime of encouraging others in the Christian life is an amazing gift to have and enjoy, and it is worth fighting for.

You and I have seen men who have a clean life and leave a positive legacy. We have also seen or heard about men who have fallen. Now I want to take you deeper into studying the impact of a man who chooses an unclean lifestyle on those he loves.

Remember the formula U + P = D? I want to share with you man-to-man what I have seen in my office week after week. It exposes the truth of that sad equation over and over again. I have sat in my chair while a husband first discloses to his spouse that he has cheated on her, whether with a prostitute, another man, her best friend or with porn during their entire marriage and worse behaviors than I can write. I have seen the invisible lightning bolt hit her—spirit, soul and body. I have watched as hundreds of women convulsed in pain and cried hysterically, and some looked and felt as though they momentarily went insane.

I have talked to hundreds of children from age 6 to adulthood who wonder why they weren't good enough for their dads to stop his behavior. Why did their dads abandon them and raise some other woman's children? I have counseled with women and men who realized, after years of terrible decisions, they were looking for their parents' love in some bizarre way.

I have seen unclean sexual lives cause an astonishing array of carnage. In light of this, I am earnestly praying for men to join the many others who humbled themselves and got and stayed clean. I see miracles every week: a real man stops his inappropriate behaviors, stops sacrificing his family for his secrets and every day, fights for himself to stay clean so he can enjoy the privilege of being a husband and a father. As men, your lives have an influence. Paul said we are living epistles (2 Cor. 3:3). We are the message of the gospel to our families and friends.

Let me give you another formula: U + C = L. The letter U is short for "you." C is short for "clean"—that's you living these principles and having a clean life for the rest of your life. L is short for life or life-giving. When you live a clean life, you also have an incredible influence, but this time a positive one. I have seen this formula play out many times. I have known godly men who stayed true to their God, true to their wives and true to their children. They were imperfect, but their families could trust them as husbands and fathers. These men left a legacy of perseverance, patience and character. Their children were proud to have had them as their dads, and the men's lives inspired them all in some way.

I have also seen the resurrection story recreated here. It's a story where a man starts his life with the formula U + P = D, and then changes somewhere along the way to U + C = L. These men often also experience their wives coming to respect them over time, trusting them again. Their children can rebuild their faith and learn to trust in Dad and others through their own healing process.

You decide the kind of influence you have. My prayer is that each ripple from the impact of your life has the echo of clean.

Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books, including Clean. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com or on his Facebook, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at [email protected].

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