Tears dropped from her cheeks.
I had been seeing this young lady for some time for depression. As the session turned to discussion of her social affairs, she acknowledged that she had given herself to many partners with little romantic interest. She had experienced a past victimization, distant parents, and academic challenges that never had been fully resolved. As we spoke about the value of chastity, and the possibility of secondary virginity as Crystalina Evert had once written about to her future husband, tears welled up in her eyes and she began to cry uncontrollably. As the conversation ensued and I spoke of the inherent value that she and all others had and deserved, it was clear that she desired something much deeper and more lasting than what she had received. In her incompleteness, she had settled for less. Still, the desire to be respected, and valued, and loved by a man who would look at her not just as a pretty girl, but instead as a divine woman was as palpable as the tears streaming down her face.
As the discussion regarding chastity ensues, it becomes evident that we are not talking about an idea or belief, but an encounter with a human being. Any chaste or unchaste thought or action springs forth from a person—one in mind, body, and spirit—composed of many dimensions. The dimensions I speak of are not only spiritual, but also physical, psychological, and social. Experiences in these areas shape us in many ways, and consciously or unconsciously, lead us to actions and experiences that we may desire or despise, including in the realm of sexuality. The further away that a person gets from the wholiness of which we are all called, the less likely it is chastity that he or she will embrace.
In my own life as a husband, father of six children, and a pediatric psychologist, it is increasingly clear that everything really does affect everything. Aspects such as empathy, endurance, and emotional regulation have a clear impact on how we live God’s gift of sexuality. Being the person that we desire to be is often hard work, requires frequent communication, and demands that we often put our calls first, and our feelings and desires second.
In my office, chastity discussions usually begin with anything but this topic. They start with depressed and anxious youth who are looking for a place to belong, for someone who will love them. They start with issues of limited sleep, technology immersion, or a reckless lifestyle, or disengaged, distressed, or overbearing parents. But as a youth finds him or herself with many different desires, pressures, and pursuits, it is then that sexuality often reaches the forefront as an expression of where he or she may be lacking. Most young people genuinely agree that sex is much more than the physical act itself, even if this belief is often not publicly expressed in this way.
But what so often happens is that when an adolescent feels much less than their whole self for many possible reasons, the noble idea of chastity gives way to a satisfaction of the parts. Their desire for something much more meaningful is subsumed under their desire to just feel something more, even if it places them in a precarious, unhealthy situation.
As we look to teach the value of chastity to the young, it seems we must also teach them that in order to pursue a holy, chaste life, they must pursue a whole one. Otherwise, what we will repeatedly find is that unchaste behavior is simply a manifestation of a gaping hole that desires to be filled in one of the dimensions of our whole being.
(For more on this topic, check out Dr. Jim Schroeder’s newest book on the topic of wholiness below.)
Jim Schroeder is a husband and father of six children, and a pediatric psychologist at St. Mary’s Center for Children in Evansville, Indiana. He is the author of three books entitled, “Wholiness: The Unified Pursuit of Health, Harmony, Happiness, and Heaven,” “Into the Rising Sun” and “40 Days of Hopeful Prayer.” He writes a monthly column entitled Just Thinking, which can be found at www.stmarys.org/articles.