It is an unfortunate reality that we live in a society that sexualizes everything and glorifies instant gratification. The upside, however, is that many young, single Catholics continue to actively strive for chastity and understand why it is necessary. We have heard so many amazing accounts of what it means to give and receive authentic love, and we are always able to look to our Creator for the ultimate example of what it means to sacrifice all for the sake of true, uninhibited love.
Once I’d reached a point in my life where I felt that I’d mastered physical chastity, I’d assumed it was a virtue I could simply cross—on to the next virtue! But the beautiful thing I’m discovering about the Catholic faith is that you’re never really done learning about it, whether you’ve been Catholic for a short time or have been living the faith your whole life.
Over the last year, I read the book Emotional Virtue by Sarah Swafford, and it opened my eyes to so many aspects of chaste dating that I hadn’t considered before. Chastity is about so much more than just remaining pure physically. Rather, it calls us to love so radically and deeply that we are forced to put all of our own desires aside, making way for the good of another before all else. With the truly chaste mindset established, we are able to not only focus on mastering our carnal passions, but to analyze our intentions in our relationships with the opposite sex.
In the age of texting, IMing, and Facebook, it can be all too easy to shoot off a message to someone that doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond the fact that it can be a nice distraction from loneliness or heartbreak. Sometimes, “meaningless” conversation to one person means something very different to the person with whom they are speaking. It is impure of heart to mislead someone simply because their conversation, or company, acts as a temporary bandage for the emotional wounds we might be trying to heal, or because their attention may be a bit of an ego boost.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being friends with a person of the opposite sex, but the type of relationship should always be very clearly defined and apparent in its nature to both parties. Meeting for a casual lunch is one thing; a phone call at 2 a.m. is another. Joking and friendly banter are fine; flirtatious remarks and deep conversations about love and shared wishes may cross the line, unless the intent is to establish a romantic relationship.
Every friendship is different, and what might be natural, normal behavior for some friends might be misleading and end in heartbreak for others. The key is to figure out what is most appropriate and clear for your own friendships, so that your words and behavior aren’t misinterpreted to mean more than what is intended.
Sure, it might feel good to “harmlessly” flirt, and it might feel good to receive attention from someone even if you’re not necessarily interested in them, but what is always good to consider is how you would feel if you were on the other person’s side of things. Would you want to be led on? Would you want to waste your time on someone who wasn’t interested in you? In the event that you believe a friend feels more for you than you feel for them, it is your obligation to be honest with them, even if it might hurt the friendship. Christ tells us that in order to truly love others, we must be honest with them.
If we mislead another person with blurry lines of friendship—making them feel that the potential for something more might exist if it does not—we do them the dishonor of taking advantage of any feelings they may have for us simply to feed our own pride. That isn’t love. It is use—and the people we call friends deserve more than that.
The next time you are tempted to pick up your phone and pour your heart out to a friend of the opposite sex at 2 a.m., ask yourself what your reasons and intentions are. Ask yourself what you are seeking from the conversation. If you suspect that your motives are anything less than pure, resist the temptation to reach out to that person. You are called to holiness, and holiness always demands perfect love—physically, and emotionally.
Lindsey Todd graduated from West Chester University in 2016 with a B.A. in English, and currently works as a technical writer for Mars, Inc. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing, singing, playing with her dog, reading, and exercising. She also loves art, fashion, and deep political and theological discussion. She has a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and a special love for St. Pope John Paul II. Lindsey is passionate about sharing the beauty of pure love with others, particularly as a Catholic writer and as a retreat leader for young women. She currently resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with her family.