One of my favorite lines in any movie I’ve ever watched comes from Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast. Belle has been living in captivity in the Beast’s castle for months, and after establishing a sort of friendship, the Beast finally asks Belle—in a rare moment of consideration—whether she thinks she could ever be happy with him there. Belle responds simply: “Can anyone really be happy if they aren’t free?” This question is the catalyst that forces the Beast to rethink Belle’s captivity, and he ultimately decides that the best (and only) way to love her is to let her go, even at extreme personal cost.
This cinematic moment carries all the weight and emotional resonance of truth. In real life, authentic love cannot be forced or contrived. True love requires freedom. So why do we settle for enslavement when Christ has bought our liberation?
I am, of course, speaking about the consequences of sexual sin, the roots of which inhibit our ability to freely choose another based on shared goals, values, and virtues. I am speaking to every young adult out there who has grappled with, or perhaps is still struggling with, the temptation of premarital sex.
Maybe in the moment, it feels as though you are free. In the moment, you can convince yourself of almost anything; your feelings may be so overwhelming and powerful for your partner that you are almost capable of justifying whatever sin occurs within your relationship. But let me speak to something more powerful: chastity is more, so much more, than mere abstinence. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that abstinence as a social construct is archaic and, in many cases, disordered without chastity at its core. After all, I’m sure we’ve all heard the age-old saying, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk free?” This is hardly a convincing argument for young adults today, who experience far less cultural judgment than our grandparents did. Women in the 1940s had to worry about preserving their reputation—and I’d go so far as to say that “reputation” doesn’t exist today as it once did. Today, anyone can get away with anything on the grounds that it’s their own version of the truth. Truth is no longer valued as objective or absolute, so why practice abstinence if it’s no longer a cultural expectation? Indeed, why practice it if the culture expects the exact opposite from you?
The difference between abstinence and chastity? Chastity encourages and makes possible the freedom to choose, and the freedom to love. When chastity exists in a relationship, each person is living out God’s design to embrace the fullness of human love, and to uphold the other’s dignity by valuing them too much to harm, jeopardize, or use them as an object of pleasure. With premarital sex, the decision to enter wholeheartedly into a relationship is muddled by the hormonal and psychological responses we experience as a result of what should accompany a marital union, and this is not what God wants for us. If the law did not exist out of love, it would not be a law at all—because God is love.
Does God command anyone to love him? Think about it: did the Maker of the universe strip away our free will so that we would have no choice but to adore? He absolutely could have, quite easily and without complication. There would be no Fall, no sin, no evil without free will.
…There would also be no love.
If God Himself desires that we turn to Him and embrace His love for us with total clarity and freedom, He desires the same for us in our earthly relationships. Without chastity, there can be no true freedom of choice—you become too emotionally invested in the lie you are exchanging with your partner (“you and only you, forever and always”) to make the decision to love freely. Love without freedom is nothing more than a sham, and you were created for the real deal. You were created for the heavenly design of love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” 1 Corinthians 13:1
Lindsey Todd is a Master of Arts student at Dartmouth College, and the published author of Catholic novel Closure (available online and in Barnes & Noble stores). In her free time, she enjoys traveling, singing, hiking, literature across genres, and exercising. She has a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and a great affinity for St. Joan of Arc and St. Pope John Paul II. Lindsey is passionate about sharing the beauty of chastity with others, particularly as a Catholic writer. Her self-help book about pure dating relationships, Freedom to Love, is available on Amazon and Kindle, and has been endorsed by Jason Evert and Pam Stenzel. You can follow Lindsey’s author account on Instagram: @veritaswords, and learn more about her work at www.lindseytodd.net.