Several years ago, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson was thrust into the limelight, and with that, many key concepts relating to healthy masculinity came to light. He helped me realize that I needed to engage in transforming my own life for the better, and whilst I still have room to grow, I’ve never looked back.
One idea he brings is that men shouldn’t strive to “be nice,” but rather that men should strive to be dangerous – but with self-control. I see this proposal to enact self-control as foundational to Catholics who are striving to grow in the fullness of virtue, which includes striving to practice chastity.
Self-Control and Physical Touch
Self-control also breaches the topic of physical touch, and thus also expressions of intimacy with others – including our romantic interests. Today, with people being so touch-starved (and therefore holy-touch-starved), it behooves us to have conversations about the degree to which a couple’s journey towards holy intimacy should include healthy, holy touch, of course gifted in a way that reflects self-control and self-giving love for one another.
Forms of affection that are proper to marriage, of course, still need to wait for marriage. Likewise, if someone thinks any touch would send them down a spiral of “going too far,” then they’re right in avoiding it for the sake of avoiding the occasion of sin, however, they need to work on that internally instead of perpetually fleeing from it.
A Reflection on Fear of Physical Touch
One Catholic man I know shared some helpful (and challenging) thoughts on this, and I hope all men and women consider his words, or at least pray about them. He wrote:
“I recently read an online comment from a “man” who claimed that there should be no touch until marriage. I thought that was so pathetic, lukewarm, immature, and fear-based. If a man is fearful of touch/physicality, let alone initiating it, then he is not yet the man he needs to be, to healthily enter relationship. Further, if a man is afraid of affectionate touch being an occasion of sin, then we need to pray that he comes to see this as a type of spiritual sickness that needs to be healed. . . . So, what might he be afraid of? He’s afraid of his own power, his own wildness, and possibly the idea of being rejected on account of expressing himself, as he is in his current state. A weak man, or a man who might still be overly wounded, fears venturing out into the wild to make himself vulnerable via taking responsibility for himself and others relationally. However, masculinity, in its natural state, craves this wildness, and a man who suppresses this wildness suppresses his true masculinity. . . . The fact is that men should be passionate and should be able to experience a burning desire to share the gift that they delight in their spouse, perhaps manifesting in them “taking” her (with her consent, of course). Further, a man should be comfortable in residing in that holy, self-giving passion whilst giving of himself to her, as opposed to trying to merely suppress/bury (run away from) those desires under fake facades of piety. That is, he should channel his passion, and refine it with self-sacrifice for the sake of others and for the sake of the kingdom. This is not a manifestation of mere behaviour management, but rather is a true manifestation of the practice of virtue – and it is through striving to grow in the fullness of virtue that the heart is gradually transformed. Virtue, which is increased through hard work, is the reason a man treats his woman with dignity, not because of his neutered lukewarmness that keeps him afraid of responsibility. As spoken about in Fr. Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph, the young St. Joseph could live chastely because he worked hard for that virtue. It was a sacrifice for him to give up the pleasures of sex because the wildness and the passion was still within him. He wasn’t a burned-out shell of an old man left with no drive, and we shouldn’t be either.”
With that being said, what does manifesting self-control, initiating holy touch, and preparing yourself for an intimate, self-sacrificial, passionate, and chaste love-life with your future spouse look like to you?
Hudson Byblow is a Catholic speaker, author, and consultant who lives in the Midwest where he has a career in education. He has presented at National and International conferences in the United States and Canada and also presents to clergy, schools, and parishes. Additionally, Hudson serves as a consultant to various Catholic agencies, speakers, and educators. His website is www.hudsonbyblow.com and he can be booked by emailing email@example.com.