How to Stay Pure Links
If a man loves you for who you are, then he won’t lose the person he loves by being pure with you. However, if a guy leaves you because you are unwilling to do sexual things with him, then you can know for certain that he never loved you to begin with. If his real interest is in sex rather than in you, your purity will bring his intentions to the surface. This is one of the functions of chastity: Not only does it free you to love; it also frees you to know if you are really being loved.
Take some time to think about what you really want in a guy. Odds are, you want a man who will challenge you to grow spiritually, not take from you sexually everything that you are willing to give him. There’s a widespread myth that guys are the ones who battle sexual temptations, while it’s the woman’s job to be the chastity cop. This isn’t fair. Girls have their own temptations as well, and persevering in purity is challenging enough when both people agree on the importance of chastity. Being pure becomes all the more difficult when the responsibility of keeping the relationship chaste falls on your shoulders alone.
Also, keep things in perspective: Your boyfriend is not doing you an immeasurable favor by not having sex with you. It is his duty as a gentleman, and you owe him nothing for doing what he ought to do. If he is pouting that you have imposed upon him an unjust sentence of abstinence, then he’s trying to emotionally manipulate you. You should not have to deal with a guy who will give you the silent treatment when you make a vow of purity, or question your decision to live by God’s standards instead of his.
It is better that he be mad than you lower your standards. Some women are so timid and afraid to hurt a guy’s feelings that they often end up causing themselves immeasurable harm. Listen to you heart and follow your conscience.
If he can quickly get over his disappointment and grow in his understanding of the value of the gift of sexuality, the relationship might be salvaged. But don’t get wrapped up in months and years of missionary dating. Instead, guard your heart and trust the guidance of your family and close friends.
If he persists in his pouting, then don’t be afraid that love will pass you by if you leave this relationship. It just may open up the door for the kind of love you’ve wanted all long. Here are some tips on how to know when it’s time to let go.
God’s will is your happiness, and if the Lord wants the two of you together, then waiting until you’re married to act like a husband and wife will not ruin this. As I mentioned above, if purity kills a relationship, then you can be sure that it was never built on love in the first place. Just as a strong wind will fuel an enormous fire and extinguish a weak flame, so too will purity intensify authentic love and extinguish it’s counterfeit.
Lastly, make sure to ask God the same question you asked me. Sometimes we’re so busy listening to music, scrolling around on the screen on our phones, watching TV, talking to friends, and messing around online that we never take time to sit still and pray. If we do not make time for that silence in our souls, we’ll have a very difficult time hearing God speak to us. For starters, set a regular prayer time and stick to it. We can’t expect to grow spiritually if we think that prayer times will just happen. My favorite place to pray is before the Blessed Sacrament at church. Wherever we choose to pray, we must be disciplined, and we will reap what we sow. When you begin to pray, invite the Holy Spirit to bless your prayer time. Spend some time reading the Bible, because the Lord often uses that to talk to our hearts. Also, ask our Lady to help you pray. If you persevere in doing this, you will see what you should do with this relationship.
As difficult as this may be, try to uncover the cause of your fear. For example, I know of a young woman who had been the victim of rape, and from that point forward in her life, she never said “no” to doing sexual things with guys. Her reasoning for this was because in her mind, she “knew what happens when a girl says no,” and she never again wanted to experience such a violation of her will. Therefore, by saying “yes” to every man’s lust, she thought she was robbing them of their power to control her. Unfortunately, in doing so, she had also surrendered her own power to love and be loved.
In other cases, a young woman might be afraid to say no because she fears a man’s rejection. She’s afraid to discover that some men don’t really want the woman. Rather, they want only the pleasure obtained at the woman’s expense. By always saying “yes” to the men’s desires, such a woman lives in denial of what she already knows in her heart: she isn’t being loved.
When it comes to saying “no,” keep in mind is that a girl who never learns to say “no” is a girl who will have the hardest time finding love. This is because of how much time she wastes trying to be who she thinks men want her to be. As a result, she settles for lust when she longs for love.
A girl I know came home crying after a date, and her mom asked her what went wrong. She said that as soon as she got into the guy’s car, he started to make sexual jokes, and she informed him that she practiced chastity. He replied, “That’s okay—there’s lots of other stuff we can do” (meaning everything short of intercourse). She gave him a quick tutorial on the definition of chastity, and how it meant that she respected her body, and that she would not be doing anything with him that she would not want her future spouse to be doing with some other girl. He looked at her and asked, “So, you mean I’m not going to get anything tonight?!” She confirmed his suspicion, and he turned the car around and dumped her off at home.
Was it embarrassing? Perhaps. But regret lasts much longer than embarrassment. Instead of giving him what he wanted as a way to keep him interested (while secretly wondering of he really loved her) she stuck to her morals, and tested his love—or the lack thereof. It turned out he was not man enough for her. Game over. This leaves the door open for real love in her life because she wasn’t clogging up her love life with guys who only loved pleasure.
Being desperate only harms a girl’s chances of finding love because it makes her more naïve. One young woman admitted to me, “My stupidity coupled with my effort to be nice to everybody makes it hard to stand up for what I believe in.” If you can relate, then it’s time to get a backbone. If you don’t have a backbone, then you will give more and more of yourself away, and yet you will feel that you have less and less to offer. Before long, many girls end up thinking that sex is the only way to gain a man’s interest. For some guys, this is certainly the case. But why would you care about winning such a man’s approval?
Sure, at times the standard of purity can bring about times of loneliness. But don’t feel too depressed about that. Even the most popular people in the world experience loneliness, and perhaps more than you would ever imagine.
Most importantly, if you want to be pure, avoid tempting situations. If you find yourself needing to say no to a man’s sexual advances, then you’re dating the wrong guy. A real man will guard your purity, not wear it down. Moreover, a real man will guard his own purity, without needing a religious girlfriend to beg him to behave!
Often, a girl will find herself asking her boyfriend time and time again to stop. Her real problem is not learning to say no to him, but looking in her heart to see why she is so desperate for the love of a guy who does not respect her.
Hold out for love, and imagine your future spouse out there going through the same struggles. He should have the strength to wait for you, and you should have the strength to wait for him. All we must do is pray, have courage, and act. How do you say no when things are going too far? Click HERE for some tips.
As you know, when you arrive at college, no one will be at school to hold your hand and take you to church. No one will be there to choose your friends or tell you when it’s time to go back to the dorm on Friday nights. Because of this, you have the opportunity to advance in spiritual maturity or to fall away. The decision is in your hands. Therefore, have confidence. St Julian of Norwich said, “God] did not say: You will not be troubled, you will not be tempted, you will not be distressed. But he said, You will not be overcome.”
To help you stay strong, here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Find good friends. This is perhaps the best strategy to stay strong in college. If you study the lives of the saints, you’ll discover that a great number of them were friends with other saints. St. Francis Xavier was the college roommate of St. Ignatius Loyola. St. Clare and St. Francis were great friends, as were St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. You may think, “That’s nice, but I don’t think the people in my dorm are going to get canonized a saint any time soon.” While that may be true, it shouldn’t stop you from finding friends who will help you become more fully yourself.
At some truly Catholic colleges, this is an easy task. However, most universities aren’t exactly brimming with students who value the virtue of chastity. This means that you may have to do some searching. Get involved in the Newman Center, FOCUS, campus ministries, or things like that in order to find like-minded students. Many campuses, such as Harvard and Princeton, have student-run chastity clubs you can join. If yours does not have one, do not be afraid to start it! Finding such friends is not always an easy task, but it is always worth the effort.
Finding good friends also means sometimes turning down the opportunity to hang out with those who will wear down your morals. When you arrive on campus, you will certainly receive invitations to attend parties during pledge week, where fraternities and sororities recruit members. Most of these gatherings are like high school parties, with the difference being that parents never break it up to send everyone home. As a result, it’s not the best place to be if you’re hoping to maintain your purity. You would be wise to skip such parties. Respectfully declining the opportunity to attend a certain party will not mean the end of your college social life. In fact, it may open the door to finding better friends.
If you have friends who waver between what kind of lifestyle they want to lead, come up with ideas of fun things you can do on weekends that won’t involve them making harmful decisions. Keep them busy with good things, and they’ll see what most college students realize in the silence of their hearts: hookups and hangovers aren’t as much fun as advertised.
2. Choose your college carefully. Consider attending a college that will directly strengthen your faith. Click here for some examples. Also, some state colleges have fantastic Catholic groups on Campus, so make sure to look into that as well. Texas A &M would be a prime example, but there are many others.
3. Pray in Private: In order for you to keep your faith, you’ll need to become more disciplined in your prayer life. Start now with a routine of morning and night prayers. Perhaps you could get into the habit of doing the Liturgy of the Hours through a prayer app. That way, you’ll have a good habit to bring into college. Also, stay close to Our Lady. Carry a Rosary in your pocket at all times. You’d be surprised how often it reminds you to pray. If there is a Eucharistic adoration chapel anywhere near your school, make a habit of making frequent visits there. A weekly holy hour would be a good place to start.
4. Pray in Public: Never stop going to Mass & confession. There is a good reason why the Bible commands us not to stay away from the assembly of faith (Heb. 10:24-25). We need the support.
5. Stand up: Don’t be afraid to stand up for your faith in the classroom and out of it. You will be tested in many new ways, but God allows such purification in order to strengthen you. You may need to learn how to intellectually defend your faith and your lifestyle as never before. This is a good thing.
6. Read good books: Bring holy reading to college. For starters, you may want to read Pure Faith, How to Stay Catholic in College, Disorientation, and The Way. Also make a practice of reading a few chapters from the Bible each day. If you’re female, consider starting up a book study of How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul with other women on campus.
7. Don’t date right away: Resist the temptation to jump into a romantic relationship right away. It’s exciting to meet so many new faces when you get to college, but take some time to get settled in. Get to know others as friends long before you consider dating him or her.
8. Ask for what you lack: Do not forget that faith is a gift from God. Ask for the gift of faith each day, and it will be granted to you. If you lack courage, ask for that. If you lack purity and conviction, beg for those virtues as well. In the words of Christ, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)
I’m sorry to hear that your friends are pressuring you to make such a life-changing decision. You could reply to them in a number of ways:
1. Tell them virginity is not something to “get done and over with.” That’s an expression that should refer to getting your wisdom teeth pulled out.
2. Tell that that you’d rather your first time be with a husband who will never leave you, not with a hormonal teenage boy who might be gone tomorrow.
3. Ask them if they’d be willing to come to your college dorm next year at 3:00 am to change your baby’s diapers when this guy accidentally impregnates you with a child he has no desire to support. Tell them you’d rather worry about your college entrance exams than pregnancy tests right now.
4. Apart from these blunt replies, it’s important that you tell them with sincerity and charity why you value the gift of sexuality, and why you have no desire to reduce this gift to a loan.
I am sorry to tell you what you already know, but these “friends” do not care about what’s best for you. To them, sex isn’t big deal. It’s just a way to make a guy interested in you. Therefore, I’d strongly suggest you find better friends who bring out the best in you. As St. Paul said, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).
These girls may act like sexual activity outside of marriage is harmless fun, but the reality is quite the opposite. I think that sexually active girls often act so carefree to cover up the fact that they are deeply unhappy, confused, lonely, and frustrated. Some of them I’ve met are scared to cry because they’re afraid that if they start, then they won’t be able to stop.
I am not alone in my observations. In 2005, the Washington Times published an article entitled, “Depression: A new sexually transmitted disease.” In it, the author reported that according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, depression often follows early sexual activity. The study followed over 13,000 middle and high school students for two years. Of the abstinent teens, only 4% experienced depression.
On the other hand, girls who were sexually promiscuous were eleven times as likely to be depressed. What’s significant about this study is that the depression did not seem to cause the sexual activity, but vice versa. They discovered that any sexual experimentation increased the likelihood of depression for girls. They concluded, “Given the present findings, girls who are engaging in substance use or sexual intercourse should be screened for depression, and provided with anticipatory guidance about the mental health risks of these behaviors.”
You don’t need any of this drama. Follow your intuition and respect yourself. You won’t regret it. In fact, the more you save, the less you regret.
. Hallfors, et al., “Which Comes First in Adolescence—Sex and Drugs or Depression?” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 29:3 (October 2005): 169; Hallfors, et al., “Adolescent Depression and Suicide Risk: Association with Sex and Drug Behavior,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 27:3 (October 2004): 224–231
Most situations of impurity can be avoided if you think ahead and avoid people and places that are likely to endanger your purity. But if you are already in a situation where you need to cool it off, there are a number of things you can say. Everyone seems to recommend different approaches.
For starters, do not underestimate the direct approach: simply saying, “We need to stop—we’re going too far,” may do the trick, especially if it is already understood that you are committed to chastity. Include yourself as well as him—say, “We need to stop,” instead of, “You need to stop”—to indicate that you are not blaming him, just putting on the brakes. This may be hard, but consider it a learning experience so that you do not let things get to that point again.
On the other hand, some prefer the humorous approach: “Here’s my cell phone. Call my dad, and if he says it’s OK for us to do what you want, then I’ll do it.” Or, “You’ve got protection? Good. You are going to need it if you don’t get your hands off me.” And then there is, “Everyone’s doing it? Then you shouldn’t have trouble finding someone else.”
These may be entertaining, but I do not know how realistic they are. It might be more practical to give him a compliment—guys love that—such as, “I really like you, and I have so much fun when we’re together, but this is the kind of stuff I want to save for marriage.” Also, feel free to blame your parents for your decision: “My mom would kill me if she ever found out we were doing this. We need to stop.”
Another reason to skip the humorous approach is that this is not a time for jokes but for witnessing to the truth of love. Be humble but clear, confident, and firm, and see this as a teachable moment. Use a verbal no and a no with your body language. If you are lying with him on a couch and whispering a halfhearted “no,” he probably will not take you seriously, since you do not take your commitment to purity seriously. Also, when a girl is unable to say no, she is less attractive. Wendy Shalit described a “deadness” in girls’ demeanor “that comes from inauthenticity, from giving away too much,” from not knowing how to set limits and having the character to stand by them. To avoid this deadness, pray to God for the strength to maintain and grow in your purity.
Even if you don’t convince your date to live purely in his own life, that’s OK. It’s more important that you do what is right than it is for you to convince another. You should not have to play the chastity cop. In fact, both people in a relationship should be mutually accountable. The responsibility to blow the whistle should not rest entirely on one person. Also, you do not owe your date a thirty-minute presentation on why chastity is important to you, and you certainly do not owe him sexual favors. If he does not accept a simple no, then he does not love you.
If that’s the case, let him go, and hold out for a man who knows how to properly honor a woman. Most importantly, do not be afraid. One teenage girl wrote to me and said, “I really like him, but I do not know why I have sex, like sometimes I am scared to say no.” There are worse things in the world than not being asked out again by a guy who only loves himself. If he dumps you over this, then he did not deserve your attention to begin with. Could this be embarrassing? Perhaps. But regret lasts much longer than embarrassment.
It also might not be embarrassing at all. One high school girl said to me, “I know a lot of guys who act like they want sex just because they think they have to think that. But really, on the inside they are not like that at all.” Sometimes it is a relief for a guy when a girl is clear about her boundaries and has strong values. It may take the pressure off a guy who assumes that you expect him to act like the rest of the guys. The numerous stories of sexual conquests that guys overhear in the locker room may make a good guy think that he is less of a man if he does not try to go as far with a woman as his classmates have.
Also, some men are afraid that women will consider them unmanly or reject them if the men do not try to have sex with them. Your date may be trying to go too far with you in order to avoid appearing less of a man. Your character will serve to remind him of real manhood. If you think that temptations make it nearly impossible to say no, remember that you have the ability to tell your body what to do. It will obey you. If a married couple were in bed together and their house caught on fire, do you think they would say, “Oh, no! We can’t say no to sex. We’re going to die!” Or do you think they would stop their actions—no matter how intimate and exciting—and save their lives? In the same way, remember that you have the capacity to sacrifice the pleasures of the moment for a greater good—to save your spiritual life.
When things are going too far, value yourself enough to say no. Unfortunately, many young women use physical intimacy as a way of giving themselves value. The embraces feel like an affirmation of their worth, and perhaps because of mistakes they have made in the past, they do not understand the tremendous value of their bodies. Your purity is a treasure, so have the confidence to respect yourself. When the two of you work to preserve purity, it will keep an element of mystery and excitement in your relationship that is lost when couples do not bother to keep anything secret and sacred.
. Wendy Shalit, A Return to Modesty, (New York: Touchstone, 1999), 57.
It is not wrong to have sexual desires. It is what we do with them in our thoughts, words, and actions that can be good or bad. So here are some tips for training.
Don’t place yourself in relationships or situations where you know mistakes will happen. Sometimes we march right into tempting situations and then blame God that the temptations were too strong to resist. Surround yourself with good friends, because as Saint Paul said, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). We may have heard our parents say that before, but research backs it up: when most of a teen’s friends are sexually active, that teen is 31 times as likely to get drunk and 22 times as likely to have smoked pot compared with teens who don’t hang out with sexually active friends. Other researchers have noted, “only 4 percent of young people whose friends were not sexually active were sexually active themselves. Amongst those whose friends were sexually active, the figure was 43 percent.”
If you watch MTV or vulgar sitcoms or if you read Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, or other things that are impure, get rid of them. Consider them love pollution. Also avoid being idle. This is the chief means by which we end up falling into sin. Keep yourself occupied with friends, service work, sports, hobbies, and similar activities.
This all requires a determination for purity. But consider how people deny themselves to get the perfect body. If people spent one-tenth that time caring for their souls, we would be a world of saints. No one thinks a man is repressive if he eats healthy food to prepare for a marathon. In the same way, what you are preparing for—love and holiness—requires serious training. You will not be repressing your sexual desires but redirecting that energy toward selfless love.
You are not alone in your struggle with temptation. In fact, even the saints endured similar battles. In the words of Saint Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. . . . But I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom. 7:19, 23). During this struggle, remember that God’s grace is sufficient, for his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Ask God for the wisdom to avoid temptation and the grace to please him. He will give these spiritual gifts and many others—to those who ask for them. In the words of a wise priest, “The one obstacle that can turn our lives to misery is the refusal to believe that God will give us the victory of perfect chastity.”
How do you obtain that victory? Step number one is prayer. Set a daily prayer time and stick to it. I also recommend the frequent reception of the sacraments, especially Mass and reconciliation. The Eucharist is the fountain of purity, so take advantage of those graces. Going to Mass will not take away all your temptations, but it will give you the grace of charity. In the Eucharist Christ gives himself fully to us so that we might give ourselves fully. This is the foundation of chastity, because love motivates us to live for others instead of for ourselves. Make time for daily Mass and go whenever possible. If there is a church in your area that has a Eucharistic Adoration chapel, make frequent visits to Jesus there. In other words, make your life intensely Eucharistic.
There are many devotions that can strengthen your life. For example, pray a rosary every day. This takes only fifteen to twenty minutes, so set some time aside for that. Praying the stations of the cross is another source of tremendous power that people tend to overlook. For a simple prayer, quietly and devoutly say the names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Take up a devotion to your guardian angel, who is always there to help you resist temptation. Turn to the Bible, because it is a great source of grace and consolation whenever we need it. For starters, read 1 Peter 5:6–10. Lastly, if you’re serious about wanting to make moral progress in your life, find a good confessor or spiritual director. As they say, “He who has himself as a guide has a fool for a disciple.”
. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, “National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse IX: Teen Dating Practices and Sexual Activity,” Columbia University (August 2004), 6.
. The Australian Family Association 7:1 (February 2001), as reported by Abstinence Network 5:1 (Spring 2001), 9.
. Paul M. Quay, S.J., The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality (San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1985), 106.
A heart filled with love rises to the greatest challenges. In college I used to wake up at 5:00 in the morning twice a week to meet with the young woman I was seeing. Then we would drive to Pittsburgh in the freezing weather in order to do pro-life work together. I am not a morning person, and since I was born in Florida and raised in Arizona, I am not real big on snow either.
But the sacrifice of getting up in the cold did not seem to matter because of the joy of being together. In the same way, the sacrifices you make to live chastely seem light when they are done for the sake of love. In the words of Saint Josemaría Escrivá, “When you decide firmly to lead a clean life, chastity will not be a burden on you: it will be a crown of triumph.”
When we lose sight of why we are sacrificing, the challenges of love seem heavy. You may be tempted to think, “No one’s going to get hurt from a little fun on a date. Maybe I should just give in.” That is when you must look into your heart and remember why—or more specifically, for whom—you are waiting. What is worth more: a few moments of pleasure or giving your bride the lifelong joy of knowing that you saved yourself for her? Always remember that love for a woman and the exercise of chastity go hand in hand. Chastity cannot exist without love, and love cannot exist without chastity.
When it comes to love and lust, one will be in control. Either love will overpower lust and your passions will be under your control, or lust will dominate and corrupt any love that was once present. It is your choice.
I will admit that a life of chastity involves times of trial and even heroic struggle. This is because struggle cannot be separated from love. The kind of love that endures and makes you happy is not easy. “Chastity is a difficult, long term matter,” Pope John Paul II said. “One must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving-kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness.”
Did you catch that? Chastity is the sure way to happiness. Love can be demanding at times, but it is precisely because of that challenge that true love takes on such a rare beauty.
In regard to what to say to your girlfriend so that you do not feel like a geek, how about something along these lines: “I have so much fun when we’re together, and I really like being with you . . . so I don’t want to mess this up by doing things we could regret. I want to fall in love with you for all the right reasons.”
Trust me, when you say that, “geek” will not be on her mind. But if she, or any of the guys, look down on you for having this much love, so be it. You care more about your God, the heart of your future spouse, and the health of your future children than you do about the passing pleasures of prom night and the opinions of an adolescent locker room. She is worth waiting for—even if you are the only one who seems to realize it. So wait for the woman God has in mind for you, and when you get married your bride can spend the entire honeymoon telling you how much of a geek she thinks you are for waiting for her. Sometimes being a fool in the eyes of the world is excessively romantic.
If others pressure you, some adults advise that you forget the insults and mockery. I advise the opposite. Remember the names that you are called for living a chaste life, and remember the jokes. Then when you stand before the altar and lift your bride’s veil, listen. Listen carefully. Where is the laughter? There is only silence, because you have won. You are the victor; the people who mocked you would much rather to be in your shoes right now. True love is a great gift because it is costly. As Mother Teresa said, “Love, to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”
It might cost you your reputation. It might even cost you certain friendships. But this is precisely why true love is such a rarity today. Those who have the goal of true love should prepare their hearts for sacrifice. God knows the path is challenging, but he would not call us to this lifestyle without providing us the graces to live it.
Sure, the mockery is not fun while you are going through it, but think about why they are pressuring you. It is not because their lifestyle is so fulfilling and they want what is best for you, but because your life of chastity sets the standard high. This probably makes others feel guilty. Their consciences would bug them less if you made the same mistakes they are making. Believe me, you are not missing out on anything by not having a series of broken sexual relationships.
Withstand the abuse also for the sake of men. We guys have a reputation as jerks and we bear a particular responsibility for the many wounds caused to women. There is a certain balance of love between the sexes that needs to be restored. Pope John Paul II wrote: “The man has a special responsibility, as if it depended more on him whether the balance is kept or violated or even—if it has already been violated—reestablished.” So I commend you for being willing to stand for virtue when it is anything but popular.
You may feel that you stick out in a bad way, but without self mastery we do not stick out at all. We become dull beasts, and there is nothing unique about us. With purity we can become radiant, clear, and alive with a uniqueness that women will not fail to see. Sin dulls our individuality. If we wish to be most unique and most fully ourselves, we will find our identity in Christ.
God and women are both searching for men with backbone. For God’s sake, may we be such men. The world today desperately needs men who are not afraid to be gentlemen, men who understand what it means to be a man and are willing to take up that yoke of responsibility, men who will guard a woman instead of seeking ways to empty her of her innocence.
. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way (New York: Scepter, 2002), 40.
. Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 172.
. Michael Collopy, Works of Love Are Works of Peace (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996), 30.
. Pope John Paul II, general audience, July 30, 1980, as quoted in Man and Woman He Created Them, 261.
Step number one begins before a date: if you are serious about the virtue of chastity, then pray often for the grace to be pure and to avoid temptations. As Mother Teresa said, “To be pure, to remain pure, can only come at a price, the price of knowing God and loving him enough to do his will. He will always give us the strength we need to keep purity as something beautiful for God. Purity is the fruit of prayer.”
In the words of Scripture, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have laid up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:9–11). Stay near to Christ, since he is the source of purity. Couples who draw near to Jesus allow his love to flow through them to each other. In fact, the closer they get to God, the more they will be able to love each other. They get out of the way and let him provide the love that exists between them. This is purity of heart; a life of intimacy with God.
Prayer is our first priority. After that we need to remember to only date people who share your morals. If you don’t know a girl’s moral beliefs, then you obviously don’t know her well enough to date her. Take your time to get to know a young woman as a friend before you commit to a relationship. During that season of friendship, your values will come to the surface, and you can decide if the two of you would make a good couple. If she doesn’t have strong morals, don’t commit to her, hoping that she’ll change.
Within a relationship, you’ll need to set guidelines in order to avoid temptations. If you are alone at home and kissing your girlfriend on the couch, it is not the best time to start thinking about your boundaries. Know them in advance, because your judgment will be anything but objective during a passionate moment.
What should you do during a date? Here is a great way to get going in the right direction (a friend of mine at San Diego State University went on a date like this and recommended it to me). Pick up your girlfriend on a Saturday afternoon and head off to church. Go to reconciliation, and then take some time to talk about your relationship. Prayerfully set some firm boundaries regarding intimate behavior. Talking about these things will open up communication and contribute to a healthy relationship. Often couples who establish these boundaries and goals feel a new sense of freedom, peace, and security in the relationship.
While discussing your boundaries, you may realize that the two of you are wired differently. For example, a woman needs to realize that a man’s body works differently than hers. She might be content snuggling with a guy, but the guy’s body is working at a much faster pace. Be honest with yourself and with each other, and make your resolutions clear. Men respond and work best when they have a concrete goal and feel they are needed for a task. If it is clear to you that she trusts you in leading her toward God, it will be easier for you to accept the challenge.
After your talk, sit there in church and write each other a love letter promising to lead one another to purity and to God. Vague resolutions do not stand well, so do not just say, “I promise to be more pure.” This kind of resolution is worthless. Be specific. Exchange the letters and read them. You may also want to buy her (and yourself) a purity ring, as a visible sign of your love and your commitment to be pure. If you don’t have any money, tell your parents about this. I am sure your mom or dad would be more than willing to fork over some money for a chastity ring! After giving her the ring, go back to your place (with your parents or roommate home), and cook her dinner. Even if you don’t know how to cook, give it a shot. You’ll at least make her laugh.
I consider this romance without regret. By striving toward God together, you will find a unique bond that is known by few couples. You’ll also begin to see why married couples “who frequently pray together are twice as likely as those who pray less often to describe their marriages as highly romantic.”
Besides the chastity ring and love letter date, I recommend going on group dates, since you are less likely to get into tempting situations with good friends around you. Be careful about spending too much time alone. Even if you do not group date, people are so stuck on going to dinner and a movie that dates can get pretty monotonous. Get creative, and do some service work together for a change. Maybe the two of you could buy groceries, make lunches, and pass them out to poor people downtown. If you are into sports, then try some sport together that you have never done.
The important thing is to plan ahead for a date, especially if it will be in the evening. When a couple has not put any effort into it, it is easier for boredom to set in, and they may become sexually intimate since they cannot think of anything else to do.
Lastly—and perhaps most importantly—avoid places where the two of you have fallen in the past. If you have a favorite scenic overlook, do not expect to drive there late at night with her and end up playing Scrabble. If the two of you always seem to go too far when you are at her house alone, go somewhere else or wait for her parents to get home before you visit. Likewise avoid alcohol and drugs, since these are the gateway to many regrets.
I just rattled off a bunch of useful guidelines, but it is important to recognize that guidelines do not create purity of heart. They create a safer environment in which the virtue of purity can grow. The actual development of purity comes about through prayer. Through our interior life with God, he reveals our calling and mission. This is essential for a guy, because the key to glorifying God in our relationships is to know what our task is with a girl.
Some men go to great lengths to plan a night so that they say and do all the right things to get a woman to hop in bed with them. They know their goal, plan ahead, and achieve what they set out to do. We Christian men have a great deal to learn from these guys—not in regard to their goal but in regard to their focused determination. Before spending time with a young woman, we must have a premeditated agenda and deliberate plans to bless the girl. Instead of being determined to take from the girl—to “get some”—we are called from the cross to empty ourselves and to direct our creativity, skill, and passion toward selfless love instead of selfish lust.
Bluntly, God invites us to come and die. As Christ said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). It is through this emptying of ourselves that we find our manhood.
. Mother Teresa, foreword to A Plea for Purity, by Johann Christoph Arnold (Farmington, Pennsylvania: Plough Publishing House, 1996).
. Les Parrott III and Leslie Parrott, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 145.
Men often receive the blame because we bear a particular responsibility for the wounds inflicted on women. Like it or not, there is no way around this. The world has a double standard. A guy is considered a “player” when he is sexually active, but a woman who lives the same lifestyle is called less pleasant names.
Nevertheless, you’re right: the pressure goes both ways. There is no doubt that there are many young women who are more sexually aggressive than their dates. But take a look at the reasons why. When a guy is sexually aggressive, it is usually because he wants to satisfy his sexual desires. With young women there is often a different motive. Look into the heart of a young girl who is forward and physical. Odds are that she has been used before, and now she shuts off her emotions from her physical actions. In the words of Complete Woman magazine, one of the positive aspects of first date sex is that it “makes you briefly forget your huge self-esteem problems.” What they failed to mention was that first-date sex causes huge self-esteem problems.
Many men have no qualms about having a one-night stand because they are more able to perform the sexual act as if it were merely a physical event. Women’s hearts and bodies tend to be more integrated. One girl said:
“Most of all, at the gut level, there was a desire for intimacy, a desire for marriage, a desire for commitment, a desire for fulfillment and a desire to hear the words ‘I accept you.’ . . . As an attempt to find fulfillment and acceptance, ‘rolling in and out of bed’ became a common pattern for me, a balm to cover my fears. Fulfillment took the scope of a few hours instead of what I had imagined—a lifetime. The fears produced the truth: I had become bored and boring; I didn’t find any lasting acceptance of me; I didn’t find my ideal mate.”
When you find a woman who is having one-night stands, you will notice that it is often a kind of protection for her heart. She has been hurt before. She may have no boundaries when it comes to her body, but there is a mile-high wall around her heart. She stoops to the level of a temporary physical relationship to prove that she can be as carefree about sex as some men are. It keeps her from having to be vulnerable, and it gives her a false sense of being in control of her life. She is losing the ability to bond, but it is all an effort to numb the interior wounds and find something that feels like love in order to smother the emptiness.
This is known to some people as “liberation.” One man noted, “Most young women strike me as sad, lonely, and confused; hoping for something more, they are not enjoying their hard-won sexual liberation as much as liberation theory says they should.” When a young woman encounters the inevitable hurt that accompanies the misuse of sex, she may shut men out of her life or immerse herself in physical relationships in order to forget the wounds of her heart. Imagine that a woman spilled ink on a white carpet. The stain runs deep, so instead of taking the time and effort to scrub it out, she dyes the whole carpet the same color as the ink. This makes the original stain much less noticeable.
That is what is going on in many hearts. A woman who has been broken from sexual encounters tends to minimize the hurt. One way to do this is to jump into numerous affairs as if they were no big deal. By doing this she hopes to convince herself that there is no need for healing. One high school girl told me why she had done all sorts of things with guys: “I was only doing it because I had this total and complete lack of love in my life.” Some young women may lower their standards so that they will feel desirable and worth something.
Women know that guys like sex. So sex becomes bait to win the attention of a man. Other young women may have been reserved about sexual matters, but because of a mistake or a wound from the past, they figure they no longer deserve a good guy. A girl like this may even assume that a man does not like her unless he makes sexual advances toward her.
As you see in all these cases, the physical tends to be an avenue for the fulfillment, burial, or protection of the emotional. I go into all of this psychology because the solution to the double standard you mentioned is not to place more blame on women. Rather, if a man understands the source of a woman’s sexual aggressiveness, he’ll be more concerned with reminding her of her dignity than with exposing her shame.
. “Dating Game,” Complete Woman, (February–March 2001), 84.
. Josh McDowell, Why Wait? (Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson Book Publishers, 1987), 172.
. Leon Kass, “The End of Courtship,” Public Interest 126 (Winter 1997), 39–63.
I understand your fear of confronting your boyfriend, but the bottom line is that you must risk losing him. Every human being was created to be loved and never to be used. But if you are even slightly afraid that he will lose interest in you when you end physical intimacies, ask yourself: Is he interested in you or in pleasure? Deep in your heart I think you are afraid that he may be in this for the physical relationship. You have been used before, and your greatest fear is that you have been used again.
There are two options open to you. One is to give in to whatever he wants (which is no guarantee that he will stay). The other is to follow your intuition. Look into your heart to discover why you do not feel comfortable doing these things with him. It’s probably because the acts degrade you. You deserve better.
But suppose that you were willing to give your boyfriend whatever he wanted, out of fear of losing him. Would his respect for you go up or down? Down. If you stand firm and show that you will not compromise your values, then he will respect you more—even if he leaves you because he is in search of a girl who does not know what she is worth. You must take this risk if you want love.
Sometimes, women abandon their morals because they like the fact that a boy desires them so much. Such a girl may be starving for love and willing to settle for lust. But what usually happens is that the guy loses respect for the girl, becomes bored, and leaves.
Other times he sticks around as long as she is willing to satisfy his desires. I have heard of many young women who say they did certain things with their boyfriends because they thought that the guys would like them more. One girl wrote, “He had convinced me that what we were doing was OK, and so that is what we did. The whole time I felt I was doing something wrong, but I silenced myself for the good of him. Little did I know the effect this would have on me. It was as though someone had slowly scooped away at my soul and let it deteriorate.”
You know in your heart that this kind of relationship is not what you are looking for.
Another young woman shared: “I had been told all my life that sex before marriage was wrong, but no one ever told me why. In the twelfth grade I found myself dating one boy for a long period of time. We spent a lot of time alone, and as a result our relationship became more physical. I felt guilty, bitter, frustrated, and dirty. Because of those feelings I would say to him, ‘We need to stop having sex, or at least slow down.’ Well, we tried to slow down, but that didn’t work. Instead of getting closer, we grew farther apart. After two years of dating, I finally said, ‘No more sex,’ and he said, ‘Good-bye.’ Since then, whenever I dated another person for a length of time, sex became a part of the relationship. Tears always came because I knew I had blown it again.”
If your boyfriend loves you, he will not pressure you to do things that make you uncomfortable. Suppose you say, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that with you.” If he responds, “Why not? You used to do it,” or “What’s your problem? Come on, I love you, this will make us so much closer,” then he is not respecting you. Often a guy will insinuate that he really loves you but he may need to leave if his desires go unsatisfied. This is definitely not love. “Love waits to give, but lust can’t wait to get.”
Ask yourself this question: When it comes to my body, will my boyfriend take everything I’m willing to give him? If this is the case, then he is not concerned about your soul. His goal is pleasure. While it may temporarily feel like love, you know in your heart it is not. For example, consider what a guy named Jordan said in an article in Complete Woman magazine: “Sex is extremely important to me. In fact, once I felt compelled to break up with a woman I really loved because we didn’t have enough sex. . . . The lack of sex nearly killed me.” (Apparently he was rushed to the hospital for lack of sex.) If this is how Jordan treats the ladies he “really loves,” it is hard to imagine how he treats other women.
Pray for courage and wisdom, and let your boyfriend know that you want to be pure from now on. Good relationships require good communication. You need to be open with your boyfriend about what is in your heart. You deserve a guy who will not only allow you to become pure, but will take the initiative to keep the relationship pure.
Sometimes a guy will reply to his girlfriend’s request to be pure by saying, “No more sexual stuff? That’s OK—I just love being with you.” The girl melts, but his behavior gradually returns to the way it was before. In these cases a girl needs to persevere in purity and see what happens. If he sticks with you as you grow in holiness, and he brings you closer to God by his actions, then the sacrifices you have made together will be good training for marriage.
As for now, the best thing you can do for your boyfriend is to grow in holiness yourself. It will inspire him to become worthy of you. When women are pure, they become “possessors of a deep and wondrous secret that is revealed only to the one who proves himself deserving of her.” This sense of independence in a girl appeals to guys. If women easily give themselves away, they should not be surprised to find themselves in a culture of men who feel no need to commit to them.
But is this guy the one for you? To be honest, I do not think so. I think you may know that and be afraid of starting over. Or perhaps you want to make this work out, so that you do not have to address the hurt. But it will be much better in the long run if you take a hard look at your situation now. One reason I doubt the strength of this relationship is because you said that “sometimes he will respect my wishes.” This is a big warning sign, suggesting that the rest of the time he is placing his hormones on a more important level than you as a person. That says a great deal about his character. Any guy can say yes to sex. But how many can say no? If he cannot say no to temptations now, how will he say no when temptations come in marriage?
. Josh McDowell, Why Wait? (Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson Book Publishers, 1987), 17–18.
. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries in Dating (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2000), 251.
. Laura Morgan, Marie Claire, 2000. As re-published in “How Strong is Your Sex Drive?” Complete Woman, February–March 2001, 17.
. Wendy Shalit, A Return to Modesty (New York: Touchstone, 1999), 97.
You could respond in any number of ways. For one, you could ask the person, “If I can prove that the majority of high school students are virgins, will you be abstinent?” The most authoritative research on the sexual activity rates of high school students is the Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. According to this nationwide survey of more than 150 high schools, only about a third of all students are currently sexually active. Since 1991 teen sexual activity rates have been dropping, and now the majority of high school students are virgins.
In fact, between 1991 and 2005 the sexual activity rate of high school boys dropped twice as quickly as that of high school girls! Among teens who have already lost their virginity, two-thirds of them wish they had waited longer to have sex (77 percent of girls and 60 percent of guys).
The trend toward chastity is well underway, even if you haven’t noticed it on your campus. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy surveyed teens from around the country, asking them if it was embarrassing for teens to admit that they are virgins. Surprisingly, 87 percent of teens said no, it’s not embarrassing. Most of those who said it was embarrassing were under the age of fifteen. Only 5 percent of older teens (fifteen to seventeen years of age) thought virginity was an embarrassing admission.
Despite the fact that these teens said virginity wasn’t something to be ashamed of, you don’t hear much about it because the sexually active students do all the talking. For some reason chastity gossip just doesn’t seem to spread as quickly. This gives the impression that “everyone is doing it,” when in reality the majority are not.
You could also point out that the “everyone” who is “doing it” is also getting STDs, that “everyone” is breaking up three weeks after they have sex, and “everyone” ends up getting divorced if they stay together long enough to get married. You are in no rush to join any of these crowds. We all have a fear of not being accepted or of being a loner if we do not conform to the world. But you must hold out for the higher standard of love.
The bottom line is this: What is your motivation? Is it to please God or to conform to the world and make life-changing decisions based on the opinions of classmates, most of whom you will probably never see again after graduation? Stay strong. You are worth the wait. Besides, the world needs to see young people who are not scared out of their minds to be chaste. This is something to be proud of, and if enough people on your campus realize this and have the courage to stand up, I would bet the saying “everyone is doing it” may eventually refer to chastity.
. Centers for Disease Control, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2013.”
. Centers for Disease Control, “Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Behaviors: National YRBS: 1991–2007,” Fact Sheet (2008).
. Centers for Disease Control, “Trends in HIV-Related Behaviors Among High School Students—United States 1991–2005,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly 55:31 (August 11, 2006), 851–854.
. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, “America’s Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy: An Annual National Survey,” (December 16, 2003), 17.
. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, “The Cautious Generation? Teens Tell us About Sex, Virginity, and ‘The Talk,”’ (April 27, 2000), 1.
As I see it, there are two ways to live and to love. One sees temptations as obstacles to virtue, demanding a constant need to say “no!” in order to obey all God’s seemingly burdensome laws. It is a life that is based upon “Thou shalt nots.” Every day is an exhausting struggle to avoid offending God. If we live like that, then it will be pretty hard to say no all the time.
Here is the alternative: Instead of living life trying not to offend God, live life trying to glorify him. Live each moment as an act of worship to God. Instead of seeing temptations of lust as obstacles to holiness, see overcoming them as the very means to holiness. Certainly this involves avoiding temptation and saying no to sin, but the motivation is the yes of true love.
As Mother Teresa said, “Intense love does not measure . . . it just gives.” Or in the words of Pope John Paul II, a young heart feels “a desire for greater generosity, more commitment, greater love. This desire for more is a characteristic of youth; a heart that is in love does not calculate, does not begrudge, it wants to give of itself without measure.” “There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.” “Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.”
Therefore, the virtue of purity is not first a no to illicit sex but a yes to authentic love. It is not a prolonged series of noes but a continual yes to Jesus. Since we receive more grace each time we say yes to God, we soon see how possible and joyful this life really is. The Blessed Mother offers us the perfect example of how to live this, when in the Gospel of Luke she gives us the recipe for holiness: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). The more we are able to imitate her yes, the more joy and peace we will find in our lives. When asked how we could become saints, Mother Teresa replied: “Whenever Jesus asks something of you, say yes.”
Living the virtue of chastity now means that you cherish your future marriage (or religious vocation) more than passing pleasures. It also prepares you to be a better wife or husband because you will learn how to express intimacy without always needing to be physical. It has been said that when a couple has healthy intimacy, the closer the two become, the more they become themselves. When a couple is experiencing unhealthy intimacy, they usually feel as if they are losing their identity.
The yes I have spoken of is possible with God, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Tap into that, and ask God for the grace to be pure. Have confidence, because with God’s grace anyone can achieve sexual purity.
As you work toward the virtue of chastity, know that the desire to become pure is not something that comes from your body. There is no chastity gland located near your spleen, secreting abstinence hormones. Chastity arises from the will and is awakened and made possible by love. Granted, there will always be a tension between the desire to please God and the desire to act on our impulses. In the words of Christopher West, “Winning this battle takes faith in Christ, dedication, commitment, honesty with ourselves and others, and a willingness to make sacrifices and deny our own selfish desires. But love is not afraid of those things; love is those things.”
One practical note: Take a look at what surrounds you. If you constantly have to say no to various temptations, this implies that you end up in tempting situations on a regular basis. There will always be temptations, but we should work to avoid the occasion of sin. If you listen to music with sexually explicit lyrics, watch MTV, spend time in risqué chat room conversations, look through swimsuit or Cosmopolitan magazines and so forth, you are pouring lighter fluid on the fire that you are trying to extinguish. As the Bible says, “Who will pity a snake charmer bitten by a serpent, or any who go near wild beasts? So no one will pity a man who associates with a sinner and becomes involved in his sins. . . . Flee from sin as from a snake; for if you approach sin, it will bite you” (Sir. 12:13–14; 21:2).
If there are bad influences in your life, replace them. Find better music and decent books to read. Also, increase your time in personal prayer, Scripture reading, and other devotions, and you will be surprised at how much easier chastity becomes. Never forget that purity is a gift from God; you have to ask for it.
. Mother Teresa, as quoted by www.motherteresa.com.
. Pope John Paul II, address, May 18, 1988, Asuncion, Paraguay. As quoted by Pedro Beteta López, ed., The Meaning of Vocation (Princeton, N.J.: Scepter Publishers, 1997), 18–19.
. Pope John Paul II, address, November 22, 1986, Auckland, New Zealand.
As quoted by López, ed., The Meaning of Vocation, 19.
. Pope John Paul II, address, October 1, 1979, Boston, Massachusetts. As quoted by López, ed., The Meaning of Vocation, 19–20.
. Christopher West, Good News About Sex and Marriage, (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2000), 29.
The world looks at chastity and sees repression: a dull and frigid lifestyle that is probably the result of fear or not being able to find a date. ‘‘Those poor people living chaste lives. They don’t have a clue what they’re missing. If only someone could liberate them from their prudishness.’’ Sound familiar?
This may come as a surprise to those who think that chastity and prudery are synonymous, but chastity has nothing to do with having a negative idea of sex. In fact, only the pure of heart are capable of seeing the depth and mystery of sex. For the person who is pure, sex is a sacred gift and the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the foundation of chastity is the dignity of every person and the greatness of sex.
Sure, chastity says no to sex before marriage. This is not because sex or the body is bad but, on the contrary, because sex is a holy mystery and a person’s body is a holy temple. Holy things are not open to all; they are only for those who meet the requirement, who pass the test.
Think of the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple, into which no Israelite dared enter except the high priest once a year. The doors were closed to other good and pious Jews not because the Holy of Holies was dirty or because the Jews were embarrassed about it. On the contrary, it was restricted because it was so holy, so special, that it was appropriate only for the one priest pledged to the temple’s service to enter.
A human body likewise is holy and special, and access to this temple is only for the one pledged forever to it in the sacrament of matrimony. If we understood chastity for what it is, we would see that nothing testifies to the goodness of the body and sex as much as chastity does. Just as humility is the proper attitude toward greatness, purity is the proper attitude toward sex. Purity guards the secret of sex because of its greatness. Those who treat sex as if it were a fair exchange for a nice dinner or six months of commitment are the ones who have yet to discover its real value. As writer Elisabeth Elliot said, ‘‘There is dullness, monotony, sheer boredom in all of life when virginity and purity are no longer protected and prized. By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.’’ We constantly look for what we can get out of someone, how we can please ourselves and ‘‘live in the moment.’’
This is why the impure are never satisfied or free. They have yet to learn that they cannot be filled unless they empty themselves. Ironically, the satisfaction and freedom they yearn for is waiting for them in the place they least expect it—chastity. It trains us in self-control so that we can become truly free. ‘‘The alternative is clear,’’ the Catechism ofthe Catholic Church tells us, ‘‘either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.’’
Chastity has a bad reputation because it involves dying to ourselves. But this death serves a purpose. In the words of Christ, ‘‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but ifit dies, it bears much fruit’’ (John 12:24). The world sees chastity as death because it does not have the patience to see the life and love that spring forth from the sacrifice. It is not repression or guilt that motivates the chaste man or woman; it is the desire for real love. Because of this the virtue of purity is wildly attractive. Freed from selfish sexual aggressiveness, the pure are empowered to love as we were created to love.
I travel around the country frequently to give talks about chastity, and I often end up in conversations aboard airplanes about my line of work. Inevitably people ask if I practice what I preach. After I explain that I waited for marriage before having sex, the person—without fail—looks bewildered. Then comes the universal question: ‘‘So . . . you just didn’t have the desires then?’’ I have pondered all sorts of amusing ways to answer this, but the bottom line is that the world cannot fathom a young person who has sexual desires and does not surrender to them.
Working toward God’s plan for love does not eliminate sexual desires, it orders them. The chaste person experiences sexual attractions in all their intensity but places love for the other above the temptation to lust. On the other hand, lust reduces men and women to the flesh, as illustrated in the song ‘‘Mambo Number 5.’’ The lyrics state that all the singer needs is a little bit of several women—a little bit of Rita, Tina, Sandra, Mary, Jessica—concluding that having a little bit of each woman makes him their man. Why only a little bit? Because the singer is not man enough to handle an entire woman. Lust allows us to reduce others to ‘‘bits.’’
The problem with lust is not that the desires are too strong; they are too weak, lukewarm, and self-absorbed. Prudishness is fittingly represented as cold and frigid, but purity is white hot. Purity burns with a passionate love that puts lust in the freezer.
. Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Revell, 1984), 21.
. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2339 (SanFrancisco: IgnatiusPress,1994).
It depends upon what you consider romantic. Real romance is not what you find in a grocery store novel with Fabio on the cover. Giving in to one’s hormones at the drop of a hat is not romance. This is lust, and while it may be spontaneous and temporarily exciting, using another person is not romantic. In fact, too many good romantic relationships have been ruined by lust.
Only humans are capable of romance because romance is where imagination and love meet. Sometimes a person’s actions may appear romantic because they are so imaginative and thoughtful, but the actions may be done for the sake of seducing another. This is not romance, because love is absent. Only when purity is present can one tell the difference between loving romance and selfish seduction.
In fact, romantic moments do not require physical intimacy—and the most romantic couples are the ones who realize this. They know that romance requires respect. You can have lust and passion without respect (as in prostitution), but you cannot have romance without respect. When that loving respect for the other person is present, a man stirs up his romantic creativity not for the sake of getting something from a woman but for the sake of expressing his love to her.
Lust, on the other hand, is boring, because it allows no room for mystery and anticipation. Everything secret is given away. The pure have more passion than the lustful, and it is precisely their passion that gives them the ability to build a greater kind of love. They exercise self-control not because of an absence of passion but because of the presence of love.
A twenty-three-year-old woman pointed out that there is something exciting in restraint, something that makes a chaste couple seem to glow in their wedding pictures. She proposed that chastity “may be the proof of God, because it means that we have been designed in such a way that when we humans act like animals, without any restraint and without any rules, we just don’t have as much fun.” In fact, people who have misused their sexuality are longing for enduring love. They know that being loved is much
more exciting than being used.
We need to remember that God is the author of romance. The Bible is his love story, and he is all in favor of human romances that reflect his love for us. For example, one of the most important ingredients for romance is thoughtful creativity. Psalm 139:17 says that the designs of the Lord are precious, and the book of Proverbs adds that God has glory in what he conceals. For proof that God is not the rival to love, consider this:
I recently met a young man named Kevin who was married not long ago. When he and his fiancée visited their priest in preparation for the wedding, the pastor thumbed through their baptism and confirmation certificates. Pausing for a moment, the priest looked closer at one of the documents and said, “Did you two know that you were baptized on the same day when you were babies?” The couple looked at each other and enjoyed a sense of peace that God’s hand was upon them. The priest interrupted their moment to add one more detail: “Wait a minute. You two were baptized in the same church . . . and at the same Mass!”
After their meeting Kevin and his bride-to-be called their parents and asked them to dig through the old photo albums. Sure enough, they discovered a photo of the two babies celebrating their first sacrament together, decades before God would reunite them to receive the sacrament of marriage. You have to wonder how often God intervenes like this in our lives. But when we distance ourselves from him, we sell ourselves short and settle for poor substitutes for the great love he wants to give us.
When it comes to the topic of sexuality, the media tell us that the most exciting sex is outside marriage. In reality the opposite is true. In 1999 USA Today published an article titled “Aha! Call It the Revenge of the Church Ladies.” This report summarized the findings of the most “comprehensive and methodologically sound” sex survey ever conducted in the United States. The first three sentences of the report say it all: Sigmund Freud said they suffer from an “obsessional neurosis” accompanied by guilt, suppressed emotions and repressed sexuality. Former Saturday Night Live comedian Dana Carvey satirized them as uptight prudes who believe sex is downright dirty. But several major research studies show that church ladies (and the men who sleep with them) are among the most sexually satisfied people on the face of the Earth.” Now isn’t that special?
The article concluded by saying that the Bible’s teaching on sex would “come as a shock to those who believe that God is a cosmic killjoy when it comes to sexuality.” The world constantly tells us that when it comes to sex, everyone is doing it, and the people having the most fun are the wild singles depicted on television sitcoms, while married life is dull and unromantic. However, according to the researchers who published the sex survey just mentioned, “The public image of sex in America bears virtually no relationship to the truth.”
Of those having sex, researchers found that the least satisfied were unmarried people. Those who had sex outside of marriage were aware that while it may have felt good during the act, that did not mean they felt good about themselves afterward. The guilt coupled with the anxious fear of being used, becoming pregnant, or contracting a disease lessened the sexual satisfaction of those who were promiscuous.
On the other hand, research showed that those who were married to a faithful partner had the highest reports of sexual enjoyment on both a physical and emotional level, and they were most likely to feel “satisfied,” “loved,” “thrilled,” “wanted,” and “taken care of.” Contrary to what the world incessantly says, research shows that marriages benefit from a lack of premarital sexual experience. In other words, great sex is not the result of sexual experience and technique. If anything, sexual joy is the result of a happy marriage, not the cause of it.
Lastly, it has also been discovered that “married couples who pray together are 90 percent more likely to report higher satisfaction with their sex life than couples who do not pray together.”. If we are only interested in doing what gives the most pleasure (which we should not be) , the facts point back to God’s original plan: “A man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) .
. Wendy Shalit, A Return to Modesty (New York: Touchstone, 1999), 193.
. Proverbs 25:2.
. William Mattox, Jr., “Aha! Call It the Revenge of the Church Ladies,’ USA Today, February 11, 1999 (www.usatoday.com).
. Robert T. Michael, John H. Gagnon, Edward O. Laumann, and Gina Kolata, Sex in America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1994), 1.
. Laumann, et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality, table 10.5, 364.
. Laumann, et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality, table 10.7, 368.
. William R. Mattox, Jr., “The Hottest Valentines: The Startling Secret of What Makes You a High-Voltage Lover,” The Washington Post, February 13, 1994.
. Les Parrott III and Leslie Parrott, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 145.