Pour a cup of coffee (or beverage of choice) cause it’s time for hashtag real-talk.
For a long time the only understanding I really knew about the virtue of chastity was either
- Not having sex.
- Repressing the desire and thought about sex
And there was no in between.
I also think the word itself has a ton of negative connotation. People are afraid to speak openly about it. Obviously it’s inappropriate for people to be chatting about their personal, intimate sex lives, but there should be a conversation about it being just that: personal and intimate. So in realizing that the definition and conversation can only go so far, I began to think, “a ‘no’ to sex only leaves me practicing abstinence. Anyone can abstain from sex for many reasons; no one to have it with, not in the mood, or obedience to religion. Abstaining is temporary and just because you’re abstaining from something doesn’t mean you’re saying “yes” to anything else either.”
Then, after hearing a priest say that sex is holy and glorified in God’s plan for it I began to think, “I don’t want to say no to something that my faith teaches is equally glorifying, bonding, and beautiful! This is something my body just naturally desires so why do I find my sexuality shameful?”
See the need for middle ground? Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Either way let’s talk.
Whether it was the negative connotation attached to the “no” or the energy I had in me to repress it and avoid it my brain began perceiving this puritan idea of avoiding relationships, avoiding love, avoiding romance, and just never opening up that part of my body or identity. It was as if romance was “immoral.” So I asked myself, “what does chastity really mean?” And God is really the one to show me this?
The answer is simple. Chastity allows us to have Freedom and it opens the heart to experience love and sex the way it was meant to be experienced.
Freedom to love and respect others intimately without thinking it has to be sexual. Freedom to never feel used or use someone and to built adequate trust with others in a more meaningful way. Freedom to root out the people who are only looking for a hook-up. Freedom to grow a mind and body rooted in engagement with others, security and confidence, and ability to love (which is not synonymous to sex). And the obvious, freedom not to worry about unplanned pregnancies or STD’s without harming the hormonal imbalances of your body through drastic means of birth control and such.
Morals and religion are the strength to this argument and are pretty much the only supernatural dependence that keeps chastity possible, but let me put that aside for a moment. From experience, there were times my awesome friendships turned romantic. Cool, why not? This wasn’t a bad thing but somehow the authentic trust and joy we shared as friends faded the moment sexual intentions got involved because it took priority over other things. It showed me a lot about the guy’s intentions towards me and my body. As a deep lover it was weird how adding physical intimacy to the relationship, even in my pure intentions, to see where this could take us in our relationship somehow made things tougher on an emotional level since we were not on the same page about it. The reasons why this is many but at the root of it it came down to how a person makes me feel about myself says a lot.
Chastity does involve a ‘no’ and that’s a ‘no’ to concupiscence, lust, egotism, sin (sinful love), using another person for pleasure, hashing out on hormones we can’t always control, using another person for their good heart, and the no to the shame many feel their my heart when the person they sleep with lacks true concern or care for them.
Chastity is saying “no” to that awkwardness that can stem from a night of physical pleasure that never brings the couple closer, especially if it happens too early on in the relationship. It’s pretty simple — if a person can’t respect your boundaries or your wishes to wait then they don’t want to do what’s best for you. If that area of your life is not respected, what are the chances other areas will be? Even though it’s pretty simple it’s excruciating painful.
God created sex to be enjoyable and He also wants it to be good for us. That is the truth Chastity expresses.
God created sex to be a profoundly spiritual experience, not predominantly a physical one.
So I think the reason chastity is something people mock, ridicule, or lack an effort to practice is not that the virtue has a history of being taught as prudish but because no one has seen lived out and recognized it. No one disagree’s that holding out for true love is a foreign concept we just disagree on what it means to get there. No one wants to believe the path to choosing, marrying, and sharing the gift of marriage and sexual intimacy with someone comes most profoundly by following the commandments. On a more influential note, culturally sexual intimacy is just not something people want to wait until marriage to experience.
Sex is powerful, creative, wonderful, spiritual, exciting, and good. How hard it is in life to give up things that root us in ecstasy.
“Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” –St. Augustine
But chastity means this;
I know and love the value, dignity, and beauty I and others have and I know sexual intimacy is the greatest loving union two people can share on Earth therefore; I refuse to violate that with false intentions and aim to hold out for the most meaningful space to share it in; marriage.
Sexual desires are
good, actually no they’re holy and designed by God. No one else can take credit for creating sex other than God. In the Bible, when Mary questioned her pregnancy to the Angel Gabriel she asked, “How? Since I do not know man?” The Hebrew translation uses the word ‘know’ because God destined sex to be a physical representation of ‘knowing’ the other more deeply. How sad, then, that what is destined to be a profoundly knowledgeable and intimate expression and moment can be reduced to a small gesture.
What we choose then is something other than His plan for it. Likewise, we doubt that God is right and just in what He asks of us because He is clearly out to stop us from having fun, right? I mean, if God wants nothing more than for us to be happy then He should be OK with the world having pre-martial sex because it makes us happy…
Sure, you can biologically have sex with someone, body to body, but there is more we can get out of it emotionally and spiritually. That said, sex’s end goal of pleasure alone, which is always great, should never be something that outweighs the beauty of sharing that in committed love with another person you trust. When you realize that you can tell the other person your truth, your life, your hurts and joys. When you realize you can show yourself to them. When you stand in front of them and know you’re safe with them. That’s evidence that something true, good, and beautiful could be pursued. When you realize you know the other person and want to know them exclusively in another way.
You owe yourself the self-control to be and become a gift of love to another person. And to say all this is beautiful but trust me when I say I know firsthand the ability to actually self-control is tough. Saying yes to chastity doesn’t mean sexual desires or temptations go away (and if it does go away that’s not normal). Saying yes to chastity doesn’t mean you won’t be physically attracted to the person you love (and if that’s the case maybe rethink your relationship). The only thing behind sex that is sinful is the subjective consciousness of knowing God asks one thing of us, and we in return act differently, not caring about what He says which is always a gift to our ability to love and be loved.
I invite you to pray and ponder this mysterious (not prudish) lifestyle because in a sexually revolutionized world, it takes a lifetime to understand the depths of what sex really is and I am tired of everyone telling me what they think. We each have experiences, perceptions, ideals, and histories of sexual intimacy that can shed light to this conversation, but taking into consider what God has ordained from His true, wise, and loving heart is the end that will meet all our expectations and give us the courage to wait for the love we long for, the love we know deep down exists. And when we strive for that and not the cultural expectation to “get it done” we can and will taste the love that satisfies.
A striving lover
Help me to discern the movements of my heart. Help me to distinguish between the great riches of sexuality as you intend it to be, and the distortions of lust. I grant you permission, Lord, to slay my lusts. Crucify them so I may come to realize the resurrection of sexual desire as you intend it to be. Protect the eyes, the windows of my soul, from anything that might dim the luster of a heart that must mirror Christ-like purity. Seal my heart forever against the suggestions of sinful pleasures.
Mary, Virgin most pure, mindful of the terrible dangers of impurity, and full awareness of my human weakness, I place myself, this day and always, under your loving maternal care and protection. Free me from the occasion of sin. Keep me and guard me. Amen.