October 15: Chastity as a Single Person
Physical or Emotional. What are your struggles? How do you overcome them?
Well, there’s this:
or if he really needs to get a clue, this:
In all seriousness, chastity is both a man and a woman’s responsibility. And it’s not just men who have struggles. Women, do, too. But whoo, boy, is this topic is a delicate wire to walk. Because to speak to one’s struggles in the physical realm not only means admitting sin publicly, but also potentially scandalizing your audience. However, I believe it important to talk about, at least generally, so that we can support each other in our faith journeys.
We are all called to live out this virtue, regardless of our state in life. Chastity is not about following a list of acts that are appropriate and avoiding ones that are not—because one doesn’t exist. Rather, I look at chastity as a state of mind and being that cares for not just your soul, but the souls of others. Chastity is a reservation of self for God. It is a way of respecting your dignity and the dignity of others. Thinking of it in these broader terms also helps when applying it to non-physical spheres, like emotions. I’ll address that in a separate post later.
But some inconvenient truths about our “fallen” human sexuality can cause us to struggle with our universal call:
1. Making out is really, really, really fun. But I think it is rare (if not never) that it can be chaste.
2. The female drive can be just as powerful as a man’s, and in some cases, more. This means women can get “excited” too—and sometimes it takes less than one might think. A lot less.
3. Women can satisfy their urges “solo” too. This habit isn’t discussed much, maybe because it doesn’t necessarily involve images to the degree that men’s does. But that doesn’t make it any more “okay”.
But there are ways to overcome the challenges:
1. Get out of the fire, the pot, or the kitchen entirely. Remove yourself from the situation to the degree necessary—make certain kinds of actions or dates off limits; wait for some things until you and the guy have reached a certain maturity, level of respect, or trust; don’t “date” or kiss at all.
2. Get an accountability partner—official or not—spiritual director, trusted older married friend, even a co-worker! Though I would never tell the nuns what I might have done one weekend, just the thought of having to go into work Monday morning knowing that it’s something that would have disappointed them, makes me think twice before I engage in it.
3. Get to confession. Regularly. I once heard reconciliation described as “approaching the throne of grace.” You receive grace, grace to aid you in sinning less and less; to grow stronger and stronger when confronted with temptation.
4. Get help from higher places. Pray. Saint Michael the Archangel is our defender in battle. Pure in Heart has a good one. The Memorare: Mama is here to help. The Rosary. Helps you re-orient your brain to focus on holy thoughts, not lusty ones.
5. Get your emotional well-being out of the gutter. You are not “broken,” “tarnished,” “dirty,” “damaged goods,” or anything like that. You are human. You are a child of God, loved unconditionally. But you are also not Mary, and never will be. You can try to come close to her standard of purity, but don’t beat yourself up if you fall short. Seek His forgiveness and then seek it from yourself if you need to.
Chastity is hard. But it is worth it. Because it cares.