Oh, what perfect timing! I just saw a link on 10.5 reasons to choose chastity, written by Dawn Eden, author of this book (which I hope to find the time to read one day!), and this article from the National Catholic Register.
Choosing chastity has been an evolving process for me. Growing up, I had the vague outlines of The Rule Catholics Shouldn’t Break—the one about abstinence until marriage—which is part of chastity, but I didn’t learn right away why or how much bigger chastity is than that. As I was growing and learning, my “good girl” lifestyle was pretty evident to friends and acquaintances, so unless I’d outright stated my intentions as sort of a witness moment, assumptions were made and confirmed, and subject thankfully dropped.
However, throughout the deepening of my understanding of this way of life, I’ve come to see how different it is when one is when profoundly single and when in a relationship. You see, when one is single for a long period of time, chastity can appear not so much as consciously chosen way of life, but a default, circumstantial state. For me, it was very easy to absorb and agree with the teaching and writing on it and not have to confront it as a deliberate decision.
Thankfully, I find myself more and more explaining certain choices more so than defending. (Which is very nice. I hate being put on the defensive.) And sometimes I don’t even need to explain: a friend-of-a-friend was hosting me and suddenly several others over the holidays, needed to know if sharing an air mattress with a male friend was “against the rules” too. “Yup!” “Okay…he’ll go to the couch.” And that was enough for her. [Side note:. Even though, much like sharing a multi-bedroom flat with a guy, her request is not necessarily sinful in and of itself—and perhaps not even an occasion of temptation (“dude is like my brother!”)—the intimacy of such an act is very discomfiting.] If I was called upon to reply to her further, part of it would have been that I view chastity as a reservation of one’s self for God and possibly a spouse. So I am reserving the experience of waking up to someone for my husband. In another instance, after explaining a decision to a friend, she responded with admiration and respect! [But note: as Auntie Seraphic counsels, you never have to tell anyone your “state” or wear your choices on your sleeve].
When I defend choosing chastity, the defense is actually for myself. Chastity is not just a set-it-and-forget-it kind of decision. It is a choice you make again and again, every day, on every date, in every relationship, in your actions, as well as in your thoughts. And sometimes it’s not very easy—especially when in a committed relationship. You wonder where the line is between expression of affection and use; between love and lust. So you have to commit to it. Having experienced the goods of consciously chosen chastity [link to previous article], I remind myself why I’m doing (or not doing) what I am. And if I’ve somehow pushed the boundaries, chastity is the sort of decision I know I can make again.