NAS: Chastity–A Choice

41849-notalone5Living chastely (not just abstinence) is a choice. Have you ever had to defend your choice to live out chastity? If not, why do you choose chastity?

More thoughts over at Jen and Morgan’s!

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.

NAS: Chastity

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Jen and Morgan and the other linker-uppers will have some great perspectives, too!

October 15: Chastity as a Single Person

Physical or Emotional. What are your struggles? How do you overcome them?

Well, there’s this:

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or if he really needs to get a clue, this:

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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.

For those with significant others or dates, here is an excellent blog post, and zebbart’s comment provides a great analogy: it’s like prayer.  And then this one.

7QTF: Love and Responsibility Edition

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Announcement! After an amazing writing conference last weekend and growth in the feeling-more-brave department, I have decided to link two of my identities! Blogger-me is the same person as Writer-me, who is the same person as Worker-Me (but she is remaining anonymous in the grand tradition of others in her field). So…the Proverbial Girlfriend is none other than Britt Leigh, a soon-to-be debut author!

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This is my website: brittleighbooks.com. I blog about books and writing and reading. Authentic love is one of the major themes I explore with my fiction. Be sure to check out the blogroll link to kidsfaithgarden.com

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This is my book:

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Click me for the Amazon listing! It doesn’t release until January, but I will let you know when pre-orders are possible.

A teaser: Love is patient. Gloria Jean is not. Love is kind. Celiac is not. Love never fails. Faith might.”

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Worker-me got to spend several hours reading about Love and Responsibility. You know how some people are cheerleaders for ToB? That is me and L&R. I am so in love with this philosophy, I want to name future children Karol and John Paul.

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So now Writer-me wants to make the themes in L&R accessible to middle-schoolers. A chastity educator friend of mine has bemoaned that after several presentations, she thinks we’re too late. But I refuse to leave them out in the darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth! So if you all have any ideas on what type/format of book 13-16 year-olds would pick up about the subject, please let me know!

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I am firmly convinced that such national news stories as the women in Cleveland (and by extension all abductions) and the Air Force’s S*xual Assault Prevention and Response Office CHIEF being accused of s*xual battery (I mean, COME ON!) would never happen if people were formed in the principles of L&R (namely, the dignity of the human person, justice to the creator, chastity…)

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My most favorite blogger, a former Serpahic Single, wrote about chastity talks, and after reading what she and the commenters have to say…I agree. I do not ❤ chastity talks if they are indeed performed as described. There’s gotta be a better way.

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That being said…chastity talks and study of L&R…are winning out. Moms, this is really important. As uncomfortable as your kids might get, continue to form them in these ideals. For one day they will be 28ish and ever so thankful (no matter how painful/frustrating/exasperating it feels) that the charity definition of love is clouding their judgement, and not the eros. Tell them to find people who know to guard their hearts at exactly the times they themselves don’t want to. Hopefully they’ll see that the most responsible actions and words are the most loving.