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How to Save Sex for Marriage? A Short Program Just For You (Part Two)

What is chastity? Chastity is the ability to master our sexual urges. It enables us to control our behavior in the sexual area and frees us from purely instinctual impulses. Our dignity as human beings demands that we conduct ourselves rationally, deliberately, and with freedom of choice–i.e. that we be free from compulsion or enslavement to blind instinct. It is in this way that we differ from animals.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery, which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (2339).

Young people who stop working on themselves and give in to the elemental force of the sexual instinct will not be happy. An enslaved person cannot be happy. Enslavement degrades man, arrests his growth, and ends up disintegrating him psychologically. It deprives him of peace and joy.

Chastity brings necessary order to the area of our sexuality. It protects our freedom and dignity. It fosters a noble relationship with the opposite sex, for it frees us from the selfish attitude of using others. Thus, it opens the way to authentic love. Chastity prepares the soil in which love may spring up and grow. Only chaste people understand the dignity and value of sexual intimacy. They can discover the truth about the meaning of the body. The attainment of chastity is the best way of preparing for marriage, for it enables us to offer ourselves in conjugal love. Only when we are masters of ourselves can we offer ourselves to another person. A man who gives up the struggle for chastity before he is married does not offer himself to his wife, but rather relieves his compulsion on her body. In part one of this Short Program Just For You, we discussed the supernatural means needed to develop chastity; that is, through the use of the sacraments and prayer. These are indispensable. Chastity is a virtue of believing and earnestly practicing Christians, for we require God’s help in order to attain it. The following are a few more practical points of this program.

Seek out quiet regions

Attentiveness is also highly conducive to the interior life. Our ability to center ourselves is essential to forming and strengthening a friendship with Christ. The more noise and din there is around us, the less we can hear the voice of God who speaks to us in deepest recesses of our heart. In order that we may hear this voice, we cannot be constantly dwelling on external impressions. We need to focus on what takes place inside us. And yet it is precisely the exterior life that dominates our attention: radios and TVs that never go off, constant meetings, conversations–a surfeit of information, images, and sounds. We fill ourselves with all kinds of impressions and cannot imagine life without them. Without them it would seem boring, empty, and gray. We mistakenly think that the more we have of these impressions and the stronger they are, the more interesting life will be. We feel we would be impoverished if we did not have something to look at, something to experience, something to take part in, if we did not have some pleasure to taste or something to try. We seek new experiences. After a while they begin to bore us, so we reach for something new and stronger.

“Do not close your hearts from Jesus,” said John Paul II in his address to the youth. “From no one else will you find the answers you constantly seek. Too many voices clamor around you, too many promises and delusive hopes! Seek out quiet regions where you can collect yourselves and listen. Christ wants to tell you something firsthand, a personal word that contains the secret of your present life and your future. If you hear it, you will be able to go forward and embrace tomorrow with confidence and joy.”

Spend less time watching TV and surfing the net

The television is becoming an ever more intimate companion of the world’s families. Its screen draws people’s attention even when what it presents is banal, unprofitable, and even harmful. Families lose that tender climate which is proper to them–one that requires time for themselves. We spend less and less time with each other. We enjoy each other’s company less; do fewer things for each other. We devote less and less time to profitable reading, to developing our interests, helping others, or praying. Too many of us have become TV addicts. We find it hard to imagine even one evening without it. How can I fill the time?

Not everything that TV proposes is necessarily harmful. Some programs have an educational purpose. Others may have decent entertainment value. But we must know how to find these and how to avoid others–especially those that are manipulative, immoral, or just plain shoddy.

Television watched to excess teaches passivity. Viewers are merely passive observers. Nothing is required of them. They do not have to contribute or engage in anything. No effort is required of them. The images appear and disappear with such speed that they have no time to consider or experience them more deeply; as a result, we become mindless, dispassionate consumers.

Do not waste time when you can, and should be, still developing quickly. The TV is often called a “time-snatcher”–and with good reason. It robs you of it, and hence of the things you could be doing while staring unproductively at the screen.

All the above applies also to the Internet. Perhaps it is more useful, but it can also be very destructive. It all depends on how you use it.

Avoid pornography at all cost

Young people striving for chastity must avoid even the briefest contact with pornography. Otherwise it will surely destroy the self-control they are seeking to acquire. Pornography is an extraordinarily noxious poison. It defiles the imagination with images that are very difficult to root out. It destroys that inborn sense of shame which protects against the abuse of one’s sexuality. It totally separates sex from love. It turns people into sexual toys. It fosters sexual perversion. It is as addictive as a narcotic. It leads to sexual crimes.

“[Pornography] offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others….It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2354).

Maintain modesty in dress and conduct

“Shame and modesty are chastity’s cadet sisters,” as someone once aptly observed. In other words, they protect and provide the necessary climate for the practice of chastity.

In his book Love and Responsibility, Bishop Karol Wojtyla remarked: “We should … recall … that a human being is a person, a being whose nature is determined by his or her ‘inwardness.’ It is therefore necessary to discover and to be attracted by the inner as well as the outer beauty and, perhaps indeed, to be more attracted by the former than by the latter. This truth has a very special importance to the love of man and woman, which is, or at any rate ought to be, love between persons. The attraction on which this love is based must originate not just in a reaction to visible and physical beauty, but also in a full and deep appreciation of the beauty of the person.”

It is a well-known fact that certain visual stimuli arouse a normal man’s sexual urges. Fashion designers know perfectly well how to display a woman’s body so as arouse men’s lust. Sad to say, women often seem uncritically obedient to these “dictators of fashion.” They lose a great deal by being so. They wish to be respected and loved, but they are only desired. By going about in miniskirts, tight jeans, low-cut blouses they certainly draw attention to themselves and end up “catching a guy,” but they do not find a friend or a “life companion.” A girl needs to know her boyfriend’s natural weaknesses and help him. She does this most effectively when she is modest and chaste in her dress and conduct. We know that a girl can raise a boy to “supreme heights” Alas, all too often we see the very opposite. And yet Christ said, “woe to the one through whom [scandal] come[s]!” (Mat 18: 7).

Learn from those who have learned to be chaste

The following pointers come from young people who have learned to be chaste–often after freeing themselves from deep sexual addictions:

First of all, you have to get rid of pornography and everything that arouses sexual lust. Not just your typical “hard” pornography, but also so-called “soft” pornography, and even women’s magazines, which also contain a good dose of articles about sex and erotic images. Have someone block your access to Internet websites, or go off using the computer altogether–at least for a time. TV is just as dangerous.

Look at people of the opposite sex chastely, not lustfully. Do not undress them with your eyes. Do not fantasize. If the situation is too much of a temptation to you, avert your eyes.

Do not look at your body. Do not touch it unnecessarily.

Do not confront impure thoughts directly. When they arise, ignore them, and turn your attention to a safe subject. Remember that you are denying yourself these pleasant thoughts and desires for something incomparably more valuable.

Use your free time intelligently. Put it to good use. Draw up a daily plan and carry it out systematically. Develop your interests and talents. Set high goals for yourself.

Do not engage in a dialog with lust. Scorn it! Pray, occupy yourself with something else, talk to someone. It is only with God’s help that you will conquer it.

See your period of abstinence as an invaluable, creative time, and not as the end of the world. It is not a prison sentence, or a penance, or the end of all sexuality. On the contrary, it is precisely chastity that will enable you to know and experience your sexual “I.”

Be patient with yourself. Do not lose heart when you fall into sin, but go at once to confession. You have lost the battle, but not the war. Do not be hard on yourself, for God has forgiven you and loves you still. Be gentle. Be supportive of yourself. Learn from your mistakes.

Accept yourself as a sexual being. Sex is not bad or dirty. Learn to distinguish a healthy sexuality from lust or addiction. Remember that many things change with time. Your sensation and experience of sexuality will undergo marked changes. You are moving to a new level and quality of experience.

Seek out non-erotic passions. You must have some hobbies, favorite sports, or other activities that give you satisfaction. Develop these activities so that they can act as a healthy counterweight to an overweening interest in sex.

Take care of yourself. Be active–exercise, take walks. Make time for rest and recreation. Enjoy healthy pleasures, commune with nature. Listen to good, relaxing music. Enjoy the companionship of good friends. Admire the beauty of the mountains, lakes, and forests. Marvel at the stars!

Do volunteer work. There are many sick, elderly, and disabled people–children too–who await your help!

Work on “setting limits” for yourself. Draw up a list of questionable or dangerous behaviors, situations, circumstances, people, or things. Resolve to avoid them, as they are a threat to your purity. Boundaries assure you of a safe zone, which is conducive to growth; in other words, avoid potential “triggers.” Respect your weakness and avoid them.

Find a trusted person you can confide in–preferably a regular confessor. Do not hide your impure thoughts, temptations and bad desires. By concealing them, you may strengthen them.

Avoid seeing yourself as a “victim” or as someone worthless because you fall into sin. You are weak, yes, but you have enough strength to decide such things as setting limits, avoiding “triggers,” daily prayer, and receiving the sacraments.

Remember, you will not learn to be chaste or free yourself of your habits without developing your spirituality. Carve this in stone: the spiritual life is fundamental; it is not an option! Find time for silence and reflection. Holy Mass, confession, prayer, writing down your thoughts, keeping a journal, reading, meditation, spiritual retreats–all these are things you will need to include in your plan. The key to a spiritual life is perseverance. In so persevering, you are forming a relationship with God. (Do it even if your faith is very weak.) All these practices will give you strength and endurance in difficult situations. This way you are charging your spiritual batteries. Ask for the gift of chastity.

Sexual maturity is not something sudden and dazzling. It develops slowly and gradually. Allow God time to act. Trust and be patient. Believe in what you hope for. Slowly and surely you will achieve your goal.

Make a pledge to Jesus to save sex for marriage

The goal of Christian morality is not only to avoid evil and to do what is good, for even those who do not know Christ can choose to do these things. The Christian loves Christ and does what is good to express his loyalty, friendship, and sense of belonging to Him. The starting point of Christian morality is this sense of belonging. We make a covenant with Christ and, because of this, we live for Him; that is, not according to the principles of the “world,” but according to His teachings. And so, make a pledge to your Master, Brother, Friend, and God–to Jesus Christ, to whom you wish to belong–to save sex for marriage. You may wish to do this on your own or with a group of like-minded friends. Perhaps your pastor will have time to be a witness to your pledge? Invite your friends and relatives to be there. This would be an important witness to your milieu and a beautiful act of atonement to God for the public scorn of His commandments. But you may wish to do this in complete privacy. Think carefully over your decision. Make a sacramental confession and after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, entrust yourself to Him in the Prayer of Consecration of the Movement of Pure Hearts (you will find it at the end of each issue of Love One Another Magazine).

In pledging to save sex for marriage you are not alone. Many young people in Poland and throughout the world have already done this. A similar movement called True Love Waits began over a dozen years ago in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Its members are young people who realize that the liberal popular culture is deceiving them and leading them up a blind alley. To counter this, they have also made a formal pledge to save sex for marriage. At a recent meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, 350,000 young people signed such a pledge. The Movement of Pure Hearts (MPH) is active in Poland, but let this not stop you from joining it as well.

Renew your promises–preferably every day. Treat temptations as a test of your loyalty to Christ and your love of Him. Saint Francis once said to a fellow brother: “No one should really consider himself a servant of God until he has passed through temptation and torment. A conquered temptation becomes a kind of wedding ring, with which the Lord binds Himself to the soul of his servant.”

Jan Bilewicz OFM

To read Part One, click here.

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The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in June 2016.

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