The Importance of Chastity

Our current culture laughs at the idea of chastity saying things like, “How dare you limit sex!” or “We have a right for sex whenever we want.” The Catechism briefly describes how disordered use of sex is selfish (CCC 2351), but it doesn’t describe the negative effects a lack of chastity causes in our culture. We have many examples of the negative effects in our society because of its obsession with sex. At the same time, we have very few examples of the positive effects chastity brings.

In America, children and adults are bombarded by sex several times a day every day. It’s in our entertainment and in the media from movies to books to the daily news. Even many commercials are filled with sex. Over the years, this has created a society where many people are filled with lust. Because of this, much of the population makes decisions based on which choice will lead them closer to sex. It’s particularly bad for men, which I focus on here. Most of these examples can apply to women as well.

In our society, romance is equated with sexual relations. The romantic movies show the same old story with people dating, holding hands, kissing, and having sex. Then the movie ends. Sex is shown as the goal of every relationship, when it’s really a very small part of true romance. In a typical marriage, sex is only 1% of their time spent together. The rest of the time is nonsexual. The marital act is such a tiny part of the relationship, to focus on it is to miss the majority of the relationship.

So many men are driven by lust, their marriages greatly suffer. Many times the only thing the husband has in common with his wife is the marital act. The rest of the time they live separate lives. Even from the beginning, the relationship faces problems. The husband doesn’t truly love his wife, only her body. He showered her with positive attention, praised her, brought her gifts, offered her help when in need, and was willing to talk to her for hours about her feelings. He had no real interest in these things. He was only using her.

Men in this situation are incapable of being intimate without sex. They can’t have long conversations with their wife. They can’t spend time together in silence. They get frustrated with handholding or kissing if it doesn’t lead to the marital act. In short, they are unable to see the whole person, so the man appears two-faced. When he desires her body, he is very nice to his wife, does everything she says until he gets what he wants. Once his desire is sated, he’s back to his old self, not interested in spending time with her until lust sets in again. Many wives don’t see this going on. Having no idea why their husband is so different by the day, they can easily fall into depression and despair. These ups and downs are devastating to the relationship. Strong marriages need consistency.

These men don’t care about their children either. They will continually complain about having to go to school events, babysit their children, help with homework, change diapers or anything else for the good of their children. They don’t care about their children. Their sole interest is sex. So they are not a family man and don’t really love their wife either. They have no care for their marriage vows. Since physical attraction is the only thing keeping the marriage together, the relationship will turn sour once the wife starts aging. No longer attracted to her, the husband will leave for a younger woman.

American culture’s obsession with sex doesn’t just affect marriages. It also affects platonic relationships. Men are trained to see women as sex objects, so they are constantly evaluating all the women they come across for attractiveness. When a man sees an attractive woman, he rushes toward satisfy his sinful desires. If she denies him or doesn’t move fast enough, he is gone to find another woman.

Whenever he has to work with a woman maybe as co-workers or volunteers, sin is on his mind. He is unable to have any kind of meaningful relationship with her because he can only see relationships with women as the potential for sex. He doesn’t know how to just be friends. When a woman thanks or hugs him, he is thinking she is attracted to him. When he tries to take the next step and she declines, he gets angry and spreads lies about her to others. When this man meets a woman he’s instantly thinking about how to manipulate her when he should focus on just being friends. Romance will happen later on its own. There is no rushing it, but he is impatient. He sees no value in waiting.

All these negative effects and many more are a result of a society that celebrates sex, but a society that celebrated chastity would avoid most of these problems. There would still be some bad apples, but if people were constantly encouraged to value the whole person rather than just their looks, we would be in a much better place. Husbands would truly respect their wives. Men could think of women more like themselves, wanting to do what’s best for the individual rather than their selfish desires. I don’t know how to fix the problem in the overall society, but on an individual level, there is something Catholics can do to improve their relationships.

The only way to stop sex from clouding the mind is to avoid it. This is especially important for single people, but even married people can benefit from this. The most important thing is to limit exposure to the sinful culture. Avoid movies and TV shows with nudity or sex scenes. Reduce how much time you spend with entertainment and the media. The time you do spend, stick to films rated PG or lower, animated films, and documentaries. On TV, nature shows, science shows, and documentaries are usually good. Instead of popular music, listen to classical or Christian music. Another huge thing is not associating with people caught up in the sinful culture. They might be very nice as friends, but bad influences have to go. Make friends with fellow Catholics, who know the truth and strive to live by it.

The second most important thing for single people is celibacy. Our society has embraced the horrible sins of fornication, pornography, and masturbation (CCC 2352-2354). Whether you have developed a habit of these sins or not, the only way to see the opposite sex in a Godly way is to remove sex from the equation. You do this by dying to self (Mt 16:25, Mk 8:35), including practicing complete abstinence (or continence, 2349).

Many people don’t think abstinence is even possible. While it may be difficult at first, it is definitely possible. Sex is not a need. Studies suggest it takes about 90 days for the brain to adjust to abstinence. You’ll always have to deal with temptations, but they will be really easy to resist. Then when you get into a romantic relationship while remaining chaste, you will be able to see the whole person, allowing you to fall in love with the whole person, not just how he or she looks. You might even find you’re not called to marriage at all. Lust could have clouded your mind from a call to the priesthood or consecrated life.

Married people can also benefit from abstinence. If you went from the sins of fornication, pornography, or masturbation straight into marriage, you could still have a cloud over your eyes, making it hard to love everything about your spouse. You can remove that cloud through abstinence just like single people. You will need to make an agreement with your spouse, but if he or she accepts, a good time to start this is Lent. It’s only 47 days counting Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, but I recommend continuing for 90 days. In that time you will be forced to learn how to be intimate with your spouse without the marital act. When you finish, you will appreciate everything about your spouse, not just his or her body. Your marriage will be strengthened, and you might even find you don’t get in as many fights. You will just enjoy each other’s company more.

Everything we do is good or evil, so we are either a slave to sin (selfish) or a slave to God (selfless). We have to acknowledge that our physical body is not our own. It was lent to us by God to do good work; it will eventually be taken away at our death. Our sexuality is not our own but an instrument for God’s good work. Like all blessings, sexuality should be used as an offering to God, whether it be in the sacrifice of continence (abstinence) for single people or the complete giving of self in conjugal life for married people (CCC 2349).

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

The Real Way to Make America Great Again

On Monday, I wrote about how the Internet poses many dangers to children, which requires parents to pay attention to how their children use the Internet. This is part of the larger task of raising children with good, moral values. It’s a tiring job for parents, but it must be done because of how important raising good children is.

It is in the home when children learn all the habits and the discipline that they carry with them the rest of their adult life (CCC 2207). It is true that people are constantly changing throughout life, adopting new values and leaving others behind, but many of those good values will stick around. This greatly improves their decisionmaking. The better their decisions are the more successful they are at supporting themselves and serving others. People with good values serve the needy and less fortunate, are a positive influence to others, and truly enrich their communities. The biggest impact good values has is when they raise their own children. Many of those good values that they learned from their parents are now passed down to the next generation.

Across a population with good values, the society creates a collective reinforcement of good behavior (CCC 2212). No one is perfect — people make mistakes and commit sin — but others see that sin and call the person out on it. The population corrects itself. How can good values make such a big difference though? It all comes down to the everyday decisions people make. When the majority of people have good values, most of their decisions are going to be good because the foundation of good values is love and love is sacrificial. When the population as a whole sacrifices for others, it automatically prevents many societal problems from happening.

There are fewer divorces, single parents, and broken families. The families are stronger, so when a relative is in need, the family members pitch in to help them out. Business owners treat their workers well (CCC 2213). No sky high paychecks for the top executives while workers at the bottom are stuck with measly wages. In general, people become much more self-sufficient. They, along with the occasional help from friends and family, can take care of themselves. This takes a huge weight off the government, so now the government is no longer in debt. That allows more money to be spent on defense and other services which the people cannot provide for themselves.

In short, people with good values have a habit of sacrificing for the good of the whole. This is why the Church says that families are the foundation of society (CCC 2207). People with bad values are selfish. They do their own thing, maybe not outright ignoring the needs of others, but at least not paying attention. Many of our current problems would just disappear if the vast majority could sacrifice for the whole, but it all starts with children in the home (CCC 2208).

The human race has thrived over thousands of years by passing down good values from generation to generation. It’s a continuous cycle of goodness. When children don’t learn good values, the cycle is just the opposite. Rather than enriching their communities, the children grow up to be burdens on their communities. They are a negative influence and those bad values are instilled in the next generation of children, who go on to to also be negative influences in their communities. We are currently in a negative cycle.

After the postwar boom, life was good for so many years, parents became too hands-off with children. When everything was going so well, parents just didn’t have any worry about their children’s future. The children could find their own way to success because success was everywhere. This started slowly and ramped up until the present, where huge percentage of children enter the world unprepared. While the children are responsible for their actions in adulthood, their parents share some blame for not taking the time to instill good values in them.

We have parents these days with almost no interest in their children. They busy their children with smartphones and televisions, never really spending any time with them. Many times the parents are sitting there, but not really present. Their head is buried in their own smartphone while the children do whatever they want. This is not the way to raise children. When you have a generation of children who grow up being taught mostly by entertainment, it’s no wonder our country is having problems. Entertainment should always be just entertainment. It might teach a good lesson occasionally, but most of this comes from the parents. Just because a problem is known doesn’t mean there is an easy fix. In households where parents aren’t learning good values, what should be done? I don’t know the answer, but I do have an idea.

Right now, there is way too much focus on the classroom when the greater measure of a child’s success is the quality of their parenting, not education. The classroom can teach many good values to children, but it has to be reinforced by parents or else the children won’t carry much of those values forward in their later years. Spending all kinds of money on expensive schools or technology won’t help much. That money should instead be spent on improving parenting. The ideal approach is different depending on the situation.

For all parents, money should be spent educating them on good parenting. A key part of this should be guidelines on how much time to spend with children each week. Many parents are workaholics, showering their children with gifts instead of just hanging out and talking with them. The children don’t need expensive cars, huge houses, or luxurious vacations. They need their parents. Better for parents to work less and have more time to spend with the children, teaching good values and reinforcing values they have already learned.

Some parents have to work long hours just to make ends meet. They should be helped with more than just good parenting education (CCC 2208). Two options are available. Either they can get supplemental money that allows them to work fewer hours, giving them time to spend with their children, or society can organize helper families who have the means to take in the children a few hours a day when the parents are not available. Ideally, the children’s own parents would have time to spend with them, but in some cases, they would need help from others. It would be very important that both biological parents and helper parents would be consistent in how they raise the children.

In cases where parents ignored the good parenting education and continued to be bad parents, the government would have permission to remove the children and place them in a better home. In existing practice children are removed if they are being abused or neglected, but parents not being present for their children and not teaching good values really is neglect. The children might be getting food, water, shelter, and all the basic needs, but having available parents is really a basic need. If parents can’t or won’t provide this, the government should give the children to parents that will. This doesn’t mean they would be cutoff from their children. The children would just live in a home where they were the focus. The parents could still visit their children whenever they wanted.

These changes would require many laws to be passed — it wouldn’t be easy at all — but the only way America will get out of this rut is if sacrificing for others is well-known and regularly practiced by all people. That happens in the home when parents teach their children true love, which is having a habit of looking out for the needs of others. Most good values are about doing what’s best for the family as a whole, something that directly translates into doing what’s best for society as a whole.

Everyone would have to come together to make this happen. Of course, parents would have to listen to the advice given, change their lifestyles, and put that advice into practice, but this would also require the government, charities, and other parents to sacrifice for the good of the children. The government, in its duty to support the family (CCC 2210-2211), would need to shift money into parenting instead of education, watch for bad parenting, and move children as needed. Parents with surplus time and money would need to volunteer to help children whose parents were too busy. Charities would have to supplement government support for both needy parents and helper parents (CCC 2209).

The results would not happen overnight. In fact, there wouldn’t be any results until the next generation became adults, entered society, and got into leadership positions. Children become adults at age 18 but don’t really impact society until middle age, maybe ages 40 to 60. We have had decades of decline due to bad parenting, so it would take decades of good parenting to get back to good values and success. If society became lax and parents started neglecting their children again, the decline would return. This effort would have to continue to maintain a good society and a strong country.

The real way to make America great again is raising great children. That requires having great parents. This idea is possible. It’s a longshot because of how society is so focused on education instead of supporting families, but it is possible. It just requires people to see the truth themselves and teach it to all those around them. When enough people get behind it, change can happen.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared