Sexual Purity. Overrated?
By Tim Scheidler | Staff Writer
Is sexual purity overrated? Simply put: absolutely not. But it can be… if it is motivated incorrectly.
There is no doubt that your virginity is one of the greatest gifts you can save for your spouse. There is no doubt that it is rare to save all – or even some – of your purity for marriage. There is no doubt that such rarity makes that gift even more valuable, and thus increases in worth every day that it is cherished.
But the important question is not: have you gone too far/hooked up/had sex or have you not? The important question is: why?
Why do we want to wait (or why does society/the church want us to wait) to give ourselves in marriage while at the same time we have the innate desire to unite with another? What motivates our battle for chastity? Is there a purpose behind the fight when it is just so hard? I understand the seemingly paradoxical nature of these questions because I struggle with them too, and I’ve lived them from almost every angle.
On one hand, physicality feels pleasurable. I know. I’m a sinner. I’ve gone too far, hooked up, felt physically blissful for a while, felt spiritually empty after that. But on the other hand, while I’ve done almost everything, I’ve also saved the final gift of sex for the future. Once again, the question is: why?
When I was younger, I decided to wait because I wanted someone to wait for me too. I was raised religiously and had been taught that you waited until marriage. And it was hard. So if I suffered through years of frustration, I wanted to get something for it. And in reading that, I hope you can spot the problem… Way too many references to “I” and “me” in there.
Out of that selfishness, I started to rationalize and make excuses. “If I love her, I want to express that love. We will just have to wait to have sex until we are married.” That is a slippery slope. And it opens the door to doing just about everything. Which is exactly what happened. So to all of you who have said similar words to yourself, who have gone too far with too many people, I’m here to tell you: me too.
Still, there was always an ever-present will to stay strong and to draw the line somewhere. Over the years I was in a number of different relationships, and I will always be grateful that my decision to wait was respected. It was incredibly tough. But the most valuable things in life are tough. So to those of you who have waited, who have suffered the pangs of loneliness, who have felt embarrassed that you’re waiting to experience what most others have, who think you’re the only one left out there, let me say: me too.
My mentality changed a few years ago – dramatically – when I discovered Theology of the Body. Nearly half a century ago, it was the first teaching that Saint John Paul II preached after becoming the pope, and it has become massively popular. Thanks to Christopher West, our current generation was reintroduced to it and is savoring every word. The more we get, the more we want. The public was starving for an antidote to the poisoned culture we live in; the culture that shoves sex-saturated everything down our throats. We have been craving something that orients our bodies and desires in the direction our hearts know they should be. Thank the Lord we found it. Theology of the Body is incredible in its depth, breadth, and beauty.
This became very real to me last year in daily Mass. That day the gospel shook me to the core. Before that morning my thoughts about Theology of the Body focused on the details: sexual doctrine, chastity, the rhythms shared between marriage and God’s union with each of us, healing from our sexual transgressions, the great harmony between this philosophy and all the rest of Catholic thought (it marries up perfectly).
In spite of all of this, I failed to grasp the fundamental foundation until I heard the words of Christ:
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”
I was awe-struck. So simple. So profound. So right.
After that morning I understood that underpinning the entire teaching of Theology of the Body is this central truth: we are vessels of the Holy Spirit. That makes us, and the gifts of ourselves, sacred precisely because we contain holiness. Caring more about the act of sex itself than the reason why it is precious is putting the cart before the horse.
Which is greater: the gift of our sexuality, or the altar, our bodies, imbued with the Spirit, that makes the gift of that sexuality sacred? The answer is simple. Our very bones, imbued with the Holy Spirit, retain a sacredness above what our actions can add to or subtract from.
This answer has profound implications. Because it means that if you have kept every bit of your sexual purity, you are valuable beyond measure. And if you have fallen in the past, you are valuable beyond measure. The answer always remains the same.
It is especially challenging to hear this message in a culture that tells all of us that true manhood conquers as many women as possible, as quickly as possible, as often of possible. Our society tells us to objectify, use, abuse, forget. This version of masculinity is completely false. True manhood requires that we lead, protect, and provide.
So guys, if you have waited for Miss Right, led her by example, protected her dignity, provided for her spiritually – and ladies, if you’ve done the same for Mr. Right – bravo to you. That is worthy of heartfelt congratulations and gratitude! Keep fighting the good fight!
And if you’ve stumbled, remember that if you’ve truly turned your life around, true chastity heals these wounds! Because chastity isn’t a list of things you can’t do. It is an all-encompassing recognition that for all people – single, married, those who waited, those who didn’t – our sexuality is meant to be a completely selfless gift, given freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to our spouse. If you haven’t given yourself in that way, then you have the very best left to look forward to! And that sounds a lot better to me than hooking up…
The true message of Christian sexual morality defends against the lie our current culture spews: that sex is about what we can get for ourselves. Christ teaches that sex is about what we can give our spouse. And that gift is valuable beyond measure once we realize that we are made in the image and likeness of God, with His spirit within us.
This view of sexual purity has such profound respect for the human person and individual dignity that, once you embrace it, I promise it will make you anew.