By Jan Bilewicz,
Hi! Have all boys only “one thing” on their mind? Do all boys seek only after “one thing?” Judging by what you hear and read in some quarters, you might think so. Those who have this opinion about boys have a one-track mind themselves. They judge everyone by their own standard. Typical! Actually, it depends on the company you keep. There are many boys who live chastely and want to save sex for marriage. I would like to share with you the results of a survey I recently conducted among some friends of mine—young men and women all between the ages of fifteen and twenty-three. I asked them one question. Here it is: “Why are you saving sex for marriage?” Everyone gave at least four reasons (some gave as many as ten) in favor of premarital abstinence. You could see they had given the matter some thought. The two most frequently given reasons were that impurity was a sin and, secondly, that it could lead to serious disease, including AIDS. In this letter I will cite the reasons (along with a brief commentary) most frequently given by boys. In my next letter I will present the reasons most frequently cited by girls.
• I want to save sex for marriage, because there is such a thing as fidelity before marriage. I want to remain faithful to my future wife.
We all know what marital fidelity is. But what is premarital fidelity? No one talks about it. Is it taboo, or what? You will not hear about it on TV or read about it in the daily newspapers. Marital infidelity is more likely to be promoted there. So what hope is there of hearing about fidelity before marriage?
Picture the following situation: ten years after finishing high school you run into an old friend of yours. You have not seen each other since graduation. Now you are married, have children, and lead a settled life. You decide to go out for lunch. You have so much to talk about! After pledging a few toasts to your old teachers, you begin reminiscing. Then your friend tells you that he knew your wife. It turns out that he even went out with her for a while and wanted very much to have sex with her; but nothing came of it. She told him frankly that she liked him, but was saving sexual intimacy for her husband.
How would you feel? Would you not be proud of your wife? Every husband would like to have a wife who was able to wait for him, just as every wife would like to have a husband who was faithful to her even before marriage.
Now picture another situation. Ten years after graduating from high school, you run into an old school chum. You go to a restaurant. Wine loosens the tongue and before you know it your friend is telling you that he used to go out with your wife. He knew she fancied him. When he proposed sex to her, she put up no resistance. He even goes on to give you a few spicy details about their encounter. How would you feel? Would you not feel betrayed? So is there such a thing as premarital fidelity?
Some will say that a wife need not know what her husband did before they got married, nor need the husband know what his wife did. Besides, situations such as the one described above are unlikely to happen. Let me reply with this question. When a husband cheats on his wife and she is none the wiser, is their relationship as strong as it was before he cheated on her? Will their love remain on the same level? No way! He still carries the burden of his act of infidelity in his heart, and so their relationship is damaged.
Let us return to the earlier situation. Silence will not solve the problem of a badly lived past. We begin a new life and keep quiet about what happened before? What kind of love is that? The person closest to me in the world has some forbidden precincts to which I am denied admittance? Or the reverse: I keep secrets from her. How could we be close to each other? Love means telling each other everything. Without complete sincerity there is no real love.
Outright lying in such a case is even worse. Can you build your future on a lie? It would be far better to own up to your mistake and ask forgiveness for your act of infidelity. Something of this sort has to be done before the wedding. Honesty demands it. Engaged couples must know the past of the person with whom they are about to pledge themselves for life. Of course, asking forgiveness is one thing. The other party must still weigh the question of whether the person seeking forgiveness will be able to keep his or her marital vows. Acting unfaithfully is a learned behavior (sometimes learned over a period of years). How we conduct ourselves in the past has a strong bearing on how we behave now or in the future.
As you can see, many complications arise. Far better for the engaged couple to be able to say to each other: “I have always been faithful to you.” Make sense?
• I am celibate, because I want to be free.
Some people say they are free because they watch pornographic films and score numerous “successes” with women, either in reality or in their fantasies, by masturbating, etc. But is this really freedom? Have they ever tried to stop these activities? People who understand freedom in this way are quickly enslaved. Evil enslaves. “Every one who commits sin is a slave to sin”—Jesus tells us (Jn 8:34). It cannot be otherwise.
The Book of Sirach tells us, “Do not give in to the promptings of your lusts, lest they enrage you like a mad bull” (Sir 6:2). Get the picture? Switch on your TV after ten o’clock in the evening and you can be ninety percent sure of seeing a vivid illustration of this verse. The later the night, the more frequently you see the cherished “heroes” of our film and television directors charging like aroused bulls across our TV screens. Is that your ideal of life?
Purity is the ability to curb lust. Sexual abstinence is training in freedom.
• Premarital abstinence leads to happier marital relations.
If sex leads to enslavement before marriage, will it not also do so in marriage? How does it work? The period before marriage is meant to be a time of training in chastity. Purity is the ability to control one’s lust. This has to be learned (especially by boys) just as other virtues like patience, diligence, courtesy, and altruism have to be learned.
The sexual relations of a man, who has learned to be pure before marriage, will be an expression of love and self-giving. A man who has not learned the virtue of purity before marriage will use his wife’s body as a means of relieving lust, instinct, or an addiction. Not a very interesting prospect: using your wife’s body to relieve an addiction. Conclusion? Do not damage your sexuality by fostering lust. Foster your sexuality by conquering lust.
Even in marriage a man must work to preserve his inner freedom—to love his wife’s body and not just desire it. You can lose this freedom. The periods of sexual abstinence required by natural family planning methods provide an excellent opportunity to develop this freedom.
• I want to be chaste because I have many consuming interests, which I want to develop. I have no time for nonsense.
The converse is more telling: sex so consumes me that I have neither time nor energy to develop my interests. Would Edison, Pasteur, or Einstein have developed their talents if they had wasted their time and energy chasing after sexual pleasures? If they had not practiced self-mastery, they would have been quite unextraordinary people, not the great scientists and benefactors of humanity they went on to become. Alas, by ensnaring us in the sin of impurity, our culture turns so many gifted souls into mediocre people. Sin always diminishes a person. “Those who commit sin are the enemies of their own lives,” the Scriptures tell us (Tob 12:10). Today we speak of the “culture of death” not only because it promotes violence, abortion, euthanasia, etc., but also because it kills, particularly among the young, that which is most noble within us: our ideals, talents, freedom, love, etc.
It is important to discover our interests and passions—be they scientific, artistic, athletic, social, or religious. I refer to passions that are constructive, character building, and satisfying; passions that can be discovered and developed for one’s own good and the benefit of others.
Any fool can get excited about watching naked women on the Internet or making easy pickups at the downtown bar. Even Rover the dog has a great passion for the opposite sex. The real trick is to find your real talents. Everyone has a talent. Jesus Himself tells us so (Mt 25: 14-30). Have you found yours? Take a moment to think about what you like to do, what you are good at, what you dream of doing. It does not have to be anything “cool” or fashionable; nor does it have to reap any material profits. All that matters is that it be profoundly yours.
Peter enjoys mountaineering and goes climbing every free moment he gets. When he finishes his studies, he plans to fix up an old chalet and start up his own mountain hostel. If that does not work out, he plans to join the mountain rescue patrol. Anne and her boyfriend work weekends as volunteers at the cancer hospice. They like doing things for others. Jack wants to be a biologist. For the holidays he borrows a microscope from school. He is passionate about nature. “How beautiful God’s creation is,” he says.
Youth is an extraordinarily important time of life. Those who spend it well will enjoy good fruit for the rest of their life. Those who spend it badly will gather bitter fruits. As you sow, so shall you reap.
• I want to be chaste, because I want to respect girls.
This is one of my favorite reasons. Learning to be pure is learning to respect girls. Surely no one would say that a playboy looks at a woman in the same way as a chaste man? A playboy looks at a woman as a rabbit looks at a doe in heat. But I wish to see more in a woman than just her body. I do not want to be constantly thinking about picking up this or that girl, persuading her to do this or that, or better still, dragging her into bed and using her until such time as I find a new “object of pleasure.”
I want a different relationship with girls. Their beauty fascinates me. I mean that inner beauty which a man has special need of: their warmth, tenderness, sensitivity, loving concern, etc. I want to have normal conversations with girls, share my thoughts and experiences with them, without manipulation or ulterior motive. In short, I want to have them for friends. You have to learn to look at women this way—i.e. with love. You achieve this to the extent that you learn to curb your lust.
Nineteen-year-old Andrew puts it this way: I love to be with girls. They have something that is lacking in male company: warmth, grace, etc. But I find that I can enjoy these things only when my thoughts and desires are chaste. Lust destroys this harmony, unless I quickly master it.
• Passing pleasures are not important to me. I am not interested in trying to squeeze maximum pleasure out of every day.
Take the case of athletes competing in a sports event such as the Olympiad. It has meant a lot of preparation. Every one of these athletes has many months, if not years, of intensive training behind them. So much work, self-denial, and sacrifice! But now, how pleased they are with their success. Even their tough training seems pleasurable in hindsight. I assure you this is true! What was hard becomes a joy.
What if, instead of training, they had taken life easy? Would they have achieved anything worthwhile? They might have enjoyed a few transitory pleasures, but they would have watched the Olympics on TV, all the while kicking themselves for wasting a golden opportunity.
Now take the case of an engaged couple that has decided to save sex for marriage. Clearly this has cost them a great deal, but on their wedding day they have a special joy. Who knows if this joy is not greater than that felt by an Olympic athlete on the podium. They have won something greater than a gold medal. They have won a good that will last. They have learned to be demanding of themselves, to stand by their word, to be faithful to Christ, to master their selfishness; in short they have learned to love. The great reward of saving sex for marriage is love. The couple will recall their self-denial before marriage with pleasure. One always remembers the struggle for something good in that way.
And if the couple had gone for transitory pleasures, then at best they could watch such Olympian marriages on TV. Pardon me! They don’t show such marriages on TV. Taboo subject.
• Mediocrity and the easy way do not appeal to me. I like a difficult challenge.
• I do not follow fashions. Healthy fish swim against the current; dead ones go with it.
The two that came up with these are tops! Top of the league! They can think “outside of the box.” They have high expectations of themselves. They are seekers after the truth, not slaves to fashion. They do not fall for mindless slogans such as, Celibacy sucks! Don’t repress it! Everyone’s doing it! For such people premarital sex means taking the easy way out, falling for the line put out by the mass media. They will not waste their lives. They will make of them something beautiful and unique. One thing is sure: they won’t fall into pop culture’s shallow mold.
• I intend to be chaste, because I know that I would only take advantage of the girl. I am not yet mature enough to love responsibly.
• One should not take advantage of girls, even if they are stupid and want it themselves.
Some think this way: here’s an occasion to take a bribe, so let’s take it. Here’s an occasion to swipe something, so let’s swipe it. Here’s an occasion to have a drink at someone’s expense, so let’s drink up. Here’s an occasion to take advantage of a girl, so let’s take advantage of her. Others say: No, thanks, I do not take bribes. No, thanks, I do not drink. I do not take advantage of easy girls. I do not watch pornography. You have both types of people. Some are guided by the Ten Commandments, others by their inordinate urges, desires, and whims—or by the devil himself. Some people have backbone; others have the backbone of a jellyfish. The latter call the former stupid, because they will not take advantage of an easy occasion, etc. But who is stupid in reality?
The liturgical readings for the feast of Saint Stanislaus Kostka, patron of youth (no doubt he was often called a “fool” in his lifetime), cite the following lines from the Book of Wisdom: “They will come with dread when their sins are reckoned up, and their lawless deeds will convict them to their face. Then the righteous man will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have afflicted him, and those who make light of his labors. When they see him, they will be shaken with dreadful fear….They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say, ‘This is the man whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproach—we fools’” (Wis 4:20-5:4).
• I stay chaste because I want to have many real joys, pleasures, and delights.
Is this one being facetious? Not at all! He is talking about real pleasures. There are all kinds of pleasures. Even pickpockets, swindlers, and drug dealers have theirs. The thicker the wallet, the more “fixes” one sells, the greater the pleasure—even delight. Breaking the Fifth and Seventh Commandments gives some people a great deal of pleasure. Similar pleasure comes from breaking the Sixth and Ninth Commandments.
Better to earn one’s money honestly. Just as real joy comes from money legally earned, so real sexual pleasure comes from a marriage legally entered into. If you renounce sinful pleasures, your receive others. Doing good gives joy, does it not? Only doing good gives real joy—joy that is pure and enduring. Sin destroys real joy! See what Scripture says: But the righteous shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity (Ps 37:11). Thou hast put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound (Ps. 4:8). You can enjoy either these or those sorts of pleasures, not both at the same time. Either/or.
• I stay chaste because I want to build up the “civilization of love.”
If everyone practiced abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage (to a large extent the latter is the fruit of the latter), our world would look altogether different. It would be incomparably better off. For one thing, we would be rid of sexually transmitted diseases. For another, we would have an end to pornography and prostitution. How many girls work in the “escort business” or in the pornography industry? Many end up there against their will. Often they are lured there, expecting different work altogether. If they cause trouble, they are beaten, imprisoned, raped, or sold off as chattels from one public house to another. How many have disappeared without a trace? This is slavery of the worst kind. In the twenty-first century! In “civilized” countries at that!
If I told you (but you probably know) about “sex tourism,” child pornography, pedophilia, and trafficking in children, you would be in no doubt that unbridled lust, justified and aroused to extremes, turns man not into a beast but into a demon.
If people were chaste before marriage and faithful in marriage (i.e. lived according to the Ten Commandments), there would be no STDs, no sex addiction, no exploitation of children, no rape or abuse of women, no broken marriages, incomparably fewer single parents, no so-called “shotgun marriages,” and no killing of children by abortion.
How much unnecessary suffering, humiliation, and death there is in the world! Can you not see that to reduce this suffering we need to urge others to see the value of sexual abstinence and teach them to be pure? The greater the incentive to sexual license, the more stimulation of lust through erotic displays of nakedness, pornographic materials, sexually suggestive fashions, the greater the suffering. Is this logical? You bet it is! That is how you build a “culture of death.” Why do so many people contribute to it? Why do they call themselves progressive?
The practice of purity sets a good example for others. Everything we do or say has an influence on those around us—be it good or bad. Thus every one of us contributes either to the “civilization of life and love” or to the “culture of death.”
• I strive for purity because: Only a pure heart can fully achieve that great work of love, which is marriage. These are John Paul II’s words. I know them by heart. A successful marriage and family are important to me. I will not be disappointed. I know whom to trust.
The last two sentences of the above statement gave me pause to think: I will not be disappointed. I know whom to trust. The point is that a great deal in life depends on whom we trust. Some people think they do not need advice. They know better themselves. That is a bit like wanting to build a house without anyone’s help. Could you build a beautiful house by yourself? At best you would build an old shack, but who would want to live in it? Do you think building a life is easier than building a house?
For such an undertaking you need the advice of experts. They know the principles of construction and have experience. You have to know the principles; otherwise, the whole thing might come crashing down. Under the direction of experts you really could build something beautiful. It is like that with life as well. Applying the right principles of building a life brings good results; applying the wrong ones brings bad results. It cannot be otherwise.
Take a look at people you know who are ten to fifteen years older than yourself. No doubt you know some whose lives have broken down in some area, or threaten to at any moment. Or you might know some whose lives are complete wrecks already. Still other lives might remind you of a wretched shack rather than a beautiful villa. Have you figured out why? They thought they knew better than the experts. Or they trusted swindlers who could sell snow to the Eskimos. The building would be light, easy, and pleasant, they were told. Meanwhile, these charlatans could not multiply or divide, told you to lay the roof trusses as you would the floor joists, build the ceiling as you would the floor, and then just told you to “do whatever you feel like.” One thing they said was true. It was a lot of fun and everyone had a roaring time—at first!
Unfortunately some young people build their lives on the “expertise” of people who cannot tell good from evil. They get everything wrong. They call sexual promiscuity “love,” “progress,” and “modernity”; perversions—“loving differently”; acceptance of evil—“tolerance”; child abuse—“sex education”; the murder of a child—“terminating a pregnancy”; and all this lying and manipulation of the truth they call “coping with life.”
Who knows best about good and evil? Who is most knowledgeable about the right and wrong principles of life? God! Could there be a greater expert? What does God say on the subject? For this is the will of God, our sanctification: that you abstain from immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God (1 Thess 4:3-5). But immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints (Eph 5:3).
Is the Pope an expert on good and evil? Of course he is! He is Christ’s representative on earth. He does not speak on his own behalf. He is an instrument in the hands of God. It was John Paul II who said: Only a pure heart can fully achieve that great work of love, which is marriage. Do you believe the Pope or those who say the exact opposite?
• I strive for purity, because I do not want to forfeit eternity.
Jesus tells us, Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5:8). Elsewhere we read, Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkard, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). Alas! Many are deceived! “The Prince of this world” (i.e. the devil) and his minions are constantly at work to convince us that promiscuity is a trifling matter. Alas, to give up the fight for purity means to forfeit the Kingdom of God. As long as we strive with this or that serious sin, the war for our eternal life is not over, though we may lose the battle. AIDS is not the worst consequence of the sin of impurity.
That is enough for today. I will end this letter by citing without commentary several more reasons in favor of premarital abstinence as cited by boys in my survey:
Till next time.
The above article was published with permission from Miłujcie się! in November 2010