By Father Mieczysław Piotrowski TChr,
Like drug and alcohol dependency, enslavement to sexual pleasure can take a variety of different forms. What they all have in common is the inability to exercise control over one’s sexual impulses and the exalting of pleasure as the highest good.
People who are dependent on sex claim that their desire is stronger than their will, that as soon as they “feel like it” they must satisfy their desire. This striving after sexual pleasure represents a peculiar form of addiction. The overriding aim of such persons is to experience sexual pleasure as often and as intensely as possible. In their obsession with fleeting pleasure they focus all their feelings upon themselves and become insensitive to the needs and suffering of others. Their view of happiness is egocentric. Unable to see happiness in terms of the disinterested giving of oneself to others, they destroy their aptitude for disinterested love and fall into the terrible slavery of selfishness. This is a state of spiritual death. In effect, the sex addict dulls and destroys his capacity to love God and his neighbor.
Readiness to accept the whole of God’s truth about human sexuality is the first necessary condition of overcoming sex addiction. Divine Revelation tells us that human sexuality is a marvelous gift of God, and that love, not pleasure, is its most important element. Thus, everything must be subordinated to love. Everything must serve this most important aim of life, i.e. growing in love. Christ wants us to exercise control over our sexual drives, since it is only then that we can love fully. People enslaved to sexual pleasure are incapable of loving.
Sex is not just something that we do with our body and gives us pleasure. Do we sufficiently realize the fact that it is the means by which we human beings come into existence? Sexual intercourse is the locus in which a new person is conceived. It is the locus of the special presence and action of God, who loves and creates. Sex touches the person at his most profound emotional and spiritual level. Pope Paul VI observes in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, that the marital act is “a holy act meriting eternity.” People who do not use sex to express genuine love corrupt the act and themselves.
“I love you. I desire what is good for you, and therefore, accepting responsibility for you, I give myself to you for a lifetime.” Such a commitment occurs only in the sacrament of matrimony. God requires nothing short of lifelong fidelity in marriage and total sexual abstinence outside of marriage, since sex outside of marriage — like every sin — is damaging to us.
There is no “safe sex” outside of the sacrament of marriage, since it is impossible to avoid the destructive consequences of sin. God loves us and thus teaches us that sexual immorality does grievous harm to others and ourselves. Only within the context of marriage can sexual relations be considered a marvelous act desired my God.
Nowhere, in any way, does Holy Scripture permit sex outside of marriage. Once we have accepted and believed everything Christ has to tell us about sexuality, we are ready to take the first step on the road to freedom. (The matter of counseling and therapy, which may well also be required, falls outside the scope of this article.) Despite the humiliation involved in admitting our dependency, we must resist the temptation to dwell on ourselves. Instead we must direct our whole attention on Christ’s love. We must accept the truth about ourselves, namely that we are wounded and enslaved. We need to be healed, freed of our addiction. Christ alone can free us of the slavery of sin, and He can do this only when we allow Him to do this — when we believe that He really loves us and that His love alone is necessary for our complete happiness.
Only steadfast faith and trust in Christ can work the desired miracle. It allows Jesus to act inside us and transform us. Living by faith brings with it the hardship of walking the way of the Gospel. Christ reminds us that He Himself is the way: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). His way is like climbing the world’s highest peak. The person climbing it may fall, stop or stumble onto a pathless tract. The point is that at every critical impasse he must turn to Christ, who loves him always, who binds and heals all wounds caused by sin.
The miracle of forgiveness and healing takes place in the sacrament of penance. To overcome our sexual problems we have to recognize their cause. The basic cause is egotism. The central obstacle to be removed is selfishness. Selfishness naturally seeks direct and instant pleasure. It rejects the effort that genuine love requires. That is why we need to exercise self-discipline. We need to work and study hard, make an effort to help others, engage in sports and physical exercise, etc. We need, radically and without compromise (Mt 18: 8-9), to break with all forms of pornography and avoid situations and persons who incline us to sin. Above all, we need to find time to meet with Jesus in prayer, the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion.
Healing is not achieved in a day. Overcoming an addiction requires a long time (perhaps as long as 3-5 years). For this reason we need to arm ourselves with patience and allow Christ to heal us with his love. Success will come if despite our lapses and relapses we never become discouraged but continue to pick ourselves up and resume the difficult journey of faith in the almighty love of Christ.
The above article was published with permission from Miłujcie się! in November 2010