just don’t say it: Chastity. 28 comments

Alright, I’ll admit it: I’m not a nun.

…oh, wait, you already knew that? Well then, hmm. What I really mean to say is that I’m not perfect. I’m a sinner (but you already knew that too). When it comes to dating and relationships I’ve fallen short and struggled with chastity and purity like most folks I know. As a youth minister I’ve also heard a lot of talks and homilies on chastity. As a blogger I’ve also read a fair amount of blogs on purity, dating, relationships, and the passions that can be ignited with someone you care deeply about. When it comes to the youth minister/blogger chastity talks and such, there are a few things that have always rubbed me the wrong way when folks say or write them. As with nearly all statements in this series so far, I’m sure these folks mean well, but they don’t always realize what they are saying or how hurtful it can be.

Also, I’m inspired by blogs like this one, and this one, and this one that remind me that I’m not alone in being totally irked by abstinence and chastity talks.just dont say it chastity

  • Once you’ve sinned or pushed a line of purity too far you are like a sticky note that won’t stick, a cup full of other people’s spit, or a piece of trash on the side of the road.
    • Wrong. Just wrong. Sin is sin and we have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. The Good News is that He forgives us all. When we confess our sins He forgives us and makes us beautiful and new in Him. In Revelation 21:5 Jesus tells us, “Behold, I make all things new.”
  • Once you’ve messed up, no one will love you. All they will see is your sin, your past, and how disgusting you are.
    • I wish to Heaven that this wasn’t said in talks I’ve heard and blogs I’ve read. This is a lie straight from the mouth of the devil. For starters, God asks us to forgive others in the same manner that He forgives us. When we pray the Our Father we ask that He would “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” The forgiveness goes both ways; if we want God to forgive our yuckiness, we have to be willing to forgive the yuckiness in our brothers and sisters. Confessing our sins to others is hard, but it is an opportunity to show and receive God’s love and mercy. Don’t let Satan win.
  • Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!
    • Scare tactics don’t work, because someday sex won’t be scary, it will beautiful, it will be an expression of committed marital love. Shaming folks into thinking that sex is the most terrifying thing ever may keep them from having pre-marital sex, but how terrifying will their wedding night be? I shudder at the thought!
  • Think of your future spouse!
    • I get where this is coming from, but I can almost guarantee you that in the heat of the moment you won’t be thinking about your future spouse. On the off chance that you are, you will do you darnedest to convince yourself that the person with you in that moment will be your future spouse anyway, so what is the harm?
  • People who can’t wait for marriage are weak.
    • “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” – Matthew 26:41. We are all weak in some way, we all have sins that we seem to make into habits. What is important is to help each other out when we are weak, not tear down the weak and point out their flaws.
  • People who have sex outside of marriage are whores/sluts/easy and will not be allowed in Heaven.
    • Mary Magdalene was as close to Jesus as the apostles, and tradition holds that she was an adulterer or a prostitute. Saint Augustine prayed that God would make him chaste…just not yet, and he is held as one of the greatest saints, and is hailed as a Doctor of the Church. King David slept with Bathsheba and essentially had her husband murdered and yet he is referred to over 800 times in the Old Testament and over 60 times in the New Testament, more often than not for being a model king and a good and righteous man, despite his sin. Paul describes King David as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Need I go on?
  • If you have sex before marriage you are giving away something that belongs to your spouse.
    • Another well-intentioned statement gone wrong. Our virginity belongs to us as individuals and is a gift from God. Is it a gift that God hopes will go only to our spouse? Yes. However, your future spouse does not own your virginity.
  • Hugging someone is dangerous because you form an attachment to them, so you should only hug people you plan on seriously dating or even marrying.
    • I actually laughed at this one. I suppose for some folks hugging can be a temptation or an occasion for sin, but I don’t think it is as grave as only being able to hug people you are planning on marrying.
  • When you have sex with a person, the chemicals in your brain bond to that person. Therefore, people who have had multiple sex partners have damaged brains and won’t properly bond to their spouse.
    • From a purely biological standpoint I suppose this makes some sense, and yet it leaves out faith. It leaves out God’s goodness. It leaves out His ability to heal us from our pasts and be able to bond “properly” and “completely” with whomever He wills us to marry.
  • You are worth the wait.
    • While I certainly understand where this is coming from, it can easily be misconstrued. What if God calls you to marry a person who hasn’t waited? Were you then not worth the wait? On the contrary, our worth comes from GOD, not another person and their past decisions. Are you worth waiting for? Of course you are! The length of the wait may vary given someone’s past, but your worth comes from God alone!
  • Act as though Jesus were in the room!
    • Nice idea, but super creepy when it comes to marriage. If Jesus were in the room you better believe I’d be sitting at His feet soaking up all that He has to say and all that He is. Once I’m married I don’t think that acting as though Jesus were in the room would be a good idea…Hey, Jesus, can you go sit in the corner and cover your ears while we consummate our marriage? Okay, thanks!
  • Married sex is SOOOO mind-blowing!
    • Honestly, while waiting for marriage I,and many of my friends, would much rather hear about how hard it is to wait so that we know we aren’t alone in the struggle. Think about when a doctor asks you to fast before having blood drawn. Would you rather someone tell you about how totally and awesomely amazing food is, or would you rather someone talk to you about how hard the struggle is?

After some more brilliant discussion with my CathSorority sisters, we realized that the chastity conversation should always start with your individual self-worth. There is no wound that God cannot heal, be it rape, incest, sexual abuse, sex outside of marriage, whatever. Your worth is a gift from God, a gift that He can restore, renew, and re-give. If we don’t start by acknowledging our own worth as an individual, our worth as a gift from God, then perhaps we’ve missed the point entirely. Our worth (as I’ve said here before, and have a whole book about) has nothing to do with whether or not we deserve to be worthy, and everything in the world to do with His loving gift to us.

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28 thoughts on “just don’t say it: Chastity.

  • Anjie Anjelina

    Amanda, I’m sending you a virtual hug! As a single mother who has heard many of these chastity talks, which have been hurtful (I know this is not the intent), you have reminded me of what matters most. Even though I am not a virgin, God has been able to use my choice to have my daughter as one of the best blessings ever. I’m not at all saying forego chastity because it’s special, but it should be mentioned that God can use choices to bring about self-growth and unimaginable blessings. You are such a great writer and an encouragement to me!

    • Amanda @ worthy of Agape

      You are so sweet and there is no doubt in my mind that your daughter is a blessing in your life and in the lives of so many others! Thank YOU for choosing life! I don’t think the intent is ever to be hurtful, but I do think it is important to point out how hurtful certain things can be so that we create an atmosphere of love and respect rather than shame and fear.

      God can use anything and everything (and He often does!) to bring about glory and healing!

      Keep up the good work, and may God continue to bless your life and your motherhood!

  • Mike

    Through the passion and death of Jesus, an infinite ocean of mercy was made available for all of us. But God, who created us free, will not force anything on us, not even his mercy. He waits for us to turn from our sinfulness. He tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you..for everyone who asks receives”

    We must also be merciful in deed, word, and prayer. Mercy is a love that seeks to relieve the misery of others. It is an active ove, poured out upon others to heal, to comfort, to console, to forgive, to remain pain. It is love that God offers us, and it is love He demands from us for each other.

    • Amanda @ worthy of Agape

      Those are such wise words! God offers us love and mercy and all that He asks is that we show that to others. Isn’t that what chastity talks should focus on too, God’s love and mercy? Because He loves us we are called to show others what love truly is: the laying down of one’s life and desires for one’s friends, enemies, whoever. Perhaps if chastity talks started with more of a focus on what love truly is rather than a list of things not to do or ways to shame people into avoiding sex outside of marriage then we’d be a little better off than we are now!

      • Mike

        Amen! Another concept to think about is love the sinner, not the sin. As Waywardson stated chasity isn’t just a concern for young people, living a chaste life in the way we are “suppose” to live is something we all will struggle with in all phases of our lives. Lord knows I struggle with it.

  • Beth Anne

    Man I heard a lot of these and never thought they were that bad. However I was also a virgin. Had I heard some of these and not a virgin I probably wouldn’t have felt the same way. A lot of them never really had much theology attached to them either. After hearing the theology I’m thinking omg why did they do that?

    Side Note: I knew a girl who had a cousin who refused to go the bathroom when she was 4 or 5 after she found out that “Jesus/God was everywhere” She was like eww he can see me pee!!

    • Amanda @ worthy of Agape

      Exactly! Where does the theology come into the discussion and why are we so afraid to talk about God’s purpose for sex? He designed EVERYTHING and He designs it all so beautifully!

      Side note: I giggled at your side note! Ah, the innocence of children =)

  • waywardson23

    So much of the chastity talk seems to be geared toward virgin teenage girls.

    What about the guys? (NONE of this imagery has much appeal to guys, even virgin guys.)

    What about non-virgins? (Too late for that.)

    What about those who have found that someone they want to commit to and are engaged to be married? (Telling an engaged couple “you might break up” doesn’t go over well.)

    What about those who are already married? (Using singles chastity “rules” when you’re married and abstaining can starve your marriage for intimacy.)

    What about those no longer married (widowed/divorced)? (Why wait…again?)

    What about those called to religious life? (Who says it’s waiting?)

    The problem with “chastity programs” is that so many of them have an extremely narrow view of chastity. It paints a distorted view of sexuality that many people, rightfully, reject.

    • Amanda @ worthy of Agape

      You make SO many excellent points. I suppose that since at one point I was a teenage girl, and am now a youth minister, I never realized how almost all chastity talks are targeting teenage virgin girls. The messages they preach reach such a limited audience, and often times leave them incredibly scarred. The message for non-virgins is that they should just get to confession and hope for the best. At best the message is, “God will heal you” but no more about His mercy and how you aren’t actually damaged goods or chewed up gum.

      Telling engaged people you might break up almost never goes over well and does little to explain the beauty of waiting for sacramental marriage.

      All the way around there has to be more to a conversation about chastity than “just don’t do it, period.” There has to be an explanation of the goodness of waiting, whether it is in marriage or as a single person. There should be an emphasis on God’s mercy, no matter what your past entails. And, as you point out, the conversation can’t just target teenage virgin girls because then you are missing at least half of the population!

    • Beth Anne

      I totally agree! I read over and over and over again on the catholicmatch forums of people who are 60+ who are widowed or divorced with kids who obv. aren’t virgins and they think since they waited the first time the rules don’t apply to them and they don’t have to wait this time around. It makes me so mad! But I haven’t figured out what theology to say to help them understand to wait as I’m still learning a lot of it myself.

      I think you pointed out a lot of the issues with Chastity programs. How do you have a Chastity program that will appeal to different groups of people: virgins, non-virgins, engaged, married? It’s hard.

  • Anna C.

    Absolutely fabulous. Thanks for sharing Amanda! You are such a bright light, and I’m sure you have made a wonderful difference for the young people that you have shared your wisdom with.

  • trinichiqn55

    I have seen on forums and I have had arguments about this topic and I always feel out numbered for my view so I love this. I have heard arguments that even though you have gone to confession the lingering temporal effects (punishments, etc) still exist. That was the advice given to a girl whose boyfriend was not a virgin although she was as to why she should dump him. There was also a guy who seemed to think that everyone who had sex outside of marriage had an STD and an abortion so he was going to stay single because there are no good virgins out there. The “virginity hunting” out there is a little disturbing, I think one guy even said there are no pure girls where he lives.

    • Amanda @ worthy of Agape

      Wow, that is depressing on so many levels! Blessed John Paul II talked about the two kinds of innocence and virginity: one is spiritual/mental and the other is physical. Your physical virginity cannot be taken back (in a PURELY physical sense), but your spiritual and mental virginity can, especially through prayer and confession. Not everyone who has sex outside of marriage has/had an STD and/or an abortion. It definitely saddens me to think about how close minded people can be. Aren’t we called to forgive others JUST AS God forgives us? We are to be witnesses of His love and mercy!

  • Raquel Rose Kato

    Love this…totally wish chastity talks were more about the struggle and forgiveness for when we slip up….it’s too often focused on “DON’t LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY!” so if a girl does lose it..she feels like she already lost the battle and falls even deeper into premarital sex because there’s no hope. But there IS HOPE!!! Yay for forgiveness and grace!

    • Amanda @ worthy of Agape

      Right?! It is good to emphasize the importance and beauty of virginity, but there isn’t enough said about forgiveness, love, and mercy, AND healing after the fact. What about the people who have sinned? Does God love them any less? Are they any less worthy of love? Heck no! There is always hope, mercy, and grace to be found in God’s arms!

      • Celeste

        Wonderful point..and, such value to me as one who speaks on chastity, and have lived God’s mercy, healing, and forgiveness in this area.. It was challenging at first to have to expose such a depth publicly, but the power of witness and testimony before many girls is so important. I realized that there is a greater need amongst our young adults in the matter of chastity education and so any fear of mine was consumed by love for this. Thank you for giving me these pointers through your honesty. It has been very affirming, and has helped me to understand the importance of giving a talk that is not only rooted in the love of our Lord, but in the truth I have lived. It is in this way many may be led to a deeper unction with Christ!

        St. Joseph, pay for us!

  • Kristi

    Amanda, this is an amazing post. It is so spot on! Thank you for kindly sharing the truth with us! It really is in the subtleties that these well meaning thoughts are just wrong. I remember being furious in a planning meeting for a purity rally where the main skit was drinking other people’s spit. It’s just about empathy… I love every gentle correction you made.

    • Amanda @ worthy of Agape

      Kristi, you are so welcome! In high school and even when I first started in ministry I didn’t realize how certain things come across or the effects that our words can have on people for years after the fact. At first the spit cup sounds like a decent analogy, but when you dig underneath the message is actually really horrible and tears down people’s God given dignity! God’s mercy is abundant =)