Lust is the Problem, Chastity is the Solution
We live in an over-sexed culture. One need only to stand in line at the local Wal-Mart and look at the magazine rack to see this reality played in full Technicolor before our eyes. Brooke’s recent post on Modesty and Women sparked some interesting points in the comments, which I would like to discuss.
As Catholics, we understand that our humanity is a gift. Our bodies and our sexuality are gifts given to us by God. We should not be afraid of it, nor be ashamed of it. It is a fallacy to believe that a Catholic should not speak about “sex”. Our God created it, our Church guards the truth about it, why should we be quiet about it? Sex was not created to be shameful. When sin enters the picture, there enters shame. However, it would appear especially in the baby boomer’s generation, and the generations preceding them, that the topic of human sexuality was taboo. Something as powerful as human sexuality cannot be kept under wraps. No wonder the hippie generation introduced the “sexual revolution”, and back-lashed against “Puritanism”. With their parents’ silence on the topic of sexuality, and the local church mostly silent about it, the only logical direction for that generation was to swing to the other side of the spectrum. On a side note, this pendulum swinging attitude is a human thing, and we will see this occur in almost every aspect of life. Where balance is not present, and St. Thomas Aquinas really drives this home, we’ll fall into the extremes. This is not a healthy place to be; neither mentally and emotionally, nor spiritually.
The problem is that even though the Catholic Church in her wisdom has never been silent on this topic for 2000 years (as we have lamented about before), from the Bishop to the laity’s ears is a journey of a million miles. Even when it landed on the desk of the Bishops and priests, as the age of relativism was coming into full swing, no one would say anything about it. In doing so, the local churches did a great disservice to the laity and so when the great Sexual Revolution of the 20th Century broke out, we lost many souls due in large part to the lack of catechesis they received. The truth is, if these confused Catholics had known what the Church taught about human sexuality, and even now, if people TRULY knew the Church’s understanding of human sexuality, things would be vastly different. Though Blessed John Paul II began his Wednesday audiences about human sexuality now called “The Theology of the Body” in the 1980’s, and Pope Paul VI released his prophetic encyclical “Humanae Vitae” in the 1960’s, they lay quite dormant until recent times. Now these theological time bombs are being used more for damage control than for initial catechesis. I digress.
Brooke’s recent post on modesty received some very interesting comments. The loudest cry from Brooke’s interlocutors was that Brooke was focusing on women more than men. In her defense, she was only speaking about one particular aspect that applies to her as a woman. However this is where I get down to the bigger topic at hand.
LUST IS THE PROBLEM!
Lust is the antithesis of charity. Charity is what we as Catholics believe we were created for. We were created by Love (Who is God Himself) and for love (We need love to live and be happy) and to love (to selflessly offer our lives for God and others in service). God has stamped into our bodies this very reality by endowing us with our sexuality. We were made for communion – exclusive communion with someone who we can be one with, and our love produces a new life. In so doing, God has mirrored the Trinitarian relationship of the three persons of the Trinity into human sexual relationship between a man and a woman. Bl. John Paul II truly drives this home in his “Theology of the Body”. However, with the fall in Eden, sin and concupiscence entered the world and our understanding of love twisted. This was not an issue that only one of the sexes had to deal with. Just as we cannot love in a vacuum, we cannot sin in a vacuum either. I am not going to go into the details of this fact, but if we take any sin and run it to the end, we will see that it not only negatively impacts our relationship with God, but also with others.
Lust is something that most of us deal with. It impacts all of us in different ways. I’m not going to go into the psychology of lust for both sexes, but I will say that each sexual drive is triggered differently. Both experience these in varying degrees, however men tend to be more visual and women tend to be more emotional. Lust, like any other sin, takes something good, and twists it. The gift of sexual desire is a very good thing. Lust twists it into something completely other. Instead of sexual desire being a gift of self, it twists into selfishness.
It has likely been overstated, especially within the JPII fanclub, one of John Paul II’s most famous quotes that “the opposite of love is not hate, but usury”. I think this is definitely true and puts the Catholic view of Lust into perspective. Choose to agree or not, but this is the basis of the Church’s understanding of love – that love is shown in a sincere gift of self.
CHASTITY IS THE SOLUTION
Chastity is about true love. It is about having the freedom to be in control of our passions so as to be able to freely offer ourselves in a sincere gift of self. Keep in mind that chastity is a virtue, that is a learned habit. It is second nature for us to be selfish, however it is in offering ourselves selflessly that we become our best. It is from chastity that many other virtues flow from and to.
In the case of Brooke’s previous post, modesty flows from a chaste heart. Modesty seeks to protect the other from the sin of lust. It also recognizes and honors the body as a gift from God, to be protected and safeguarded from those who would look on that body with disrespect; Similar to how the Church desires us to treat her Blessed Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Women offer to the world something that men primarily do not-beauty. Now, that is not to say men are not sexually appealing, but most women find that their sexual desire is not elevated from seeing a male model, as from the idea of being emotionally connected with that male. Think I’m wrong? Look at the Twilight fad. I’m sure the fact that Mr. Sparkly Vampire is somewhat (if at all) good looking, may play a part. However, it is vastly related to his emotional connection with Bella that makes women enjoy this book more. For most men, this book is nothing more than smarmy, emotionally charged, teenage angst.
On the flip side, men are vastly visual people. The Porn industry is primarily funded by whom? Men. Who primarily provides this “entertainment”? Women. Take note, especially those who hated on Brooke’s post-THIS IS A CYCLICAL ISSUE. Lust>Porn>Lust etc. Though the pornography industry is a Billion dollar industry, the statistic do not include emotional porn that is peddled by mainstream Hollywood movies. Even more billions should be included in the numbers. But I digress again.
Modesty helps breaks the cycle.
Safeguarding the body is more than simply covering up. It is a matter of the heart. It was stated in a comment that many indigenous, African tribes have remained naked and it doesn’t cause a problem. To this I respond with, “What is their idea of relationship”? Exclusivity in relationship is non-existent in these tribes. Along with rape being a constant in these circumstances, we also see instances of bestiality and incest. Take note, there is a reason why the AIDS crisis still continues there, and it’s not because they have a right understanding of human sexuality.
Catholics understand that modesty flows from chastity. Self-control also flows from this great virtue. Consider the analogy of the two wolves within each of us. One we’ll call chastity, the other we’ll call lust. Which one lives depends upon which one we feed. Chastity is the answer to the problem of lust. Both sexes need to live chastely and choose to safeguard and maintain modesty. The question is how do we feed chastity and starve lust? Firstly, avoid the near occasions of sin. Avoid those situations that encourage us to fall. Secondly, and most importantly, pray. Pray for a chaste heart. Turn to Jesus in the Most Pure and Immaculate Host and ask Him to transform our heart. Turn to the Sacrament of Confession, and receive the graces there that are necessary to overcome concupiscence. Turn to the Blessed Mother, and to St. Joseph her most chaste spouse and pray for their intercession, and ask the Lord for the grace to starve the giant wolf of lust. If you’re struggling right now, know there is hope. Seek recourse to these above mentioned things, and also turn to someone of the same sex who can hold you accountable to be pure. If you need someone to chat to about this, throw us an email through the contact us page. LOVE WINS.
In the Immaculata,