Does chastity include tight clothes & heavy making-out?

Dear Heather,

Ok. I don’t exactly dress modestly. I wear low cut and tighter shirts, but I don’t wear tight jeans I can barely button or skirts that reveal 1/2 my butt. I also made out with my boyfriend on many occasions when we were going out. Will any of this spoil my chastity honor (commitment) that I made to myself? Does this mean the only thing really left to do is lose my virginity? Because I really want to change and DON’T want to end up to where all I have to lose is my physical virginity.

Dear Friend,

It’s great to know that you find this column enlightening… thanks, and praise be to God who speaks to you through me. I’ll try to do my best to answer your question about living chastity using an analogy that makes sense to me.

Have you ever eaten cereal with a spoon? How about with a fork? Or a butcher knife? Okay, I’ll admit that I might have tried the fork at some point, but never the butcher knife. Why? Well, duh, the spoon gives me the most of what I want with the least amount of damage or loss. Chastity is like a “spoon” to your love life. Having pre-marital sex is like eating cereal with a butcher knife—you don’t get much of what you want (in relationships) and you most likely get very hurt. Saving sex for marriage but not living chastely in other ways (as you’ve personally described) is like eating cereal with a fork—you get more of what you want, but it’s not nearly the best. Chastity gives us what we truly desire—the love, freedom, peace and healthy relationships that simply cannot be obtained other ways. We can choose much less, like choosing to eat cereal with a knife or fork, or we can trust God and receive all life and love has to offer.

Chastity is a virtue, like honesty or patience—the more we practice it, the better we get at living it. If I lied a lot as a child, it probably took many years to stop lying. But, the more I was honest, especially when I was tempted to lie, the easier it got to be honest. Also, we can choose levels of honesty—we can constantly tell bold lies, occasionally tell little white lies, not divulge the whole truth, or be completely honest. In the pursuit of virtues, as humans we can strive for perfection, but won’t achieve it until Heaven.

However, the cool part of striving for perfection is that we become more virtuous, and the growing virtues become rewards by themselves. For example, the honest person is rewarded by NEVER having to worry about covering up for their lies. The honest person will never justly get caught in a lie because they didn’t create it. The honest person enjoys the feeling of always being trusted by others. You can choose, however to be dishonest or just partially honest, which provide some immediate benefits. However, you won’t reap the benefits of someone who tries to be completely honest, all of the time.

Just like the virtue of honesty, we can choose “levels” of living the virtue of chastity. We can strive for perfection in this area, or much less. With every choice we make, specifically in regards to our sexuality, there are benefits/rewards and detriments (negative consequences). We must decide if the rewards outweigh the detriments and what benefits we most desire.

If we completely throw out the virtue of chastity, let our sexual desires rule us, have sex outside of marriage and live impurely, the rewards we receive are instant physical gratification and temporary bonding. These short-lived rewards decrease in value, especially as we grow older. I once heard a former male-stripper say that the despair and loneliness of sex with random women has increased, especially now as he is in his thirties. The moments of pleasure of his past are gone and the sadness remains. The “knife” has pierced this former “stud” in a variety of ways. Go to a crisis pregnancy center or listen to women talk about past relationships and you’ll notice the wounds—they aren’t hard to find in our generation. The detriments of sex outside of marriage can be very severe and last much longer than the benefits.

However, you’re smarter than that and desire better, through your choice to save sex for marriage. Yet, we should remember that abstinence until marriage and truly living chastely are not the same. Having your physical virginity on your wedding night is a destination, not a virtue. It’s great and wonderful, but is only one decision in regards to chastity. There are physical virgins who are far from chaste—acting, dressing and thinking without sexual restraint or love (even though they don’t actually have intercourse). For example, one guy saved sex for his wedding night, but watched pornography, joked with his buddies about shallow sex and never stopped viewing women as a means to sexual fulfillment. On his wedding night, he practically attacked his wife—scaring her and ruining her memory of that night. It was an awful experience for them both. Although technically he was a virgin, He wasn’t living chastity. He let his sexual desires take over his ability to love. He (and his wife) missed the benefit of a magical, awesome wedding night. I also suspect it has taken him a long time to gradually understand the true meaning of sex in marriage, and for his relationship with his wife to be healed.

As mentioned before, merely saving sex for marriage, but still acting and dressing sexy, is like eating cereal with a fork. You get more of what you want—more benefits—but, still miss out on the best and risk other consequences. You get more respect from guys, but not total respect, you have a better chance at gaining real love, but there are still many opportunities to be used and to use others.

In my past, I “ate cereal with a fork”. I thought a passing grade (not failing) and saving my virginity would be good enough. My “passing grade” meant that I would encourage a little bit of lust in guys or myself for the fun, but then I got frustrated when I felt shallow, used or selfish. I wanted those moments of feeling sexy through what I wore or how I acted, but always lacked the type of true respect from guys that lasted. When I said I was trying to live purely, it was like a “wink” in a guy’s eye saying, “Sure you are, but you like to bend the rules a lot, don’t you? You don’t really want to be THAT respected?” I finally realized that it wasn’t my math or science grade that was at stake; it was my love life! Do I really just want a passing grade—a “C or D” when an “A” was possible? No way, I wanted the best for my relationships.

Authentically trying to live chastely was the “more” my heart truly desired. Chastity is like eating cereal with a spoon. With the “spoon” of chastity, I now know true respect from guys, the joy of a guy loving to be with me even though he hasn’t seen me in “sexy” clothes, freedom from sexual worries and heartache, and most importantly, experiencing real love. Bottom line, when it comes to my love life, chastity has the most benefits without the damaging detriments. Although it can be very challenging at times, it is never bad for me. And, what I am saying no to (physical intimacy for a moment) is much less important than what I am saying yes to…the benefit of knowing I’m living in real love, respect and freedom. Personally, you must decide what you most desire, what is most important to you.

So, back to your question—heavy making out and dressing a little immodestly may not be the biggest sins out there. However, they are not chaste decisions, especially when you know that you could act and dress in a way that wouldn’t tempt guys sexually. Such decisions have short-term benefits but are far from helping you or guys grow in chastity. However, don’t lose heart. We have all, at some point in our lives, fallen short of perfection. God does not expect us to be perfect, but He desires us to come back to Him when we fall. He wants us to know that He always loves and forgives us no matter what. And, He wants to give us His Grace and Power to live life to the fullest!

Don’t throw away your chastity commitment (card, if you still have it). It is obvious by your questions that you are still striving for purity—that’s the best we can do. We all need to seek forgiveness when we notice lust and impurities and pray daily for God’s grace so we can then go on to live and love the best we can. Regular visits to the Sacrament of Reconciliation have really helped me not only recall the ways I’ve fallen short of true chastity, but also given me the strength to live better in the future. For tips on how to live chastely, check out Tips on Living Chastely.

Let me be clear, however, that chastity does not means never touching a guy’s hand or wearing only dumpy, ugly, big clothes. A chaste, Christian guy will help you out so you can be totally respected, and yet still trendy and cute. Also, if you’re wondering what you can do physically and still live chastely, stay tuned and look forward to our Winter Newsletter where I will answer another teen’s question on the topic of “What Can I Do? A Different Answer to ‘How Far is Too Far.’”

Please let me know if this has been helpful for you. If I’ve been at all confusing, frustrating or you just have more questions, please let me know. I pray that God continues to bless and guide you in all your decisions.

My friend responded back, several days later:

Heather,

Thank you very much! I used your advice tonight. I went on a date and I didn’t dress really sexy, just wore an attractive shirt and jeans and all I did was hold the guy’s hand. I think it was definitely better that way and I think this one really respects me! I am so very excited, because your advice has helped me see through to the real chaste life and helps me realize that I don’t need to be trampy to get a guys attention. I plan on keeping my chastity card until my wedding day and then give it to my husband… whoever he may turn out to be. Thank you again.