Thursday, November 16, 2017

Adventures In Chastity: Practical Advice For Men

I'm inspired to write this post because the news is a steady drumbeat now of some powerful man who acted sinfully, inappropriately, or downright criminally toward a woman. Plenty of Christians right now are struggling with the virtue of chastity, or bearing the burden of their sins against that virtue. As a man who has been "that guy," (more than you have, I'm pretty sure) I have found a few things that helped practically. [Oh, crap, this is about to be a listicle.--ed.] Sorry, man.

1. Decide to stop hating yourself. God actually loves you more than you do, infinitely, and especially when you have failed spectacularly. Your destiny is not Hell, ultimately. God's "desire" for you is Heaven, seeing Him and sharing His friendship forever. So the first step is to want what God wants, and to reject any thoughts you might have that sound like, "I'm a failure and a freak, who will never be able to obey the commandments." That's a lie, straight from Hell.

2. For the love of God, go to Confession. Go every time you fall, especially in regard to self-abuse and pornography. I don't know your story, or how you got your habits, so I can't tell you the state of your soul. I do think you should refrain from the Eucharist, if you've committed one of these sins since your last confession, unless and until you get contrary advice from your confessor, or spiritual director. Also, many people go to different priests, because they are embarrassed. If you want to win, stop doing this. One confessor or two (ideally from your parish) know you, and they know how and why you struggle. If they love you for the sake of Christ, they're not going to beat you up too badly about it, or worse, tell you it's no big deal. If you can't find a priest to tell you the truth in love, go to another parish.

3. Pray to Mary. I won't tell you that you have to pray 8 Rosaries in a day, or even one. But Our Lady and Blessed Mother is the living epitome of chastity. Pray when you are tempted. Pray when you are not. Pray the Hail Mary. Pray the Memorare. ("Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary...") Just do it. Give thanks to God for every second, minute, or hour of purity.

4. Keep a schedule, and stick to it, as far as possible. Nothing good happens after midnight. If you're up past a certain time, it better be a good reason, and recognize the danger for what it is. Our guards come down when we are tired.

5. Recognize your feelings. Are you angry or sad? How about lonely? Have you ever talked to God or the saints about the things that bother you? Fantasy is the realm of a man who feels a lack of control. He feels powerless, weak, or unwanted. You're reaching out for some consolation, frankly, because everything sucks, or so it seems. You may have noticed that our society doesn't care about men and their feelings. They aren't going to say, "We appreciate you, we value everything you bring to the table." The opposite is true. Find some dudes that love you, no matter what. Talk to them. Ask them to remind you of the things they really love about you. The things you're good at, the things that enrich their lives. If you do this enough, it will begin to seem less weird and gay. Frankly, I use that word intentionally. There is so much homosexuality, I think, partially because sexuality is the only time (if at all) a man gets to say what he really feels deep in his heart. "I love you, and I couldn't imagine my life without you" literally sounds like a song lyric. But until a man can say this to another man in a non-sexual way, we're not getting anywhere. You don't have to say those words, but men can know without saying it. Stop joking about being close to other men, and just be close to other men.

6. Admit if you've been dealt a rough hand. Are you the child of divorced parents? Did one of them die when you were young? Did they abuse substances as you grew up? [Geez, you're 3-for-3 so far.--ed.] Is there an illness or infirmity that could make you more prone to these sins against chastity? These things don't excuse our sins, but they do make things harder. The great news is, every time you triumph over temptation in the face of these challenges, your merit is all the greater.

7. Recognize that the near occasion of sin is too late to start fighting. You won't win that fight. If there is a trigger for you, you have to get rid of it. Even if you feel like a total loser. If the PBS NewsHour is a trigger, get rid of it. Even if you're the only one. No one has to know.

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