Revolution of Love

Revolution of Love

Do small things with great love.

NCR: Dawn Eden Discusses Healing From Sexual Abuse in New Book

Last month the National Catholic Register had a wonderful interview with Dawn Eden. It deeply touched my heart because although I have never suffered that kind of abuse someone very close to me did. She confided in me and I witnessed first hand her despair transform into God’s healing power. Since then my heart has a special place for others who have suffered such abuse. This is such an important topic instead of just giving the link I am reposting the interview here.

 Most Catholics are already familiar with the name Dawn Eden, the rock-journalist-turned-devout-Catholic who made a splash with her bestselling book The Thrill of the Chaste. Eden has gone on to be a highly sought-after speaker and writer, especially on the subjects of chastity and human sexuality. Eden holds a master’s degree in theology and currently lives in Washington, where she’s studying toward a doctorate.

Her new book, My Peace I Give You, delves into the subject of childhood sexual abuse. She recently spoke with Jennifer Fulwiler about woundedness, healing and — for the first time publicly — her personal experience with this subject.

Your last book, The Thrill of the Chaste, was also on the subject of sexuality. How did My Peace I Give You develop from that one?

With The Thrill of the Chaste, I went public about my experience of conversion of life — receiving Christian faith and, with it, the desire to forgo a worldly lifestyle in favor of practicing chastity. I wanted readers to see that the virtue of chastity is intrinsically connected with life in Christ and that life in Christ is always joyful. So, although the book was marketed as a kind of “how to” on waiting until marriage, I actually saw chastity as a kind of hook to help people discover Christian joy.

Once I started speaking about The Thrill of the Chaste, people started coming to me with their problems and asking for my advice. I noticed that those who were in the most agony as they tried to live out Church teachings on chastity were very often people who had suffered abuse, particularly childhood sexual abuse.

Why do you think that is? What is it about being a victim of abuse that could lead to difficulty with chastity and other aspects of having a healthy relationship with sexuality?

I think that people who were sinned against sexually are much more conscious of lustful thoughts — by which I don’t mean simple feelings of attraction, which are not sinful in themselves, but lustful fantasies and the like — because they knew where those thoughts lead. They know what it’s like to have someone see them as an object of use. They understand that their abuse didn’t begin with the abuser’s physical sin against them, but earlier, when the abuser began to conceive of them as an object for his or her own pleasure.

Is childhood sexual abuse an issue with which you have personal experience?

Yes. After I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2006, a part of the spiritual growth process for me was coming to terms with my experience of childhood sexual abuse. When writing The Thrill of the Chaste, I consciously knew that I had had those experiences — they were not repressed memories — but I had not “written” them in my mind as abuse.

It’s a very common experience of abuse victims, particularly those who experienced childhood sexual abuse, to fail to mentally categorize what was done to them as “abuse.” For various reasons that I go into in My Peace I Give You, children tend to blame themselves for what was done to them, as a psychological safety mechanism at the time of abuse.

Did these experiences of abuse create obstacles for your ability to find and come to know God?

Yes, I would say that the abuse that I underwent in childhood really made it extraordinarily difficult for me to discover the love of God.

Each of us has an individual identity given to us by God, our Father. Ordinarily, the child first discovers his identity by being beloved by his own parents. Then, having learned what a father is, what a mother is, and what it is to be loved and protected and sustained by his parents, the child learns there is a Father in heaven who loves him. Though the child’s identity is not created by his father and mother, he discovers his identity as a child of God through them. Without the love and protection of a stable family, it becomes very hard — not at all impossible, but very hard — to find your identity as a beloved child of God.

To be clear, I am not saying I was an utterly unloved child. But protection is part of love, and I was not protected as I should have been.

How did your conversion change that?

Partly through the help of a Catholic therapist, but largely thanks to going deeper into the Catholic spiritual life, with the help of confessors and a spiritual director, I started to confront the effects of abuse within myself and bring all those experiences to Christ.

One thing that came out of that was the need to be able to locate my own experiences within the experiences of the Church.

I didn’t want to feel as if the things I had suffered were completely outside God’s providence. Because I’m now a member of the mystical body of Christ, everything I’ve suffered is also part of the sufferings of the body of Christ.

God didn’t positively will the evil that was done to me, but he permitted me to suffer it — for the same reason he permits any evil: because he could bring from it a greater good. I realized I couldn’t change the past — not even God can do that. But I could find meaning in my past sufferings now that my life had become “hidden with Christ in God,” as St. Paul says. The lives of the saints were tremendously helpful in this regard, because each saint magnifies a different aspect of Christ’s life and of his suffering.

Abuse victims are sometimes resistant to seeking healing because they fear that it will involve reliving traumatic memories. Is that a necessary step for finding peace in Christ?

It’s very important to distinguish between what are appropriate psychological methods of healing to be done under the care of a qualified mental-health professional and what are appropriate spiritual approaches to healing. For example, for victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, there is a type of psychotherapy whereby a person relives certain traumatic experiences. For some people, that can be therapeutic. However, if done outside of a controlled setting with a medically qualified practitioner, it can be dangerous.
Moreover, there is a theological problem with telling people that Christ can only heal you if you relive each memory. You can see this when you look at how he heals people in the Gospels. When Jesus healed the leper in Galilee, did he touch every single part of the leper’s body? Of course not. The leper said to him in faith, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus simply stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.”

The message in the Gospels is that our wounds are cracks where Christ’s light can get in. When we open ourselves to his healing light, we can trust in faith that he’ll reach all those dark places. Whether or not I can consciously remember every single thing that was done to me, all those experiences contributed in some way to who I am today. So when I offer my whole self to Christ, and ask him to enter in, I am asking Christ’s precious blood to bleed into all my past. Carrying that image of the Precious Blood and the light of Christ entering into my entire life is much more beautiful than trying to force myself to review every single wound.

You make an interesting point when you say that you felt “impure” because of what had been done to you; you realize, now, that you were “impure,” but not because of what happened in your childhood, but because of misguided actions you took to deal with the trauma later in life. Do you think this is common for victims of abuse?

I think it’s extremely common. During my teenage years and young adulthood, not having yet come to terms with the abuse, I was engaged in a search for identity and seeking it in things that were not of God. And I kept digging myself in deeper, thinking I was going to find myself through all kinds of rebellion, including sexual rebellion. I desperately wanted to be loved, but was convinced I was only lovable for what I did for other people and not for who I was.

For me, being able to seek healing from the effects of the child sexual abuse tied in with learning how to stop acting from the pathology of the wounded child and to start acting from the health that Christ was offering me.

Before your conversion, you went to a top psychiatrist in New York City, yet he failed to diagnose your post-traumatic stress disorder. How did secular society’s views of human sexuality impact that misdiagnosis?

He was following an overwhelmingly common belief among psychiatric professionals, which states that self-actualization can come through sexual activity, regardless of whether that activity is within marriage or a relationship. So the things I was doing that I now realize were damaging he saw as signs of health. He didn’t realize that I was acting out of my sickness and not out of my wellness.

Do you think that secular culture’s confusion about sexuality also impacts the way mental-health professionals identify and diagnose cases of abuse?

Yes. From my own experience, I personally believe that the emergence of the divorce culture, which started back in the 1950s and exploded during the 1960s and ’70s, lowered the bar in terms of what psychologists thought was an acceptable environment for children.

Before then, it was understood that children should be insulated from having to witness certain kinds of sexual behavior that are de rigueur now. I’m thinking, for example, of the child of divorce who sees his mother bring home a new sex partner — a man the child has never seen before, who then spends the night in the mother’s bedroom. Even if the man is not abusive, it’s still psychologically unsettling for the child to see a stranger enter into Mom’s most private space and then show up at the breakfast table.

I realize single parents may not want to hear that, but it’s worth asking people who grew up in that kind of environment how it affected them. Certainly, when a child’s mother has a man stay over who is not the child’s father, the child is at greater risk of abuse, statistically speaking. In this respect, it’s important to note that childhood sexual abuse does not only include physical abuse. It also includes sex talk and sexual inappropriateness — intentionally causing the child to take in something that he or she is too young to process, like social nudity or films with sexual content.

In the book you recount a beautiful moment in which you read a line from G.K. Chesterton and wanted more than anything in the world to experience “the poetry of not being sick.” Have you found that?

Yes. In Christ I have found that poetry that I was seeking.

However, it is always important to emphasize that our life in Christ is a journey, one that is not completed until we, Lord willing, arrive face-to-face with God. In talking about “healing sexual wounds with the help of the saints,” I by no means intend to canonize myself. My journey is still at its beginning. But each of us, through our baptism, has been given a message to share to lead others to Christ. I hope that by telling my story as an adult victim of childhood sexual abuse I might point others to the love of Christ by sharing my own journey of going from darkness into light.

Jennifer posted a second part of the interview on her blog Conversion Diary. I am reposting it here:

For many of you, Dawn Eden needs no introduction. She’s a popular blogger, a former rock journalist, Catholic convert, and author of the bestselling book The Thrill of the Chaste. I recently had the honor of interviewing her for the National Catholic Register, where she spoke for the first time publicly about her own experience as a victim of childhood sexual abuse. When I talked with her for that interview, I was overwhelmed by the amount of wisdom Dawn has gained on the subjects of healing and forgiveness. It was immediately clear that there was far more material here than could be contained in one interview.

So I wanted to share with you an informal Part II to our interview, in which Dawn speaks candidly on the subject of forgiveness — particularly forgiveness when you’ve been deeply hurt. The insights she’s gained through her healing journey carry powerful lessons for everyone, and so I am thrilled to share them here. And be sure to check out her brand new book, My Peace I Give You, which deals with these same subjects. Like with these interviews, I believe that the book contains powerful lessons for anyone who’s in need of healing and a deeper understanding of forgiveness.


Q: A central concept of your book is how to go about forgiving the unforgivable. In particular, you mention a quote from St. Josephine Bakhita in which she says that if she could meet the people who kidnapped and tortured her she would kiss their hands, because that was part of her journey to Christ. Do we all have to forgive in that same way?

Though we are all called to be saints, in daily life there may be many things that the canonized saints did that we are not called to do. With regard to Bakhita, what each of us is called to do is what’s within the Lord’s Prayer: to forgive, but not necessarily to reconcile.

In ministering to victims of abuse, we need to be very clear about the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. Many victims are under the mistaken impression that they are remaining in sin unless they reconcile with the abuser, but that’s not true.

Yes, we have to forgive. To forgive someone is to want God’s best for them. Thankfully, we don’t have to do the heavy lifting: all forgiveness comes from the Holy Spirit. When we forgive someone we ask the Holy Spirit to enter into us and forgive that person on our behalf, and we set our will on cooperating with the Spirit’s act of forgiveness.

Q: So there may be cases where people forgive, but don’t reconcile?

Ideally, forgiveness leads to reconciliation. But, unlike forgiveness, reconciliation is a two-way street. If someone is still abusive, the most loving and forgiving thing may be to not attempt reconciliation, inasmuch as having further contact with that person would only give him or her the opportunity to abuse again.

Q: How has this understanding of forgiveness helped you in your own journey of healing?
It is very freeing. No longer do I have to worry about whether I’ve worked hard enough to forgive. I just have to ask the Holy Spirit to work forgiveness in and through me. Then I need to trust that, with my having made the choice to forgive, the Holy Spirit will continue to work in me, taking the wounds that remain and join them to the wounds of Christ.

Q: You mention that it is good for abuse victims to pray for those who have harmed them, but acknowledge that doing so may be impossible without stirring up up painful memories. What do you recommend for those kinds of situations?

I once got a very helpful tip from a Sister of Life. I was talking to her about how I felt that I owed it to God to pray for a certain person, but that it was painful for me to think about this person. The sister advised me to commend this person to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to say to Mary, “Please place this person inside your Immaculate Heart, so that every time I’m praying for the intentions of your Immaculate Heart, I am praying for him.”

Q: That must help channel your negative energy toward that person in a more positive direction.

You know that Twilight Zone episode where there’s a child who has a dark supernatural power, and uses it to cast anyone who crosses him out into a cornfield? He casts out anyone with whom he’s angry, sending more and more people away to this place, which is an allegory for hell.

I think many of us do that in our minds sometimes, cast people away, send them to hell in our thoughts. To place them instead into the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a positive counter to that attitude. In both cases, you’re removing those people from the foreground of your thoughts — but, through Mary, you’re able to wish them into a good and holy place.

Q: Those of us who are longtime fans of your writing notice a change in your topics and tone: You used to be known for getting into heated debates with secular feminists, but you don’t do that anymore. Did this journey of healing have anything to do with that?

Yes. There was one event in particular that led me to reconsider the way I’d been acting out against feminist bloggers:

I discuss this in more detail in the book, but there was a time several years ago when I antagonized feminist bloggers, because I saw them as encouraging the same kind of attitudes that fostered my childhood sexual abuse. Though I make no apologize for proclaiming those truths about human life and dignity that the Church proclaims to be true, it was wrong of me to lash out in uncharity.

A turning point came after a woman named Zuzu began a series of blog posts reviewing The Thrill of the Chaste at the blog Feministe. She was picking and choosing things to insult me about, setting out to thoroughly shame and embarrass me, making fun of me in the most uncharitable way.

At first I just wrote her off as a mean-spirited person. Then one day I saw a blog entry of hers about her childhood, in which she talked about the difficult aspects of her relationship with her mother. She gave specific examples of her mother transgressing certain boundaries, and while they weren’t acts of sexual abuse, learning about them made me have so much compassion for her. I realized that it was a shame that I had burned so many bridges, and therefore couldn’t reach out to Zuzu and say, “I know how you feel.”
It was a point of conversion of heart for me, which led me to seek to avoid vitriol and uncharity in my public witness.

Q: What would you say to someone who feels trapped by old wounds, not sure where to even begin down the path of forgiveness?

I recommend partaking of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That may sound strange, because certainly those who have been abused have no reason to confess things done to them that was not my fault. But, as I write in in My Peace I Give You, although the primary reason we go to Confession is to be forgiven our sins, forgiveness is not the only thing that happens in that sacrament. Christ touches us, and, whenever He touches us, He gives grace.

A problem that many abuse victims have is anxiety caused by their uncertainty over the state of their soul. They have so absorbed the lies imprinted upon them by their abuse that they have trouble discerning the difference between the lingering effects of the sins committed against them, for which they are not responsible, and their own sins, for which they are responsible.

Recently a friend who suffered from this painful uncertainty asked me for advice on confession. I recommended to her that when she went to confess, having the priest the sins that she was certain were her responsibility, she should add, “Since Jesus is with me in this sacrament, I want to ask His healing grace while I am here, because I was abused when I was a child. I know I am not responsible for my abuse, but it has led to my having thoughts that distance me from Him. If any of those thoughts are sinful, I am very sorry, because I don’t want anything to separate me from Him. And even if they are not sinful, I ask Jesus to cover me with His Precious Blood and heal my hidden wounds.”

A few months after suggesting that approach to my friend, I went into the confessional and was moved to say the very words I had recommended. It was very powerful. Afterwards, I could not believe it had taken me so long to take my own advice.

* * *

For anyone reading this who has suffered sexual abuse, you are especially in my prayers. May God’s grace bring you healing, comfort and peace.

To learn more about Dawn Eden, visit her blog

To learn more about Jennifer Fulwiler, visit her blog

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Dating Q&A: I’m Engaged and Really Struggling with Chastity

This post was originally posted on the old Revolution of Love website a few years back. I reposted it on the blog since it is still relevant and this week’s book discussion of Style, Sex and Substance is on Chapter 4: Sex, Passion and Purity.

Many times we receive emails asking similar questions. With the permission of the person asking, we have turned some of these questions into posts so others can benefit from them. I am not an expert. I am simply sharing my experiences with you.)

The Question:

My name is Jane and I am engaged and really struggling with chastity. My fiancé has recently come back to his faith and is on fire, but the one thing that he and I struggle with is chastity. It is putting a wall up between God and I. We have both come from different pasts. I have given myself away to two other men before my fiancé (John Smith). And John has given himself a number of times before me. Before he met me sex has never been something spiritual or emotional. He now understands why we should wait but struggles. How can we give up something so incredible? Why wait now? How could I have given myself away to someone I did not love when in my heart I wanted to wait until I was married? Both of us don’t know how we are going to get out of this when we know how incredible making love is. We really need help! We want to conquer this before we get married in a year. If you have any literature or tips that would be helpful we would appreciate it. -Jane Smith

The Answer:

Part I – Why Not?

Hi Jane. I am glad you found the blog and stopped by to talk. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding with John. I first want to commend you for realizing that God is calling you to make some changes in your relationship and seeking help to make those changes. Just to reach this point is a grace from God!

It is wonderful that John has become on fire with his faith. It seems that God is working on both of you. You say that your premarital sex is putting up a wall between you and God. You also ask why you and John should stop having sex if it is so incredible. Well, first off – precisely because it is putting a wall between you and God!

There is a reason why that wall is there. God doesn’t say “don’t have sex until your married” just to deprive you of any fun. Rather, he knows just how incredible sex is – yet how damaging it can be when it’s not kept in its proper perspective. It is like a fire. It’s great to have a campfire at the beach or to sit cozy on the couch in front of the fire place on a cold winter day. But if that same fire were to spread into the living room and burn down your house, it is destructive and could even kill you.

Sex is the same way. It is powerful, passionate, intimate and sacred… but what you and John are doing is desecrating it. It is a mockery in the eyes of God. He meant sex to be a special gift for you and John to share on your wedding night; a way to consummate your marital covenant. It would be more than just a physical bond…you would be showered with grace and bond spiritually in an awesome way because it is blessed by God. Instead, premarital sex is a slap in the face to God saying, “What do you know, God? We want to have our fun now.”

Well, I seriously doubt you MEAN to say that – but that is what your bodies and souls are saying every time you are intimate with each other before you are married. Although engaged you are not yet married. You have not yet entered into a marital covenant with John. Either you believe God and His Word or you don’t. Either you trust Him to be the center of your life (including your sexuality) or you don’t. There are no “ifs” “ands” or “buts”. It’s yes or no.

Okay, with that said, it’s obvious that although you may not use the same words as I just did, something inside you KNOWS that something is wrong but you don’t know why. You realize that there is a wall between you and God and you want to change that. Jane, that desire is God calling you. It is Christ saying, “Jane, do you love John more than you love me?” Christ needs to be at the center of your life and then everything else will fall into place. If you truly want have a loving, lasting and joyful marriage with John, you must settle this first.

Please forgive me if I sound like I’m being harsh! I don’t mean to be because at the same time I totally sympathize with you because I know firsthand how difficult it is to deal with those strong sex drives and desires. I, too, have made mistakes in the past and it was such a struggle for me (for us) to keep the physical aspect in check while Brian and I were dating/engaged. I remember after my engagement my mom talking with me and explaining that now that we were engaged the temptation to be more intimate will be even stronger. I didn’t believe her then but later I found out, dang, mom was right again!

Your situation is more difficult because you’ve already crossed the line and have already been sexually active with each other… but is it too late? Is it worth stopping now? YES!! You can enjoy a “secondary” virginity so to speak. The future of your marriage (not to mention your souls) may depend on it! Yes, it will be difficult but it is NOT impossible. I promise you that if you and John are willing to fight this and work at it together, God will give you the grace you need to accomplish it AND he will bless your efforts in an awesome way. Not only will you feel closer to God individually but also you will be able to receive all the marital graces ready for you on the day of your wedding. (You cannot receive those graces when you are in mortal sin. And that is the absolute worse way to start a marriage!)

Part II: How to Not

Okay, okay, enough of the “why” now let’s deal with the “how”. First thing I would recommend is to start up (or improve) your spiritual life. Whatever level you’re at, increase it by the following:

Go to confession and do it often. If you haven’t gone yet, conquer your fear and just do it. You will feel better and you will receive the grace that you’ll need. If you say, “I went to confession but I just keep sinning again”, that’s okay, go again and again and again. Think of it like saying, “Why take a shower? I’m just going to get dirty again.” Confession is your spiritual shower.  Keep showering! Don’t forget that having sex with someone who is NOT YET your husband/wife is a mortal sin (if you fully know it and do it anyway). If you fall don’t put your soul in jeopardy. Ask for God’s forgiveness right away then go to confession ASAP and confess it as Christ has asked you to. (Trust me, it will help!)

After you’ve gone to confession, go to Mass and go often. There is nothing more powerful than receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist (Remember, it is truly his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity you’re receiving!) He is waiting to do incredible things to your soul. Don’t get discouraged if you receive communion and don’t “feel anything.” It takes time. Just trust and open your heart to Christ without reservation and He will help you become the woman of God you are meant to be.

Pray and pray often. If you don’t already, take a few minutes in the morning to offer your day to God. Get in the habit of turning your mind to Christ throughout the day. Then never end your day without thanking God for his blessings and reviewing your day. Ask God to forgive you for any action (or inaction) in which you’ve hurt Him or those around you. You can also thank Him for the moments in which you were faithful to Him – since it was His grace that helped you.

It is especially helpful to say the rosary (or one decade or even one Hail Mary). Our Lady was an incredible help to me when I was struggling with chastity. She has helped countless others do the same!

You, Jane, pray each day a prayer something like this to God: “Lord, I love John. Thank you for bringing him into my life. I love his body, mind and soul and I never want to do anything to harm him physically, emotionally or spiritually. If we are to be married, that means you chose me to help him on the road to heaven. Give me strength to never tempt him or to seek my own pleasure over his well being. Help me to learn that true love takes sacrifice. I am willing to learn to love as Jesus loved so that John and I may be one in God now and forever. Amen.” This is just to give you an idea, you can use your own words. (John can pray the same kind of prayer, changing the words to suit him.)

Along with praying yourself, you and John should be praying the rosary and going to Mass together!

Along with all these spiritual helps, use common sense and self control.

Okay, this is the hardest part. This is when you and John will have to test your love for one another. Will you be willing to say, “I love John so much that I will deny this strong desire to have sex with him”? Up until now you and John have been letting lust take over. Now it is time to let true love take over. Don’t be fooled to think because you are having incredible sex that it must be right. A married woman could have incredible sex with the UPS guy but that does not make it right! The feeling is not the judge.

You and John are going to have to make major changes in how you spend time together. You’ll need to increase the time you spend outdoors or in public. Go places, start a hobby or and do active things! It may sound dumb but I’m serious! (There are many chaste people who are aided in coping with sexual energy by keeping their bodies physically active in running or other sports. Idleness and being alone together is ideal for temptation.) Now is the time to really develop and focus on your friendship. If your marriage is going to work you must be best friends!
Too many times couples get physically involved, have great sex, then deduce that they are “meant” for each other. Unfortunately, they weren’t meant to be together and years down the line they come to realize it and they divorce. You don’t want that to happen to you and John! By taking the sex out of the relationship now you’ll be able to make decisions with a clear head and will better know if you are truly in love with each other or in love with the sex.

Next, don’t put yourself in tempting situations! You’ll have to decide (in a prayerful attitude) at what point you will draw the line. Then keep the rest off limits. Some couples chose to hold off kissing all together and only hold hands. Some will give “quick kisses” but no “making out.” Whatever you decide, stay away from the “no-brainer” temptations. (ie. Don’t lay on the floor or bed together; forget the back seat of the car or reclining on the couch in an empty apartment. Keep your hands off “no fly zones” and don’t kiss “target areas” that get things going etc.)

Remember that living a chaste life is more than just “don’t do this and that”. It is a way of life, a change in attitude that is much more positive than negative! You can read my post Chaste and Loving It. I also recommend Jason Evert’s website For those who have already made mistakes in the past you may want to check out the book The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On by Dawn Eden.

Find a mentor, priest or another married couple that can help you along the way and hold you accountable. Some choose their parents if they are godly people but in any case, the person/couple should be older than you and trying to live a holy life and they should know well the Church’s teachings on marriage and be able to guide you in Christian morality.

Well, Jane, I have to run now but I want to get this email off to you before I leave. You and John are so blessed to realize all this stuff now. God is calling both of you to draw closer to Him now, before you are married. How many couples wish they had that chance again, now that they’re married! You and John can do this with God’s help! And even if you fail…even if you fail over and over…keep trying and keep seeking God’s mercy! Don’t give up! And Jane, although you may think sex is great now – wait until you experience it as God intended – with the man who has shared a sacred marital vow with you before God- it far outshines anything else! Much love to you and John. My prayers are with you.

In Christ,

PS- Jane, after reading over this I realized that it may sound a bit preachy or harsh to someone who doesn’t know me. I just wrote a lot of things I feel strongly in my heart so try to see that I’m not judging you – I’m more like a big sister talking to her little sis! 🙂

Chastity Part II – What If the Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak?

This post was originally posted on the old Revolution of Love website a few years back. I reposted it on the blog since it is still relevant and this week’s book discussion of Style, Sex and Substance is on Chapter 4: Sex, Passion and Purity.

Chastity Part II: What If the Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak?

Chastity is for those whose spirit is willing but flesh is weak! Chastity is not always easy, but it is also not impossible if you are willing to work at it. If you want to start living a chaste life, please allow me to give the following advice that helped me turn my life around:

Bail out of the bad relationships.

Some relationships are just screaming “disaster” but we’re so involved physically we are blinded to it. Stop the physical activity. As time goes by, if it was all lust the relationship will fall apart. (You deserve better than that! Get out of there!) If the relationship flourishes without physical activity then it’s a safe bet that it’s not one of lust and worth keeping.

Stop the Sin.

If you are involved in immoral activity, put a stop to it. Casual sex, masturbation, pornography and other such things are poison to your body and soul! They are physically addictive and spiritually bonding to evil spirits. It will take spiritual and physical help to stop. Read on…

Avoid occasions of sin!

Chastity requires lots of spiritual help but also good old fashioned COMMON SENSE. We live in a world that can’t sell anything without using sex. Perversion and immorality are everywhere but we can still avoid it as much as possible. Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think you can see movies, hear music, read material, hang out with friends, or go to places that degrade sex, without it affecting you. Satan won’t have to work hard to tempt you since you freely walk into danger yourself!

And I’m not only talking about “hard core” stuff. Your passions can be aroused slowly and subtly; then when your guard is down, it’ll hit you full force. If you feel a temptation coming on, get it out of your mind immediately or if need be, get up and remove yourself physically. Do whatever it takes. You’ve got to be vigilant, particularly with those things that you personally are most vulnerable with (you know what they are).

Get to confession…and do it often.

If you haven’t been to confession in awhile now is the time. I know how hard it can be when you’ve got a list of things (or even one) that you’re too embarrassed to admit to anyone, let alone a priest. I tried a couple of times and chickened out in the confessional. Finally, I wrote all the sins down on paper, took a deep breath, and went in there and said everything without stopping. It felt so good to not only finally get it off my chest, but to hear the words “your sins are forgiven” and to receive the grace of the sacrament. It was overwhelming. God desires to heal you and help you avoid sin. Go as soon as possible and make it a habit to keep going to confession every two weeks or at least once a month. (For those struggling a great deal, go more often.)

Embrace the Eucharist.

Along with the sacrament of Reconciliation, receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as often as possible. In the Eucharist – which is Jesus truly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – we receive tremendous healing power. Christ restores our life and strengths us. This is paramount to living a life of grace!
Develop a relationship with Our Lady and St. Joseph.

Our Blessed Mother was very instrumental in helping me break from sexual sin. Her tender love challenged me when I needed a boost and comforted me when I felt my weakest. She has constantly helped me to keep my focus on Christ and continues to teach me how to love and serve Him more each day. She is as real to me as anyone I know. She is your mother and she longs to embrace you and help you with your struggle. Turn to her. Pray the rosary every day or at least a decade. (If you don’t know how to pray the rosary or don’t have one, email me or leave a comment and ask for one. We’ll send you a plastic rosary and the prayers.) It is a powerful weapon in combating sin and retaining purity. You will also find St. Joseph a wonderful example and prayer warrior for you. Being a chaste man and protector of the virgins, he is eager to offer his prayers and assistance to all of us striving to live a pure life.

Surround yourself with holy people and things.

Make friends with people who are living life chastely. Spend time together (or email each other if they’re far away) and encourage one another. (Note: It is great to have friends of the opposite sex but you must be extremely careful not to discuss sexual sins and weaknesses with them. All too often, these “discussions” have led friends into sin together, instead of helping each other out. If you need prayer, ask for it without going into detail. If you need a confidant it should be someone older and of the same sex. See tip #8.) Fill your mind with wholesome stories and movies. Read books about the saints and see how God helped them to avoid sin and live a life of virtue. Make use of sacramentals such as holy water, the scapular, icons, and such. They will help keep your mind’s eye on God.

Find a spiritual director.

A spiritual director will help you develop a life of prayer and grace. If that is not possible find someone who you can talk to whom will hold you accountable and help you grow in holiness. These persons should be someone older and wiser than you, of deep prayer and living a chaste life of grace themselves.

Keep yourself busy.

Get involved with your church, community service, or get some exercise outdoors. Keeping your mind and body busy with healthy and moral activities will lessen your chances of falling into sin.

I’m sure there are a lot more things I could mention but this will get you started. It may seem overwhelming if you are not used to living a chaste life but I assure you, with God’s grace, it is possible. Work at it and don’t give up when you fall, even if you fall many times. I assure you that the peace and joy of living chastely is worth the struggle of breaking free from the shackles of sexual immorality. Engrave Christ’s words deep within your heart, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

A note to those who are struggling terribly with sexual addiction, I recommend you checking out the Family Life Center’s website. There is a page geared to those struggling with pornography, but I believe the steps can be applied to other sexual sins as well. Go to Help for Those Struggling with Pornography.

Lastly, if you need someone to pray for you while you’re struggling with this, feel free to contact us. God bless you and strengthen you!

(This article was written on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was on this day many years ago that Our Blessed Mother helped me break free from the shackles of sin. It was an ongoing struggle, but it was she who brought me back to Christ and continues to guide me today. To My Lady I say, thank you with all my love.)

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Part I: Living Chastely and Loving It

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Chastity Part I – Living Chastely and Loving It

This post was originally posted on the old Revolution of Love website a few years back. I reposted it on the blog since it is still relevant and this week’s book discussion of Style, Sex and Substance is on Chapter 4: Sex, Passion and Purity.

Chastity Part I – Living Chastely and Loving It

Chastity is a way of life. It is respecting the human person as a whole, not as an object. It is valuing your own gift of sexuality and revering the sacredness and life-giving power of sex within marriage. Chastity is not a negative aspect of “I can’t do this” or “I can’t do that,” rather it is empowering. Living chastely frees us from the shackles of immorality and allows us to live a life of freedom as God intended.

Chastity is not for guys who are weak and faint-hearted.

Today’s society will often portray a male virgin in their 20’s or 30’s as a sort of social misfit – undesirable, unmanly, timid or a religious fanatic. I have very little regard for many of society’s “values” so it’s not surprising to find out…that’s such a lie!

A guy who constantly gratifies his own sexual desires through immorality is a billboard for weakness. It is true that most guys have a strong sex drive BUT when a guy puts his weakness in God’s hands and works with God to control his passion and love purely, that is a man of strength and honor! (For you single guys looking for a holy wife…that is extremely attractive to a girl!)

Chastity helps a guy develop his true potential as a man of God, realizing that there is more to him than his sex drive. It helps him view women not through the eyes of lust but through the eyes of God. He sees their beauty and treats then with respect and the tenderness of a pure heart. Chastity inspires him to love God and rely on Him continuously for strength.

Chastity is not for girls who enjoy having a low self-esteem and dating losers.

Most often it seems that men use the words “I love you” to get sex, while women have sex to hear “I love you”. For the most part, girls ache to be held and told that they are loved. I will admit I was one of those countless females who didn’t feel loved and worth anything unless I had a guy in my life – whether I was dating him, chasing him, or just flirting with him. Why was my self-worth so low that I could not bear not having a guy in my life? Because I equated physical attraction and emotion with love. Because I didn’t have God in my life to see that I am precious and loved by Him!

Chastity helps a woman realize that her self-worth doesn’t come from this world but from within – knowing that you are the precious daughter of God, created to love and be loved. With His strength and grace you come to realize that you do not need to degrade yourself for emotional or physical gratification. You realize that God has chosen a special spouse just for you (whether it be Christ as a religious or to a man of God in marriage) and you have the God-given grace to live joyfully in the freedom of purity and self-respect. (Ladies, if it worked for me, it can certainly work for you!)

Chastity is for the spiritual poppas and mommas.

In a special and unique way, the consecrated, religious and clergy are able to give a powerful witness to how a person can love purely for the sake of Christ and His Church. A priest and religious brother must have a great capacity to love in order to give their life to God in this way. They have taken the holy Catholic Church as their beloved bride and have dedicated their lives to loving and serving her. They have taken as their children the people they help day in and day out.

Likewise, nuns, sisters, and consecrated women have been chosen by God to be Christ’s beloved spouse. With the natural instinct to mother and nurture, they have embraced the countless souls that live in misery, both physically and spiritually. Their prayers and works caress these souls and love them so that they too may realize that God is their Father and He desires them to be happy with Him in heaven. As spiritual brides and mothers, they are living example of pure life-giving love.

Chastity is for those who say “I Do”.

Brian and I live as a chaste married couple…does that mean we don’t have sex?? No, it means that we treasure sex as a powerful and life giving gift! All spouses are called to continue to live their life of chastity even after they are married. Remember that chastity is a way of life, treating sex and love with dignity and respecting its purpose. Couples are not to use artificial contraception for that would desecrate the act of marital intercourse, drive a wedge between the couple and take God out of the picture. Married couples must keep God in the bedroom. After all, He is the life-giving creator of sex. When couples do this they are able to enjoy an incredibly beautiful and powerful gift that bonds them together at all levels – physically, mentally, and spiritually. That love is so strong and so blessed that God-willing, nine months later you’ll be choosing a name.

Living chastely as a married couple also means outside of the bedroom. It is respecting your spouse for who they are and loving their whole person, not just their bodies. It is guarding your eyes, ears, thoughts, and actions so that nothing would ever poison the sacred love you share with your spouse. It is living married life as God meant it to be lived – filled with love, dignity, and tremendous joy.

Chastity is for the pure of heart.

I am overjoyed when I see teenagers, young adults, and married couples living a life of chastity. It is such an encouragement to me and gives great glory to God, especially in today’s world. They are living chastely for God and loving it… but not because it is easy or requires no work. Rather, they are like an athlete in training. It requires hard work, dedication and sacrifice but when the goal is achieved and you have won the race, all the work was worth it. It is the same for living the Christian life.

So to you who are living a chaste life, I say, thank you! You are lights in a world of darkness that desperately needs you! Your chaste life is one of great beauty! You are the hope of other single people who are looking for a holy spouse! You are our inspiration when we see you performing your priestly duties! Your love shines beyond the convent walls! The love you have for your spouse and children are a testimony to men and women throughout society! You all encourage me and countless others. May God bless you and strengthen you, forever!

continued reading:

Chastity Part II: What If the Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak?

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