I am privileged to get to know amazing and wonderful people from all over the world through this ministry. It is always a blessing to see how so many REAL people out there are embracing the truth of purity and living it fully in their lives. We are not alone in our desires to make the world a better place, one heart at a time! We are not alone in having raised the bar for our families, expecting more for our children than this culture has to offer! There are pure witnesses everywhere.
One day I happened to read a commentary on Facebook about emotional chastity, from a woman, who is the mother of eight and from Hawaii. I thought her insights were great and her presentation on the topic entertaining and thought-provoking. I asked her permission to use this in my blog. So, from Saskatoon to Hawaii, today I present to you the topic of:
by Jacqueline Vrazel Henderson.
I was rereading one of the books in our library called Surrender by Carmen Marcoux. One of the characters in this piece of fiction talks about “Emotional Chastity.” This term totally grabbed me. It describes the system that we use in our home. (Or try to use.)
I have kids, lots of kids. And I used to be a kid. (Shocking, I know.)
I remember all the likes, the heartbreaks and the wasted time spent thinking about boys … when I was not mature emotionally for relationships like that. Nor was I of an age where I could look at marriage in the near future. So all the “liking” was set up to fail because there was no option for success.
Some of these kids of mine are teens. The others should get there sooner or later. Since we live “in” the world we have to look at the relationship thing. It is everywhere … tv, movies, books … and our community. After some prayer and research we decided (years ago) that dating is not for our family. Courtship is.
So, what is the difference? At its simplest: Dating is intimacy before commitment. Courtship is commitment before intimacy.
Dating is getting together because the other is cool or fun or cute. No real goal. No real purpose. Often alone. Most often artificial. Artificial? Well, you are going to do up your hair nicer than normal, put on stuff that makes you smell nicer than normal, dress nicer than normal, put on make-up (not the guys, of course). Then you get picked up and go to someplace out of the ordinary. If it is a movie, you will sit next to each other in a dark place and not communicate. If it is out to dinner, you will be talking and behaving in way to impress. ”We are going to do this for now till we decide it isn’t working any more. Maybe after a couple of dates we will kiss and … well, let’s see where it goes.”
Courting is a formal relationship where both people feel they have a calling to the vocation of marriage and they are exploring the possibility of marriage to each other (assuming that both are of an age and situation to be eligible to be married.) In a courtship there are set boundaries; there is accountability: the idea being to have no regrets if the courtship ends. Time spent together is in company of others, with family, and rarely alone. Learning about the person in their natural surroundings, learning about their family (this is important if you do decide to get married!) and talking. Courtship has a goal and a structure for finding that goal. Physical intimacy is very limited. It clouds the mind and draws the heart. And if the courtship doesn’t work out, that is someone else’s spouse you are kissing!
So, those kids of mine, that I mentioned, are still in high school. The age thing disqualifies them from marriage and courtship. They do have all these hormones, though, that they can’t do anything about. The ups, downs, heres and theres. The “likes.” I am finding that they will be drawn to others and some of that drawing will be romantically. And here is where the emotional chastity comes in.
We tell the youth of today to abstain, to save yourself for your spouse. What about saving your heart for your spouse as well? What about being romantically intimate with one person only? The one and only. True love. (sigh) Sounds like a fairytale … translation: unreal and unlikely.
Get real, Jackie. The kids are going to “like” people. You can’t stop that no matter how many rules you have.
That is true, attraction does happen. And it will continue to happen for the rest of our lives. That’s right! Attraction doesn’t stop just because vows are taken, whether religious or marital. It is always what we do with the attraction that matters. Many people take that attraction and run with it, abandoning the vows made. Many others note it and set it aside because it is not appropriate for their state in life. They pray about it, especially if it continues to trouble them. All people have to guard their hearts and keep them turned in the direction they should go. Love is a choice.
In so many ways, life is a marathon that requires cross training. One piece of that cross training is training and guarding the heart. Self control.
Example: Children get mad and they want to lash out … maybe hit. This is not ok! Yes, they are angry, and that anger is real. It may be valid. But that doesn’t mean that you strike someone. You use self control. It is learned; it is practiced, with the help of the parent who wants success for their child.
A youth may fall into like this week. But that doesn’t mean she needs to talk about it to everyone. It doesn’t mean he needs to act on it. Infatuation is fleeting and acting on it leads to hurt, broken friendships and struggles in the community. Drama. We know this to be true. Look around; you can see it everywhere.
How does emotional chastity work when you have admitted that these kids are going to fall in and out of like?
To start with, it is a team effort including the youth, the parents and God. The youth feels herself being drawn to one young man. She should immediately begin praying, taking it to God. Praying for herself and for the young man and asking God to help her turn her heart to friendship. She does not talk to her friends, or the young man, about it. Doing that means it is going to get around. It also means there will be a reaction. Even if that reaction is pleasing for the moment, it won’t last. It is not time. If she needs to talk then she can talk to her parents who are going to support her, pray for her, give her ideas and help to hold her accountable as she waits for the crush to pass, ultimately protecting her heart and the heart of the young man. (This goes both ways, of course.) Don’t worry, if it is truly meant to be, it will still be there when the time is right. Trust God to take care of it!
Begin each new friendship with an evaluation and be ready to focus on a friendship and only a friendship. This is important because a crush can sneak up on a friendship. And if fostered, the crush can damage the friendship.
(Don’t wait to use sunscreen till after you get a sunburn!)
Pay attention to how you respond to your friends. Could your attentions be misconstrued or misleading? Do not tug on the hearts of others. Don’t flirt. Flirting is selfish and is simply about drawing attention back to the self.
Talk with your parents! They have been there and they want the best for you! Your parents don’t want to see you, or your friends, hurt and heartbroken. They want your joy and for you to enjoy strong godly relationships. Don’t discredit what they say because you think they don’t know or understand. They do, and they know the pain that comes from those mini-engagements and mini-divorces.
Don’t talk with friends about romantic relationships. Even if you have decided to not go there, by hearing about the relationships that others have, it will create a desire in you to have what they have.
(I am not even going to go into the struggles with being physically chaste if you have a relationship, as a teen, that lasts into a couple of months, hormones being so powerful…that would be another paper.)
Maybe you think I am trying to steal your fun. I’m not. I am trying to steal your sadness, your heartbreak. I want you to be joyful and have vibrant friendships free from entanglements and hurt. So here I am sharing this with young people and parents alike. I want the fairytale for you!
Choose the best. Guard your heart and save it for your spouse. Choose to be emotionally chaste.
Thank you, Jackie, for those great thoughts on Emotional Chastity … from Hawaii to our hearts around the world − they speak volumes.
Emotional Chastity and Guarding Your Heart
It is a topic not widely discussed … yet so important. I have often said that guarding your heart won’t protect you from NEVER getting hurt – but it should protect you from regrets when those hurts do come. Life isn’t black or white. Our kids may not perfectly be able to protect themselves from the ups and downs of likes and crushes. But if we can guide them through their teenage years and help them to train their hearts with self-control, we will be giving them a gift that will serve them throughout life.
Don’t be afraid to set the standard high for yourself (if you are a young person) or for your family (if you are a parent.) I think often about something I once heard when it comes to these counter-cultural high standards for living out purity:
A bird can take flight, not only because of the action of its wings,
but because of the resistance that it experiences in the atmosphere!
As we teach our children to be strong in their faith, live pure lives and strive for high ideals, we can expect that they will experience a lot of resistance from the culture (including their friends and relatives.) But that very resistance – met against every effort they make – is what will allow them to take flight and soar above the pitfalls of this culture of death, and the snares of this age of impurity. As we live pure lives, against all odds, we will be free to fly like eagles.
Purity makes all the difference in the world!
So be pure in mind, heart and body …
and be strengthened for life by the gift of being
A SPECIAL BOOK TO ME
Jackie’s commentary was inspired by reading my second novel, Surrender. This was a very special book to me as I wrote it, because it reflected my own personal surrender in my life at that time … which is ongoing. But it also covers many important aspects and realities of Catholic life and discernment that our children just don’t have presented to them anywhere else in the realm of fiction or entertainment.
- Vocational discernment
- Emotional chastity
- Purity, courtship, marriage
- Theology of the Body
- An understanding many teachings of our Catholic faith
… these are the gifts you are giving to another when you give them the gift of Surrender.
You need not wait for a special occasion to give this gift to someone. Surprise some people in your life with a really great read … one they won’t want to put down!
Join us in this mission of evangelization!
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Arms of Love, Surrender,
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