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What Is Chastity and How Can I Be Chaste?


Strongly rooted in Catholic tradition, "Sex, Love and You" promotes the value of chastity and tell you how your life will be better if you refrain from sexual activity until marriage.



Their message: It's possible to have freedom, peace, and romance without regret.

They deliver this message to thousands of young people from junior high through college every year. Those who hear them say things like:

They were awesome!

They were young, fun, and could really relate to teens.

They made me think about things I never would have thought of like how important you should be to yourself.

Because we'd heard such great things about them, we invited Jason and Crystalina to speak at our parish, St. Mary's Catholic Church, in Cortland, New York. Nearly two hundred teens and parents turned out. Jason began the presentation by saying:

In high school, my question was always, How far can I go with this girl? I didn't go all the way, but I used girls. Pornography had an influence on me. I was into all sorts of stuff. I didn't think God had a plan for my love life.

As a young guy himself, Jason knows that marriage is often the farthest thing from teenagers' minds when they're with someone of the opposite sex. They're thinking about this girl or this boy and the feelings they're having right now. But, Jason said, If you keep in mind the person that you will someday meet and marry, you'll wait for them. And in the meantime, you won't do anything to disrespect or hurt a person who will someday be another person's husband or wife.

To bring this point home, Jason shared the following story. After one of his high school presentations, a guy, call him Bill, came up and said he wanted to know how far he could go with his girlfriend. The conversation went like this:

Jason: What do you have in mind?

Bill: Well, like [here Bill mentioned a particular sexual activity that we'll leave unnamed for the moment].

Jason: Okay, let me ask you this: Do you want to get married someday?

Bill: Yeah, sure.

Jason: Do you think the girl you're talking about now is the person you're going to marry?

Bill: No.

Jason: Do you think there's a girl out there somewhere that you are going to marry?

Bill: Yeah.

Jason: Okay, let's suppose that right now, some guy is trying to manipulate that girl, the one you're going to marry, to do with him what you said you'd like to do with your current girlfriend. Would that bug you?

Bill: (looking uncomfortable) Nah, I wouldn't care.

Jason: Really? Try to get the picture: This is the girl you're going to kiss on the altar on your wedding day; this is the person who will someday kiss your children goodnight when she puts them to bed. Wouldn't it bug you just a little that right now, this guy is pressuring your future wife to do this?

Bill: (looking down, getting flustered, and sounding unconvincing) I don't care.

Just then, another guy who was standing close enough to overhear this whole conversation blurted out in a loud voice, It would TICK ME OFF!

Jason's audience erupted in laughter at this, but they got his point: You don't want your husband or wife to be sexually intimate with anyone but you. That's obviously true once you're actually married, but it's also true before you're married, even before you meet your future spouse. You want him or her to save that special form of intimacy for you.

Jason told his audience, That's what kept me from losing my virginity. There was this voice inside of me that said, 'Jason, that gift is for me. Please wait for me.'

Jason then introduced Crystalina. She began:

My situation is different from Jason's. I lost my virginity when I was 15. My boyfriend and I thought we loved each other. But once we began having sex, it completely destroyed any love we had. I felt he was no longer interested in spending time with me; he was interested in spending time with my body.

You could hear a pin drop as she spoke. Crystalina continued:

When Jason and I get married, I won't be able to give him the gift of my virginity. But after my high school boyfriend and I broke up, I resolved to wait for the person I would marry. After that, every time I said no to a guy, I wrote a letter to my future husband telling him I had done that and that I was waiting for him. I'm going to give Jason those letters on our wedding night. He accepts the mistakes I've made in the past. He loves me for the person I have become.

Crystalina and Jason went on to talk about how they keep their commitment to purity by practicing modesty, avoiding tempting situations, and staying close to God through the sacraments and prayer.

It's a hard lifestyle to live out, Crystalina said. Some of your friends will say, 'What, are you better than us now?' Some people will make fun of you. But when you stand on the altar, nobody will be laughing.

When they finished their talk, the audience gave them a standing ovation.

We wish every young person in the country could hear Jason and Crystalina.

In the meantime, we hope you'll find help in making the right sexual decisions from the pages of this book. Like Jason and Crystalina, we spend a lot of time talking to young people about this issue. We've listened to their stories. A lot of their stories are in this book.

We've also included a chapter on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by Dr. William Boudreau. As a family doctor, he knows about STDs from treating teens who are upset to find out that they've contracted an STD from premarital sexual activity.

We hope that you'll open your heart and mind to what we have to share with you. And we pray that you'll discover like Jason and Crystalina how much happier you'll be, regardless of past mistakes, if from this point forward you save God's beautiful gift of sexual intimacy (in all its forms) for the committed love relationship of marriage.

We hope you know how much God loves you. He wants your happiness even more than you do. He has a plan for your life. Trust him. Open yourself to him. Don't get discouraged if you mess up; we all do. Jesus is waiting, with open, merciful arms, to forgive you; just ask. And ask the Blessed Mother who loves you with a mother's tender love to help you in every area of your life. Whatever your problem, whatever your need, go to Mary. She will comfort you, guide you, and intercede for you with her Son.

God bless and keep you.

With love,

Tom and Judy Lickona
Cortland, New York
August 2002


What Is Chastity?

Chastity is sexual self-control. It means placing sexual intimacy within one relationship and one relationship only: marriage.

Although we've used the word abstinence in this book and have encouraged you to abstain from premarital sex, we actually prefer the term chastity when talking about sexual morality.

Abstinence is about what you cannot do (engage in sexual intimacy). Chastity is about what you can do: lead a positive lifestyle that respects self and others. For centuries, chastity has been an admired moral virtue. Author Pat Driscoll defines chastity as sexual goodness living out the truth, beauty, and goodness of human sexuality. In one of her pamphlets, God's Plan for Sex, Driscoll boldly states Sex is great! and then lists some reasons why it is:

  • God created sex, and it's wonderful.
  • God gave us operating instructions for sex (in the Bible).
  • Only the abuse of sex (through fornication, adultery, masturbation, etc.) is wrong.
  • Following God's law brings joy.
  • Disobeying God's law brings unhappiness and problems for ourselves and society.
  • God has given us many ways to express our sexuality genitally (in marriage) and non-genitally (outside of marriage).

Chastity applies to everybody, unmarried people and married people. How?

For unmarried people (both those planning to marry and those who intend to remain single), chastity means staying pure in thought and deed, refraining from sexual intercourse and other forms of deliberate genital arousal, and expressing one's sexuality in non-genital ways.

For married people, chastity means having sex only with your marriage partner. This form of promised faithfulness between husbands and wives giving themselves sexually only to each other, never to anyone else is also known as fidelity. Chastity in marriage also means keeping sex open to life. (We talk more about this in Chapter 17.)

Celibacy is a special form of chastity. People with a religious vocation for example, priests, brothers, and nuns take a vow of celibacy. As part of their deep commitment to God and sacrificial service to God's people, they promise to lead a life that excludes all forms of genital sexual intimacy.

The more you have sex outside of marriage, the more it becomes just something to do.

Molly Kelly

 The Advantages of Chastity

Molly Kelly, a mother of eight, used to travel throughout the United States and Canada speaking about chastity to more than 50,000 teens and college students every year. Her audiences genuinely loved her; she has a great sense of humor and a knack for using the right phrase. Molly Kelly calls chastity saved sex. It's saving sex for the person you want to spend your life with.

When we heard her speak to a standing-room audience of teens and parents, she said:

Chastity is good news. You do not have to spend valuable time worrying about pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. You do not have to spend one penny on any outside product. You do not have to terminate your youth prematurely. Chastity is 100% effective, 100% healthy, and a 100% economical choice. It works!

She then challenged her listeners to think about the reasons for saving sex:

How do we want our air? Pure. How do we want our water? Pure. How do we want sex on our wedding night? Pure. There is no greater gift a man and a woman can give each other on their wedding night than the gift of their virginity. And it's a gift you can give only once.

But what if you haven't saved sex? What if you've already given it away? Start saving it, Molly Kelly says. She adds:

Some gifts come with tags that say, Do not open until Christmas. Sexual intercourse is a gift that says, Do not open until marriage. If you've already unwrapped it, you can wrap it up again!

Remember, chastity is a spiritual, not a physical, state. Chastity is about sexual self-control, an attitude of respect and gratitude for the gift that sex is. Although a person can't regain his or her physical virginity, anyone, at any time, can regain chastity. This is often referred to as emotional virginity. Many, many young people have made the decision to return to chastity.

Living a chaste lifestyle is easier when you keep the advantages of that decision clearly in mind. A 17-year-old girl at an inner-city high school in Washington, D.C., offers this testimony:

Not too long ago when boys asked me if I was a virgin, I was ashamed of it. I'm not anymore. It's better to be a virgin, because boys have more respect for you and you don't have to worry about AIDS tests or pregnancy tests or anything.

A young woman in her 20s adds:

My high school and college years were the best years of my life. I learned that no to sex meant yes to fun. My reputation as a virgin got out fast. I had more dates, better grades, and good, quality friendships. Guys knew they didn't have to perform (sexually) for me, so we could concentrate on getting to know each other and having a great time.3

What are some other advantages of living chastely? Many of the advantages have to do with freedom: freedom from a negative lifestyle and freedom for a positive lifestyle. For example, chastity gives you freedom from:

  • guilt doubt, worry, and regret
  • having to wonder, How far will I go with this person on this date?
  • being used by others and using other people
  • sexually transmitted diseases and (for girls) the possibility of not being able to bear a child because of an STD
  • pregnancy
  • having to choose between raising a child you aren't ready for and giving up your baby for adoption
  • the trauma of abortion; loss of reputation; pressure to marry early or to marry the wrong person
  • the ghosts of past sexual relationships invading your marriage
  • Also, chastity gives you freedom to:
  • exercise control over your life
  • develop real friendships based on mutual respect, shared thoughts, and feelings
  • develop skills, talents, and interests and have many relationships
  • develop self-respect and self-control
  • finish your education and achieve financial stability before having to marry
  • find a potential mate who values you for the person you are
  • enjoy greater trust in marriage (because you don't have to worry, Is he/she going to fool around with someone else, the way we fooled around before we were married?
  • stay out of sexual sin and grow in your relationship with God.

You may be able to think of still other advantages of leading a chaste life. As you create a vision for your life and future, you surely won't want it to be associated with pre-marital sex. Only by maintaining or regaining your chastity can you be assured of becoming the person that you and God intend for you to be.


How Can I Be Chaste?

Chastity is not something like a jacket that you can put on or take off whenever you like. Chastity is a part of yourself that communicates itself to others in your daily words and actions.

Modesty is one important way to express chastity. Wearing appropriate and non-suggestive clothing, not calling undue attention to your body, and keeping your speech free of sexually suggestive talk are simple ways to let others know what you believe.

In this chapter, we'll share some other strategies for living a chaste lifestyle in a world full of sexual temptations and pressures.

I never learned how to treat a girl until I dated a girl in college who dressed modestly. She was interesting. She commanded respect.
recent college graduate

Ways to Say No

As Molly Kelly says, You say 'No' before you ever go out on a date. 'No' is in the mind; it's a definite decision.

She points out that there are three kinds of language: verbal language, body language, and clothes language. For No to mean No, all three types of language must be saying it at the same time. For example:

A girl can say no with words, but her tight skirt and skimpy blouse are saying yes. She can say no with her lips, but if her eyes are saying yes, it won't work. A boy can say no while his hands are asking for a yes.

Another piece of advice is to advertise yourself, not your sexiness. Of course, some young people want to be sexy and provocative. In Sex: It's Worth Waiting For, author Greg Speck comments:

Women have said to me, Oh, I just love it when guys lust after me. It's so exciting!

If that's your reaction, then you don't understand what goes on in the mind of a man. When a man lusts after you, you become a piece of meat! He could care less that you have hopes and dreams and desires. All he wants to do is get his hands on your body.

Lusting is not a complimentary term. Speck goes on to offer specific advice to young women:

Look good, be stylish, but don't compromise yourself as a woman. Stay away from tight jeans, dresses slit up the side, short skirts, halter tops, low-cut tops, sleeveless sweaters with big underarms... .

Put on your outfit, stand in the mirror, and ask yourself, What am I trying to draw attention to? If it's just your exterior, then in many cases you are going to be treated like a piece of meat.

Modesty is not about looking ugly. You can be stylish and still be modest. Modesty uses the beauty of your personhood to send a message about your dignity without speaking a word.
Crystalina Padilla

Modesty in dress, speech, and action is a virtue that applies to everybody, men as well as women. Thomas Lorimer, in his book Why Not? Why Is Pre-Marital Sex Wrong? directs similar words of advice to young men:

Guys, decide you will not violate the personal space of any woman. Make a covenant with your eyes not to look at the private parts of women.

Then date only those girls who demonstrate that they are not confused about personal space. Date those who dress modestly. And dress modestly yourself.

How do you say no with words? Saying no often requires more than a one-word answer. It's important to be psychologically prepared for the lines that someone may use to pressure you to have sex. Remember, a line demands a comeback that can put an end to the pressure once and for all and really communicate your strong No.

Here are some comebacks for some of the standard lines:

Don't you love me?

I love you enough to say no.
If you really loved me, you would.

If you really loved me, you wouldn't ask. If you really care about somebody, you don't pressure them to do something they don't want to do.

Everybody 's doing it.

Everybody but me.
Really, everybody 's doing it. Then you shouldn't have any trouble finding somebody else.
Don't you find me attractive?
I find you very attractive. I like you a lot. That's why I don't want to wreck our relationship by getting too physical.

I'll stop whenever you say.

How about right now?

I love you.

Then please prove it by respecting my values.

What are you waiting for?

I'm waiting for the person I'll marry.
Are you repressed or something? No, I'm free from the pressure to have sex before I get married.
Sex isnt a big deal.
Its a big deal to me, a big deal to my future husband (wife), and a big deal to God, and I made a promise I would wait.

Although girls can and do often lead guys on, in our experience guys are more likely to use these kinds of lines to get sex. And, sadly, many a girl has fallen for them. A girl may find it hard to believe that a boy is lying when he says, seemingly with great sincerity, I love you!

If you're a girl, you need to know two things: (1) If a boy puts any kind of pressure on you to go farther than you want to go, it shows he loves himself, not you; he's interested only in his pleasure, and he'll sacrifice your physical and emotional welfare to get it; and (2) many guys will lie through their teeth, say anything, and do what ever else they have to do to get sex.

Here is one guy who openly admits this:

I learned to maneuver my opponent into a position where she couldn't say no. If I sensed there was a moral dilemma in her mind, I would play any role necessary to reach the point where sex became inevitable.

Rehearse your lines and dress the part (modestly). Learn how to say No with your body, words, and behavior. Remember, saying No is the best way to say I love you.

There's a simple love test: You say no. Does he leave you?
a college student

Dating Strategies

Dating means different things to different people. In high school and college, formal dating (where the guy picks up the girl, takes her to dinner or a movie, and pays the expenses) is less common than it used to be. For lack of a better word, we'll continue to use dating here to refer to the various ways that guys and girls spend time in each other's company.

Whether formal or informal, dating is a way for guys and girls to spend time together, build friendships, develop romantic relationships, and consider prospective marriage partners. However, dating, especially single dating, is also the likely occasion for sexual temptations and sexual behavior to occur. As with other areas of your life that are important, it's important to have a strategy and develop guidelines for the time you spend together with the opposite sex. Here are a few:

  1. Begin with group dating. Group dating may mean just hanging out with several friends, both guys and girls. Everyone knows everyone else. Nobody is paired off. In another from of group dating, you might be paired with one person but are still accompanied by several friends. Group dating is a good way to begin a relationship. It relieves a lot of the pressures of starting a one-on-one conversation, deciding what to do, and being alone, when sexual temptations are more likely to arise.

  2. Delay and minimize single dating. A single date is a guy and girl going out together as a couple. A Brigham Young University study found that the earlier young people began single dating, the more likely they were to lose their virginity by the time of high school graduation. Ninety-one percent of girls who began single dating at age 12 lost their virginity by the time they graduated from high school. Only 20% of girls who started single dating at age 16 lost theirs. Even when you are college-aged, it's best to spend most of your social time in group activity either group dating or with a circle of friends.

  3. Plan your date. When you do go on a single date, don't just get together and make it up as you go along. If a date ends up with nothing to do, it's very easy to get physically involved.

    If you run out of things to do, either end the date right then or go to a place where there are other people (at a restaurant, for example). Don't go parking unless you're looking for a struggle with temptation or pressure.

  4. Involve your parents. You should talk over with at least one of your parents your dating habits especially when a serious relationship is developing. Doing so will enable you to get the perspective and wisdom of someone who cares about you and your future. If you're not comfortable talking with your parents about the person you're dating, chances are good that you shouldn't be involved with that person.

    Also, you should bring your date to your home to meet your parents before you go out. Says one young woman: I think it's really important to get your parents' blessing on a relationship.

  5. Avoid temptations. For example, if you're at home with your date, spend time talking and getting to know the other person. Instead of sitting on the sofa, go sit at the kitchen table and talk while you share a snack. Don't lie on the floor watching TV. Definitely don't sit around in your pajamas watching TV. Needless to say, staying chaste also means avoiding places like parked cars and dormitory rooms.

  6. Avoid sexual stimuli. Movies with sex scenes, suggestive musical lyrics, and any kind of pornography should all be avoided.

  7. Don't drink or use drugs. Alcohol and other drugs can lower sexual inhibitions; either will make you more likely to give in to sexual temptations.

    Avoid parties where there's drinking. In college, where guys and girls may be away from home and their parents' rules for the first time, parties with drinking and drugs are often responses to this new freedom. This on the edge behavior also can lead previously abstinent guys and girls to try sex. Girls beware: There are many older college guys waiting for you to drink more alcohol than you can handle so that they can more easily get you to have sex. Many a freshman girl has lost her virginity during the first weekend on campus when some guy got her drunk at a party.

    Given the dangers of the sex and alcohol party scene, we would advise guys, but especially young women, not to drink at all unless you are in a protected situation, such as a family gathering.

  8. Set strict limits on your expression of physical affection. Hand-holding, brief, closed-mouth kissing, and light hugs are usually appropriate ways to express your physical affection. When you set strict limits, you won't find yourself fighting the temptation to go a little bit farther the next time you're together.

  9. Go slow. Don't let intense emotions build too fast. Don't ever ask the other person, How do you feel about me? That will artificially accelerate things. Don't talk about our relationship and our future, a mistake many couples today are prone to make. Put up with a little suspense about these things.

    You don't have to know everything the person you are dating feels. Let the relationship unfold naturally; you'll have more fun if you keep it light. The respect and care you show for the person will show how you feel. 

Practical Advice

We interviewed a group of college students who have made a commitment to chastity, to find out what practical advice they would give to others who want to stay chaste in a world full of sexual pressures and dangers. Here are some of things they said:

Tim: Don't get involved with someone who is sexually experienced. That happened to me in high school. She said sex didn't have to be part of our relationship, but it created a subtle pressure. I always felt as if I was disappointing her. Now I wouldn't involve myself with someone whose convictions about how far to go are different from mine.

Once you get involved in sexual activity at all, you'll go farther than you want to go, maybe not right away, but eventually. There's an old saying, Sin will take you farther than you want to go, and keep you longer than you wanted to stay. So don't even get started.

Rachel: I believe that every person has a different point for self-control. You have to be obedient to your own convictions, what you can handle. And you have to be really honest to keep from falling. You can't fool yourself, and you have to be willing to discuss this issue with your partner.

La Chauna: If the other person is putting any pressure on you, be very explicit about your standards. Know your boundaries before you are with the person, and stick to your guns!

Eun Gyeong: Get to know the other person. Find out how they feel about certain things. Don't start dating someone until you feel you are already friends with them. If somebody pressures you to go out, definitely don't.

Grace: When you do go out, don't talk too much about yourself. That can lead the other person on. Keep the focus on other things, things you have in common.

Hugo: You might want to be alone, but don't. If your parents aren't home, for example, you'll be tempted to be alone. But don't; the temptation is too much.

Tim: Always keep the door open! 

Choosing Friends Who Share Your Values

It's vital to have friends who share your values concerning chastity. A study by the Institute for Research and Evaluation found that teens who had friends who resolved to abstain from premarital sex were significantly more likely to remain chaste than teens who did not have supportive friends.

Sandra Hill, a mother and community health nurse, said that at her daughter's high school, small groups of girls pledged to each other not to have sex.

All it takes is one supportive friend to say, 'I'm not going to do that.' And others will say, 'Well, I'm not going to do that either.' My own daughter and five friends vowed to each other to remain virgins while they were in high school, and they all did it.

Just as bad company corrupts good character, good company builds it up. Aristotle said, The brave are found where the brave are honored. The same is true for chastity. 

The Right Kind of Sex Education

There are two kinds of sex education. One kind says: Don't have sex, but if you can't abstain be responsible and practice safe sex (use a condom). That's obviously a mixed message and also a false one, since condoms don't make sex safe.

The second kind of sex education is chastity-based. It sends a clear message:

  1. Abstaining from sexual intimacy before marriage is the only medically safe, emotionally healthy, and morally responsible choice.
  2. Condoms don't make sex physically safe (you can still get pregnant or catch a disease), emotionally safe (you can still get hurt), or ethically loving (you can't claim to love somebody if you're gambling with their health and happiness).
  3. Chastity is the best way to prepare for a happy, faithful, and lasting marriage.
  4. If you haven't been chaste in the past, you can decide to practice chastity from this point on.

About one-third of public schools today are teaching chastity-based sex education. Obviously, Catholic schools will also take a chastity-based approach. If you find yourself in a sex education course that does not teach chastity as the clear standard, but teaches instead that you can be responsible if you practice safe sex, be a discerning participant. Evaluate what you're being taught in light of what you've learned and believe about chastity.

Having And Keeping Your High Standards

A woman came to our college campus to speak on the subject of date rape. She had dinner with a small group of women students before her talk.

Does a guy here think he has a right to sex if he has spent money on you? she asked.

One of the young women said, Guys here expect sex if they just pay attention to you.

The really sad thing is that guys not only expect this; many of them get it. Why? One reason is that there are many girls (and guys) who do not value themselves very highly.

A high school girl reasoned:

I used to think: If a guy will go out with me for six months without asking for sex, he's proved he loves me and then I can sleep with him. But later I asked myself, Is this the price I put on my body? If he gives me a little bit of his time, I'll give him my body?

Said a young woman in college: You have to value yourself as a person and value your body.

Girls often ask, What if the guy really seems to care about me? Remember, if he really cares, he won't pressure you to have sex. And if a young woman gives in to pressure for sex so as not to lose him, it shows she values the imagined relationship more than she does her own importance. Her sense of self-worth is not very great.

If a girl loses a guy because she wouldn't give in, she is well to be rid of him. Here's the story of a 16-year-old girl who had that happen to her:

I was very naive about sex (the only information I was able to get was from booklets and listening to friends). I had the usual crushes on boys who didn't notice me. My ninth-grade year, though, I found out what it's like to stand up for your morals.

The first kiss was not all that enjoyable and the hands up the shirt shocked me. The next time we were alone, the boy tried to go all the way. After I said no and explained my position, he took me home in complete silence. I was hurt when he no longer wanted to see me, but I was confident I had done the right thing. 

Waiting for the Right Person

Some young women and men have sex because they're so worried about having and keeping a boyfriend or girlfriend or getting someone to marry them that they'll do anything to try to hold on to that partner. What they need is the kind of confidence expressed by a young woman who spoke at a church discussion on sex, dating, and chastity:

I used to be on the hunt, thinking I had to be where guys were and to make myself available if I was going to find a husband. Eventually I realized I was not trusting God in this matter. So I began praying Lord, please find me a mate, if that is your will for me, and help me trust in your providences.

I stopped chasing guys, and in less than a year I met my future husband, a wonderful man, the one I believe God had picked out for me all along.

Having high standards also means being willing to go without dates or a mate until someone comes along who meets those standards.

That's not easy. A friend said to us when her oldest daughter was a senior in college: Rebecca called the other night. She's very down. Just about all the girls she knows are sleeping with their boyfriends. She's beginning to despair of ever finding a boy who shares her belief in chastity.

We sympathize with young people who are in that situation. One thing we highly recommend as a way of sticking to your decision to remain chaste is to continue to read books which promote it.

We have listed some recommended books in the appendix at the end of this book. Every author comes at the subject in a little different way, and all are valuable. Every author includes his or her own sample of success and failure stories that are very motivating when your resolve to remain chaste may be at a low ebb. Reading books of this kind is a way to help counteract the continual barrage of sexually permissive messages that are all around you. We think you will be amazed at the difference this makes in your confidence and your resolve.

As you think about and look for the kind of person you'd like to marry, also keep this in mind: A successful marriage requires good character. If someone is selfish, rude, unappreciative, lazy, ill-tempered, or dishonest now, don't count on her or him to change after you're married. As you date a person (one you're getting serious about), ask yourself:

  • How does he/she treat me?
  • How does he/she treat other people?
  • Will this person be a good role model for my children?
  • Will this person be someone I would be proud to call my husband or wife?

If the person comes up short on questions like these, don't waste time on that relationship.

The best way to find the sort of person you'd like to marry is to become that kind of person yourself. Whatever qualities you admire in other people, strive to develop them in yourself. Develop your own character. Develop your gifts, your talents, and your interests. If you focus on improving yourself instead of trying to put yourself in situations where you might meet Mr. or Ms. Right, you'll become an attractive person more likely to attract the kind of person you'd be willing to spend your life with.

With God's Help

Our last recommendation for maintaining your chastity is this: Don't try to do it without God.

Definitely stay in prayer, said Joe, one of the college students we interviewed. Ask God to help you know your limits.

Added Hugo: It takes a lot of prayer. You have to pray that your relationships will not in any way violate God's laws. The important thing is knowing God's standards and trying to keep them.

Rachel reminded us that God knows we're not perfect and that we can come to God for forgiveness when we slip: If you do fall from your convictions, don't think you're a hypocrite. Get right back up. Just say to yourself, 'I've got to keep trying to live up to godly standards!' Don't let anyone tell you there's no forgiveness.

Growing numbers of young people are also helping themselves stay chaste by making a formal promise to God. Many, for example, are taking part in a national campaign called True Love Waits. There are different forms of the pledge; here is one called the Pure Love Promise:

From this day forward, regardless of past mistakes, I promise to respect myself and others, pursue a life of purity, and save the gift of sex until marriage.

Josh, 15, took the pledge. He says: Whenever I get in a situation where I'm tempted, I remember it. I consider it a sacred thing. It's enough to keep me from going through with something I would regret.

Says Traci, a college freshman: I don't have a boyfriend yet, but I have written a sealed letter to my future husband telling him that I love him enough to wait. I am very excited about the prospect of God having someone for me.

We want to close this chapter by addressing those of you who may have lost your virginity. You may be feeling bad about that and thinking, I'm damaged goods; it's too late for me. It's not. Don't be discouraged. God doesn't want you to dwell on past mistakes, which we all make. He can heal you and make you whole.

You can choose now to follow chastity as your future path. You can recapture all the freedom and other benefits of chastity. Writes Pat Driscoll:

Most people who have struggled to bring chastity into their lives after a period of sexual indulgence report a remarkable inner peace. The struggle may bring fearful conflict, but if the individual perseveres in chastity for several months or a year, he or she will experience an almost spontaneous sense of integration.

This is Meaghen Gonzalez, Editor of CERC. I hope you appreciated this piece. We curate these articles especially for believers like you.

Please show your appreciation by making a $3 donation. CERC is entirely reader supported.



Thomas & Judy Lickona with William Boudreau, M.D. "What Is Chastity?" & "How Can I Be Chaste?" Chapter 15 and 16 in Sex, Love, and You: Making the Right Decision (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2003), 7-10; 151-155; 156-169.

Reprinted with permission of the authors. Order Sex, Love, and You: Making the Right Decision here.

The Author

lickona1lickonakk1Thomas Lickona, Ph.D., is a psychologist and educator who has been called "the father of modern character education." A professor of education emeritus at State University of New York, Cortland, he is the founding director of his university's Center for the Fourth and Fifth Rs (Respect and Responsibility) and author of nine books on moral development and character education. He is the author of How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain,  Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgment, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues and the Christopher Award-winning book Educating for Character. He has also written Raising Good Children and co-authored Sex, Love and You. He is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Education Resource Center. Visit his web site here

Judith Lickona is a mother and homemaker. She and her husband Tom speak together to teenagers and their parents on the subjects of sex, faith, and respect for life. .

William J. Boudreau, M.D., is a family physician who sees young people as part of his medical practice. Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a doctor, he speaks to teens and young adults on the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.

Copyright © 2003 Thomas & Judy Lickona with William Boudreau, M.D.

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