Ten years ago, I crossed a modest stage in a well-lit gymnatorium at a private, Protestant school. I was one of 14 high school seniors who wore royal blue caps and gowns and breathed happy sighs of relief upon being given what meant more to us than diplomas:
For me, freedom meant transition. It meant I turned from a Catholic kid in a Protestant class of 14 to a Catholic kid on a secular campus of 40,000 — from a young woman who knew everyone to a young woman who, most days, knew no one.
I wasn’t ok with that. So I did what I sometimes still can’t believe:
I got uncomfortable.
And I did it on purpose.
I didn’t know yet that getting uncomfortable was good for a person who practices chastity. Here’s how I learned:
Resistant though I was to rubbing elbows with strangers, I saw no solution to isolation other than to turn the courtyard outside the University of South Florida’s Cooper Hall into my turf. I decided I did not require a stranger’s invitation to share a bench. I did not request a clique’s permission to be part of a party. I decided 40,000 potential friends were too slow at being the first to start conversations. So, I started them, which was uncomfortable, because I could not predict how they would end.
Sometimes, my disregard for my comfort zone did what I wanted it to do. Some of my best undergrad friends were the students whose picnic tables I picked instead of sitting alone at empty ones. Other times, my disregard for my comfort zone did what made disregarding it uncomfortable: it’s a sad day when somebody’s response to your “hello” is an eye-roll and a swift exit.
But it’s only a sad day until it isn’t, until you’ve done an uncomfortable thing enough that it doesn’t make you uncomfortable anymore — a killer skill for a person who practices chastity.
A person who practices chastity, the virtue that requires us to abstain from sex outside marriage, has to talk about it (often in public, on first dates, in a culture that thinks it’s weird). A person who practices chastity will probably be mocked, and will probably be rejected. A single person who practices chastity accepts that he or she might never have sex (ever, or again). A married person who practices chastity accepts that marriage doesn’t mean sex any time for any reason. A person who practices chastity saves sex or sex from now on for marriage, which means wedding night sex probably won’t be seamless.
Which means people who practice chastity are put in positions our culture calls uncomfortable. It means we have to make sacrifices where other people don’t think we should. It means we have to be disciplined where others might not have to be. Which is why chaste people should get uncomfortable, make sacrifices, and practice discipline in areas of life outside chastity.
My disregard for a comfort zone in the courtyard outside USF’s Cooper Hall wasn’t just valuable because it helped me make friends. It was valuable because I got better at disregarding comfort zones. Somebody’s decision to sacrifice trips to Starby’s isn’t just valuable because it saves him or her money. It’s valuable because it helps him or her get better at making sacrifices. Somebody’s decision to ditch the snooze button isn’t just valuable because it pushes him or her into starting each day earlier. It’s valuable because it helps him or her get better at being disciplined.
So let’s do it.
And let’s do it on purpose.