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Why Chaste People Should Get Uncomfortable

June 28, AD 2014 18 Comments

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:

Freedom.

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.

About the Author:

Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity Is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, 2014). She has a master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling from the University of South Florida and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the same university. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and blogs at arleenspenceley.com.

  • Nathan DeParis

    Check, check and check I have chastity on purpose. You are right Arleen it is uncomfortable, I am a 25 year old male, and every one around me is getting married. I talk about my faith openly and how I feel about chastity and I always get looked at as if I am from another planet even from my closest friends. I don’t have to worry about going up to people to make conversation because either way i am in the uncomfortable zone due to my striving with chastity. Like you said you give up sex with the chance it may be forever, and I am not immune to that fear I live with it everyday. It gets to be less about sex and more about even being with someone. Yet I never fail everyday to see life as a wonderful challenge. But I think its helps more for other who look at us to see while the struggle that is there to see patience on our faces. to say that chastity isn’t suppose to hurt is false and a lie and it makes us look fake. whats worth it is hard and that is ok.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      I feel your pain, Nathan! (In fact, there are five wedding invitations to which I need to RSVP. FIVE. Lol.) You got this! If you ever need further encouragement, browse my personal blog: arleenspenceley.com. Lots of about this over there.

      • Nathan DeParis

        Thanks Arleen. Have any particular articles on your site that you can point me to? Not to be a downer, but any one about the aftermath of being broken up with. I recently came out of a two year (three if you count the year of friendship, courting) with a girl from my church. Tell me, who leaves foot rubs!

      • Arleen Spenceley
      • Phenotype

        Nathan, I am going to be 35 this month, am getting married on April 2015. And yep, I am a chaste man. Not only is it possible, you will learn a lot from it. Be strong and persevere, it actually gets EASIER to control yourself as time goes by. But I hope you find someone good and get married before you’re 35 like me!

        I would also like to give you a tip: do browse “manosphere” blogs such as Chateau Heartiste, those will help you develop a confident frame and become more attractive to women in general (including Catholic girls). Heartiste is not a Christian, so don’t expect him to be nice, but if you’re wise you can learn a lot from him while still disregarding the bad stuff.

        Do not become lazy because you think you’re a “nice catch”. Look, here’s something to help you understand what it takes to be attractive to someone:

        1) Oatmeal is very healthy and is good for you, but isn’t exactly tasty and most people wouldn’t rate it as their favorite food;
        2) Pizza is extremely tasty and everybody loves it, but… it’s not exactly healthy, is it?

        Now, the trick is to become attractive like the pizza, while still being healthy like the oatmeal. The oatmeal part, well, that’s your strength right now, it seems. That’s what it means to be a “great catch”, mainly. Now you need to become tasty like the pizza!

        It’s possible and it certainly worked for me. Go lift weights, dress better, and read Heartiste. And as a final tip, I don’t want to sound like a jerk here, but don’t listen to women on this. Believe me, they may want to sincerely help you on this, but they can’t. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

        From someone who went through a lot of time being the oatmeal, but eventually became a (healthy) pizza, I wish you a lot of luck and God bless you.

      • Nathan DeParis

        Congrats. Oh I know it is possible. I actually am pretty good at it so it iwasn’t my intention to sound like I was not from my last post.

        I do browse manoshpere blogs. Art of Manliness is my favorite, and I don’t really shy away from making contact with woman I am the old school pursuer once I know that I can if that makes sense.

        I improve my self every day weather I am a nice guy or not, I do not live my life through women. I exercise every other day trying to get back to the shape I was in in my kung fu days. but I am also not growing anymore, 5,7 is my height. I do not dress like a slob at all as a matter of fact I wear button downs and sport the tuck as my regular. I do not listen to women on men issues, because they are not us and our brains are wired differently.

        BTW by great catch I do mean being the healthy pizza.

        Also geography plays an important roll and I will tell you an example. The marriage age for the south is pretty much earlier than the NorthEast, its still a military culture so people push events in life to an earlier time frame. and it is absolutely true. The North East is different people push off marriage, and one could be Berd( bro nerd), or a healthy pizza and go totally unnoticed.

        I am not trying to disagree with you in any way. Your ideas are pretty solid. But I did want to try in this reply to give you a better idea of life here, you may live in the area and then I am pretty sure you see a similar thing to.

    • Opinionated

      Young man, I cannot believe that mothers from miles around are not trying to fix you up with their daughters. You sound like a catch.

      • Nathan DeParis

        I try to say this as humbly as I can. Firstly thank you opinionated. Second I am “that guy”, the Catholic male whom is thought to be a myth and hiding under a rock. I am a great catch and again it is not out of egotism I say it. I keep God at my center, so I can’t exactly try and pick out the +21 year olds at my Church and say hi, most of the younger people leave after the priest says the final blessing. I have to go to God first and not expect my parish to be a breeding ground for potential spouses. I know God has a plan for me and I know she is out there. But Iam not a mind reader and I hope I have enough grace to get a kick in the bum when she is around.

      • Margaret in MI

        Nathan, I just have to ask if by chance you live in or near Chicago, just happen to have a few dear, single nieces there…..

      • Nathan DeParis

        Well Margaret, I actually live North of Boston in a place region called the valley. Thank you for thinking of me!

      • Lauren

        If you weren’t so far away, I would approach you.. I live in Indiana & am in the same boat with chastity. Your responses have been an inspiration to me, because these days it seems rare to find a good man who would fight any day for chastity and God’s Will as opposed to one’s typical selfish desires. I stumbled upon this website one day and God provided for me comfort in knowing that there are actual good Catholic men out there. So even if I may never get the chance to meet you, thank you for your input on this website..it means so much. May God continue to bless you.

    • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

      God’s WORD makes everything “EASY” :”Come to me all you who labor and heavily laden……Take MY YOKE upon you for it is…….E…A…S…Y.”

      Only SACRAMENTS will not DO GOOD so much.

      The SACRAMENTS are sacraments BECAUSE of THE WORD of God. Even the Holy Eucharist IS SO. Live in the atmosphere of God’s Word, life becomes a source of JOY.

      God’s Word and the Sacraments are intimately related like THE FOUNDATION and the superstructure of a building. Without the foundation the superstructure will not stand healthy and whole.

      Don’t keep away from “THE CHARISMATICS”; they are not lunatics BUT APOSTOLIC to some degree or other depending upon the degree of authenticity and perseverance.

  • John Morgan

    I see the eye roll to my hello everyday. I get no response to blog posts or emails. I get no returned phone calls. I’m asked to move out of a “family pew” at church nearly every Sunday. I’m constantly told I’m “too old” to be friends with people. I’m constantly called gay because I’m over 30 and not married, even in church. I’m told I will have no friends unless I join the hookup game. Is this the life for me? Yes. But it is very difficult.

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  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    Beautiful.

  • ts

    Nathan DeParis and John Morgan, if you haven’t already, why not have a browse on http://www.catholicmatch.com and see how you get on there.

  • GHM_52

    Very great take at chastity practice! Just as any athlete needs to become strong by discipline and practice so do those who understand what God calls them to!

  • Episteme

    As a 34-year old chaste man (full continence and virginity variety), the real uncomfortable thing is that the Catholic world doesn’t believe that we exist — the Catholic Internet Media is full daily of depressing talk of how we men are horrible sex beasts come to take away the Church’s pure single women (where, pray tell, BTW, *are* these single Catholic women who write all these blogs and articles everywhere!?!) — I was disappointed to read the Instrumentum Laboris from the upcoming family synod and find that the Church doesn’t consider the never-married to be members of families (only that those co-habitating are problems to be dealt with).

    We chaster men are uncomfortable because we’re the Loyal Son to the Prodigal Son of Unchaste Catholic Manhood who, for all his bad press, gets the pastoral sympathy of the Church and the dates of kind women before returning triumphantly to a big church wedding while we remain for another decade or more in the back pew quietly working as an usher because we have no family to sit with (remember, the bishops ruled that we officially have no family!)

    So, yes, chastity is uncomfortable. We’ll let the world end in fire before we give it up, though. Because, as much as we want to get married and as lonely as we are, there’s one thing to keep in mind. We’re saving ourselves UNTIL marriage, but we’re saving ourselves FOR Christ. We don’t have the support of Catholic purity culture or even getting awarded the title Virgin if we go to heaven without having sex. We don’t have pastoral support *or* the same sort of family/friend support, AND we honestly have to sublimate the hell out things for decades in a heroic act of redemptive suffering because we believe in the rightness of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

    We just wish that when you saw a guy in church every morning at dawn, you didn’t assume that he was — and make cracks about he being — out at the club picking up women to hook up with hours before…