To be honest when I first learned about emotional chastity it blew my mind. I had no idea that living chastity also meant keeping our emotions in check. I thought that, because I had saying no to sex down pat that I was good. But man, was I so wrong. I soon realized that I had many unchaste habits– talk about recognizing your littleness!
Everything that I thought was okay – fantasizing about my future husband, scrolling through Pinterest wedding feeds, imagining up my future children with the barista who just gave me a free cookie – were in fact all major no-no’s.
While engaging in these thoughts and behaviors were pleasurable, they were and are (I never said I was healed!) unhealthy. Why unhealthy? Unhealthy, because they perpetuate the lie that love is a feeling and not an act of the will. Just because you get the warm fuzzies scrolling through wedding dress photos, doesn’t mean you’re called to marriage – you could in fact be called to be a bride of Christ! If we follow our emotions, we could be in serious danger of making decisions that are massive errors.
As Sarah Swafford beautifully states on her site Emotional Virtue: “Emotional virtue [chastity]… is the right ordering of our thoughts, actions and desires as they relate to our relationships”. At its core emotional chastity is about protecting our heart and the hearts of others. It helps subject our emotions to our will. We are no longer controlled by what we feel, but by choosing what is right.
With all this being said, I’d like to take some time to focus on three ways emotional chastity makes us the strongest version of ourselves.
Let’s dive in…
1. No fear in your relationships with men.
Whether you are talking to your brother from another mother or your latest crush, being emotionally chaste will help you remain grounded in each of these encounters. You will know to synthesize whatever emotions arise in these relationships through prayer and reason. You will have the wisdom not to jump into a relationship with a man just because you both had a great conversation about Jesus.
You will have the patience to take that desire to God and let Him tell you what to do with it. When we are not easily swayed by our emotions, we are able to see the men in our lives more clearly. We don’t see them as potential dates; we seem them simply as brothers in Christ. Whether or not they become something more should be left to prayer.
2. Clarity in discerning your vocation.
Because emotional chastity helps us sharpen the skill of funneling emotions through reason, we will be better prepared to pursue our vocation. Why? Well because of the simple fact that we will know not to follow a path just because it makes us feel good. Sometimes the path that God has for us involves a bit of struggle. It’s important to remember that our vocation is meant to make us grow in holiness – to “stretch” us. If we are following a path that’s all daisies and no grit, it could be a warning sign that something is off.
3. You will fight temptation more effectively.
When our minds are not dominated by emotion, we are able to pinpoint what is of God and what is not more easily. This becomes especially important when we speak about temptation.
Temptation wouldn’t be temptation, if it didn’t pull us towards something that brings us pleasure. If we are consistently making decisions based on how we feel, chances are our battles with temptation won’t be very fruitful. Emotional chastity is the boot camp that prepares our interior life for the attacks of the world, our flesh and the Devil.
Let us know your thoughts on emotional chastity in the comments section below and keep the conversation going.
Saint Agnes, patron saint of chastity, pray for us!