night stands,” short-term relationships, compulsive masturbation and pornography. Individuals who constantly repress all genital feelings and desires may sometimes go on an acting-out spree of these sexual behaviors. Dr. Kraft notes that many of us learn only two ways of dealing with sexual feelings and desires, namely, repression and gratification.
Healthy Ways to Integrate Sexual Thoughts and Feelings into our Lives
Suppression is acknowledging sexual thoughts and feelings but not paying attention to them or acting on them. Whereas repression is a denial of our sexual- ity, suppression involves acknowledgment and con- trol of our sexuality.
Sublimation is rechanneling or investing our energy into an activity that is in harmony with our values. This could mean some physical activity like exercise or gardening or some intellectual activity such as reading.
Anticipation is planning activities or strategies to prepare oneself when vulnerable times are foreseen as, for instance, when a woman knows that at certain times during her monthly cycle, she may feel lonely or in need of more affection, affirmation and under- standing. The same is true when one anticipates a big event, which could be especially challenging, such as a birthday, anniversary, or even the different seasons of the year. It is not unlike the person deal- ing with the loss of a loved one or with some occur- rence that was totally unexpected. One good way to cope with difficult and challenging times is by mak- ing the necessary plans in advance.
Friends. Having one or more friends with whom we can openly and honestly share our struggles with our sexuality or other areas of our lives is surely one of life’s great blessings. Being genuinely listened to increases our sense of well-being, decreases stress, and helps us to feel freer and more hopeful.
Discipline. Every good athlete knows the impor- tance of discipline in sports. Likewise, anyone who has tried to lose weight or give up smoking knows the importance of self-control. In a similar way, anyone who seeks to develop the virtue of chastity requires discipline. Discipline enables us to say “no” to what impedes our growth and to say “yes” to what helps us become a fully alive spiritual and sexual person.
Humor. Life can become so serious and rigid that we lose our capacity to enjoy the journey. William
Kraft writes: “Humor brings life into perspective. Zest and hilarity affirm our true place in life. Humor is the springboard to the divine. Moreover, humor heals: it activates processes that promote health” (ibid p. 97).
Counseling. If we are deeply wounded in our sexu- ality, we will most likely need a good and under- standing counselor to help us deal with past painful experiences and integrate them into our lives.
Prayer. Being able to pray to God openly and hon- estly about sexuality issues is a wonderful blessing. Unfortunately, many people wounded in this area are also wounded in their relationship with God, which makes it hard for them to see God as the One who can bring healing to this area of their lives. If this is our situation, we will need the help of a good spiri- tual director. For Catholics, regular use of the sac- rament of Reconciliation can also be helpful.
The more we develop the discipline of keeping our eyes on Jesus, the more purified our hearts will be, and gradually will we be able to look at and relate to others and ourselves in a respectful and loving way. Growing in chastity and purity of heart is a lifelong task.
As we journey through life, we need to learn the fine art of balancing gentleness with firmness. We need to be gentle with ourselves when we fall or go astray. At the same time, we need to be firm with ourselves realizing that growth does not happen without tough choices, self-denial and daily strug- gles to stay on the straight and narrow.
Pause: The above section mentions eight ways that can help us to live chaste lives. Which of them speak to you most? Which ones are most lacking in today’s culture? What is one message you would like to offer young people struggling to become healthy sexual human beings?
Sins against Chastity (C 2351, USC p. 406)
Even though we live in a sex-saturated society, hardly anyone spends time thinking about the mean- ing and purpose of sex. How often do we ask: What did God have in mind when he implanted a sexual faculty in the human person?
Catholic Tradition would respond that God had a twofold purpose, namely, the continuation of the human race (the procreative dimension of sex) and the strengthening of the love bond between the man and the woman, the husband and the wife, so that