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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Teaching our Children Chastity

This post is part of a series on the Seven Virtues.
Practicing the seven  virtues is considered to protect one against temptation from the seven deadly sins,
The seven virtues are Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility.

As I delved into this subject, I quickly became aware of how deep it is. This virtue alone has had tomes written on in it. For this reason, I am going to try to present a concise post on this, but I am already working on additional posts related to this.
What is Chastity?

Chastity is akin to Purity, they are almost synonymous. In fact the words “chaste and “chastity” come from the Latin word castus meaning “pure”.
Before we can teach our children about chastity we must first understand what it means ourselves. The words "chaste" and "chastity" come m from the Latin adjective castus meaning "pure". Historically chastity has been defined as abstaining from sexual conduct according to one's state in life; the practice of courtly love and romantic friendship. Cleanliness through cultivated good health and hygiene, and maintained by refraining from intoxicants. To be honest with oneself, one's family, one's friends, and to all of humanity. Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought-through education and betterment. The ability to refrain from being distracted and influenced by hostility, temptation or corruption.
When you ask a person today what chastity means they most often think of chastity belts and sexual abstinence, and specifically sexual abstinence before marriage. Chastity in a marriage means complete fidelity to a husband and wife. The word chastity has become synomous with and is often used interchangeably with sexual abstinence.  But as you can see the definition encompasses so much more.  It refers not only to remaining sexually pure but also pure in thought and body. 
In the Catholic Church  chastity as a virtue  is the remedy to the deadly sin of lust.
Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage.
image credit
Teaching Our Children About Chastity

When do we begin to teach our children about chastity? If you break down the above definition then we can begin as soon as they are walking and talking.  Since chastity is also defined as cleanliness through cultivated good health and hygiene, and maintained by refraining from intoxicants.  We can teach our children that their bodies are a temple of the Lord and as such should be maintained pure. We maintain this purity by not putting bad things in our body, no unfit food processed frankenfoods,  we bath regularly, we practice healthy habits.
 Chastity encompasses Moral Wholesomeness, How do we embrace moral wholesomeness? First of all what does that really mean? It means knowing right from wrong and promoting a healthy mind and spirit.  In other words, keeping yourself pure in thought and deed. We keep ourselves and our children pure in thought by not exposing them or ourselves to media that would tempt us into impure behavior.   For some people avoiding temptation means avoiding certain magazines, TV shows and movies. Much of our modern media promotes a life style that is not wholesome. Look at magazines in the checkout stand if you don’t believe me. Rag mags as my mother used to call them, glamourize the Hollywood lifestyle. Think to yourself would you want your daughter/son to dress like that to go to church?
Much of remaining chaste involved avoiding temptation. What does this mean? It depends on the person. Some people are easily tempted. As my husband says all it takes for some men is to see a woman even is she is dressed in a khaki skirt with a simple t-shirt on. Males are visual creatures Even if a woman is dressed modestly a male must keep their thoughts pure. Discussing this with my husband he said that a woman could be dressed like Queen Victoria and a man would still ponder the possibilities. Modest dress is only part of chastity, so many will put the burden more heavily on the woman or girl to dress modestly, but the young man must take care to guard his thoughts.
How does this relate to young children? When our children are young we can teach them how to take care of their bodies with proper nutrition and exercise. Additionally I think it is important to teach them how to dress from the beginning. This can be done gently and matter of factly. You teach them the appropriateness of dress for an occasion. That underclothes are not to be worn as outer clothes. You teach them to have respect for all people. You teach them manners. You teach them to respect and love their own bodies. Yes, God gave them this body, so in God’s eyes their body is beautiful and they need to treat it themselves with respect. If they respect themselves, then others will too. Don’t teach them chastity through shame. Negative teaching methods don’t work and often backfire.
Contrary to what some my believe today, chastity is not just for young ladies. Some may put the responsibility squarely on a young lady’s shoulders. If she would only dress more modestly. But chastity is a two way street. We must teach our young boys and men to respect women of all ages, and treat them as individuals, not as sexual objects.  Since chastity involves more than physical sex and involves keeping our thoughts pure it is important to teach our children about the beauty of pure love.

As your child grows it is important to reinforce what you taught them when they were younger. That they are important, Reinforce the lessons in dress. Remind them that men and women are different and teach them to respect that difference.  Explain that sex is something that happens between married couples as an expression of love.
As your child enters into the teenage years, the lessons in chastity should already be deeply ingrained. But if not, don’t fear. You can help them to remain chaste. How is this? My parents gave me the perfect out for anything I did not want to do when I was young. I could simply say “My parents won’t let me”or “My parents would kill me if I did that” They took the heat for me, and took the peer pressure off.

It may be hard for teenagers to avoid temptation if they put themselves in certain situations. Being alone with the opposite sex can very easily become one of those. Add alcohol to that and you add fuel to the fire. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and allows our more basic instincts to take over, instead of our reasoning minds.  “Dating” one on one is best delayed until after 16 or older. Our reasoning for this is that at age 16 many teens can drive themselves. They can meet for dates. Better yet is to arrange group outings of teens that involve an activity, so they can get to know each other. And it goes without saying that going to parties or occasions where alcohol is available should be avoided.

Chastity is more than abstaining from sexual relations before marriage. In Benedictine spirituality, chastity is defined as having a “right relationship” with people in consideration of God, others, and self. In other words, it is how you love God, others, and yourself.  Love is a powerful and often misinterpreted word. It can be used to deceive or it can unite.  Chaste love is pure love, it is love for the sake of love. Chastity is about a relationship of love and respect.


shopannies said...

lesson that is hard to teach but can be done my children believe in no sex before marriage took the promise and have this far lived their lives like so

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

That is wonderful Shopannies, I am soo glad your children made the promise and are living that way. It is not an easy promise to make.

But we have to remember that chastity is not just for children, it is for everyone, even married adults. We must remain chaste to our spouses. We must not partake in activities that would allow impure thoughts to enter our minds. As adults we teach our children best by our living example. I am sure you are a great example to your children and that is why they are able to keep their promise.

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