I have found that chastity doesn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always tried and wanted to be a good guy. In high school I wrestled with disordered sexual desires; I didn’t want them, but they were a challenge for me. In my late teens, I heard a great chastity talk and wanted to put it more into practice, but it was not as simple as just willing to be pure. In college I encountered Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body for the first time, and it was of further inspiration and help. Nonetheless, I was not the man of integrity I wanted to be.
Somewhere in the years that followed I discovered that chastity doesn’t work for me. My approach to chastity was self-improvement. I wanted to be better than someone ruled by his desires, a slave to my passions. I wanted to be a saint, and I focused on myself, on combating my sins, on conquering my desires. … I believe this was a mistake.
St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as willing the good of another. I failed to focus on love as the answer. Chastity doesn’t work for us, it works when focused on the other. Chastity didn’t work for me as a self-help program; it needed to be focused on doing what was best for others—out of love for them.
It meant rather than trying not to use girls, I should have been focused on praying for them and encouraging them to be saints. It meant rather than trying not to lust after ladies I found attractive in real life or portrayed in media, I needed to see them with God’s eyes, with love. It meant rather than trying to stop abusing my sexuality, I needed to discover what a gift it was and the power it has to call me to selfless love, just as Christ gave up his life for us.
Approaching my tenth wedding anniversary to a bride that is an absolute gift from God in my life, with two miraculous children that teach me the meaning of love each day, and spending my career in service of Christ and his Church, I still do not have things all sorted out. I still struggle with temptations and desires that I do not want. However, by the grace of God, the more I shift from being self-focused to lovingly other-focused the better chastity “works” for me.
Anthony Digmann is a Catholic husband and father serving the Church as an author, speaker, high school theology teacher, and video producer. He is the author of Sign of Contradiction: Contraception, Family Planning, and Catholicism (One More Soul, 2015). Anthony’s education includes a MA in Theology and BA in Religious Studies and Electronic Media with a minor in Ethics. Visit his webpage at anthonydigmann.com.