A heart filled with love rises to the greatest challenges. In college I used to wake up at 5:00 in the morning twice a week to meet with the young woman I was seeing. Then we would drive to Pittsburgh in the freezing weather in order to do pro-life work together. I am not a morning person, and since I was born in Florida and raised in Arizona, I am not real big on snow either.
But the sacrifice of getting up in the cold did not seem to matter because of the joy of being together. In the same way, the sacrifices you make to live chastely seem light when they are done for the sake of love. In the words of Saint Josemaría Escrivá, “When you decide firmly to lead a clean life, chastity will not be a burden on you: it will be a crown of triumph.”
When we lose sight of why we are sacrificing, the challenges of love seem heavy. You may be tempted to think, “No one’s going to get hurt from a little fun on a date. Maybe I should just give in.” That is when you must look into your heart and remember why—or more specifically, for whom—you are waiting. What is worth more: a few moments of pleasure or giving your bride the lifelong joy of knowing that you saved yourself for her? Always remember that love for a woman and the exercise of chastity go hand in hand. Chastity cannot exist without love, and love cannot exist without chastity.
When it comes to love and lust, one will be in control. Either love will overpower lust and your passions will be under your control, or lust will dominate and corrupt any love that was once present. It is your choice.
I will admit that a life of chastity involves times of trial and even heroic struggle. This is because struggle cannot be separated from love. The kind of love that endures and makes you happy is not easy. “Chastity is a difficult, long term matter,” Pope John Paul II said. “One must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving-kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness.”
Did you catch that? Chastity is the sure way to happiness. Love can be demanding at times, but it is precisely because of that challenge that true love takes on such a rare beauty.
In regard to what to say to your girlfriend so that you do not feel like a geek, how about something along these lines: “I have so much fun when we’re together, and I really like being with you . . . so I don’t want to mess this up by doing things we could regret. I want to fall in love with you for all the right reasons.”
Trust me, when you say that, “geek” will not be on her mind. But if she, or any of the guys, look down on you for having this much love, so be it. You care more about your God, the heart of your future spouse, and the health of your future children than you do about the passing pleasures of prom night and the opinions of an adolescent locker room. She is worth waiting for—even if you are the only one who seems to realize it. So wait for the woman God has in mind for you, and when you get married your bride can spend the entire honeymoon telling you how much of a geek she thinks you are for waiting for her. Sometimes being a fool in the eyes of the world is excessively romantic.
If others pressure you, some adults advise that you forget the insults and mockery. I advise the opposite. Remember the names that you are called for living a chaste life, and remember the jokes. Then when you stand before the altar and lift your bride’s veil, listen. Listen carefully. Where is the laughter? There is only silence, because you have won. You are the victor; the people who mocked you would much rather to be in your shoes right now. True love is a great gift because it is costly. As Mother Teresa said, “Love, to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”
It might cost you your reputation. It might even cost you certain friendships. But this is precisely why true love is such a rarity today. Those who have the goal of true love should prepare their hearts for sacrifice. God knows the path is challenging, but he would not call us to this lifestyle without providing us the graces to live it.
Sure, the mockery is not fun while you are going through it, but think about why they are pressuring you. It is not because their lifestyle is so fulfilling and they want what is best for you, but because your life of chastity sets the standard high. This probably makes others feel guilty. Their consciences would bug them less if you made the same mistakes they are making. Believe me, you are not missing out on anything by not having a series of broken sexual relationships.
Withstand the abuse also for the sake of men. We guys have a reputation as jerks and we bear a particular responsibility for the many wounds caused to women. There is a certain balance of love between the sexes that needs to be restored. Pope John Paul II wrote: “The man has a special responsibility, as if it depended more on him whether the balance is kept or violated or even—if it has already been violated—reestablished.” So I commend you for being willing to stand for virtue when it is anything but popular.
You may feel that you stick out in a bad way, but without self mastery we do not stick out at all. We become dull beasts, and there is nothing unique about us. With purity we can become radiant, clear, and alive with a uniqueness that women will not fail to see. Sin dulls our individuality. If we wish to be most unique and most fully ourselves, we will find our identity in Christ.
God and women are both searching for men with backbone. For God’s sake, may we be such men. The world today desperately needs men who are not afraid to be gentlemen, men who understand what it means to be a man and are willing to take up that yoke of responsibility, men who will guard a woman instead of seeking ways to empty her of her innocence.
. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way (New York: Scepter, 2002), 40.
. Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 172.
. Michael Collopy, Works of Love Are Works of Peace (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996), 30.
. Pope John Paul II, general audience, July 30, 1980, as quoted in Man and Woman He Created Them, 261.