To My Former Students Who are Tempted to Give Up on Chastity
Note: I wrote this letter after a series of conversations with several of my former students who expressed to me their loneliness in trying to practice chastity in high school and college. I taught over 1,000 students in the nine years I spent as a high school theology teacher. Some of my former students are only sophomores in high school, and some of them are married with kids now. Even though this is for them, it might also be for you.
My dear former students,
You know, I hope, that I love you. I love you, even if it’s been ten years since I taught you in freshman theology. I love you, even if you hated my guts while you were in my class, or you were/are an atheist, or you were/are vehemently anti-Catholic, or you’ve left the Church since high school.
I love you, and for the time you were in my class, you were entrusted to me, by both your parents and your Creator, and my mission was to show you a tiny glimpse of the Father’s love. I hope I did so and that you saw that glimpse for what it was--even though I was such an imperfect vessel at times. Please forgive me for the times when I did not communicate that love to you clearly through the way that I treated you in and out of the classroom.
Because you know that I love you, I hope you’ll read this letter with an open heart and mind. Maybe you’ve already given up on chastity (remember: that’s the virtue by which we--with God’s help--control our sexual desires so that we love others instead of using them); maybe you’re addicted to pornography and don’t know how to stop (or if you really want to); maybe you’re sleeping with your boyfriend/girlfriend or have had a series of hook-ups that haven’t gone anywhere; maybe you’ve contracted an STD or have had an abortion; maybe you’ve gotten drunk and done things you always swore you wouldn’t.
Maybe you feel like damaged goods.
Maybe you’re getting further away from the man or woman you really want to be.
Maybe you’re wondering why you’re still upset about something that happened in a past sexual relationship, even though you swore you’d never let yourself get hurt.
Maybe you listened to all of the things I said in class about sex and marriage and chastity and waiting and expecting more than what the world offers and thought, “Yeah, that sounds really nice, Miss Dehan. But it’s not possible for me.”
Maybe you’ve already given up. If that’s the case, I have a message for you at the end of this letter, so stay tuned.
Maybe you've been sexually assaulted, abused, or raped. If that's the case, then I want you to know the following: you are NOT damaged goods, it was NOT your fault, and you have NOT sinned against chastity--the person who attacked or abused you did. There is healing to be found in prayer, the Sacraments, and therapy--and no matter what has been done to you, you CAN have a beautiful marriage someday. Nothing is impossible for God.
For now, I’m going to address those of you who haven’t given up (or at least haven’t given it all up), but are feeling like freaks and like you can’t possibly keep this up through the rest of high school/college/till you get married.
You know that voice in the back of your mind that keeps telling you that you’re weird? That it’s “not natural” to wait to have sex until you’re married? That if you’re in a relationship and you aren’t at least having oral sex, you’re “repressing” yourselves and don’t really love each other? That you’re a freak if you haven’t kissed/hooked up/had sex by the time you’re a freshman in college? That voice ultimately comes from Satan.
Jesus called Satan the “Father of Lies”, and that is exactly what those are: lies. The world will try to sell you this pack of lies so that later, when you’ve fallen for the lies and been burned, you can give the world--Planned Parenthood, the porn industry, the pharmaceutical companies that peddle birth control like it’s candy, etc--your money.
The world (and by “the world” I mean much of the entertainment industry, the women’s ‘healthcare’ industry, the porn industry, etc) will try to convince you that you can have “no-strings-attached” sex--just make sure you buy these condoms or pump your body full of hormones you don’t need by taking this pill, or have an abortion provider nearby in case something goes wrong.
The world will try to convince you that if you’re feeling depressed after a sexual relationship ends, there’s something wrong with you--and oh, by the way, here are some antidepressants you can buy to help deal with the pain while you keep having sex with someone you’re not married to, who isn’t committed to you.
The world will try to convince you that those people who wait till marriage to have sex are either crazy, sexually repressed, unattractive, or non-existent--because there’s absolutely no money in virginity these days.
I’m here to tell you, with the new conviction of a recently-married woman, the same thing I told you when I was your teacher: the world is wrong.
You see, when I was your teacher, I was still single and, while I definitely sinned against chastity in various ways during my relationships as a single woman, by the grace of God I was able to remain a virgin until marriage. I trusted Christ and the Church’s wisdom that marriage is the only appropriate and truly safe place for sex. I only dated men who also trusted the Church. We struggled, but we trusted.
But I didn’t fully understand how wrong the world is, and just how wise the Church is until I got married and finally experienced the “one flesh union” that the Church talks about.
I don’t want to creep you out, so I’m obviously not going to go into details here, but let’s just say that now that I’ve experienced making love with my husband, it blows my little pea-sized brain that so many of my students have already had sex. Because, and this is particularly for you ladies, it really can’t be that great if you don’t truly love the person (and even if you do, high school/college age boys generally do NOT know what they’re doing/don’t really care about making it enjoyable for the girl). All of those movies that make teenage/college sex sound so awesome are lying to you, or they’re written purely from a male perspective, or both.
And even if you really, truly love the person (or think you do), there is no replacement for the security of the sacrament of marriage. That is why chastity for single people means saving sexual activity for marriage: because the Church wants her children to experience the free, total, faithful, and fruitful love Kristian and I have experienced since we were married.
Now, I know a big part of why many of you haven't embraced chastity is because you've never seen a "secure", happy marriage, or you don't know anyone who has. Maybe your parents are divorced or unhappily married, and it's impossible for you to imagine two people truly loving each other till death do us part.
I know that even if that's the case, when you're really honest with yourself, you want what marriage is supposed to be: a secure relationship where you can be 100% yourself and still be 100% loved. I promise you that even if you've never seen it, marriages like that do exist. They are possible. And if you need someone to convince you of that, give me a call (you probably still have my number anyway).
But marriages like that become increasingly more difficult for people who spend their high school and college years sleeping around, hopping from relationship to relationship, watching porn on the regular, etc.
I’m NOT saying that if you have already given up on chastity--or made mistakes you can’t take back--that it’s too late for you. The Lord can forgive and heal you and give you a beautiful marriage, even if your spouse isn’t your “first”.
However, any decent therapist will tell you that the more sexual/emotional wounds you have from previous relationships, the harder it will be to feel truly safe and loved and united to your husband or wife. It’s not impossible, just harder, and I for one don’t want your life to be any harder than it needs to be.
So, here’s my plea to those of you who are still on the fence--who are not quite sure if this whole chastity thing is worth it--don’t give in. Don’t give up. Don’t be fooled by Satan and all of his empty promises. Pray. Fast. Look for good friends who will support you (not make fun of you) in your desire to have truly healthy relationships with the opposite sex. Refuse to date people who don’t share your convictions (and ladies, trust me: you can’t change his mind about this). Seek Christ’s presence in prayer, the Eucharist, and confession. Do not be afraid to live a radically beautiful life--and don’t be afraid to reach out to me if you need to be reminded of any of this. Chastity is one thousand percent WORTH IT!
And to those of my dear students who feel like they’re “too far gone,” like “damaged goods,” like God could never forgive your sexual sins: don’t give in to the temptation to despair. Satan loves to convince us that our sins are no big deal before we commit them, and to convince us afterward that they’re too horrible to ever bring to the light. Bring it all to the light of Christ’s love in confession. The priest will not judge you. All he will do is pour out God’s mercy upon you so that you can begin again. It’s not too late. It’s never too late until you’re dead. And yes, you will die someday. Why not live your life--starting today--in a way that is truly satisfying?
That’s all I have to say for now, but I’ll close with one of my favorite quotations by one of my favorite people in the world (you know who I’m talking about):
“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness” --Benedict XVI--
Miss Dehan (now Mrs. Jaloway...but you can call me Miss Dehan for the rest of your life if you want to :))
Resources to help you stay committed to truly loving yourself and others:
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Prayers for Chastity (super helpful!)