Saturday, December 2, 2017
Choosing the Easy No
If you are dating someone, deciding not having sex with them until you are married will probably be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. If you are single, then avoiding porn, masturbation, and erotic novels will probably be just as hard. Purity is the damnedest virtue. Everybody seems to struggle with it in a greater or lesser degree.
I am sure that the most-confessed sins that priest hear are sins against purity, especially from dating couples. As an engaged woman, I can relate. My fiancé and I have struggled to stay out of the bedroom since the first days of declaring our relationship official on Facebook (the only way it’s official of course). And while it’s a good thing that we’re attracted to each other, it sure can be a nuisance sometimes when we have to run off to confession every Saturday (and I’ve run out of voices so the priest doesn’t recognize me). Whenever we end up falling together, we always feel so terrible afterwards. We know we can do better. We know God expects more of us. But why is it so damn hard?
The inclination towards sin is engrained in our human nature, and sins against purity can quickly become a habit. Sexual sins are especially hard to avoid because our bodies react so strongly to the pleasure that comes from them. Once you head past a certain point, it’s literally impossible to turn back. Our brains and bodies go on autopilot. We forget about God, our resolve not to sin, and the consequences of sin. Then, when it’s all over, we crash back to reality and beat ourselves up. We KNOW better! We PROMISED God we wouldn’t sin anymore! Now we have to go to confession AGAIN.
God designed our bodies and our sex drives to be a one-track-mind kind of action. Once we become aroused enough, our instinct kicks in and we yield to the pleasure of sex. This works great when we are married and having sex with our spouse, but it’s not so great when we’re nervously making out in the back seat of a car or trying to resist the urge to open an incognito tab for browsing those porn sites. We know we’re going down a dangerous road, but we are so caught up in the moment that we don’t have the power to stop it.
Or do we?
Let’s consider this scenario. You’ve just picked up your girlfriend from her dorm room and you’ve gone out to an Italian restaurant for dinner. You go out for a movie afterwards and you’re driving her back to her dorm when you see an empty parking lot on the left side of the road. You’re full of pasta and wine and you would really like a little dessert. You know you shouldn’t, but you flick on your turn signal, pull into the lot, and shut off the engine. You know you shouldn’t, but you both climb into the back seat. She knows she shouldn’t, but she starts unbuttoning her shirt. You know you shouldn’t, but you help her get her shirt off and reach around to unclasp her bra. You know you shouldn’t, but you push away your last remaining shred of self control and conscience and have at it.
What happened here was that you and your bae were faced with a series of choices. You saw the empty parking lot. You had a choice to keep driving, but you decided not to and pulled in to the lot. You then had a choice to not shut the engine off and drive out again, but you decided not to. You both then had a choice to not get in the backseat, but you both decided to do that anyway. The choices you both were faced with kept getting harder and harder. Now she’s got her shirt unbuttoned. You’re getting really aroused and excited and so is she. You can both still choose to put your clothes back on and keep driving, but it’s a lot harder to make that choice now that you’ve already come so far.
The best and easiest choice to make would have been to stop yourself as you were deciding whether or not to pull into that parking lot. That would have been the “easiest No.” But now that you’ve both gotten so far into your bad choices, your brains go into “what the hell” mode and you’ve both lost the capacity to make reasonable choices. That’s what your brain is designed to do during sex. You can’t change that, but you can work around it.
Consider this scenario. It’s a Friday night and your friends have invited you to play laser tag with them, but your introverted side is coming out and you say that you’ll let them know. You go up to your room. You know you shouldn’t, but you lock the door. You see your laptop sitting on your desk. You know you shouldn’t, but you sit down and pop open an incognito browser tab. You know you shouldn’t, but you type in the address of a porn site. You know you shouldn’t, but you hit Enter. You know you should shut your laptop and walk away, but the images captivate you and you give in to them.
Here, too, you were faced with a series of choices. What would have been the “easiest No” in this situation? Not locking your bedroom door, or maybe not even going up to your room at all. But by the time you decided to say No, it was too late and your brain and instinct had taken over.
It’s not impossible to be pure if you recognize the “script” that leads you into impure situations and say no before it’s too late. Take it easy on yourself, and give yourself a break. You’re not superman, so don’t put yourself in situations where it will take a superhuman effort to say No. Choose the Easy No. It’s a lot easier than you might think, and it will save you some embarrassing trips to confession four times a week.