Thoughts on chastity, sex, and self-mastery.

I stumbled recently upon a tweet or a post in which its writer opined on self-mastery.

I don’t remember who it was or exactly what he or she said (I read a lot of things.). I do remember disagreeing. I suspect, then, that the tweet or post in some way decried the quest for self-mastery as bad. Which wouldn’t surprise me. The culture that surrounds us isn’t conducive to it. The culture that surrounds us ultimately says “be governed by your drives” (for sex, for instance).

We are taught to let our drives decide what we’ll do (want sex, get sex) instead of acknowledging our drives as there, and as God-given, but using other guides, like love and critical thought, to decide why and when to act on them.

Regarding drives, chastity says “govern them.” Chastity says use self-mastery to do it. Self-mastery requires discipline, but to get better at discipline isn’t the point. The point is to get better at love.
Self-mastery is self-dominion. It’s possession of self. It’s being the boss of your drives. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is “ordered to the gift of self.”Love, for single people and priests and nuns and married or celibate people, regardless of sexual orientation or experience or lack thereof, is a gift of self. When we love, we give ourselves in different ways to different people.

This is why, when love is the goal, self-mastery is important.

We can’t give away what we don’t own.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Excellent Arleen. I would only add that if love is given away inappropriately through fornication or adultery, then we don’t possess all of ourselves to give away. Indeed, we can’t give away what we don’t own.

  • That last part really spoke to me. ” We can’t give away what we don’t own.”

    Lately, Papa has really been teaching me self control, and as a result, I feel so much more free to love without boundaries! Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Arleen, thank you so much for writing this. My boyfriend and I just today hit a snag in our relationship in which he kissed me for the first time (I’m 17, and he’s 16), and then we both realized together how much of a mistake that was. It happened because he couldn’t control how he felt (he admitted this to me immediately after when he apologized. I feel like God really led me to this article (even before I had the chance to pray about it) because we are now struggling with the “how physical is too physical?” question, something we’ve never really thought about before. Just by reading this short article made me realize how much we never really thought about anything like this together in our relationship. We were both raised to know what is morally right and wrong outside of marriage, and with that in mind, we just did what felt right. We both now realize that there needs to be control before a more serious mistake is made that could ruin our relationship (we’re determined to work through this one). This is something we both need to work on, and reading this has given me some great insights in talking to him about this issue.