Let’s face it. Purity is not always the easiest virtue to cultivate. And our culture isn’t giving young men any breaks!
But the battle against lust is one that every Catholic man must fight. While that fight looks different for everyone, here are five ways that will help you begin to embrace your dignity as a son of God and grow in chastity.
5 Essential Tips To Living A Pure Life
1. Commit to Christ
“If purity is above all a gift from God, then our goal ought to be to dispose ourselves to receive this gift from Him. To do this, you need a spiritual plan of life.” So write authors Jason Evert and Matt Fradd in “Forged: 33 Days Toward Freedom,” a book and accompanying digital program specifically designed to help men conquer lust.
A spiritual plan of life begins with a commitment to Jesus. Not only is he our Savior, he is the perfection of all the virtues and shows us how to live chastity as fully integrated men. As the book of Hebrews reminds us, Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, but without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Our commitment to chastity simply cannot be effective unless it is accompanied by a commitment to Christ.
2. Take Your Body to Task
If you find yourself struggling with lust, disciplining your body is a powerful way to remain in control of your desires — and not let your desires control you.
Fasting is a surefire way to build the spiritual strength to resist temptation. Start by saying no to small pleasures — that extra slice of pizza, cream in your coffee or salt on your food — and soon it will be easier to say no to sexual temptations because you know how to discipline your own desires.
St. Josemaría Escrivá did not mince words when it came to the importance of mortifying one’s flesh to preserve purity: “To defend his purity, Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, Saint Benedict threw himself into a thornbush, Saint Bernard plunged into an icy pond….What have you done?” Take his challenge to heart by taking your own body to task for the sake of chastity.
3. Run From Your Inclination to Sin
Every man knows the situations and circumstances that tend to tempt him. Make a list of who, what, when and what locations prove to be triggers for you personally. Then, to the best of your ability, run from those people, places and things.
If scrolling through social media before bed is problematic, get an analog alarm clock and leave your phone outside your bedroom. If you have friends who send you graphic images, tell them to stop and if they won’t, block them. If spending too much alone time with your girlfriend leaves you vulnerable, take her to visit family and friends, schedule a run in the park together or spend time at a coffee shop and surround yourself with people.
Whatever causes you to sin should be avoided at all costs. Period.
4. Don’t Run From Your Inclination to Sin
This point may seem counter to the previous one, but they are two sides of the same coin. Just as you need to have a plan for escaping a potentially sinful situation, you need to be honest about your struggles and face them head-on.
Don’t ignore any issues you have in the area of lust. Don’t think that by pretending the problems aren’t there, they will disappear.
In “Forged,” Jason Evert and Matt Fradd are direct: “Reject the temptation to hide. Take an honest look at who you are and who you want to be.”
First, name your sins — in number and kind — in the Sacrament of Confession. As St. Philip Neri said, “A temptation disclosed is half overcome.”
Second, regularly assess how you are doing in the area of lust. If sexual sin is starting to take hold of you, it could be time to talk to a parent, priest or professional to get help.
How you handle your desires and temptations impacts everything from your relationship with God to your vocation and your physical and mental health. Don’t be afraid to face your challenges openly, no matter how secret or shameful they may seem to you.
The whole premise behind “Forged” is that “iron sharpens iron.” Evert and Fradd have designed the book to be followed by two men together: father and son, brothers or friends. They know that we are not meant to “go it alone” when it comes to cultivating chastity.
A trusted friend or brother can lift you up when sin is pulling you down, celebrate with you when you overcome temptation and provide you with perspective at times when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
In a real way, a godly friend can make God’s love manifest in your life. Find that friend — and be that friend. The path to purity is best traveled with a like-minded companion.
Living purity in an increasingly hostile culture takes real strength, discipline and prayer. Resources like “Forged,” Covenant Eyes, and Chastity Project are available to empower you to grow in virtue and, most importantly, become the man God desires you to be.