There are some questions that never seem to get properly answered when you ask them. “Daddy, why is the sky blue?” “Mommy, where do babies come from?” “Aunt Edna, could you help me reconcile the thermodynamic principle of entropy with the theory of evolution?” But the one that probably most frustrates high school teens, and the one that most youth ministers seem to be most inadequately prepared to answer, is: “When I’m kissing my boyfriend/girlfriend, how far is too far?”
Let’s face it. It’s a simple question that should have a simple answer, right? There should be some kind of line drawn in the sand that is not to be crossed; we should be able to be told that, of course, a simple peck on the cheek or lips is fine, but anything longer than 3.68 seconds is to be considered “making out,” and is sinful (albeit only venial, whereas exceeding 6 seconds is a mortal sin). Right?
Wrong. That’s not the way this works. If you’re asking “how far is too far,” the problem is not entirely that nobody’s giving you a good answer (although that certainly doesn’t help). The real problem is that there is no truly good answer, because it’s the wrong question to ask.
Here’s the deal. As a good, faithful Catholic, you obviously want to love your significant other rather than lust after them. So you’ve been asking the question, “At what point do I cross the line from love into lust?” But really, you should be asking, “What is the most loving thing I can possibly do for him or her right now? How can I most purely express my love for this person?” Do you see the distinction? The first question asks what the restrictions are. The second question asks what the most unrestricted way in which we can love is. The first question asks, “What is bad?” The second question asks, “What is good?” The first asks, “How do I avoid an act of lust?” The second asks, “How do I perform an act of love?”
So it seems that we need to define love. We know that God is Love, and that He so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins, so if there’s anything that Christ taught us, it’s the definition of Love, which is this: Love is doing what is best for another regardless of cost to yourself. Stop and reread that definition again. Write it down on a Post-It and stick it to your mirror. Repeat it over and over and over until you wake your parents up at 3 AM because you’re yelling it in your sleep. Let that sucker sink into your brain, because that is how this whole dating business works.
At any and every given moment with your significant other, you should be asking yourself the question, “What is the best thing I can do for him/her, regardless of what that might mean for me?” And let’s face it – if you really are asking yourself that question, and being honest about it, you will find that the answers are already there in plain sight. Is the best way to express my love for her a kiss? Maybe sometimes, yes. But was that kiss I just gave her really an expression of love, or was it just lust? Was it pure and chaste and beautiful and communicating everything of the sacrifices I am willing to make for her, or was it the result of a head full of hormones to the point that I couldn’t control myself? Or perhaps the situation is not a kiss, but physical body position. If I am doing what is best for him, is pressing up against him like this really what he needs right now? Am I communicating the purity of a Christ-like love to him, or am I leading him to lust after me?
Ultimately, the question is: Are we measuring up to the standard of Westley and Buttercup?
One of the best possible things you can do to avoid going too far in these situations is to sit down with one another in a place where you will not be so far from the public that you will be tempted to lose your heads – perhaps a library, a fast food restaurant, or the courtyard of your church. Clear your heads, pray this prayer together for chastity and purity, and then have a conversation. Work together and set concrete boundaries for yourselves, both obvious ones and not-so-obvious ones. Ladies, you may have to sacrifice your shorty-shorts and two-piece bikinis if it is honestly giving him trouble. Gentlemen, it might be best if you commit to not being anywhere near her after 12 AM, because let’s be honest – nothing good happens after midnight.
Note the key word present in both of these examples: “honest.” This DTR (that’s Determining The Relationship talk, for the uninitiated) will require complete, absolute honesty both with your shawty and with yourself. You will both need to be able to look each other in the eye and say, “You know, deep down, I really don’t think [insert habit or action here] is good for us if we are pursuing a Christ-like love.” You’re gonna need to have the guts to own up to this stuff. It probably won’t be easy, which is why you should pray before you talk. But if you’re seriously in it to win it – if you want to love someone like Jesus loves you, if you’re going to step up to the plate and freaking LOVE – you’re going to have to conquer your fear with courage. But if you’re in a relationship, it can’t just be each of you individually attempting to be chaste, it also must be a team effort, striving for chastity as a couple, and that requires honesty, courage, and self-awareness.
I will write more on this subject in the future, as there is definitely much more to be said, but to close this post, I’d like to point out one more thing that must be said: There are things that constitute lustful acts 100% of the time (at least for an unmarried dating couple). Sex outside of marriage is an obvious one. Maybe slightly less obvious are things like inappropriate touching, sleeping in the same bed (even without sex), and insanely long lip-locking sessions. You may have a desire to do these things, and maybe you could even convince yourself that it is for his or her good – that causing your boo to feel pleasure equals “doing what is best for them,” but come on. Seriously. If you have to try and convince your conscience that what you’re doing is okay, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s actually not.
Until next time, ladies and gents, I bid you adieu.