Emotional Chastity seems to be a relatively recent term, and it could be as a guy that I have been particularly disinterested. As far as I can tell, it has been a discussion among women, in order that women may edify other women. I do believe that the most effective edification and admonishment for girls would be by women. I do offer this, if only to offer a celibate guy’s perspective in my own limited understanding and experience, because a lot of emotional chastity has to do with relationality.
An Anecdote about “Nicki” and “Rosalyn”
As I was applying for religious life, there was this girl, we will call her ‘Nicki,’ who always wanted to talk to me. Often, she would just want to chat about things in her week. More often, she would want to process issues in her life, which was more like therapy than friendship. Although it is normal, perhaps, for a Pastor to be a counselor, the line between therapist and friend was really fuzzy.
She opened herself intimately to me, but I never opened myself to her. The intimacy she thought she had was not mutual, since the trust and openness only flowed in one way. The assumption that there was or should be boundaries was overlooked, and it resulted in problems for her.
After having been in religious life, I went to a few social gatherings with a good friend in a leadership position at the campus ministry of the college we went to. There were several girls there who I did not know from my time being there, one of them, whom we will call “Rosalyn” seemed intensely intent upon having me socialize with them. Rosalyn would make me feel awkward when I could see how determined she was to have me at all of their parties. When I would be around her, she looked at me as having this magnificent connection that I had no idea existed.
In all honesty, there was a long time where I carried a lot of guilt over their behavior toward me. After a long time, I reflected on it, and I think that these were some of the conclusions that I arrived at, and I believed it was connected to what is often referred to as ‘emotional chastity.’
In many of our close friendships, we build bonds by engaging in intimacy. Here I principally mean intimate conversation. We unveil intimate details and emotions of our inner-workings with close friends, and sometimes to objective strangers in the case of a therapist. Guys are typically more reticent then girls to unveil their inner motivations, perhaps because girls have a better capacity to articulate it then do guys. I think one aspect of Emotional Chastity, insofar as I understand, is located in the manner and amount of conversational intimacy that girls should engage in.
Sometimes this “unveiling” of the heart is so incredibly rapid and desperate, that a girl will turn herself into some sort of emotional porn. It causes a one sided bond to develop. The reaction of the guy, although subconscious, will probably find himself easily bored with a girl who shows off too much. Instead of allowing a safe and healthy bond to be nurtured over time, the girl does violence to herself, and exposes her heart like an image of porn. Instead of allowing a holistic bond to grow out of smiles, laughter, and innocence, that innocence is desecrated by desperation.
The flipside looks completely different. When you are emotional chaste, you are confident that there will be plenty of opportunities for a relationship to unfold, grow and flourish when it is not yanked out from the roots before it blossoms.
I must admit, as a guy, I do not always understand how women’s brains work. I think I am okay with that. I do not want to reduce a woman to a predetermined science or strategy. As far as a lot of women tell me, they process relationships so much more intricately then men. I don’t know if I can say anything here that will make me sound stupid, but anyways. I think that emotional chastity is also located here.
I know that as a young guy, I spent a lot of time objectifying different girls I knew, by making them the object of hyper-sexualized fantasies. Not very many girls I know admit to getting carried away by the imagination in this way, but have admitted being carried away by a fantasy of what seems incredibly chaste to the kinds of fantasies I had. Even if the fantasies are of emotional ecstasy, marriage, communication, romance, and a family, they are still fantasies that are not founded in reality but originate and remain in her head. What makes these fantasies remarkably similar is the amount of pleasure that we derive from them. As I spoke of virtue, we need not only moderation of enjoying things, but in this case, the moderation of accepting reality as reality is.
In the case of Rosalyn, I always felt awkward. She appeared to have some “memory” of some amazing connection we had, that I was never aware of. All that I can guess is that she let her imagination run wild.
A Generic Act of Kindness and A Specific Act of Kindness
In the two anecdotes of Nicki and Rosalyn, I indicated that there was a dangerously unhealthy bond that developed that was way out of my control. It did not mean that I have not felt a tremendous amount of guilt ironically for the mistakes of others. I think that there was in both cases a generic act of kindness mistaken for a specific act of kindness. Nicki and Rosalyn both saw how I was generically kind, and generically compassionate to them. They took it personal, as if I was doing it to them specifically and particularly.
A lot of friendships develop with exchanging gifts, you know like playground kids exchanging their lunch pail items saying “I’ll be your friend.” Although it takes more, there is already mutuality, and the exchange is precisely specific. Sometimes people will reach out to someone in particular and exchange a more useful gift.
On a more romantic level, when a guy is interested and intent, he will show it by how much time he wants to waste, just to be near you, and the fact that he wants to spend all kinds of money on meaningful gifts which have no other practical purpose then to express that he cares. A guy pays attention to you for five minutes because you stand in front of him and wave your arms seeking him out, is just a generic act of kindness. A guy who taps you on the shoulder just to pay attention to you at the expense of every girl in the room, that is a specific act of kindness.
The Garden of the Heart
The heart of a girl is a beautiful garden, in it brilliantly fragrant flowers bloom and sweet aromatic fruits grow. Therefore, it needs a lot of tender loving care and affection. Ultimately, if Jesus is permitted presence in her heart, the garden will flourish.
A lot of young girls open up the garden so that any guy can easily roam, trample, and steal what she has exposed and submitted herself. It is not accident that the word “garden” and “guarded” sound the name, as they have the same root word. In order for a garden to flourish, it needs to be guarded. In order that a girls heart may flourish, it needs to be guarded.
It may be, that out of a heart with an abundant and lively garden, from time to time, she will desire to pick out a flower or a fruit and share it with a guy who has earned such a privilege of the wonders of who she is. But not too much, because soon the guy will learn that there is other heart quite like yours, and he will know that he will need to return.