- What's Too Far?
In today’s culture it often seems as though dating has become
more of a common past-time and less a search for a suitable marriage
partner. Because of this, along with the general decline of moral
standards in society, it is often the case that unmarried couples
become so physically involved with one another that they can no
longer clearly see what is appropriate and modest behavior before
God. This is unfortunate, because it is difficult to discern a life-long
marriage partner when the eyes of the couple are clouded by uncontrolled
sexual passions and desires.
Among dating couples who do desire to live in the grace of God,
some of the common questions asked are, “What are we allowed
to do?” “Have we gone too far?” “Have we
sinned?” There are some general rules that unmarried couples
should abide by in order to foster the virtues of chastity, charity
and self-control in the relationship so that the couple can truly
come to know one another and God’s Will for them.
First of all, we must look at the actions
of the couple itself.
There are two very different kinds of actions.
The first is the action that is, by its very nature, so closely
related to the sexual desires that they serve no other purpose except
to stimulate and arouse the persons involved. Some examples of these
would be: prolonged and passionate kissing, impure embracing or
petting, and sexual intercourse.
These actions are always gravely wrong between unmarried people,
and no “good intention” can ever make them right. If
the action is committed intentionally and with sufficient reflection,
then it is a mortal sin. If there is no reflection, as can happen
sometimes when an impure action occurs without any forethought or
intention at all, one does not sin mortally. However, it does not
change the fact that the act itself was gravely wrong and one should
be very careful not to let it happen again.
The second kind of action is anything that is in and of itself
morally good or neutral, which does not have as its sole purpose
the stimulation of the sexual passions. Some examples of these would
be: dancing with a boyfriend/girlfriend, holding hands, kissing,
affectionate or friendly embracing. While these acts are good or
neutral in and of themselves and serve another purpose entirely,
they can still have the effect of causing one to become aroused.
Is this then sinful? For every person, the answer can be different,
according to his or her intent for doing the action.
Any boy who has the intention of dancing with a girl in order to
become aroused, or in order to arouse her, has already sinned against
chastity and charity even though the dance itself might have been
morally neutral. His intent was impure. Another example would be
if that same boy found that while affectionately embracing his girlfriend
he became aroused, and he continued to embrace her with the intent
of further arousing himself or arousing her, even though the embrace
itself was nothing at all impure.
The boy who modestly kisses a girl and becomes aroused, but does
not intend the arousal has not sinned even venially. Nor does he
sin if he remains aroused, but does not will or desire the arousal.
However, as soon as he begins to enjoy the arousal or desire it,
then it is time to stop whatever action is causing the arousal,
even if it is a morally good or neutral action. To continue would
be to commit sin.
Occasions of Sin
Since people are different, different things can be for them near
occasions of sin. By near occasion of sin we mean anything that
“sets the stage” TO sin. For example, a couple may know
from experience that every time they sit alone in the dark watching
movies, the situation between them almost always tends to “go
too far.” For the sake of their souls then, it would be prudent
for them to watch movies with the lights on, or with other friends
in the room.
What if they continue doing what they know causes them to sin gravely?
Then that too would be sinful, since intentionally putting oneself
in an occasion of sin is a sign that one is willing to flirt with
disaster—one is willing to sin, if it “just happens.”
There are three basic things to keep in mind while dating:
Never seek out anything solely for the pleasure it brings to us.
To do these would be a violation of chastity because we lack control
of our sexual desires and appetites, and a violation of charity
because we see the other person as an object to our pleasure.
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