Articles From the October 1994 Unification News


Healthy Love

by Teri Lester

Have you ever wished that you knew a simple way to explain why people should abstain from sex?

Most of us can probably do a pretty good job of explaining about Adam and Eve and Original Sin, but what if you're talking to someone who doesn't believe in Adam and Eve? Or doesn't believe in Original Sin? Or doesn't even believe in God?

Last year, I started working with the Women's Federation for World Peace. I went to a few community leaders, and asked them what they thought WFWP could do to help. One of the statements in the pamphlets is "We hold that chastity before marriage and fidelity in marriage are desirable goals and will help re-direct our youth to more constructive and healthier lives."

Every person pointed to that statement and said "That's what we need." A couple of them went so far as to say, "That's really good, but nobody will ever do it."

Well, I considered that to be a direct challenge. I went to the library to study up on abstinence education, and found out there wasn't much there; just a few religious books and a lot of other books that had a paragraph or so about abstinence, usually saying, "Well, this would be nice, but don't expect anyone to actually do it."

I found that a bit puzzling. I had practiced abstinence quite successfully for many years, and I knew lots of other people who had. What made the difference?

Well, in most of the cases I knew, people had very clear reasons for abstaining, and just as important, lived a lifestyle that discouraged sexual activity outside of marriage. When you are rarely alone with someone of the opposite sex, when you tend to dress conservatively, when you don't go to places where it is convenient to have sex, and when you have a lot of other things to do and think about, you probably won't have sex.

I got some notes together, reserved a room at the local library, and started holding talks every three weeks or so. I sent out press releases to local media, and I got invited to be on TV a couple of times, and each time one or two people attended my talks.

In the beginning, I gave a sort of standard fire-and-brimstone type lecture, full of dire warnings about AIDS and diseases and death and doom. Apparently this is not so effective these days. People have access to CNN and thousands of cable channels, and they've already heard horrible statistics and dire warnings. Sex is such a desirable thing that people don't care; they're willing to risk just about anything.

Many people asked me if I could focus more on positive reasons for abstaining from sex. I realized also that I personally had never really responded well to a lot of threats and dire warnings. So, I started trying to figure out how to present abstinence in a positive way.

Over several months, my talks evolved into the program now called "Healthy Love." I was invited to speak to several high school classes, and in December I wrote a 30-page booklet to hand out at my talks, "Healthy Love: a step-by-step-method for practicing abstinence." In August, I completed the Healthy Love Presenters' Manual, an 86-page guide to learning and teaching Healthy Love.

What exactly is a positive approach to abstinence? How can you be positive about not doing something? You can't. I had to figure out, when we're not having sex, what are we doing?

The answer is: EVERYTHING! Why exactly do we abstain from sex? It's not because sex is bad, because eventually we do have sex, and when we are married, it's a good thing to have sex. The difference between married sex and premarital sex is maturity. We abstain from sex before marriage in order to develop our character, to grow to maturity, so that we are ready and able to make a lifelong commitment to one person, and build a marriage and family with them.

With that understanding, it becomes quite easy to promote abstinence in a very positive way, because then you're not taking something away, you're offering something really good.

Do you think people want to have sex? Or do they want the things that come with sex: love, affection, loyalty, generosity, security? Do you have to have sex to get these things from a relationship? No. The things that we want from a romantic relationship are the same things that we want from every relationship we have.

So, if what we want are love, affection, loyalty, generosity and security, what is the best way to get these things?

The short answer is, if you want to be loved, become a loving person yourself. Focus on developing your character, your ability to love, and you will naturally attract loving people to you. You will become the kind of person everyone wants to be friends with.

There is more to it than that, of course, and that is why the Healthy Love materials are available. The student booklet gives a basic overview of the program, and the Presenters' Manual goes into much more depth, with sections on teaching methods, public speaking, program development, and the crucial chapter on "Clarifying Your Feelings" with advice on how to get over the embarrassment/scariness of talking about sex in public.

Since the program started, I have sold or given away more than 500 booklets. People in 15 different states have ordered Healthy Love materials, and everyone who has used the books has gotten a very positive response. The booklets are very attractive, with assorted neon-colored covers and, with "Healthy" and "Love" in very big letters, they really draw attention!

Healthy Love is very simple. I use stories and examples much more than medical facts or statistics, so that the discussions can really come from the heart. The costs are low, and the time investment can be as much or as little as you wish. If you don't want to give public speeches, you can distribute the books -- one group that ordered booklets is using them for fundraising! No matter what you do, your community will benefit from your efforts.

For more information you can call me, Teri Lester, at (816) 241-1931. If you want to order the books, the manual is $8, and the student booklets are $2 each, or $1.25 each for 10-20 copies, or $1 each for 21 or more copies. There is no extra charge for shipping, but if you live in Kansas, please add sales tax. Mail your order with check payable to RUC Publications, 12736 West 110th Terrace, Overland Park, KS 66210.


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