Articles From the February 1995 Unification News


Healthy Love: Questions And Answers on Abstinence, Part One

By Teri Lester

This is the first of a series of four extracts from Healthy Love: 36 Questions and Answers on Practicing Abstinence.

Most abstinence-based programs focus primarily on the need to reduce the risks associated with premature sexual activity. However, this approach overlooks the fact that human beings are natural risk-takers. We yearn to drive the fastest car, climb the highest mountain, and ride the crest of the biggest wave; our original nature is willing to risk everything for the "pearl of great price".

Healthy Love constitutes a different approach to abstinence education that seeks primarily to stimulate the idealism of teens, so that they will want to practice abstinence as the way of life most consistent with their own highest values. Abstinence should be a choice rather than a chore. Abstinence means choosing true love rather than false love; choosing deep, caring, unchanging relationships, rather than relationships that are shallow, self-serving, and short-lived.

The following questions are from the booklet Healthy Love: 36 Questions and Answers on Practicing Abstinence. This booklet and other Healthy Love materials are available for purchase; ordering information is at the end.

1. What is the Healthy Love Program? Healthy Love is a new kind of abstinence education. Abstinence has been widely recognized as the best protection from AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancy. There are many programs that promote abstinence, but few that give any practical advice on how to reasonably accomplish an abstinent lifestyle. We have developed a program that teaches the difference between sex and love, and gives realistic, desirable alternatives to premature sexual activity. We present a step-by-step method for making the choices that will reinforce a decision to remain abstinent, so that no one has to rely on willpower alone.

2. Why do you call it Healthy Love? The word abstinence focuses on what you're not doing, rather than what you are doing. When you're not having sex prematurely, you are free to love and be loved, to do lots of things, and to grow and become a mature person capable of real, true, deep, strong love. The term "Healthy Love" illustrates perfectly the process that includes abstaining from premature sexual activity.

3. Can abstinence be taught? Sex doesn't happen by accident; any time we are in a situation where we have to decide whether or not to have sex, we have already made choices that have brought us to that point. These choices involve who we're with, where we go, what we wear, what we carry with us, and what we're thinking. In reality, everyone practices abstinence most of the time. Any time we are not actually having sex, we are abstaining from sex. If you are not having sex with every attractive person that you meet, then you are practicing abstinence-so you must know of some context in which abstinence is realistic. What we need to do is learn how to practice abstinence consistently. Abstinence can be learned and practiced the same way we learn and practice any other skill, from playing the flute to driving a car. To successfully practice abstinence, we need to learn how to make choices that support our decision to be abstinent. Recognizing situations and making choices are skills that can be learned and practiced.

4. What kind of love do we search for? There are different types of love. Different intensities of love have a different level of commitment. Everybody has a dream of an ideal love partner. We want someone who will love us without condition and without change. Should we seek after this ideal love, or should we compromise? Should we care if our ideal love partner has previously been in a sexual relationship with someone else? Real love is unchanging and permanent; nobody wants to live happily for a little while! We all yearn for relationships that will last. We cherish the friends we have known the longest. Real love is focused on others. If I am self-centered, people won't want to be around me for long. Real love is generous, unselfish, even sacrificial, giving of ourselves to others, without thinking of what we get in return. Real love is strong-some say it's the strongest power in the universe. People will give their lives, anything they have to find love. Real love is deep and passionate-whoever we love, we love to the very ends of the earth!

5. Does real love only exist in a romantic relationship? No, the things we want from a romantic relationship-permanence, affection, generosity, intimacy, security-are actually the same things we want from every love relationship we have.

6. Where do we find love? What kinds of relationships do we find love in? We start our lives receiving love from our parents; we want that love to be unchanging, generous and we want them to love us deeply. By receiving affectionate, unconditional love from our parents we learn to trust others and to have confidence in ourselves. Then we begin to love our brothers and sisters, and we certainly want them to be generous and affectionate! By learning to love and be loved by our brothers and sisters we develop our ability to love and form relationships-habits we will carry throughout our lives. When we grow up, we make a commitment to one person and begin our relationship as husband and wife. We be based on our emotional love, and we definitely want them to be generous, unchanging, and affectionate! Ultimately, we become parents ourselves, and then, after learning all our lessons with our parents, our brothers and sisters, and our spouse, we have a good shot at giving our children love that is unchanging, unselfish, and deep. So, there are four primary forms of love: love of children, love of siblings, married love, and parental love. If we learn these basic types of love within the family unit, we can then extend our circle of love to include all those whom we come into contact with. This is real love-Healthy Love.

7. How do we learn to love? Do we learn how to love automatically, by instinct? Are we born generous, affectionate and unchanging? No, we are born selfish, irresponsible, thoughtless, inconsiderate-and that's just the first day! From the day we are born we begin to develop into mature adults, but we have to work at it. It doesn't happen automatically. We learn to love by receiving love from our parents, and practicing with our brothers and sisters. As we grow and our horizons broaden, we continue to develop our capacity to love through our interaction with people in all walks of life.

8. What kind of person would you like to marry? Wouldn't you rather marry a mature, responsible person? What are the qualities of a mature person? Most people will agree that someone can be considered mature when they are responsible, dependable, trustworthy, loving, secure, stable, and capable of self-control. Wouldn't you like to be loved by someone like that?

9. What is self-control? We have two kinds of desires: the desires of the body and the desires of the mind. The body desires to eat, sleep, be comfortable, and have sex. The mind's desires are more internal: it is the mind that seeks knowledge, goodness, beauty, and so forth. Self-control has to do with the proper ordering of these desires. The mind should take control over the body so that physical desires do not become a hindrance to the fulfillment of our primary, internal goals in life. For instance, our internal desire to pursue goodness should prevent us from stealing something-a nice car, perhaps-that we desire externally; our internal desire for beauty will prevent us from littering; our internal desire for knowledge will push us to study further, even if we feel sleepy. Just as there are two kinds of desire, there are also two kinds of freedom. To grant freedom to our physical body without regard to the mind is called licentiousness. Real freedom is the internal sense of freedom that comes when we achieve a mature level of self-control, when all our actions are in harmony with our primary, internal goals, and we feel good about ourselves.

If you want to order Healthy Love materials, the Question/Answer booklets are $1.00 each, or .80 for 10-20 copies, or .75 each for 21 or more copies. The 86-page manual is $8.00, and the original student booklets are $2.00 each, or $1.25 each for 10-20 copies, or $1.00 each for 21 or more copies. There is no extra charge for shipping within the US (if you live in Kansas, please add sales tax). Overseas orders please add 50% for airmail shipping. Mail your order with check payable to RUC Publications, 12736 West 110th Terrace, Overland Park, KS 66210. Or call me, Teri Lester, at (816) 241-1931.

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