Articles From the March 1995 Unification News


Healthy Love: Questions And Answers on Abstinence

By Teri Lester

This is the second in our series of four extracts from Healthy Love: 36 Questions and Answers on Practicing Abstinence

To practice abstinence is a choice. One reason why more young people do not choose abstinence is that the information that is available to them, and that they rely upon to make their decision, is heavily weighted in favor of premature sexual activity and against abstinence. Most young people can think of more pressing reasons not to practice abstinence than to do so. This is because abstinence is usually presented in a vacuum, as if it is purely a matter of refraining from a pleasurable activity, rather than as part of a larger, desirable and healthy life style. Premature sex, on the other hand, is promoted as being natural, attractive, fulfilling, and healthy if practiced "safely".

Sex cannot be separated from its accompanying emotions. The underlying and unaddressed issue is: What kind of love do we want our society to be based upon? What is our love concept? Should love be deep or shallow, changing or unchanging? Should love exist primarily for the individual or the whole, for myself or for my partner? Confusion in our concept of love is at the heart of all of the problems in contemporary human relationships. Without providing them with a clear, rational concept of love, we cannot expect young people to make a responsible decision to avoid premature sexual activity.

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.

How can I keep my commitment to practice Healthy Love?

No one can impose abstinence on you. To practice abstinence, you need to make a commitment to yourself. Ultimately, you decide how you live your life. What you need to do is gather all the information you can in order to make informed, intelligent, healthy lifestyle choices. You have to make your decision; nobody can decide for you, not your teachers or parents or anyone else. You have to know why you made your decision. Pick out the points that are most meaningful to you. Positive reasons will last longer than scare tactics. Think what you have to live for! Write down your reasons so that they will be clear to you. You have to own your decision: once your reasons are clear, make your own choice. Don't sabotage your decision - don't give yourself excuses or ways out, like "I'll be abstinent unless I meet someone really special." If you think that way, then you haven't quite gotten the point: that abstinence - Healthy Love - is freely developing into your full potential as a loving person, and saving yourself for one person, who will be faithful to you, and you to him or her. You have to decide what you want: a stable, lasting, dependable true love relationship, or a temporary, weak love, going from person to person, with all the heartache that causes. Once you decide, act in a way that will realize your goal; practice Healthy Love because it's consistent with what you want out of your life, with your own ideals.

How do I keep myself from giving in to sexual urges?

To remain in control of our sexual urges, we need to control the environment we choose to be in. Make lifestyle choices that will support your decision to practice Healthy Love. 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 and decisions that have brought us to that point. These choices involve what we wear, what we carry with us, who we're with, where we go, and, most importantly, what we're thinking. For example, if you wear football clothes, take football equipment, hang out with football players, go to a football field, and think about football plays and strategies, what will probably happen? You will most likely end up playing football. If you wear sexy clothes, carry sexual equipment - a change of underwear, condoms, lubricant - hang out with people who have sex, go to a place where people have sex, and think about hugging and kissing and touching and sex, what do you think will happen?

Does my clothing influence the way others see me?

In a sense, clothes are the way we package ourselves. It's how we show who we are, what we think of ourselves. Usually, people put the most important aspect of a product on the package. If we see a package with chocolate on it, what do we expect to find inside? Chocolate, right? We are attracted to it if we like chocolate. If you dress in clothes that emphasize your sexuality, what does that say to others about your priorities? Who's going to be attracted to you? Are you interested in the kind of person who's focused on sex? Do you want to build a relationship with someone who's primarily interested in your body? What do your clothes say about you? Do they show that you have self respect? Do they show that you take pride in your personal dignity? You can wear really beautiful, vibrant, exciting clothes, without ever wearing the sort of thing that draws cheap attention.

How can I be popular while I practice abstinence?

First you have to ask yourself: who do you want to be popular with? There's bound to be more than one crowd or clique or group in your school. Find the people who share your beliefs and interests, instead of changing yourself to fit others. People who are promiscuous are not popular. Are prostitutes popular? It's a myth that sexual activity will make you popular. People will respect you more in the long run if you have the courage to stand by your values, whether they agree with those values or not. Also, remember that you're not just trying to "avoid sex." You are actively, positively, vigorously practicing Healthy Love. You are growing into a generous, responsible, dependable, loving person - and who could be more popular? Everyone wants to have a friend like you!

What kind of surroundings will help me keep my commitment to Healthy Love?

Well, for instance, late at night in the dark alone with someone of the opposite sex is not a good idea. Put yourself in places that will reinforce your decision to remain abstinent. Make it easy for yourself. A healthy, supportive environment tends to be bright, open, with lots of people, clean air, and a family atmosphere that encourages conversation. It's better to go to places that are planned or scheduled, and it's better to go out early and come home early. Don't abuse alcohol; it impairs your ability to make healthy decisions. If you go to places that are dark, smoky, or isolated, it makes it difficult to talk. Either you have to lean real close to hear what the other person is saying, or you may not talk at all. If the person you're with starts to do something you don't like, are you going to be too embarrassed to say anything? If you stay away from places where people tend to have sex, then you are less likely to be confronted with a situation where your decision to practice Healthy Love will be challenged.

Is it okay to fantasize about sex?

Daydreaming or fantasizing about physical sex is the first step in the process of physical sexual arousal. If you focus your thoughts on sex, you will sabotage your decision to remain abstinent. Would you want your ideal love partner to be fantasizing about sex with someone else? Unfortunately, as we already discussed, most of what you'll find in the popular media promotes a false ideal of physical love, and neglects the positive values of true love, Healthy Love. You have to be aware of your own limitations; if you find that certain programs or commercials cause you to dwell on the unhealthy aspects of physical sex, turn them off. Watch something else, or do something else. Pornography makes sex an end in itself, totally divorced from any aspect of love, compassion, or commitment. Pornography encourages us to see others merely as potential objects for our own sexual gratification, and not as real persons who are in need of the same caring, appreciation and understanding as ourselves. Pornography is therefore completely incompatible with the underlying values of the Healthy Love program. Talking about sex will make you think about sex. If your friends start discussing sex, try to change the subject. Maybe you can inspire them about Healthy Love! Remember the power of peer pressure: find friends who can reinforce your decision to practice Healthy Love.

How do teenagers respond to Healthy Love?

There's a tremendous number of kids who are interested. Obviously they're curious about sex, but they're really fascinated to hear straight talk about love, and how to understand the difference between sex and love. We shouldn't underestimate teenagers. They are not animals!! They are quite capable of understanding the issues involved if they are presented in a clear, straightforward manner. And they are quite capable of making and keeping a commitment to practice Healthy Love. Kids are very sharp. They're really looking for answers. Their biggest question isn't why should they abstain, but how? When they are shown step-by-step, practical instructions on how to practice abstinence, they keep asking questions till the bell rings. They always want to hear more.

How do adults respond to Healthy Love?

Healthy Love is aimed at teenagers, but anyone can benefit from this process. The rules for kids and adults aren't so different. Adults have to practice abstinence as well; they don't have sex outside marriage. Adults need to choose their activities as carefully as kids do. Healthy Love can be a great bond between kids and adults. Single adults have often expressed a strong interest in the Healthy Love program. They, too, see a need to remind themselves of the underlying issues involved in their desire to practice abstinence, and they benefit from the practical advice contained in the Healthy Love program.

How can I promote Healthy Love in my community?

You can start a Healthy Love club. Get together with your friends and practice Healthy Love. The best advertisement for Healthy Love is a walking, talking, loving person!

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) 756-5997; or e-mail TGLIT@DELPHI.COM.


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