I was once told that the easiest way to remember commandment number 'six' is that it sounds like 'sex.' At the time I thought it was just another lame example from my youth minister.
The funny thing is – I still remember it.
What wasn't funny, however, is that at the time I somehow thought the 'don't commit adultery' commandment had little to do with me, an unmarried sixteen year old. I couldn't have been more wrong.
The truth is that this commandment isn't only for married people. It's violated by all ages … including teenagers … almost daily.
Everything’s about sex
We live in a highly sexualized culture. The minute preteen Disney Channel actresses leave behind their shows, they seem to leave behind their clothes as well. It's hard to find a magazine cover, billboard, or commercial that isn't visually offering a whole lot more than a product. Everywhere you try not to look, it's sex they're selling because they've learned one thing: sex sells.
Let's be honest here . . . by all accounts (and catalogs) Victoria doesn't have too many secrets left, people.
You can't walk through a mall and not see a scantily clad, airbrushed, food-deprived toothpick with implants plastered across the windows of a lingerie store. Even 'clothing' stores highlight their lack of clothing in their window displays. It's like the models are saying, 'Hey look, I need to take off my shirt while I stare blankly into the distance,' or 'I can't seem to stand next to this car without my breasts falling out of my top!'
Those images aren't really selling lace, or silk, or cotton . . . they're selling sex. Countless souls who wander by are being led to believe that 'sexy' and 'attractive' are synonymous with nudity and cleavage.
True love is blind, right?
So why do those displays attract so many eyes?
One word: lust.
And lust, brothers and sisters, violates this Sixth Commandment of 'thou shalt not commit adultery.' In fact, few times in the gospels does Jesus speak with heart wrenching and startling emphasis as He does when He warns of the dangers of lust. Listen to this passage from St. Matthew's gospel:
'You have heard that it was said, ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏYou shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.' Matthew 5:27-30
Of course, lust is just one of the ways we violate the sixth commandment.
Why is porn a big deal?
One of the most predominant offenses against this Commandment is seen in the form of pornography. Porn is an offense against chastity and a perversion of the sacredness of sex. Porn is a mockery of the intimacy and beauty of Sacramental love. In fact, the very word pornography comes from the Greek pornographos which means 'writing about prostitutes.' That's right, pornography is about prostitution. The concept of someone exposing themselves in such a way publicly or surrendering their dignity is linked with prostitution … which is obviously a sin on both peoples' parts’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_the one 'posing' and the one viewing.
Pornography destroys a person's capacity to give and receive love properly. It reduces the mystery of sex to mere use, turning something sacred and Godly into something profane and dark. As Blessed John Paul II said, 'The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is use.' Pornography is all about self-gratification; porn is about use.
Even worse is when people … out of a desire to make it less shame-filled and selfish … hail pornography as something good. People think acting like it's not a sin will magically make it less sinful. Guys, viewing pornography doesn't demonstrate the man you've become but, instead, reveals the boy you still are. Ladies, pornography does nothing to enhance your own beauty, it only skews your perception of what true beauty is . . . and the true beauty that you are.
God's truth about porn, sin, and mercy
Now, I realize that countless souls reading this blog (if they had the courage to read it after seeing the title, that is) very likely struggle with pornography or lust, and, quite possibly, masturbation.
This blog and the Commandments, in general, aren't intended to fill souls with shame or guilt. God's truth shines light into darkness; God's truth points you to true freedom.
No sin is bigger than God's grace. If this is a sin that has enslaved you or a temptation that seems too much for you to handle … it's time to reconcile yourself with God. You need the grace of the Sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to win this battle. God's mercy is bigger than your sin, addiction, or struggle.
How to Obey the Sixth Commandment
Let's get proactive with some things you can do to safeguard your chastity and protect against temptation(s):
- Print out the St. Michael prayer and tape it to the side of your computer monitor.
- Identify any movies, music, or shows that fill your head with lustful images or thought processes. Get rid of them. Take those playlists off your iPod, lose the DVDs, and avoid those channels.
- Set up a new user account on your computer in which you ban yourself from any adult sites. It might seem stupid but a lack of access translates into less temptation.
- Write or print out some Scripture verses on index cards and tape them up around your room. If that's too embarrassing, put them somewhere only you will see them, daily. When you see it don't just read it but pray it and pray for strength to live out the Truth God shares through it.
- Do pushups, sit-ups or some other physically strenuous activity before you do your night prayer and get into bed. It won't just exhaust you physically, but will increase endorphins, relieve stress, and calm hormones.
- Fall asleep holding and praying a rosary each night.
- Find a trusted friend who's also seeking purity in this way, or who has conquered the temptation of porn and give them the permission to hold you accountable. Ask them to check in with you weekly or daily to see how you're doing, to pray with you, and to kick your butt when needed.
Here are some to help you:
- Do not engage in sex or other sexual acts unless you are married.
- Do not masturbate or engage in other sexual acts (such as oral sex) or in homosexual acts, as all are offenses against chastity (CCC 2351-59).
- Do not lust after others and do not engage in acts or actions that purposely cause you or others to become lustful, including immodest dress, speech or actions.
- Do not speak or act in a way that destroys the dignity of married love between a man and woman.
- Do not view or participate in pornography, suggestive speech, profane joking, 'sexting,' suggestive photography or videos, strip clubs, prostitution, or any other offense toward chastity.
And if you're called to marriage one day . . .
- Do not commit adultery physically or emotionally.
- Do not practice contraception (CCC 2366-2372).
To read more detailed explanations of the Christ's Teaching on the Sixth Commandment, check out the Catechism (CCC 2331-2400) and refer to the Scriptures listed above.