If you have Snapchat or the internet, you’ve probably seen it.
Although Teen Vogue claims to be the “young person’s guide to conquering (and saving) the world,” they consistently share content and material that directly contradicts the very basis of human dignity. With headlines such as “How to Get an Abortion if You’re a Teen” and “Is it Okay that I want to Watch Porn?” followed by content that encourages the use of pornography, sexting, masturbation, abortion, contraceptives, etc., they are promoting the lie that our fulfillment as human beings is limited to sexual pleasure or convenience.
I’m not here to dispute these lies by listing all the reasons why this perspective is false and destructive (you can find information on the harmful effects of porn right here), but I would eagerly like to offer you another perspective.
You are made for more than lustful ambitions or empty promises. God created you good, and by your baptism, He claimed your heart in the name of real, sacrificial love. By His grace, we are made new and are capable of achieving something greater than “conquering the world.” His mercy empowers us to conquer ourselves and claim the freedom that is found in a life of virtue; in this case, chastity.
Let’s talk about sex, baby.
Unfortunately, what Teen Vogue is presenting as practical life advice is not liberating – but enslavement to our bodily desires that can never truly satisfy the longing of our hearts. They are correct in identifying that our sexuality is a huge part of who we are. In fact, it significantly influences our daily lives, our relationships, the decisions we make, etc. However, these desires do not define who we are; love defines who we are.
What’s love got to do with it?
The desire to use our bodies as an expression of love for another person is not bad – in fact, it’s inherently good and virtuous when used in reverence to the other person and our current state of life (AKA, within the sacrament of marriage). The desire for love and its expression is a large part of our human nature. Each of us also longs to love and be loved – totally, faithfully, and freely – which is meant to complement our bodily desires. However, when these desires are used in isolation or apart from their unitive purposes, they become disordered and lack the fulfillment that the Father desires (CCC 2351).
The reality is, we were created for love, which is unitive by nature, and an ordered life offers us the experience of authentic love – but it isn’t always easy. So when the world invites you to seek fulfillment on your own, without having to consider another person in their full, God-given dignity, it can be tempting to seek pleasure by our own means, rather than real, unitive love that does not cultivate use or isolation. Although this may lead to temporary satisfaction, we will never find true fulfillment in degradation.
As Christians, we know that God calls us to something greater than what the world offers us. In John 10:10, Jesus tells us “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
You were made for more.
Jesus calls us to an abundant life where we are free to be who we are: good, worthy, and beloved. Sin enslaves us to the idea that we are defined by our desires or choices and as a result, incapable of achieving virtue. It attempts to rob us of the dignity that Christ won for us, but as Christians, we know that there is no lie that can overcome the power of the resurrection.
Even in the darkest part of your sin when you might feel isolated or defeated, the truth remains that you were created in the image and likeness of God which means you are not only invited to redemption and restoration – but created for greatness. You were created to give and receive love that is good, true and beautiful.
This love is not expressed in casual hookups or objectification on a screen – you were made for more than that. By the very nature that you were created in the image and likeness of Love Himself, you were made to not only love others fully, faithfully, and freely – but to receive this love yourself.
You are capable of achieving virtue.
Virtue, which is defined by the Catechism as a “habitual and firm disposition to do good,” is available to all of us. Chastity (not abstinence), is available to every single person – even within marriage! The abundant life that Christ offers – which achieves real love and true freedom – is available to all of us. The grace which frees us from the bondage of even our worst sin is available to all of us, especially within the sacrament of reconciliation.
Virtue is the path by which we will find fulfillment because it considers the fullness of who we are and does not subject a person to act on every desire they feel. By adopting a disposition for the good of yourself and others, rather than a life of temporary satisfaction and isolation, you allow yourself to experience true happiness found in victory over sin. Feelings are temporary visitors, but real love always endures.
While it may seem easier to live in the convenience that the secular world offers, true fulfillment is found when we act with more than just ourselves in mind. Our relationships are stronger when we encounter other people in their dignity as children of God. You don’t have to be a slave to fear, or use, or shame that is found in the disordered perception of life that is heavily promoted because Christ has claimed you as His own; His beloved child who is capable of achieving great things.
So instead of listening to a culture that encourages the mediocre, know this: in the words of St. John Paul II, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son, Jesus.” This love is where we will find fulfillment.
Real love will always bring true freedom.
Read “Too Precious for Porn” here.
Read “Learning I Was Made for Love” here.
Read “Overcoming the Hookup Culture” here.