*All are welcome to read this post, but please note that this is heavily geared towards a Christian audience*
Delayed gratification: the process in which someone resists the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later reward.
I could just say that delayed gratification is a problem with ‘my generation’ but, in all honesty, it’s a problem that just about anyone can have. A lot of us can get caught up with the idea of “enjoying life now because there might not be a tomorrow”. We fear we will miss out on a great opportunity if we wait, that we might regret our decision later, that we might be waiting on something that won’t actually come. We want to live in the moment! Carpe Diem! YOLO!
But one topic that interests me a lot is the idea of waiting for sex. For some Christians, they are very by-the-book-, no games played: I.Will.Wait.Until.Marriage. But what I’m finding for a lot of Christians is that it’s kind of that one rule we tend to…gloss over. It’s that one sin that a lot of people tend to look over and say “well, that’s how it is”. There are a lot of reasons why people are reluctant to wait, but a lot of the reasons can be categorized into Fear/Doubt, Pride, and Impatience:
FEAR/DOUBT – that we will be waiting for a long time, that we might be waiting forever! Someone who possesses fear over waiting might ask a lot of ‘what if’ questions: What if I can’t find someone willing to wait? What if I don’t even get married? What if I fail at waiting and fall back into old habits?
PRIDE – more common among men, but women could feel this way too. These people are concerned about how they would be viewed by others for waiting. The reason I say this is common among men is because, unfortunately, society has made it very taboo for men to wait until marriage. In today’s society, men tend to be valued over hyper masculine standards that tie into their sexuality: How many women have you slept with? How ‘good’ are you? How ‘big’ are you? They may also feel prideful with not just other men, but women too: Will she think me less of a man if I’m not pining over her?
IMPATIENCE – as said before, delayed gratification is difficult for a lot of us. Especially when we’re surrounded by messages telling us to “live for the moment”. Our internet is fast, we have instant meals, so many aspects of our lives are instantaneous! So even if we do want to wait, we’re so use to getting what we want when we want that just the thought of waiting gets us agitated! If you’ve had sex, you probably enjoyed the feeling and want to continue to have it. Even if you haven’t had sex, there’s a lot of curiosity behind your impatience.
I think one huge problem we are facing is that we have been made to believe that waiting for sexual intimacy until marriage is simply unrealistic. Sex in a relationship has become such an unquestionable standard that people, both Christian and non, don’t understand why you would opt not to. A lot of people genuinely believe that they “need” to have it in order for the relationship to work. They “need” to have it in order to consider the relationship healthy. This may sound harsh, but this mentality sounds more like that person is a slave to their own body. Humans are deep, complex, and thoughtful creatures and yet we lower ourselves to being at the level of animals: unable to control our sexual urges and desires. We really sell ourselves short here.
And before you go thinking I’m sitting here wagging my finger while sitting on my high horse, I want to quote a very wise mentor: “Whenever I say things like this, I’m talking to myself and I’m just letting you listen”. In other words: I’m guilty of having this mindset just like anyone else, though I am constantly working to overcome it.
I took away some pretty great insight after reading The Wait by celebrity couple DeVon Franklin and Meagan Good. One huge thing I learned is that our expectations going into Waiting has to be set straight:
The Wait is Not “Weird”
Of course, we Christians are going to encounter a ton of people who don’t understand why we do what we do, or why we believe what we believe. So it’s only expected that you’ll get backlash from some people. You might get some rude comments or laughs, you might receive some criticism and unwanted input. And you’ll just encounter people who find the whole “waiting thing” to be just plain weird. But when you know why you’re doing this, when you know that this choice will help you lead a more Godly life, there’s really nothing weird about it at all. Just ask yourself: What’s wrong with living to please God while also protecting myself from potential unwanted pregnancy and disease? If your answer is anything other than “there’s nothing wrong with that”, then that’s your own issue and I can’t help you.
If you’ve been a Christian for a while and are adamant about staying in The Word, you’ll know that society has always seen us as….different. In countries outside of America, people get heavily persecuted for their Faith. Not to say that we don’t experience hardship either, but typically only our feelings/pride are on the line, not so much our actual lives. So just think of it this way: By seeing how people react to your celibacy, you’re actually weeding out people who may not need to be around in the first place. If a friend constantly puts you down, criticizes you, and mocks you for doing what you believe to be right: Is this truly a friend? If your potential partner is so vehemently against waiting or wants to make you feel guilty about it, do you really believe this is the person that God wants for you?
Waiting Isn’t Passive
In other words: You have to make an effort to make this work! I love that Good and Franklin highlight this in their book as well. I believe some people have a false idea, thinking that “real” Christians should be able to depend on their Faith and will power alone. This is highly unrealistic! When you’re putting yourself in situations that could go South, can you really be upset when things actually do turn out wrong? If you put a steak in front of a dog, he doesn’t necessarily have to eat it but he has an open opportunity to do so. You’re increasing the likelihood of “taking the steak” when you put yourself in compromising situations. Dealing with this, you have to know yourself. What is going to help you be accountable? It could mean not staying out too late, maybe you don’t need to invite your partner over the house knowing you’ll be all alone. Or maybe you can enlist the help of a trustworthy friend to check up on the two of you. It can vary for everyone, but there does have to be some intentionality because leading to the next point:
Waiting Can Be Difficult (But it does get better)!
For most people, waiting isn’t exactly a cake walk. This is especially true if you’ve already had sex and are now making the change to hold off until you’re married.
Franklin and Good both agree that, at first, waiting can be very annoying because it feels like you’re thinking about “it” all the time. But eventually you’ll find that you’re going to have more time to work on yourself. What are some hobbies that you haven’t been into lately? How often are you reading your Bible and could you increase that activity? Instead of focusing on the thing that you can’t do, it’s a lot easier to focus on the things that you get to do with your time and thoughts.
Rather than thinking of it as a ‘punishment’ or something you ‘have’ to do, it seems a lot better to get excited about the things you can accomplish, the relationships you can strengthen, and the relationship that’s going to be able to stand upon itself because it’s rooted in the right values and principles. But one thing that should be stressed, and I find it to be the most important is this: If you want to pursue the wait, do it for the right reasons!
What is the Right Reason?
This may vary from person to person, but all I know is this: if you are waiting because of external pressure and reasoning, then you’re much more likely to view it as a punishment. Waiting has to be a choice that you make for yourself. For some people it is based on spiritual beliefs, and for others there may be more ordinary reasons such as personal satisfaction, the opportunity to focus on one’s goals, etc. Whatever the reason may be, it just has to be rooted in your own decision.
When I spoke with a close friend who has been steadfast in her waiting, she let me know that when she first made a promise to wait (at age 13 mind you) it was very much brought about by external pressure as well as fear put into her mind by elders. For her, this led her to believe a distorted view of what sex actually is. She became fearful in pursuing relationships because her family made her out to believe that every boy will only want ‘one thing’ from her. So, like a lot of people in her situation, she ended up rebelling…pretty hard. But as she grew older and realized that she wasn’t feeling satisfied with herself, and even heavily disappointed in herself, she decided on her own terms to start waiting again. When she described this experience to me, she noted how free, liberated, and at peace she felt when she came to the decision herself to begin waiting. How she was able to focus more on The Word, rediscover herself, and begin to develop an understanding of healthy relationships (both romantic and platonic).
In any case, I feel that sex and relationships are a topic that aren’t discussed enough in the Christian community, or at least not in the correct way. It’s my personal belief that waiting would be much less of a taboo among Christian believers (because yes, not all of us are on the same page on this one) if we could just sit and have this conversation.