Systematically Conquer Sin – Convert Your Vices to Virtues
When was the last time you gave your life for your beliefs? God has called us to be living sacrifices, and to offer up our bodies to Him to do what is pleasing to Him. If you are scratching your heads trying to think of a time that you truly made a sacrifice based on religious beliefs, don’t worry. You are most certainly not alone. And that is a frightening thought.
It is painfully obvious that we live in a world of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” Everywhere we look and everything we hear is driven by the pleasures of the body. And who can blame us? Sex sells, and advertisements exist for the sole purpose of getting our attention and pushing products on us. We are led by men and women who make decisions based on how it will impact their popularity and chance at reelection more than actually doing the right thing to solve the problem.
Now, this is not a “holier than thou” speech. I struggle just as much as the next guy. I play politics at work when necessary, and get sucked into mainstream media whenever I let my guard down. I often justify my intentions as virtuous, but deep down I know the root cause is sin.
What I have found most helpful to better live out my Christian Duty is to not simply avoid vices, but to systematically replace them with virtues. Simply removing vices creates a void, empty space. I find temptation to be the hardest to handle in those times of emptiness.
In this series, I will focus in on five of my most common vices, and explain how I have learned to combat them and replace them with virtues that bring me closer to God and my family. It is my sincere hope that you stick through to the end, so you too can assess your own vices and take them out.
The vices we will cover are:
- Selfishness of contraception (and my wife’s view)
- Lustful thoughts
- Prideful self-image
- Financial greed
- Vanity in the sharing of my faith
And today, we are going to focus in on my selfish struggle with contraception. Let’s get at it:
Selfishness with Contraception
I grew up extremely pro-choice. I never understood enough about abortions, the act of conception, or the impacts that it has on both the woman and her family, until I converted to Catholicism. And even once I converted, I continued to struggle, because it was so inconvenient for me as a newly married man to have to wait.
Suzi and I used contraception early in our marriage. We told ourselves that we were not ready yet for children. We were concerned what it might do for our careers. We told ourselves whatever we needed to hear in order to cope with the fact that we knew what we were doing was wrong, but were unwilling to do what was right.
God sent us a few messages that made His will very obvious. We would get into fights… we never did that. We tried to explain it away as a new couple thing, but we knew that wasn’t it. Our fights were more explosive than they had ever been. She would have mood swings, and I would raise my voice to meet her there.
And then weird things started to happen. After a few months on the pill, I started noticing hair pooling at the bottom of the shower. My wife was losing her hair! I had never heard of that happening before, and really started to make me think…
Then finally the kicker. As my wife continued on the pill, I began to feel differently around her. My sex drive was altogether intact, but when we would become intimate, there was a noticeable … slow down. I was losing my sexual attraction to my wife! I immediately freaked out and proceeded to Google for some answers. It turns out Dr. Haselton studied this extensively and concluded that due to the suppression of the woman’s ovulation, both women and men exhibit changing sexual attractive forces when transitioned to contraception. In a nutshell, people who are extremely attracted to each other may find themselves drifting when they start contraception. Could this have a hand in the rampant divorce rate we are seeing? If couples meet each other and then start to contracept, they may never realize that their now changed chemistry could be pulling them in opposite directions…
As the signs continued to build up, we decided that it was time to stop using contraception. At first this was an extremely difficult vice to replace for two reasons. One, I did not want to lose the convenience and insurance it provided against unplanned pregnancy. And two, I had no idea Natural Family Planning existed, and was uncomfortable getting to know it. I thought all “natural” birth control methods were akin to reading tea leaves or astrology.
So we agreed to take a few seminars on NFP, and connect with some in our Catholic community about it to get some pointers. We picked up a great tool that helped us monitor everything down there to help us implement the Creighton model.
And we agreed up front that when it was time to abstain, we would focus more on our daily readings and couple’s prayer. Praying a rosary together and spending more time in prayer together provided a similar type of intimacy, and was able to fill us with a different kind of joy. The guilt was gone, and we were able to enrich our lives in a much needed way.
After a few months of “success” (not getting pregnant), I began to trust the method, and we built a healthy habit that we still use today. Along with the effectiveness of the method, several unexpected benefits came with it. During the periods of abstinence, our desire for each other would grow and grow. We appreciated each other, yearned for each other, and could not wait for the abstinence to end. It replaced the commodity of “always on” sex with the privilege to share each other in the marital act.
And an even more unexpected benefit of this method is that you will be able to improve your chances at getting pregnant when you want to! In our fortunate case, it only took one try to conceive our second daughter, and as much as I would like to think I am just that potent, I know that the timing matters, and we can now read the signs.
By replacing our selfishness around contraception with a selfless act of couple’s prayers and daily readings, we enhanced our lives all around. We were able to enrich our understanding of scripture and our faith. We accepted the right side of the issue and felt the weight be lifted off our shoulders. Our sex lives became a special privilege to further strengthen our bond. And we learned the skills to naturally understand and control our fertility for any phase of life together.
Are you currently struggling with this vice? Comment below – I would love to hear from you and your experience. In my next post, I’ll cover another tough one… Lustful thoughts.