The porn industry in the USA rakes in more cash than the gross domestic product of many small countries. Lewd pictures and videos are piped into our homes through laptops, computers, cell phones and tablets. Images that would have made our fathers and grandfathers blush with shame and horror pop up regularly on our screens, and all of it is the result of our obsession with that deadly sin called lust.
Lust is the longing for beauty and love twisted and deformed into something ugly and hateful. All sin is distorted desire and the greatest desire of all: to love and be loved, is therefore the desire which is also most grotesquely deformed.
The church teaches that our sexual instincts are given for the procreation of children and the loving unity between man and wife. Taking the sexual pleasure for its own sake is an abuse of God’s gift of sexuality, and it is this selfish abuse which leads to lust. We start to long for the pleasure instead of the love to which it is directed. So, through lust we end up loving ourselves more than another person. This is the true root and horror of lust, and this is why it is called a deadly sin: because it leads us to a deeply depraved selfishness. We are called to enter into a loving relationship with another human soul, and ultimately with God himself, but instead we twist that experience into the idolatry of self love.
Is lust deadly? Does lust kill? Does it lead to violence? All we need to do is consider prostitutes, sex slaves, rape victims, abused porn actors and those who are drawn into the darkest sides of sex. All we need to do is consider children from marriages broken by lust, abandoned wives and rejected husbands. Lust leads to violence. Lust is deadly.
The beautiful virtue of chastity takes its place. “Chastity” Pope St John Paul II said, “is the work of a lifetime.” Chastity is not simply modesty or a prudish attitude to sex. Instead, chastity is a powerful kind of purity. Chastity is living a healthy and wholesome sexuality. If we are married we love our spouse with vigor and joy. If we are single we love others in a non sexual way—giving and sharing with them free of sexual entanglement and focussed on the great and good things of life with joy and affirmation. Chastity is the state of simple and natural sexual wholeness. Those who have achieved chastity have integrated their sexual drives with the rest of their life and subjected that strong desire to the greater desire of God’s love and human fulfillment.
When we reach that stage we are all the more horrified by the brutal and degrading distortion of human love constantly thrown up at us from the world around us. Satan hates true human love. That’s why he distorts it through lust. It is our joy and our battle not to give him the satisfaction of being lured into the swamp of lust, but to walk in the radiant and fresh highlands of chastity.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth part in an eight part series exploring the Seven Deadly Sins. Check back each Wednesday and read previous articles here.