Dear Fr Christopher,
I would like to ask for your advice on a problem I have been facing
lately. I never had many friends but I consider those I have really
valuable. One of those valuable friends is a 22 year-old guy that I met
in college. He is definitely one of the persons that I would treat as a
family member since I respect and love him like my brothers. I am quite
certain that he considers me as a good friend of his as well. The
problem that I am trying to deal with is the fact that an aspect of his
life is quite different to what I would consider moral. Specifically, he
leads a life full of sexual pleasures, having countless girlfriends and
considering sex as one of his major needs that he cannot live without.
Although I have tried to talk to him, nothing seems to work. If he was
in a long-term relationship some moral issues would still be there since
sex outside marriage is definitely a sin. But changing sexual partners
like shirts not only is a sin but it is undeniably inhuman as well.
Human beings unlike animals are rational creatures, they have feelings
and they create bonds based on these feelings. They are not just led by
their instincts and they absolutely do not become slaves of these
passions. He seems to be really addicted to this. His family do not give
the impression that they care about the situation. I know that I cannot
do much and I sometimes feel really helpless because I witness a tragic
situation involving a beloved person that I can do nothing about. This
is what makes me sad.
Moreover I have started thinking what my place is in this picture. Could
I just ignore this parameter of his life and focus on those elements in
his character that have attracted my respect and love? This could be a
permanent but highly hypocritical solution. Could I still be friends
with someone who willingly does something I consider cheap and dirty? On
the other hand, how could you just say goodbye to a person who has
earned your friendship and love? How can you disregard the fact that you
have shared unforgettable moments together, especially when you were in
need and he was by your side?
That is the presentation of the problem. Your own view on the situation
and how I can handle it would be really important to me.
Thanks a lot.
Answer to Question 70.
You told me much about your friend but very little about yourself. To
properly help you I need to understand your religious beliefs. From what
I can gather you understand that sexual relations outside marriage is a
sin. Can I then assume that you lead a celibate and spiritual life? I
will assume that that is the case and answer you accordingly.
Your friend may be a baptized Christian but that doesn't mean that he
understands the Christian way of life. Like most people he probably
claims to be a Christian, but he has no knowledge of God and the ways of
the spirit. When he says he believes in God what he really means is that
he believes in the existence of God. He doesn't as yet understand the
meaning of this life as preparation for the future and eternal life with
God. He lives according to the laws of this world because that is all he
understands. To change and put aside his worldly behaviour and live
spiritually he need to be spiritually enlightened, but that will only
happen when he is ready to seek God and open up his heart to let God
enter and enlighten him. Until then he can only live according to the
world and no matter how much you or anyone else preaches to him about
the rights and wrongs of worldly living he will not understand.
He cannot see anything wrong with living only for the pleasures of this
world. He is doing what he feels is natural to human behaviour and for
his age. The passions and especially the sexual passions are so strong
that even monks, who practice celibacy and live holy and spiritual
lives, battle with them often into old age. Sexual desire varies from
person to person. There is no way of measuring what is considered as
normal. Some people have a lot, some people have a little, and most
people are somewhere in the middle. Age plays an important factor as
does biologically levels of hormones such as testosterone. Your friend
is only 22 and at an age when the sexual passions are at their
strongest. On top of this he probably has a very high natural sexual
desire often called libido. He is releasing this sexual drive in the way
he has been taught by modern society. The Church may preach about sex
before marriage as a sin, and it is, but times have changed since the
canons were written and we all need to be more understanding and
compassionate. In older times, before sexual liberation, people married
very young (often 18 or even younger) giving them a lawful outlet for
their sexual desire. In our times we expect our children to finish
school, do their army, go to university, get settled professionally and
earn enough money to support themselves before considering settling down
with a wife. Today most people marry in their thirties so what are they
to do with their sexual desires until then? I am not condoning sex
outside marriage, but at the same time we need to understand that
society's views on sex have changed dramatically over the past few
decades. There was a time not so long ago when marriages were arranged
and couples got to know each other intimately on their wedding night.
Today people would not think about marrying someone unless they first
experience living together as man and wife to see if they are sexually
compatible whatever that means. In most cases for someone to determine
what is "good sex" it means sexual experience with other partners.
Your friend may now be living his life immorally and in a way that you
disapprove, but he is only living how society expects him to live. As he
gets older his sexual drive will slow down or when he finds a woman that
he falls in love with, he will discover that sex is only truly
fulfilling when it is the expression of love and will probably stop
sowing his seeds here and there and chose to settle down with the one
woman he loves.
In the meantime what do you do? Do you turn a blind eye or break your
friendship with him? Most of us who have come to know God sees thing
very differently than the rest of the world. We live in the world, but
as Christ said, we are not of the world. The things that seem important
to the world like fame, wealth and sexual pleasures don't seem the least
important to us, because we understand that these things are only
temporal and our aim is not temporal things, but eternal. Often people
who have been enlightened to understand such things can feel out of
place in the world and can feel lonely if they don't find others who
share their beliefs.
I think this is want you need to do. Find, possibly through the Church,
others who are of the same mind as you. Your friend is not different
from most lads his age, but you are and you need to discover others who
are on the same spiritual wavelength as yourself. You are not alone,
there are many lads your age who feel exactly like you about living
morally and respecting others. Where do you find such friends? Most,
like you, do not have many friends, because they feel out of place with
what society expects them to experience. Many find friends through
monasteries or their local church by involving themselves in parish
activities. I am not saying you should become a monk, but if you have a
monastery close by that you can visit from time to time, you will soon
find others who are of the same mind as yourself.
But you ask; what should you do about your friendship with your current
friend. It's very easy to tell you not to have anything to do with him,
but that is not the Christian way.
There is a saying that we can choose our friends and not our relatives.
If he was your brother would you disown him? Of course not! As you
consider him as family you should still keep your friendship with him,
but maybe reduce the social contact and activities you have with him.
Being a Christian means learning to love all people no matter what
faults they might have. That means learning to accept people without
judging them because they live differently to ourselves. We can hate the
sin but we must love the person. This is Christ's message that escapes
many Christians. We see people fasting and praying, going to all the
Church services and making many prostrations, yet they don't seem to get
anywhere spiritually and this is because deep down they consider
themselves better than the next man and, like the Pharisees in Christ
time, they judge everyone who falls short of what they consider a good
Christian must be. At the end of our days all our spiritual efforts will
be accounted as nothing if we didn't at the same time learn the meaning
of love. This is the only true Christian virtue and we will be judged
according to our love for others. If we cannot love our fellow men then
in truth we donít love Christ, because he has created each man in his
own image and likeness.
As Christians we must learn to accept everyone as our brothers in
Christ. Thus we should not avoid them as though they had a contagious
disease because they are different to us, but rather show them that we
love them as we love all Godís children.
The way to learn love is to separate the sin or passion from the person.
No matter what the sin, the person is a victim of his passions or the
devil's temptations. He is in need of help not banishment from our eyes.
The consequence of Adam's fall was that God's image in man became
distorted. The fall brought corruption into human nature: evil and death
entered into the world and all aspects of human life went astray from
their original form and purpose. This damage to human nature had an
adverse effect on all forms of private and social life. Thus, natural
attraction between individuals sometimes becomes disordered, taking
various forms of sexual perversion such as promiscuity, prostitution,
fornication, homosexuality, marital unfaithfulness and so forth. We all
have to some degree these distorted sexual passions and most of us learn
to keep them under control, but for others it is not so easy and they
need to learn how to cope with their passions in a way that would be
considered acceptable human behaviour.
If they are willing to hear, we can with love and compassion try to help
them realize that their lifestyle is contrary to the will of God. We
thus should try and increase in them a knowledge of God which will in
time bring them to question their actions. If they are not willing to
listen, we cannot continue to bombard them with our opinions and
beliefs. The only thing we can do is remember them with love in our
prayers just as we would pray for someone who is ill.
You mentioned that you have already tried talking with you friend, but
that didn't work. Did you really expect it would? It just shows how
strong the sexual passions are in some people. They can and have
overcome the strongest of people and have destroyed families and
friendships. Don't allow his sexual needs to ruin your friendship with
him, but at the same time make other friends who are more like yourself.
To be fair to yourself, you cannot be his friend socially if his
interests are very different from yours. His way of life might in the
end lead you astray from the way of life you hold as proper and sacred.
Maybe you cannot be his friend, but you can be his brother.
With love in Christ