Teaching Chastity and Virtue Part 1
How to Approach the Subject
Most teachers feel anxious when teaching this subject, but gear up – because the youth are learning plenty from the songs, TV shows, jokes, movies, conversations, etc. etc. etc… that they are surrounded with! So not only must we teach them, but we must teach them well. We must pray about it, study about it, and intricately work on our own abilities so that when we teach, we teach with power.
We cannot leave this lesson to once a year, because the world isn’t. We can’t leave it to a single Family Home Evening, because the world isn’t. And we can’t leave it to one type of teaching method – because the world isn’t!
When teaching this sensitive topic in a classroom we will have all sorts of situations and experiences sitting in each chair. And we MUST seek for the Spirit so that EACH ONE leaves feeling hope and excitement. This is what is so difficult.
The purpose of this article is to help us step back, take a look, and have compassion for each of the youth – and be sure to teach, and love, each one.
What not to do:
There will be youth sitting in your class that have had various experiences with the law of chastity. For those who may have had a little (or a lot) too much: do not make them feel damaged.
Often, as teachers, we teach to the ideal situation. To the young man or young women who has never participated, or seen, or viewed, or talked about anything sexual in any way. How nice that would be, but is likely not so, and we must then watch our tone and fill them with instruction and hope.
One object lesson that is sometimes done is to take a fresh piece of gum and a chewed up (used) piece of gum and then present the question “which one do you want to be?”.
I plead with you not to do this. I understand that the message is to keep yourself pure and clean, but what about the boy or girl who needs to, or has, or is in the process of repenting for a sexual transgression? What about the one who has been sexually abused? What message will they receive? I can only imagine if that was my daughter in that class, and for some reason or another she identified herself with the chewed up gum – that would break my heart. What path could that set her on? What friends might she choose, what boys to date?
And that is never how the Savior would have us see ourselves.
We all know Elizabeth Smart’s story, and in her book “My Story” she says (after receiving this object lesson): “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody rechews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it so to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value… Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
How very, very sad. And how amazing she is to share that with the world, for she is certainly not the first to feel that way. As teachers and parents we are to embrace these youth and help them feel their immense amount of worth regardless of anything that has happened, or is happening.
Teach what Virtue is
At a family dinner I asked my nieces, who are all in the young women program, what they thought virtue was. “Being morally clean”, said one. “Being pure”, said another. “Being Chastuous” (she was trying to say chaste), said the last.
Virtue and chastity go hand in hand, but VIRTUE is a value that is much more encompassing.
This is the dictionary definition of Virtue: A particular moral excellence; a quality or power of a thing; manly strength or courage
This is what it says on LDS.ORG: “Virtue ‘is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.’ It encompasses chastity and moral purity.”
Virtue comes from the latin word “VIRTUS” meaning “strength”. This word originated in the Roman Empire and originally represented a brave warrior and over time came to represent a good man, or someone who did the right thing. Virtue is often associated with chastity because that was the highest regarded virtue.
So virtue isn’t just about what you have or have not done. It is who you are, what you think about, what you will laugh at and what you stand up for. Virtue is not a chronological record of our lives.
If someone is virtuous they live by a high set of moral values now. They don’t even have to be perfect at it, but because they live by those values, they will strive for them and repent and realign themselves often. And because of that, they are exceptionally strong (virtus), hence For the Strength of Youth.
Therefore: young men and young women who have had sexual experiences can absolutely be virtuous. They can stand with great courage and love and represent virtue in every part of their being. They can completely understand the importance of maintaining high moral values, especially chastity. The same goes for those who have been sexually abused. They can (and should) wave the flag of virtue just as high as any of their peers. Isn’t that beautiful?
And there are some who are waiting for someone to tell them that. Hope is a powerful thing.
AND this should also be how we view virtuous people. Not who has, or hasn’t (fill in the blank), but who lives a highly moral life now and fights for it every day.
Teach HOW to be Virtuous
Since chastity is such a highly regarded value, it is often associated with “virtue” as it is not just “a” virtue, but “the” virtue. In the world we live in often those who are chaste are referred to as inexperienced, old fashioned or naïve, when actually the opposite is true. Those who can own the title “virtus” are incredibly “with it” and must be totally aware so that they can remain pure. They don’t live day to day – the can’t. They live with a strict set of limits and clearly defined “I will” and “I will not”, and they have the courage to live by them.
They also trust those who counsel them and give them wise guidelines. They do not think that “I am strong enough” or “I will just figure it out”. They know that they have not yet gained enough experience to set their own limitations, so when those they trust give them standards, they are grateful, and they never try to justify small things.
You can find this study and teaching package HERE.
This package includes a pamphlet, 6 learning activities that help you learn and apply the lesson, printable posters, printable locker prints, printable stickers, and Personal Progress Virtue Experiences 2 and 4.
The stickers can be printed and stuck onto cell phones, stereos, computers, etc. as daily reminders to protect themselves by what they see, listen to, and engage in.
You can find this package and see more pictures HERE.