The character of a person’s life is formed from a series of choices. No one life has ever been fully dictated by their environment; at least, not one who is capable of choosing. And of all the decisions we make, every one falls into one of two categories:
1) Self control
2) External control
The most successful people in history have opted for self-control. If you can control your response to any given situation, there is no need for anyone or anything else to control you. If the purpose of life is to be free, as it is presumed, and freedom is attained through responsibility, then self-control is the only means to achieve a purposeful life, or a successful relationship.
The least successful people rely on external control for whatever they get. Instead of creating their fate through well thought out decisions, the least successful are completely at the whim of those who hope to control them. The concept of freedom for these types is freedom from responsibility, which is self-defeating, because freedom is the state of total responsibility. The harder people cling to external control, the less freedom they have and the more freedom they want. Sound familiar? It describes about 95% of relationships today.
Virtue, Vice, and Human Nature
Self control relies on invisible traits inside of you, known as virtue, while external control relies on outside pressure. Self-controllers have to build measures of wisdom, integrity, reliability, courage, persistence, faith, and so forth to respond positively to life as it unfolds. Externally controlled people insist that virtue is not required to live freely, and so count on outside factors to provide freedom. But always, for the external, there remains a fallacy; that freedom can be found outside of responsibility and virtue.
Freedom is self-directed, and enslavement is externally directed. Many people claim to be free because they choose their lifestyle, but if a person chooses to be controlled by an external source, that is the freedom to be a slave. The irony is that more people than not claim to be free though their vices. Vices are the opposite of virtue. Whereas virtue begets freedom, vice breeds restriction. Both virtue and vice come through free will, but virtue’s decision is to be free, and vice’s is to be controlled. Virtue is the master of need, while vice is the slave of desire.
Human beings have needs just the same as any other creature in nature. And when needs are met, any given creature can be assured a reasonable level of health, satisfaction, security, and happiness. Look at the birds, butterflies, bears and bees. These animals mostly lack provisions for a day in advance, yet they all have a quality of life that remains unfathomable to humans. We, on the other hand, have all the food and shelter in the world, in our culture at least, yet we pine for the quality of life that the simplest animals maintain. Even without knowing where their next meal is coming from, animals have what they need. Even with knowing where our next year of meals will come from, we humans seem to lack what we need. If peace is a condition of satisfied needs, humans can be considered the neediest animals on the planet. But with a creature so incredibly capable, how is it that we find ourselves in constant want?
For other animals who aren’t so highly socialized, to rely on external sources, apart from the earliest stages of life, is a death sentence. But because of how socially complex and industrialized we have become, we can exist for a lifetime relying on external sources. Even though we have providers for food and health and communication, and every physical need, we remain highly dysfunctional as groups and individuals. When needs are met, people and groups function. When needs go unmet, there is dysfunction. Whereas animals who eschew self control die, humans subject themselves to abject misery. Nowhere is this more evident than our relationships.
Our relationships are so dysfunctional that most marriages end up in divorce or decay. Is that because we are not designed for monogamy, or is it because we are in need of some missing elements? Do we falter in marriage because of a genetic handicap, or is it because we allow ourselves to be controlled by external forces?
How Birth Control Defeats Self Control
Relationships are the most important arenas of decision making because they are where new life comes from. When we rule ourselves by virtue and for the benefit of our families and communities, relationships are a lifelong source of intimacy and healing love. When we succumb to the illusion of freedom found in vice, like lust, gluttony, etc., relationships become an entirely different thing. Instead of being free together through virtue, most partners end up as the proverbial “ball and chain” to one another’s want for vice. One aspect of our relationships that starves us of meaning and purpose is the way we approach sexuality and new life.
If you live in 21st century America, you might think birth is a no brainer; we aim to control and prevent new life, which appears to serve some purpose. Externally. But with a thing so powerful (and precious) as new life, how we respond to it makes a difference. How we respond to our sexuality is the greatest indicator of how we will fare in relationships. People who respond to new life by controlling their actions build virtue, which supports new life and satisfies the needs of a relationship. These people are free. But this is not the common practice today.
More often than not, people seek external control of their sexuality by birth control. It seems a perfectly normal and rational thing to do, but only inasmuch as one denies our nature. The tacit statement in taking birth control is, “I cannot control my self. I need technology to do that for me.” Whereas the couple who strives for virtue and self control grow closer through sex, externally controlled couples are ripped asunder. Birth controllers pretend they no longer have to respond to life because they have outsmarted God, or nature. But life is the defining aspect of nature, and so to cheat it is to also cheat our selves.
Since a large part of our nature is the unseen world of virtue, life plays an integral role in shaping virtue, thereby satisfying the needs of a human. Think of all the dependability, courage, responsibility, discipline, faith, perseverance and commitment it takes to lovingly raise a family. The common purpose of family life, and the common challenges in family, are extraordinary in how they satisfy our needs as humans; how they bring us together; and how we grow together through them. But when the needs of humans are supposed to be entirely physical, when our invisible nature is ignored, birth control seems like a no-brainer. If sex is good, then unlimited sex without consequence should be even better, so it is thought. Birth control allows for free sex, right? But “free” is a word that describes the state of satisfied needs, in order to live naturally, as most creatures do. In this sense, the sex we have through birth control is totally restrictive to our relationships and the development of virtue.
The Importance of Your Sexual Freedom
So many people have fallen for the simplest and most enduring fallacy that freedom can be gained through external control, and that is why we are completely restricted in relationships today. How can a person love freely if they decide to withhold their power to create new life? Is not the potential to create human life the greatest power we possess? And if that power is reserved in the act of sex, how can a person pretend to love freely?
Birth control mocks the beautiful gift of free, total, faithful and fruitful sex in marriage. Its convenience is alluring, but mark these words: birth control will be the death of your relationship. It opposes virtue in all aspects. It turns the celebration of life that is sex into a fearful and faithless mockery. Whereas free and faithful sex between marriage partners brings each one closer to the other until death, incomplete sex picks couples apart until they have nothing left to give each other.
Think of sex like a pitcher, and love as water. The incompleteness of sex allows love and virtue to drain out, slowly but surely, until there is no use in a couple coming to a well together again. If love cannot be retained and generated, there is nothing that can keep a couple together. Love in totality is what keeps couples together, and when aspects of love are withheld in any way, vitality escapes the relationship through cracks and chips.
The difference between self-controllers and birth controllers is that the former responds to life; the latter attempts to manipulate life. Couples who practice self-control pay attention to the natural rhythms of life and respond to it by building virtue. During the week of fertility, a self-controlling couple practices discipline, commitment, and sacrificial love by refraining from sex. Considering that this week of fertility is the greatest period of arousal and mutual attraction, expressing love in other ways is a challenge that brings couples together in creative ways, which test their character.
In choosing self-control, couples are brought together to communicate about their long-term goals, their needs, and their plans. Ideally there would be health enough and resources to provide for a new baby at any time, but during periods of illness or financial instability, bringing in a new life may not be the best for a family. Self-control acknowledges that life is sacred, and through the week of sexual sacrifice, a couple is brought closer together in their mutual purpose of happiness, prosperity, solvency and stability. They are brought together through sacrificial love, and virtue. Their attraction and respect for one another is renewed, and their common goals, wants and needs are brought to the table each month. Self-controllers don’t abuse the power of sex, and moreover, that power is revered and honored in each other.
No such benefits present themselves to birth controllers. Instead of responding to the natural rhythms of life, as humanity has done since time immemorial, birth controllers reject the gift of life and all the virtue that comes from responding to it. They indulge in the pleasure of sex regardless of their needs, or life itself. Birth controllers do not see life as any benefit outside of their wants, and if life does not fit in with what they want, they will suppress it regardless of what good life brings.
Birth controllers decide that they don’t have room in life for life, and so they agree to manipulate their nature instead of controlling their actions. But our nature is designed specifically for us, just the same as any other creature. And the more we know of our nature, the more of our needs we can satisfy, and the more functional we can be as individuals, couples, and groups. To deny the most significant part of our nature, the part that creates new life, is to reject the possibility of being happy and whole like creatures in nature.
Whereas self-controllers grow in respect, reverence, appreciation, admiration, intimacy, faith, and sacrificial love, birth controllers become enslaved by vice to their demise. If you want a happy and whole relationship, think heavily on your nature as a human being; reflect on your deepest needs; question what has become normal; and ask what you are really capable of. Chances are, it’s a whole lot more than you imagine.