Refraining from Sexual Misconduct Opened Me Up to Love
Commentary by Tracy Simmons
I took sex ed classes in middle and high school, and along with my immature friends, giggled my way through both of them.
But at home I learned that sex wasn’t funny — or fun.
It was embarrassing and shameful, an act meant for a husband and his wife. It was intended for procreation, not pleasure.
Luckily for me, I didn’t really date in high school, or even college, so I didn’t have to deal with the same temptations my peers did. I was frightened by what my faith community had taught me about sex and romance, so gladly avoided it.
I was also in the closet until my 20s.
As a result, I was naive when I finally did enter the dating world. Like an overly-sheltered child who discovers freedom for the first time, I went overboard.
I was careless with people’s hearts, dating whoever showed an interest and then quickly finding excuses to move onto someone else, without thinking of the feelings involved.
I was trying to fill the void of loneliness, ironically, by bringing people close and then pushing them away. And it went on for too long.
Two things had to happen for things to change.
First, someone called me out. When I complained about being single and getting older, a friend pointed out this self-sabotaging habit I had developed. It wasn’t easy to hear, but it was an instrumental wake up call.
Second, I took the Buddhist precept to refrain from sexual misconduct. This is the third of the precepts I’ve been writing about.
“Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I undertake to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.”Third Buddhist Precept: Refraining from Committing Sexual Misconduct
This precept isn’t just about sex. It’s about the oneness of body and mind.
For me, this meant taking my search for love and commitment more seriously, which included doing deep, difficult, introspective work on myself — work I had been avoiding. I had tried therapy before, but hadn’t given it my all. My childhood wounds were too painful, and I didn’t want to risk re-opening them. It was irresponsible, but easier, to finger the scars and keep people at bay.
Ven. Thubten Chodron of Sravasti Abbey once wrote, “You know that in your soul there are certain areas— memories, pain, secrets — that are private, that you would only share with the person you love and trust the most. You do not open your heart and show it to just anyone. … The same is true of our body. Our bodies have areas that we do not want anyone to touch or approach unless he or she is the one we respect, trust and love the most. … Someone who approaches us with respect, tenderness and utmost care is offering us deep communication, deep communion. It is only in that case that we will not feel hurt, misused or abused, even a little”
I longed to approach love in such an unguarded way, so began an intense journey into counseling. And it’s because of that work that I found my partner. She came into my life when my heart was finally ready to genuinely give and receive love.
We know each other’s stories, quirks, vices. We treat each other — physically and emotionally — with respect and gentleness.
Loving her is the easiest part of my Buddhist practice.
Next time I’ll write about the fourth precept: refraining from false or harmful speech.
“Why I Am a Buddhist” introduces this series by Tracy Simmons. She writes about the first Buddhist precept in “Why the Buddhist Precept ‘Abstaining from Taking Life’ Resonates with Me,” and the second Buddhist precept in “Selfless, Intentional Love Teaches Me to ‘Abstain from Taking What Is not Given.”
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.