Providing a Catholic framework on the truth and meaning of sexuality, love, and family

What’s the difference between Chastity and Abstinence?

Do Chastity and Abstinence mean the same thing?  NO

Is there a difference between Abstinence Education and Chastity Education?  YES

You may be hearing a lot about abstinence or abstinence-based education. Maybe you are wondering if this is the same as the chastity-based education that families receive in Family Honor programs.

First of all, abstinence-based education programs are not all on the same page. The goal of Abstinence-until-Marriage programs is to educate young people and create an environment within communities that supports teen decisions to postpone sexual activity until marriage.

Abstinence “but” or Abstinence “plus” programs claim to emphasize abstinence and delaying sexual activity but in addition these programs teach young people about how to use contraceptives and may also teach teens about types of non-intercourse sexual behavior like mutual masturbation to avoid pregnancy.

How is a Chastity Program different? Let’s first look at the difference between Chastity and Abstinence.


Identity related – Who I am Chastity is becoming a virtuous person in every aspect of who I am. I reverence God’s gift of sexuality. Behavior related – What I do Abstinence is a conscious decision I make to abstain from sexual behavior / sexual intercourse.
When I practice chastity, I say “Yes” to channeling sexual desire into loving actions. When I abstain, I say “No” to sexual desire.
When I live chastity, I gain self–mastery When I practice abstinence I practice self-denial.
When I practice the virtue of chastity I receive a gift from God, a grace – the fruit of a spiritual effort. The practice of abstinence helps me learn to wait – to delay gratification.
Chastity helps me become more Christ-like. I imitate the purity of Jesus. Abstinence is an act of my will that avoids acting on sexual desire and passion.
Chastity is a virtue for my whole life whether I am single, married, or vowed religious. Abstinence can be a right choice for me at a particular time in my life.


So then abstinence is a good behavior in its own right. Abstinence actually can be the restraint needed to better practice the virtue of chastity. But because chastity is a virtue it is so much more than abstinence. Chastity is living with our sexual desires rightly directed.

To love another sexually is to respect the dignity of the person, to reverence the gift of his/her body, and to restrain oneself in a manner that always puts the good of the other ahead of one’s own desire. As Blessed John Paul II said, “Chastity frees love from selfishness and aggression.”

Chastity Education programs teach that the virtue of chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person. Chastity reverences that God’s plan for sexual intercourse is twofold:  bringing forth new life and bonding a man and woman in a lifelong committed marriage.

Family Honor is a Chastity Education program provider that has a dimension unlike any other program. Family Honor programs provide opportunities for parents and their children to come together to learn about chastity and God’s gift of sexuality. Family Honor programs empower parents to be the primary sexuality educators of their children by giving them hope, tools and a plan for guiding their young person in living a virtuous life – a life that brings real joy, peace and fulfills their God-ordained purpose to love others with Christ-like love.

For some additional audio and video resources on specific topics, visit

For practical tips to help your child practice the virtue of chastity, see the Practical Helps for Chastity for Guys and Girls under the Teen Tab on this website.

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