Many times in my life as a Christian a comment or conversation that didn't strike me much at the time will come back to me later as helpful and important. I believe this is one of the many ways the Holy Spirit tutors our thoughts. Lately a word from my academic adviser from over a year ago has been coming back into my reflection.
I was just beginning the doctoral program and discerning which courses to take. In my shallowness I was doing so by thinking about networking and allegiances and that sort of thing. My adviser cut through my false discernment with this comment: "Professors so-and-so and I have as our only concern your salvation." I had been thinking about developing relationships with my teachers in worldly terms, without realizing that they saw their care for me as Christian ministry.
I've been thinking lately about how good it is to adopt such a practice of trying to look upon others in terms of their salvation. Specifically, I've been thinking about how it could be a means to learning chastity in community. To arrive at bodily chastity according to one's state in life is nothing to be discounted; it can be very difficult and requires much prayer and concerted ascesis. Nevertheless, such is only the beginning of chastity as a positive virtue. Chastity is the virtue by which we are able to perceive and interact with other persons as the discrete, unique, and unrepeatable creations that they are, with all of the dignity thus implied. Chastity is the means by which we are able to let go of all possessiveness, manipulation, the over-investment of our own fears and frustrations in others, and all of the many ways, both subtle and glaring, that we treat others not as persons in their own right, but as the dramatis personae in the drama of our own interior issues, anxieties, and disordered preoccupations. Chastity frees us from the instrumentalizing and commodification of others that derives from our own fears and interior injuries.
By trying to consider the salvation of others as the end of our relationships with them, we can free ourselves for chaste relationships. Here is the place where chastity and charity coincide; by trying to conform my relating to another to the unique and unrepeatable grace built on nature that God wills for him or her, I come to be truly loving because I am willing only the best happiness for him or her.