Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Events in NYC’

Week 10: Men, Women, and Tenderness

October 14, 2011

Last time  we covered: To Inspire Love: A return to modesty

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter, “Men, Women, and Tenderness” (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter is funny because I think it makes all of the women who read it, say, “Alleluia!” and all of the men who read it, say, “Uh. Oh.”

Why do they have those reactions? Because in this chapter Blessed John Paul II says that in marriage, “Tenderness is the ability with and for the whole person, to feel even the most deeply hidden spiritual tremors, and always to have in mind the true good of that person.”  He goes on to say that “women not only expect this type of tenderness from their husbands but that they actually have a special right to it in marriage.”

In trying to help men to realize that women seem to have a different tenderness need than men, one guy  repeated a simile that he heard once:  Women are like slow-cooking-crockpots.  Men are like microwaves.  So men, if you are wondering why women seem to need so much more time, effort, and love than you do, it’s because we’re wired differently!

Women are like Crockpots... they need love and tenderness for hours on end! 🙂

The chapter first clarifies however, that there is danger in being prematurely tender with one whom you are not married to.  In the dating or friendship realm, premature excessive tenderness can lead to confusion and even lead to the demise of a love that may have been quietly blooming.

Sometimes in the dating phase we are eager to reach this sort of spousal tenderness and we slip into being either physically tender, emotionally tender, or spiritually tender at a level that really is only appropriate for spouses.

In the large discussion I brought up that this reminds me of 6th grade behavior.  You know, like when Bobby said to Susie, “Hi – do you want to go out with me?”, Susie said, “Yes.”, and then Bobby and Sue hold hands.  They hold hands tightly from the moment they are “boyfriend/girlfriend” until the moment they break up.  In fact, it’s only when they stop holding hands that you know that they are no longer an item.

Bobby and Sue don’t take time to get to know each other or have the relationship and friendship deepen.  They simply quickly move on to this public display of (premature) tenderness that declares to others, “Back off.  We’re inseparable!”  It gives the illusion that they have a deeper relationship than they really do.  It gives the illusion of tenderness that simply is not there.

Are you prematurely inseparable?

For one thing, it’s not being honest to each other about how they feel about each other.  It gives them the secure feelings of a deep relationship – perhaps even for altruistic reasons, but it’s false.  For a second thing, it wards off any other suitors that are perhaps more properly matched for them.

In the larger discussion a guy commented that the above dynamic seems to be happening in the dating scene again – even though we’re not in 6th grade anymore. 😛 People seem to quickly rush into showing tenderness for the other only to realize, “Wait! It’s only the end of the first date.  Perhaps I should get to know the person.”

Janet commented that she felt that premature tenderness or excessive tenderness or even an inability for tenderness (so either there’s too much or too little) seems to stem from dating that is not “purposeful dating.”  Rushing into concern for the other (care-taking when someone has the ability to care for themselves) or rushing into spiritual tenderness with someone  stems from the idea that “this is just what is supposed to happen when you are dating someone” instead of allowing those feelings to actually develop for the other person.  OR You might hang out with a group of friends to “get to know someone before you start dating them” only to sort of stay in this friendship zone once the dating phase starts.   But dating with purpose – purposeful dating to discern if God is calling you to DATE THIS SPECIFIC PERSON (not just if you are supposed to be dating in general) and then leading to discernment on if you are called to the vocation of marriage with that specific person helps ensure the balance of tenderness.

Are you discerning the will of God? Are you staying balanced?

I think that this is probably in part to the fact that if you are discerning (focusing on what God is calling you to do in that instance) then it assists you in being more aware of whether or not you are balanced, in tenderness or other areas of your life as well. If you are asking yourself, “What does my tenderness or lack of tenderness toward this person mean?” then you are probably less likely to be reckless or lacking in your tenderness.

This may leave women saying, “Wait.  I thought you said that I had a right to tenderness – deep tenderness?”

Yep – you do – as a married woman.  Indeed you, and every human, have a right to tenderness at some level.  But spousal tenderness is something that women seem to be predisposed for and so they often, it seems, fall into wanting that sort of spousal tenderness in a budding dating relationship.  For women, our challenge is to fight the urge to create this spousal unity in tenderness when we are merely dating the person.

For men, their challenge is to fail to be fully united in their tenderness with their spouse once they are married.  Perhaps they became accustomed to the level of tenderness that they are comfortable with while they were dating? This may be fine during a budding relationship, but as the relationship progresses, the tenderness should also increase, until in fact it is complete unity in spousal tenderness: emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Why does this type of tenderness need to wait until marriage? Simply put: because you aren’t spiritually united with your spouse until you say, “I do.” Why does it need to progress and grow during marriage? Simply put: because the relationship and demands on the relationship progress and grow in the marriage.

One of the questions asked, “Have you ever witnessed a marital relationship where true tenderness was evident, and in contrast, one where it was not?”

Happily and sadly this brought my parents to mind.  They are Catholic and have been happily married for almost 40 years.  (How awesome is that?!?!? It makes my 2 years seem quite shabby!) I’ve seen my parents show tenderness towards each other: holding hands, smooches, flowers on an anniversary or birthday, and chicken soup and foot rubs on days when there’s been illness or bad allergies. In these times I see how united they are as a couple.

Sadly, I’ve also seen times when their patience has been drawn thin and they’ve gotten snippy with each other instead of using words of kindness.  (Hey – it happens to the best of us.)

WARNING: Words or actions without tenderness creates division!

During those snippy moments – those lack of tenderness moments, it’s almost as if I see their spousal unity divide and suddenly there are two individuals standing there.  One person is saying, “I need something of you.” and the other is saying, “I don’t care.” 😦

It’s my personal opinion that lack of tenderness during a fight is the cause for most divorces. It’s not infidelity or financial woes, it’s lack of care for the other person’s feelings.

Thankfully my parents aren’t headed for divorce, but those snippy times help me realize just how fragile love and marriage can be.  If you aren’t careful, you can crush the love that is there.  That’s why tenderness is so important.

One woman related that her parents had gone through a divorce and that it was only after she went to a friend’s house and saw her friend’s parents being affectionate and tender towards each other that she realized that this had been missing in her own home.

Nivi then offered that we all can take part in making sure that this does not happen in a marriage.  From the example that her mother gave her, Nivi now implements acts of tenderness to her husband like dropping everything and greeting her husband as he walks through the door.  Awwww!

It seems simple, but this act of being fully present to the person as they enter the room says, “I care that you are here and I want you to know that I noticed!”

Nivi went on to mention that we are often affected by the family experiences that we have grown up with.  (Psychologists usually refer to this as Family of Origin “stuff”.)  If you are aware of those experiences and dynamics you can try to avoid the areas where your family’s actions fell short and work to implement those family actions that helped strengthen the marriage, family, or acts of love toward others.

Nivi mentioned that one of the good things that she learned from her Family of Origin was a good way to end a fight. She said that when her parents have an argument and then one realizes that they have been wrong, they kiss the other’s wedding ring.  This shows a re-commitment to their wedding vows of honoring and loving the other and gives them a signal that the surrender flag has been sent up.

Kissing a wedding ring to end a fight? Sounds like a fairy tale ending to me! 🙂

Another question asked of the group was: “What do you think tends to keep husbands from entering the emotional lives of their wives? How can men live this out better? And how can women make it easier for their husbands to do this?”

My answer was: The thing that tends to keep husbands from entering the emotional lives of their wives the most is THE NOTHING BOX. Basically, they are simply wired differently then women.

If you aren’t familiar with what the Nothing Box is, watch this hilarious clip from “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.”

If men aren’t careful, they can end up staying in their nothing box for too long.  They can claim, “Well, this is just the way I am.” and refuse to come out of their nothing box, especially when it’s at the request of their spouse.  If men are in their Nothing Box they can’t be fully present to the women in their life.  If they remain in the Nothing Box then they lose the ability to show tenderness to another.

If women aren’t careful, they can end up expecting men to be like women and request that the men somehow throw away their Nothing Box.  These types of women end up wanting men to be fully present for them at all times of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  But this would be asking the men to be something that they are not!  God, in his wisdom, designed men to have a Nothing Box so that they can regroup and be refreshed.

Our job as women is to be aware and respectful of the existence of our men’s Nothing Box.  Once they’ve had a reasonable amount of time (whether that’s 20 minutes or an hour) in the nothing box, then we know that we’ve allowed them to be who they are and we ask them to meet us where we are now and where we need them to be.

God creates these differences in us so that we can be encouraged by the other – so that we are stretched as persons into growing into a better person.

God is asking us to be better persons by showing tenderness towards other people. It might be tricky to keep it in balance and to anticipate the needs of the other person, but the good news is,  we have a lifetime to figure it out.

That’s all for now.  Up next: How Contraception Harms Love!

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Week 9: To Inspire Love: a return to modesty

October 3, 2011

Last time  we covered: The Battle for Purity

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter, “To Inspire Love: a return to modesty.” (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This week was fun! You know why?  Because finally the small groups were co-ed! Guys and Gals sharing ideas about….. MODESTY.  Duh Duh Duh!

This chapter unpacked the idea that modesty isn’t about covering our bodies because they are bad, it’s because they are oh-so-good that they deserve to be respected and that through modesty,  more about the person is revealed.

But how can this be?  Covering up more of the body, hides it – how can modesty reveal more about a person? and can it have the amazing effect of actually inspiring love?

The short answer is: Yep. The answer about how modesty does this is what the chapter is all about.

The first part of the chapter is tricky because it deals with a word that most people interpret as negative thing ( in other words, it has a negative connotation, but not denotation): shame.  Both Sri and Blessed John Paul II clarify that shame in this sense is not a result of guilt – but rather a natural reaction to cover the body – to cover that which is precious and personal.  Sri explains, “It helps prevent the person from being treated as an object.” He goes on to explain that that in the context of wedded love (a mature self giving of a husband and wife), however, the natural innate tendency to cover our bodies (shame) is “absorbed by love”.

Basically, shame disappears because the spouses’ free, total, faithful, and fruitful gift of themselves at the altar is a statement that says, “I will not use you.” Once that spousal trust is there, there is no need to be afraid of  being used as an object.

But, outside of that spousal trust, we need to be aware that even though we do not mean to provoke this reaction, we may be seen as an object rather than the person that we are.

(I’d like to clarify that if a spouse treats their spouse as an object, then it’s not a situation when that spousal trust exists.  When a spouse uses the other person, it squashes the spousal trust that was there.  It’s not that marriage or being a spouse therefore is a force-field against being used for unfortunately spouses can fall into the trap of mutual use if they are not careful and active in ensuring that the state of spousal trust is preserved AT ALL TIMES.  Once that state of spousal trust is there and remains, then shame is no longer active between the spouses. Spousal trust diffuses the innate good shame.)

Sometimes this is a bitter pill for us women to swallow.

I think that this is mostly due to the fact that we don’t realize just how powerful our looks can be – we don’t realize the power that we can wield over men’s reaction to our visual stimuli.  Men are much more visually stimulated than women are, so I think women have a hard time comprehending the magnitude and speed to which men are stimulated. (Likewise men have a hard time understanding how women can get so emotionally stimulated over one tiny nice gesture, because women are more easily emotionally stimulated than men are.)

I explained in the large discussion group that when I first started dating the man who later became my husband, I had a somewhat awkward conversation with him in which I explained my desire to “not wield the power.” He said, “Wielding the power? What’s that?”  I said, “Well, that’s wearing a low cut blouse or dress so that I can get “attention” from men.  I don’t want to control a man into finding me attractive.  I don’t want to whack someone over the head, figuratively speaking, with my body parts.  It’s enticing to want attention from the opposite sex –  especially from the man I’m really interested in – or the man I’m dating.  This is going to sound silly, but I’ve come to realize how powerful cleavage is.  Or a short skirt for that matter.  I don’t want to manipulate a man with that.  I don’t want to be “sexy” to strangers. I want to be beautiful, alluring, and inviting.  So I’ve decided to stop “wielding the power”.”

Are you wielding the power like She-ra? low cut blouse? short skirt?

At first I think he didn’t know what to think of that statement.  But after a while he came to appreciate it – especially after we were married.  He’d see a woman who was revealing WAY too much to the rest of the dinner party and he’d lean in close to my ear and say, “Honey, thank you for not wielding the power.” Which was really just short for, “thank you for not showing your breasts off to the rest of the men and women that are sitting around the table – because it’s really awkward to see all these men staring at that woman’s breasts as they try to pass the potatoes.  I would just feel sooo awkward if the men at this table were drooling over my wife’s body parts like they were a piece of meat at the dinner table.”

If you are a married woman and you are reading this (or even if you are dating someone) , I encourage you to reflect on this situation and ask yourself, “why isn’t the love and affection from the man whom I love, enough? Why do I feel drawn to pull the eyes of all of the men- any man – even someone else’s spouse to my cleavage?”

The single gals are by no means exempt.  I would encourage single gals to reflect on this situation and ask, “Why do I want to be seen as an object? Why do I want a man to only see a part of me?”

My husband and I laugh about it now because as I shop for clothes my husband will look at the new outfit as I exit the dressing room and say, “Hmmm.  No.  I think it’s “wielding the power”.”

Now there maybe some gals who might be thinking, “I don’t think it’s a big deal, I’m gonna wield the power that I have because God gave it to me. Why not use it? If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”

Why not use it? Because it is merely the illusion of power.  In actuality, when you use “wielding the power” to manipulate a man, you allow yourself to become an object.  So instead of gaining something, you lose something – your human dignity.  Love doesn’t see the person as an object to be used.  So gals, if you are truly seeking love, then avoid being seen as an object.  Be seen as a person who deserves and seeks human dignity.

Strive for lovely, adorable, beautiful, or alluring.  It will bring out the best in you and the best in the men in your life.

Be Adora…. as in adorable…. not She-ra… as in She-ra-ther be treated like an object. 😛

When She-ra isn't wielding the power, she's modest Adora.

(For those of you who watched She-ra when they were young,  you will know that the character Adora actually has another step to go in being more modest.  She is seriously lacking in the pants or skirt department which is why the picture above is not zoomed out. BUT please note that She-ra has all kinds of cleavage going on- while Adora is revealing much less! For those of you who didn’t watch She-ra and need a little explanation:  She-ra and Adora are one in the same.  Adora is a princess and when wielding the power, she becomes She-ra!)

During the both the small and large discussion groups I brought up a hilariously and even quite functional As-Seen-On-TV product that helps in the effort to be more modest: the Cami Secret.

It’s in many colors and if you call now, I’m sure that you’ll receive a free bonus selection! 😛

I was going to get it for my sister one year for Christmas as a joke, but then I got to thinking that it would probably be a pretty great gift.  Sometimes I find dresses or tops that are very flattering but unfortunately have one significant flaw:  as one guy at L&R in NYC put it, “It looks like you’re dressed for open heart surgery!”.  Yep – the  neckline is way too plunging thereby making the shirt or dress unwearable. 😦

Anyway – I thought I’d post the clip so that if any of you are interested in actually purchasing it, you can follow the link listed there.  Boy don’t I wish I had invented it – or at least I was getting a cut on this referral!

Sometimes people think that dressing modestly means wearing a frumpy jumper.  It doesn’t.  NO frumpy jumpers please!

No frumpy jumpers!

One way to dress modestly is to, as one person put it that night, “Make sure your underwear is under there.  It’s called UNDERwear for a reason.”

In other words, whether you are a guy or a gal, I don’t want to see your underwear!

Isabel reminded us gals that we should dress for our body types.  Be aware that some fashionable trends were not made for your body type – and on your body type they are too revealing.  She also pointed out that dressing modestly does not mean dressing unattractively as some people in today’s fashion world might have you think.

Crystal suggested that girls ask themselves, “Do I want the cheap kind of attention?”

Another gal asked the guys to “Please let us know when we aren’t dressing modestly.  We might not know that what we are wearing is causing a temptation for you. ” Brilliant.

In the small group Megan offered that modesty is also in our actions.  It’s not enough to dress modestly, we must also be modest in how we hold our bodies.  We can be fully clothed but still be inappropriate in our manner.  Hold yourself to higher standards in dress and in actions.

In the small group I offered the reflection that it seems: If we reveal everything, there is nothing to draw the other in to discover that which is hidden.  What is hidden?  Our minds and our spirits.  We are more than our bodies.  So if we reveal everything about our body, the other person could easily miss the reality that there is more than meets the eye.

Patrick who was in my small group added that, “by revealing too much, it hastens that ‘getting to know the other’-phase.” He commented that if the getting-to-know-the-other-person-phase goes to quickly then you actually end up missing a lot about the other person.  As he was speaking it made me think of a car speeding past a beautiful scenery.

Are you speeding past the "getting to know someone" phase?

If you’re going 100 miles an hour, you aren’t really going to see the scenery as it goes by.  If you drive by a person at 100 miles an hour, would you be able to recognize them once you are standing still?  Dressing immodestly makes everything a blur.  On the other hand, dressing modestly sets both persons up to be able to actually see the other person.

Michael commented that when guys come across a gal at a party or a bar who is dressed modestly the guys don’t think, “Wow.  I really want to get to know that modest woman over there.”  They think, “Wow.  She’s beautiful.  I’d like to get to know her.”

Some guys in the crowd also acknowledged that while there might be some women who ARE striving for modesty, there are plenty of women who are unaware that their immodesty is a temptation for men.

One guy in particular commented that in college, while he considered himself to be a practicing Catholic, he really struggled with the idea that women should not be objects of lust.  Once he realized that women deserved to be treated with dignity and not be the objects of lust, he had to reform his old habits and replace them with good ones.  Instead of a subscription to Maxim Magazine, he read the Bible.  When he encountered a scantily clad woman walking down the sidewalk, he would push lustful thoughts out of his head by reciting Hail Marys over and over again.  One of his friends even wore a rubber-band around his wrist and snapped it every time he felt himself being drawn into lusting after a woman (or a particular body part) instead of seeing her beauty and value as human deserving the utmost respect.

To be sure, today’s world brings us challenges in the way of modesty whether we are men or women.  But I’m here to say, that it’s worth it.  I encourage you to, Be “The Cutest You” not the “Sluttiest You”.  Be “The handsome-est You.  Not the “Slickest You.”

That’s all for now – more next time on:  Men, Women, and Tenderness.

Week 8: The Battle for Purity

September 14, 2011

Last week  we covered: Resenting Chastity

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter, “The Battle for Purity.” (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter explains that the word chaste literally means clean – and no that does not mean that the Catholic Church teaches that sex is dirty – it means that being chaste is being in a state of being clean – a state of purity.
Sri explains, “We must see chastity as a positive virtue that enables us to love, and protects love from being tainted by the selfish tendency to use the other person for our own pleasure. Wojtyla says chastity is emphatically not “one long ‘no.'” Rather, it is first and foremost a yes — a yes in our hearts to the other person, not just to his or her sexual values. It is a ‘yes’ that requires certain ‘no’s’ in order to protect love from falling into utilitarianism. “The essence of chastity consists in quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation, and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of ‘the body and sex'” (p. 171). This positive, wider context of love for the person is key for understanding the ‘no’s’ of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.”

The chapter then goes on to explain that there seems to be two “battlefronts” where this fight to be pure – to be chaste takes place: the physical realm and the emotional realm.

In most cases men struggle most with the physical realm and women struggle most with the emotional realm.

The chapter then explains that it is natural to experience the initial thrust towards lust whether it be physical or emotional, but that in itself is not sinful.  The problem is when we step over those bounds and ACT on those initial impulses.

The truth is, until one masters these impulses to act, one is controlled by them.  If we do not have power over it, then it has power over us.   Ick!

Don't let lust imprison you!

Our breakout discussion in our small group largely focused on emotional chastity, what it is, and how to know how to apply it without going overboard.  One gal, (I think her name was Lorena), said that her mom’s advice to her was: Fall in love with your head first until you are married, then fall in love with your heart.

The gals in our group also commented that this battle is difficult whether it is for physical chastity or emotional chastity because it comes so naturally from our innate call to love.

In the larger discussion group when everyone came back together multiple people gave the advice of using prayer to assist us in this “Battle for Purity”.  Because our weakness is in chastity (until and even after we master it), it not only is a physical or emotional battle we are fighting it is a spiritual one.  So, it is wise for one to strengthen themselves spiritually with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that we can gain in the sacraments and by saying the Rosary.

What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Paragraph 1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

What are the Spiritual Fruits of the Rosary?
taken from: http://www.prayerfulrosary.com/Prayerful.html

The Fruits of the Mysteries
The Meditative and Soul of the Rosary. Each mystery has a deep meditative virtue or grace associated with it known as the “Spiritual Fruits of the mystery”. When the meditative mode of prayer is developed, the mysteries become connected to the soul which leads to contemplative prayer.

Do you know the Spiritual Fruits of the Rosary?

Joyful Mysteries

  1. The Annunciation ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
  2. The Visitation ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Love of Neighbor, Charity
  3. The Nativity ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty, Love of God
  4. The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Obedience
  5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Zeal for God

Sorrowful Mysteries

  1. The Agony in the Garden ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Sorrow for Sin/Contrition
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Purity
  3. The Crowning with Thorns ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Courage
  4. The Carrying of the Cross ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
  5. The Crucifixion ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Perseverance

The Glorious Mysteries

  1. The Resurrection ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
  2. The Ascension ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Hope
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Love of God
  4. The Assumption of Mary ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Grace of a Holy Death
  5. The Coronation of Blessed Virgin Mary ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Trust in Mary’s Intercession/Devotion to the Blessed Mother

Luminous Mysteries

  1. The Baptism of Jesus~Fruit of the Mystery: Sacrament of Baptism
  2. The Wedding at Cana~Fruit of the Mystery: To Jesus through Mary/Gratitude for the gift of Faith
  3. Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Repentance and Trust in God/Desire for Holiness
  4. The Transfiguration~Fruit of the Mystery: Spiritual Courage
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist~Fruit of the Mystery: Adoration of the Eucharist

One gentleman commented that it’s much harder to resist something good at the wrong time if you are starving.  His advice (which I think is brilliant!!) is to fill one’s mind with beauty and to work at being emotionally connected with people – in general – so that you won’t be so starved of this beauty and emotional connection that you will grab at it with the wrong types of people.  He commented that he had just finished having dinner with his sister and that  this connection with her helps fill that desire for emotional connection.

Are you starving for beauty and emotional connection?

For many of us, especially in NYC, our family lives far away so this particular example is not available for us.  However, we can create a NYC-family to  have dinner with: a roommate, someone we met at a  MeetUp group, someone we met at a volunteer activity, or perhaps even someone we met at Love & Responsibility in NYC! (I’m just stayin’) 😛

His point was that, “It’s easier to not eat junk food if you are eating healthy food.”  Taking these steps is part of setting ourselves up for success in this battle for purity.

Megan had a similar imagery:  “Don’t date cupcake men.  Date apples and pears.”

Don't date cupcake men!

Her point is that some people look nice on the outside but what’s inside isn’t really good for you.  You should date people who are good for you and who you are good for too!

So yes, the Battle for Purity will be difficult…. but it’s totally worth it! Good luck and see you at the next L&R in NYC!

Week 7: Resenting Chastity

September 7, 2011

Last week  we covered: Love…and Responsibility?

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter, “Resenting Chastity.” (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

(Unfortunately, I could not be there for the group discussion.  So I’m merely going to summarize the chapter and then provide a few reflections.)

This chapter deals discusses the dynamic that seems to surround Chastity.  In short, Chastity is met with a frown not a smile. This of course is nothing new.  Today just as in the days of John Paul II’s interaction with married couples as a Parish priest, there is a resenting of Chastity.  This chapter delves into why it seems that people resent Chastity.

Simply:

  • living a virtuous life is not easy,
  • because of our fallen nature (thanks to Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden) we tend to find it easier to follow our emotions and desires than submit those emotions and desires for the good of another
  • as we notice that a virtuous life is harder and requires more of us we start to talk ourselves out of it (in other words, we usually take the path of least resistance).
  • the virtue of chastity is often misunderstood as abstinence or a rejection of something that is very good
  • because of a misconception of what chastity is, chastity is seen as a threat not a strength.
  • if we focus on the subjective side of love and ignore the objective side of love, it then furthers the focus on the emotions of love and further instills the fear that chastity will crush it.

Ed Sri then goes on to describe Chastity as the “Guardian of Love.”  He states, “Now we can see why chastity is so necessary for love. Far from something that hinders our love, chastity is what makes love possible. It protects love from falling into selfish, utilitarian attitudes and enables us to love selflessly — irrespective of the powerful emotions or sensual delight we may receive from our beloved.”

Explained that way, I’m sure many more people would be rushing to sign up for that plan.  🙂

I wish I had received that explanation and this book sooner!  Until about 6 years ago I thought that chastity was merely abstinence.  “No intercourse till marriage.” was all I can remember hearing.  I never heard “Chastity is a Guardian of Love.”

I learned the hard way that Chastity really is the best policy.  I’m sorry that I had to learn it the hard way, but I am happy that I learned the lesson.  In fact, I learned the lesson just in time to protect the love that was and is the basis for my marriage.  Now I see that a lack of chastity is the cancer that eats away at true love.  I see that self mastery especially in regards to chastity is essential in propagating and sustaining love.

Striving and strengthening virtue gives one the ability to make good choices.  Even after I learned about the truth about chastity and threw away those misconceptions that I had about chastity, I still struggled with it.  Not only did I feel like I was up against the rest of the modern world regarding their idea of what sexual intimacy meant, I was up against myself.  All of my old habits had to be replaced with new acts of virtue.  It sounds heroic, and it is, but let’s just say that I had a few crash landings after trying out my new chastity superhero cape and flying abilities.

Mastery of Chastity will help you land on your feet!

The hidden secret is: The person who you love (who you are in a relationship with or who you are married to) will appreciate this mastery the most! No one wants their hearts to be hurt by someone they love being unchaste…. with someone else!  They want someone who has the ability to integrate their body with their hearts, minds, and souls so that their actions say that they love you.

So, your loved one will want it for their benefit so that they won’t get cheated on and they will also want it for themselves.

Perhaps not at first though. 😛

Like the people described in this chapter, often those who do not yet possess the virtue of chastity are the ones to most quickly criticize chastity or ridicule chastity.  They think: “Oh – well of course, let’s apply that “rule” over there, but not over here between us because that’s just awkward.  Besides, we don’t need that.  Right?”

I think that when I first met the man who is now my spouse, he thought I was nuts when I was so exuberant about the joys and freedom of chastity.  He thought, “umm… what? sounds more like the date fizzling than freedom.”  In fact I think that he was concerned that if we did not use our emotions to fan the fire of our passions (and therefore fall into unchaste actions), that we were in danger of having a bland passionless relationship.

Don't let your emotions fan the flames of passion... that will end up burning up the love that exists!

Luckily God invented chemistry, so that has never been a problem for my husband and I.  Through our dating experience we learned that chastity was actually necessary to really show to what extent we loved each other.  Honestly, a part of me thinks, “Chastity is the hard part – saying, ‘I do’ at the altar was easy!” For us, it was a huge challenge that has strengthened our marriage.  I know (proved by his willingness to persevere in chastity) that I married a man of virtue – one of perseverance and fortitude.  Likewise he knows that I am willing to “go the distance” – to fight against what I might be initially inclined to do and fight for what is right.

For us, chastity is no longer a thing to be feared, it is a thing to be understood and cherished.  It’s a tool in really loving someone in that mature love that seeks the good of the other.

It’s tricky, but I highly recommend it! I challenge you: resist resenting chastity and learn to eagerly embrace it!

Ok – that’s all for now.  More next week on “The Battle for Purity.”

Week 6: Love… and Responsibility?

August 31, 2011

A couple of weeks ago we covered: The Law of the Gift

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter Love…and Responsibility? (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

Previous chapters have discussed the framework for establishing virtuous friendships, avoiding common pitfalls during the birth of a new relationship, and understanding the dynamic of love. This chapter speaks of what should happen after the relationship (and hopefully true love) has been established. It calls us not only to love, but to be responsible about it:

  • to fully accept the gift of love,
  • to fully trust the person so that they can be free to be emotionally intimate,
  • to resist focusing on our loved one’s faults which would reduce the person to a mere sinful object instead of the human person deserving of dignity that they are
  • to accept our loved one’s shortcomings and to help them in overcoming them,
  • to love them in “good times and bad”,
  • to challenge ourselves to grow from an immature love that looks inward to our own needs, to a mature love that looks outward toward what is best for our loved one.

Ed Sri then goes on to give examples of what a marriage made of mature love looks like and what a marriage made of immature love looks like. One couple had the trial of the wife getting ill with cancer. Faced with a life that he hadn’t planned for, the husband removed himself from the trial and left his wife, rather than deal with having to take care of her through her fight with cancer. (Can you say JERK???)

The other couple Ed Sri described in the chapter experienced the trial of the wife having M.S.. The husband stayed through the trial and even though the wife lost the use of her arms and legs,  he gave up the comfort of having a larger retirement fund and chose to love his wife by caring for her physical needs.  When the going got tough, he didn’t get going.  (Yay!!!)

As a single person, it’s a scary picture. Finding a suitable or compatible spouse seems like a hard enough task and now their being faced with the fact that even though they may find that man (or woman) of their dreams, the most difficult trials of love may lie ahead of them? I can just hear them saying, “I thought the hard part was dating? now you’re telling us that the hard part is when you love someone in marriage? EEESH.”

As a married person, I can tell you – it’s true. Each state of life has it’s own adventures – it’s own challenges – it’s own opportunities to challenge one’s self to become the best version of themselves. When you’re in the dating world, generally, you can’t wait to NOT be in the dating world anymore so that you don’t have to deal with all of the ridiculousness of being IN the dating world. But when you are married, the adventures (and even some of the ridiculousness) doesn’t end there. There’s a whole new level of adventures and challenges.

The key is to move beyond the immature inward looking love to the mature outward looking love. The more you work to strive toward (or strive to increase) the mature love in your marriage the more able you are able to handle adventures with peace and confidence.

This book and this chapter specifically has been very helpful in my marriage in regards to how I handle those unforeseen adventures. There’s an “adventure” that happened late in the first year of our marriage in which I really had to implement these ideas of not focusing on my spouse’s faults and responding in a way that would help my spouse overcome his shortcomings.  It also properly conveyed that while the matter was serious, my love for my spouse did not waver.

My response must have been thanks to a heavy dose of grace from God because I distinctly remember literally taking a few steps away from the discussion, taking deep breaths, and thinking to myself over and over again, “Your spouse is not the sum of his shortcomings. Your spouse is not the sum of his shortcomings. He was designed by God and has Human Dignity. He is a son of the King.”

20110915-024141.jpg

Beware of immature love's laser eyes!

My husband and I laugh about it now because he could plainly see that at that moment,  while I was faced with this adventure, I was so angry that I was practically on the verge of having lasers shoot from my eyeballs.  But in the next moment, without saying anything, the anger quickly dissipated and was followed by a very calm, peaceful, logical explanation about how his choice had been a poor choice and how to prevent it in the future.

Some of the hardest times to love someone is going to be when we are angry or when someone is angry at us.  The challenge is to diffuse the situation and to give our loved one an opportunity to adjust their behavior from cranky to calm.  I like to think of this as a lob in tennis.

Do you know what a lob is?

It’s where you loft the ball back at your opponent with an upward arcing direction so that it either lands behind them or forces them to back up.  It can be used defensively to diffuse a powerful shot and thereby give you additional time to collect yourself to be ready for the next shot,  or offensively to win the shot by catching your opponent off guard.

Here’s a picture:

Love: Lob your response back when met with anger.

A marriage based on immature love is one where the person returns an angry remark with an angry remark to win the point.  Ewww

A marriage based on immature love might be severely weakened by one  “adventure” caused by a poor choice. A marriage based on mature love (or even simply striving toward it), however, is actually strengthened by the “adventure” as each person sees that their spouse’s interaction and reaction with them is an act of love.

I think that many people stop short in their marriage (or relationship) at this immature love.   They limit the amount that they will love their fiance or their spouse. It’s sort of an invisible pre-nup. “I’ll love him no matter what, except if he cheats on me. Then it’s over.” or “I’ll love her no matter what, unless she gains like 100 lbs. Then it’s over, because I just can’t live with someone who doesn’t take care of themselves.” That love is an icky fickle love.

We are not called to have an icky fickle love. We are called to love as God loves. God loves us when we mess up. God loves us when we’re too skinny and when we’re overweight. He loves us when we are cranky and moody and when we are being totally selfish. (Of course He doesn’t love the crankiness and selfishness – it’s us He loves, not our poor choices a.k.a. sin.)

In fact when I think about it God challenges us to love Him, not just our spouses or neighbors, in a deeper more mature way too.  He challenges us to go from an immature love where we perhaps pray about how God can just help us get out of  a sticky situation to a mature love where our prayers are less about looking at what we want and more about what God wants of us.

Ok, so we’re supposed to love our neighbors with a mature love, but what if our neighbors are creeps? 😛

What do we do when loving in a real mature way is the last thing that we want to do?  How do we treat that stinky, drunk, loud, rude, obnoxious, 7 foot tall man as a man who was created in God’s image? a man who is a son of God? a man who is a prince in God’s kingdom – but who is seriously disguised with all of his troubles and shortcomings at this point?

I came across such a man when I was on the subway about 5 years ago.  It was early in the morning.  I was on my way to work and I was really not in the mood to be faced with someone who must have been drinking throughout the night and into the dawn.  Yet what came to mind were balloons.

It's a boy! or It's a girl! helps us to remember that we are all children of God.

Balloons tied to someone’s front door or someone’s mailbox.  “It’s a boy! Congratulations!” were written on them and they were tied with blue ribbons.  One day, 30 some odd years ago a mother brought that 7 foot man, who was then just a little bundle of joy, home from the hospital.

I think that’s how God sees us.  He remembers us when we were just a little nugget of cuteness in our mother’s arms.

So when you come across someone who is being cranky or stinky or both, just think of the bouquet of balloons to help you see them as God sees them.  It’s helped me many times.

We all have intrinsic value.  We were born with it.  We can’t escape it and no one can take it away.  In fact, during the large discussion group someone asked what intrinsic value was.  Someone gave a great answer:  extrinsic things are things that can be taken from us; intrinsic things are things that cannot be taken away.

God loves us with an intrinsic love.  You.  God loves You – the unrepeatable, unprecedented you.

(That reminds me of a trailer for a movie: The Human Experience   If you haven’t seen the movie…. SEE IT! It’s awesome!)

A gentleman commented during the group discussion that “we all were created in God’s image – and that we all reveal something about God that no one else can reveal.”  We are different for a reason.

Another gentleman, Mike, reminded us:  God created us, therefore we are good because everything that God created is good.

Some more great comments from that night include:

  • Every moment that we are in is a moment for our own conversion.
  • Loving with a mature love begins with us:  We have to know our own worth in order to value someone else and then be
    responsible for them.
  • Daniela quoted C.S. Lewis, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Treat your neighbor with respect.  We can either help our spouse (or neighbor) to be a monster or an angel.
  • Selfless love doesn’t count the cost.

The last example that I want to point out is one that was given by one of the women in the group.  She told us a story that was similar to the two couples described in the book.  It was the story of her two Aunts.  Both were faced with infidelity by their spouses.  But one handled it with love, while the other handled it with anger.  The “angry” Aunt is now divorced and still angry.  The “loving” Aunt worked hard to keep her marriage together and worked hard to show her spouse that even in a time of severe trouble and distrust, she still loved her spouse.

I’m glad that JPII, Ed Sri, and even people at our discussion group agree:  there’s more to love than just love…. there’s responsibility.

It’s not easy, but it leads to true happiness.  Good luck and see you next week!

Week 5: The Law of the Gift

August 22, 2011

Last week we covered Sense and Sentimentality.

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered The Law of the Gift: Understanding the Two Sides of Love. (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter speaks about the subjective side of love and the objective side of love.  The subjective side of love is what happens inside of us (our feelings, our attraction, i.e. sentimentality, sensuality). To quote the author, Ed Sri, “In other words, on its own, the subjective aspect of love is no more than a pleasurable experience happening inside of me.”   This is the side of love that sort of  happens to us. The objective side of love is that conscious decision to love someone for who they are.  It’s not something that happens to us, it’s something that we do.

That reminds me of a country song that I used to know (I used to live in NC and country music was prolific!):

“When considering the objective aspect of love, we must discern what kind of relationship exists between me and my beloved in reality, not simply what this relationship means to me in my feelings. Does the other person truly love me more for who I am or more for the pleasure he receives from the relationship? Does my beloved understand what is truly best for me, and does she have the virtue to help me get there?” says Ed Sri.

Sadly, I have friends that have married someone who loves them subjectively, not objectively.  When I read, “Or are we really just living side by side, sharing resources and occasional good times together while we each selfishly pursue our own projects and interests in life?”, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and it reminded me of those relationships that I’ve witnessed where the fire of (subjective) love burns brightly at first and then after a while it burns out leaving one or both persons wondering if they were really in love in the first place.

Subjective love is like PB&J

PB&J YUM!

When we were in our breakout groups, our group talked about this dynamic.  I mentioned that I had heard of couples who had been married for 30 years who seemed to stay in this subjective love phase.   “Many couples get divorced and I think that it’s because the relationship never matures into the objective side of love, it stays in the subjective side of love.  Sometimes couples can somehow survive this for 30 years, and then it takes something like a Marriage Encounter retreat weekend to expose them to the existence of objective love – this whole other level of love that is much more nourishing.   It’s like all they know is PB&J – they don’t even know that fillet minion exists!”  I love a good PB&J, but a lifetime of ONLY PB&J would get old quickly.  That’s why, in my opinion, living off of ONLY subjective love doesn’t usually work for very long.  It’s probably why most marriages that end in divorce, do so after 1 to 3 years.

The chapter also mentions that this objective side of love is given freely – it is a free choice to give of themselves.  The “Law” of that gift of self is that the person has to go outside of themselves in order to give that gift.  By forgoing their personal interests or personal freedoms for another, it enriches their loved one’s life and simultaneously their own.

Sri states, “Therefore, while the modern individualist may see self-giving love in marriage as something negative and restrictive, Christians view such limitations as liberating. What I really want to do in life is to love my God, my wife and kids, and my neighbor — for in these relationships I find my happiness.”

I’d come across that modern individualist attitude in some of the guys I dated.  It was sad because they viewed marriage as this THING that imposed a list of “can’t”s onto their life.  They didn’t want anything to do with it because they weren’t ready to give up their single -very-self revolving-lifestyle.

We commented about this in our breakout groups.  Sometimes people ask, “How much can I get out of this?” (subjective love) versus what they should be asking: “How much can I give?” (objective love).  That’s definitely a sign of subjective love, not objective love.

One woman commented: It’s freeing to hear this truth, that if we freely give of ourselves we will attain true freedom and lasting happiness.  

It’s inspiring, but intimidating. 
Another woman commented about objective love: It’s inspiring, but intimidating.  How are we supposed to accomplish this? Isn’t this impossible?

I mentioned that it does sound a bit like we’re asking someone to breath underwater.  It sounds unnatural to ask someone to go outside of themselves.  But, this is why those sentimental, sensual, subjective love aspects are actually important (as long as their within a proper proportion).  The desire for these things – the desire for love that is there innately, gives us the courage to consider it – to be open to doing that which seems impossible: giving up our freedom, to gain it.

I believe that the grace that we receive from God is like the snorkel and mask that allows us to stay immersed in the water and do what we thought was impossible.  God gives us grace which helps us to love others when it requires more that what comes naturally.

God's grace helps us to do the impossible!

The chapter also goes on to describe that objective love is a choice to love , that is freely given (e.g. one does not expect payment in return), and that one has to be free to give this gift.  If something is master of you, then you are not free to love.  That is why self mastery is so important – especially when it comes to chastity.

A woman gave the point that: while as a single person, one might wonder how you can freely give yourself completely to others.  Chastity is part of conforming one’s self as a single person to that ideal.  That one will give themselves completely (sexually) to one’s spouse.  While living as a single person, chastity is a way to achieve that self mastery so that when the situation arises after marriage, one can freely give of themselves and not be overwhelmed and mastered by sexual impulses.

Being unchaste  is a symptom of the sexual urge having mastery over one’s self.

That struggle for self mastery lies in many things, not just sexuality.  It’s important to remember that while we are striving for this self mastery, we are not yet perfect.  So we may not have every thing mastered yet, but as one person said that night, “At least we are facing the right direction” so that we can walk down the path towards that.

Natalia suggested reading a book called “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.  She said that it gives a great example of this objective love and loving someone who has not yet reached perfection.

Read this for inspiration on Objective Love

(The Online Catholic Store describes the book as: this splendid retelling of the biblical story of Hosea, bestselling author Francine Rivers pens a heartbreaking romance between a prostitute and the upright and kind farmer who marries her; the story also functions as a reminder of God’s unconditional love for his people. Redeeming Love opens with the Gold Rush of 1850 and its rough-and-tumble atmosphere of greed and desire. Angel, who was sold into prostitution as a child, has learned to distrust all men, who see her

only as a way to satisfy their lust. When the virtuous and spiritual-minded Michael Hosea is told by God to marry this “soiled dove,” he obeys, despite his misgivings. As Angel learns to love him, she begins to hope again but is soon overwhelmed by fear and returns to her old life. )

Another woman advised that, “If you don’t know yourself, you run the risk of losing yourself in the other person.”

I wish I had a friend to tap me on the shoulder and repeatedly remind me of that while I was in the dating scene!

I commented that it was important to note that Blessed JPII had said that our desire to love, our choice to love “limits” our freedom.  It does not squash it.  It’s important to mention this because often I think people feel as if this kind of altruistic love asks them to give up their free will.  One gentleman quickly came to my rescue to help explain that “this idea of compromise or self sacrificing in order to fully love someone does not mean that we compromise who we are or who God is calling us to be.  We do not sacrifice our “non-drug”-self so that we can attend a Rave party and do cocaine.” It’s sacrificing for the betterment of the other person AND ourselves not at the cost of our dignity.

Brilliant!

Advice for men
One group of men shared the list of “how to prepare to be a man who can give themselves fully in love to another” that they came up with in the small discussion groups.  It was priceless!

Get a plant to take care of so you can learn how to love!

  1. train one’s self in forgiveness – be able to forgive others easily
  2. general discipline – be able to keep a schedule/routine and stick to it
  3. get a plant or even a dog  (this was my favorite!) -so that then, you’ll get used to taking care of something, other than themselves, that needs care on a regular basis.
  4. going to reconciliation on a regular basis.  This encourages one to go outside of one’s self, to admit to another that we “messed up” and shows a desire to be stronger in that area.

Another guy, Tom, offered that he often watches the movie “The Nativity Story” during the season of Advent.  This  love story  between Joseph and Mary really displays that objective love – that self sacrificing love- that Joseph has for Mary.  It’s a way for him to be reminded of this good manly role model of how to love rightly.

That’s all for now – see you at the next Love & Responsibility in NYC!

Love & Responsibility in NYC

June 27, 2011

I’m happy to report that Love & Responsibility in NYC is starting up again!

Taking place right in the heart of NYC every Tuesday evening, in downtown SoHo, this weekly social discussion forum for young adults in their 20’s and 30’s will inspire you to grow in your understanding of love and flourish in your relationships.

The first meeting is tomorrow night (Tuesday June 28, 2011) at 7:30 p.m. in SoHo.

Interested? check it out at:
Outdoor Courtyard of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral High School
Entrance via the yellow door on Mott St (b/w Prince St & Spring St)
New York, NY

More info at:

https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=211308248907388

Hope to see you there 🙂