Posts Tagged ‘Theology of the Body’

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!

Desperate + dressing “sexy” = nightmare.

August 23, 2010

Are you a woman, over 28, wondering where prince charming is and feeling like you have to show a little more cleavage in order to catch a guy’s attention? (or perhaps you’re feeling the pressure a little younger? at 22? or 15?)

OR

Are you a man, over 30 and wondering why all of the women you meet are “hawt- yet-horrifyingly” clingy?

Chances are, you are experiencing the nightmarish symptoms of the “I’m desperate so I’m going to dress even MORE sexy”-culture we live in today.

No.  It’s true.  I know it sounds silly, but it’s true: desperate + dressing “sexy” = nightmare.

Sadly I fell for this.   Let me briefly tell you my fashion story.  It is a funny one:

Once upon a time, I was a little girl and wore cute dresses and had ribbons in my hair.  Then I grew up and became a teenager and realized that I wanted to look skinny in my clothing so that I could get the attention of the boys in my class. Then came the grunge/I’m broke in college, frump of torn jean shorts and over-sized concert t-shirts.  After graduating college with a business degree it was suit sets, pearls and heels.  Devoid of a fashion personality I hit the management world ready to not bother anyone with my attire. Then I started buying clothing for my non-work hours that was flattering, not just deeply discounted. I started buying accessories and searching for the best hairstyle.  Suddenly I realized that there was more to wearing clothing than simply the antidote to nakedness.  THEN I started swing dancing and with that, I started my search for dresses! Dresses that twirled and swayed when I danced.  Dresses that were flattering to my figure and were complimented by the flower in my hair and the red beads around my neck.

As my dancing improved and the frequency of dancing increased, my waistline decreased.  I was finally looking my best.  A girlfriend of mine and I came up with the term, “being the cutest me!”  That  helped us in choosing outfits when we were shopping as well as helping us weed out our closets.  It even helped us weed out beaus who were not good for us.  In simplest terms, they weren’t nice to us and that left us with scrunchy faces, which was definitely not the cutest-us’es.

After all this time had passed, I had finally been blessed with the true message of chastity:  that chastity is about freedom, not repression.  I realized the importance of modesty.  The more I learned about how important the body was, the more I naturally started feeling the awkwardness of revealing too much.   I watched as men were distracted by what I was wearing, that it was harder for them to hold a conversation with me, and I realized that I didn’t want to manipulate them into staring at me.  I wanted them to notice my beauty, but I wanted them to be inspired by me, not coerced.

But at 33 years old, after a couple of absolute heart breaking break ups and a deluge of disastrous dates, I started to get desperate.  I wanted to be married. I thought, “if I live in NYC where gorgeous virtually naked models are plastered across billboards on every block and most girls are wearing dresses that look more like a shirt with a hem than a flattering dress, I’m going to have to start “wearing the uniform if I want to get in the game.”

I also fell for the line that society was/is pushing: Sexiness is power.  To be a powerful, confident woman, you must wield this sexy-power.  In other words, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.  AND if you have it and choose to not flaunt it, you are weak.  If you have it and don’t flaunt it, you are old and frumpy and you really have no need of being noticed let alone being valued because you aren’t a “confident woman.”

(BTW: Somehow over the past few years, sexy has gone over to slutty. Sexy shoes have turned into porn star platforms.

Hi, fashion industry? It’s me.  Educated woman.  Hi. I have a college degree. I have a job.  Can I please have some cute shoes to wear? that aren’t frumpy? and DON’T make me look like I’m on my way to my job…. at the strip club?!?!?!?!  Ok.  Sorry for the tangent.)

So anyway – for a moment, I fell for the above crap.  Let’s face it, I was on the edge of desperation.  (Now, I’d just like to clarify that I didn’t think it was desperation at the time… it only felt like I was on the edge of desperation…..) I was 33, trying to save sex for marriage, and I was in a pool of about 2 million other single gals who were looking for a spouse.  So the competition and “reason” kicked in.  I was going to HAVE to start dressing sexier to “attract” a man.

Well, let me reiterate:  Desperate (even edge of desperation) + dressing “sexy” = nightmare.

Oh yeah – I attracted a man.  But it wasn’t the kind of man that I wanted.  Long story short, he used me and cast me aside as if I was yesterday’s newspaper.

What I learned was this:

  • Aiming for being alluring is good.  Being alluring inspires a man.  It allows the man to notice you, and then truly see you – as a person. A man should delight in a woman’s beauty – both her physical beauty and her emotional beauty that is in her personality.  Being attractive is a good thing.  Being manipulative is a bad thing.
  • Aiming for sexiness is not a good idea.  Sex should always be an expression of love.  Sex is NOT about power over someone.  Sex is a renewal of the wedding vows.  It is a gift of self (mind, body and spirit) to one’s spouse.  So – using one’s sexiness to have power or control over someone – to manipulate them is a mis-use of this “power”
  • To quote Uncle Ben in Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
  • With this power, we have the responsibility to use it for good! NO FRUMP ALLOWED! The burlap-sack-dress-look is not ok! Women: if you look like you are wearing a rectangle, GO HOME and change! Guys: if I can’t tell where your waist, bottom, knees, or ankles are, GO HOME and change! FRUMP is NOT the cutest you! (Ok Fashion people: breath deeply.  Remember: keep breathing! I’m not saying that 1 oversized item is a bad thing.  That’s ok – I like it.  Good great. Just not Everything.)
  • What people wear reveals something about themselves.  Sometimes it’s that they are revealing tooo much.  Sometimes they are revealing tooo little. What you wear should accentuate your beauty or your handsomeness.  NOT your sexiness.
  • If you use your sexiness to manipulate someone, you treat them like an object; things are usually reciprocal.  Once someone is being used as an object, they are more likely to use you as an object.  So- if you want to avoid being used, avoid manipulating someone with dressing sexy.
  • Translation: Men, if you want us to stop being so clingy then you are going to have to stop encouraging us looking at you as an object; stop encouraging us to be sexy so that we have power over you!
  • Yes you might end up with a guy.  You might up in the “game”.  But is that the kind of guy you want to be with? Is that the kind of game you want to play? NOOOOO! Learn from my mistakes! don’t do it!  I understand that you want to dance; You want to get out on the dance floor! But let me tell you – it’s better to wait to be asked to dance by a dancer who sees YOU, than it is to be asked by someone who treats you as an object, whips you across the dance floor, and dislocates your shoulder!  Believe me guys and gals, you want the dream gal or guy, not the nightmare.

So let’s say you want to turn that desire to find a spouse into something good instead of something frustrating? Try these things:

  • Pray. Thank God for this desire to be a gift of self to someone. Then ask Him to send you someone who is going to help you to be the cutest you.
  • Get yourself out there: take group dance lessons, go to discussion groups, go to http://www.CatholicNYC.com for a list of things to do, and last but not least: online dating.  If this makes you cringe, then pick up your cross, and sign up… because your spouse might be waiting for you to log on.
  • Volunteer.  We learn a lot about ourselves when we give of ourselves.  Seek others who are generous.  Find others who need help.   The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have a ministry to the poor and hungry.  Contact them via: http://www.franciscanfriars.com.  The Sisters of Life help women who are in crisis pregnancy.  Contact them via: http://www.SistersOfLife.org.

I resisted the urge to wield the power of sex (and sexiness) over the men in my life.  Then, the man of my dreams came into my life and asked me to dance. Literally. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in June.

(Wondering why Spiderman is mentioned on a Theology of Swing blog? Well, check it out! Spiderman does more than swing around town nabbing crooks! Here he is!: Spiderman, Swing Dancing at the American Lindy Hop Championships in 2007!)

How to date (and dance) in 2010

April 26, 2010

How to date in 2010….

You might be saying, “Why are you writing about dating? I thought this was about Theology of the Body  and/or swing?”

I was rather reluctant to write about dating, because it is such an individual experience, and I thought it to be a little off-topic.  But time after time, the subject keeps coming up.  Women want to know how to date (and dance) successfully and men want to know how to get a woman to date (and dance) with them.  On and off the dance floor, women and men relate to each other and how well they relate to each other determines if the relationship flourishes or withers.

After many disastrous relationships and broken hearts, I came up with a new (for me) plan for dating and my inspiration came from the dance floor.

On the dance floor in Lindy Hop Swing, the man is the lead who determines where the partners will go on the dance floor and what dance moves they will do. Don’t worry gals, there’s plenty of room for you to be creative, but your first goal is to allow the man to lead.

So my plan, and my advice to you, is to let the man lead in the dating scene as well.

(At this point you are probably thinking, “Hey I thought she said this was dating in 2010? maybe she said 1910?”.  If you are thinking that, stay with me – it has a happy ending.)

Part 1: Men lead.

Part 2:  Women allow the men to lead.

Sound simple? Yep.  It is.

Practically speaking its a bit trickier.  Because we live in a world that is so accustomed to women taking charge and “being the same” as men, women have been trained to steal this ‘opportunity to lead’ away from men.

Women: this will be a challenge for you.  It will feel completely foreign at first… sort of  like trying to write with your left hand when you are right-handed.  It will appear as if it is easy to do, but it will prove to be trickier than you expected – AND most importantly it will allow you to grow your skill set…. AND make you a stronger woman. Sound good? O.K…..

Now that you have the game plan in place, how do you implement that into daily life? Try the:

“By the 3rd date” Plan (20+ and 30+ somethings…this is for you.)

The “By the 3rd date” plan was something that I was inspired to do after numerous dating disasters.  I was 30+.  I had read a few books on dating but they were either suggesting that  I live a “Sex in the City” life (ACK!) in order to secure a mate OR they were written for 13 year-olds and suggested having a chaperone at every date.  I had tried blind dates, online dating (popular sites and Catholic sites), being out and about at numerous social functions, and of course just meeting someone by chance.  All of them had proved to be what I affectionately call “disasters”.  They were learning experiences – and what I learned is that people don’t know how to date.

In short, with “By the 3rd date” you go out on two dates,  IF by the 2nd date there is ZERO – I mean negative amounts of-  chemistry, then don’t go out on the 3rd date and be open to what God brings you next.

The first date is always a disaster because both people are nervous.

The second date you get to know the person a little more.

God created hormones that we can detect just by standing near someone.  Those hormones (pheromones) are indicators of when we are fertile and when we are not, AND who we will be compatible with and who we will not.

If by the 3rd date, there is no chemistry – no indicator – no inspiration to proceed, then it’s time to listen to that signal and move on.

By the way – this is similar to what happens on the dance floor. In Lindy Hop Swing, it is common to lead some dance moves in patterns of three.   If however, the man leads a dance move and the first time the woman doesn’t follow the lead and fumbles, he leads it again to give it a second try.  IF the second attempt is a complete disaster too – he discerns that it’s not a good fit, and leads a different move.

There’s more to this, but so as to not make this post too long, I’m going to break it up: “By the 3rd date”- for Women and “By the 3rd date” for Men.