Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Why and How to Crush-Proof Your Heart

Ha ha you fell for my clickbait title! Of course you can’t crush-proof your heart. What a ridiculous claim! You may as well say, how to not be human.

BUT from my long and illustrious past as a regular crush-haver I will say that I have definitely seen that I played a major part in my own self-destructive spirals.

Hold on, I haven’t presented why I think crushes are to be avoided at all. Aren’t they just a fun and exciting part of life? You would think so, except when you are smack-dab in the middle of a yet another hopeless and painful crush.

Okay, here’s the bullet point list.
  • Crushes are not based on reality. So the more often you are consumed by a crush, the less you are able to live in the real world. '
  • Crushes can tempt us to treat people as objects. Crushes are ALL about ‘the way you make me feel’, not about the actual person.
  • Crushes can be dangerous, because they lead us further and further down a path of attention-seeking and thrill-seeking. 
  • The bigger we allow a crush to become, the less we are able to love and focus on real relationships and human beings in our lives. 
  • Crushes way too easily turn obsessive. You know it’s true, all you Facebook stalkers out there!
  • Crushes can be freakin’ painful. Maybe not heartbreak painful (he loved me and left me types), but most definitely heartache painful. And not a suffering that comes with truly loving someone, but self-inflicted wounds that play on our insecurities, fears and unfulfilled desires. 

Convinced yet? Even if you are, you are probably very skeptical of your power to prevent any of that pain. Crushes just happen, right? Well, partly. Attraction just happens. Not all attraction has to turn into a full-blown crush. So here are my best tips to strengthen your emotional boundaries, and replacing infatuation with a more authentic brand of love.

1. Accept that this is a long process of retraining your emotions. There is no shortcut method.

2. Quickest, most brutal but most effective method - stop feeding on emotional candy. Romance novels, chick flicks, listening to ‘Perfect’ on repeat, cutesy #relationship goals memes, romantic fanfic, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran music videos. If you aren’t willing to significantly cut down on that, you are most likely doomed to live this way forever. I’m not saying NEVER watch a romcom, just know yourself, and pace yourself. If you need to do a movie fast for a while, do it! Replace these things with good books, classical music, world issues, biographies, sci-fi… the world is full of interesting things!

3. Start looking at the opposite sex with new eyes. You are only going to land up with ONE person (hopefully). That means everyone else should be a brother or a sister. Girls, can you decide to look at every new guy you meet as a brother and a friend, not a potential spouse or boyfriend for you or your best friend?

4. Look at people as they really are, and get to know them, warts and all. Spend real time with them. Ask them questions. Usually people are annoying enough and REAL enough that once you get to know them, the rosy crush glow starts fading away. Then either you have a REAL friendship based on accepting and liking the person for who they are, or you er.. don’t. I read somewhere ‘The more you talk to a person the more you either love them or hate them’. That’s how I got over most of my crushes. :-D

5. Absolutely NO Facebook stalking! Or any other type of stalking. Don’t go down that road.

6. No keeping of souvenirs, photos, clothes belonging to the crush. Don’t feed it! Self-control! You’re better than this! Do you really want to become the crazy girl from The Crush? (Watched it when I was 12, scarred me for life.)

7. Keep your mind and your heart busy. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop – it’s not just a saying our parents came up with to make us work harder. Find ways to fill your days and time with projects that excite you and stimulate your mind. Organize an after school activity for underprivileged kids! Write a book! Paint a picture! Start an NGO! Look for a different job if all it does is bore you and keep you dreaming about a person you don’t have.

8. Invest in the relationships you already have. Love is NOT just a feeling, and it is definitely not anywhere close to an infatuation. So train yourself in real love by learning the love languages of the people around you, and using them!

9. Don’t obsess! I don’t know if guys do this, but we girls love to sit and talk and talk about our crushes, reliving and analyzing every word or action, feeling the feelings all over again. You may feel attracted to someone, you don’t have to immediately talk it out. Most times what may have passed easily gets blown up into this BIG THING.

10. Attraction is not always romantic. The next time you feel drawn or attracted to someone, look at them, and say “I am attracted to the goodness, beauty, kindness of this person because it reflects the goodness, beauty, kindness of God.” You can feel drawn to someone without needing to own them, or needing them to prove that you too are attractive. It’s kind of like what we joking call man-crushes or girl-crushes… but let’s expand it to all people of both sexes. That way, when you ARE in a relationship, you are still able to relate to people who are not your spouse. Did you know married people still have crushes? No big deal… as long as they don’t act on them. But even better if we can all train ourselves to look at people differently, not as objects of our emotional or sexual fantasies, but as PERSONS with innate value and dignity quite apart from the way they make us feel about ourselves.

11. Invest in healthy friendships with people who love and value you so that you are not constantly looking for someone to validate you or give you attention.

12. Change the channel when you start day-dreaming. You can’t prevent a sudden thought from barging into your mind, but you can sure as heck show it to the door. Why yes, fantasizing about kissing someone is a way of objectifying a human being.

I wasted a LOT of my younger years obsessing on one crush after another. Of course it was occasionally exciting when someone I liked seemed to like me back, or even paid me the smallest amount of attention. But the result of a crush-heavy life was that I was sad a lot of the time, because those crushes were visual representations of unfulfilled desires. I would go on family holidays, ignoring my family, and walk around depressed because I just wished I had a boyfriend. What an idiot!

Thankfully in my early 20s God gave me a loving but firm wake-up call, and I stopped being bored and boring and started LIVING my life. I have still had crushes after that, but they have been far less frequent, and not as powerful or painful (with a few lapses for shorter periods of time). I still feel the feelings, but my emotions don’t control me. I am far happier with who I am (SINGLE AND 32 WHAT WHAT!) and am able to have healthy and good relationships with most people I meet.


Kidding. Just kidding.

Recommended reading:

Fill These Hearts by Christopher West
How (and Why) Not To Fall in Love 
Guys, Stop Texting Girls! And Other Super Helpful Advice for the 'Good' Guys

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Different Levels of Conversion Needed in the Church

Sherry Weddell in a book called Forming Intentional Disciples wrote about how many Catholics who were involved in church activities and service didn’t seem to be intentional disciples. I think it’s obvious to most Catholics that just being baptized on its own doesn’t seem to form a recognizably Christ-like human being. Cooperation with grace is needed. But then again most Catholics don’t seem to have a good idea of what it DOES mean to live as an authentic follower of Christ aka a disciple. We are all called to ongoing conversion, and these are some of the levels people often need to get past.

The Malicious Schemers, Manipulators and Abusers 

Okay to be completely honest, as far as I know I have never met anyone like this. I believe they exist, the people who KNOW they are wrong, but put on a front to deceive others, while continuing to choose evil. The truly twisted and depraved, most likely with troubled childhoods. I’m thinking of Fr. Maciel and other abusers within the church, those with their own agenda, and unscrupulous methods to cover up their evil acts. Brr. One day they will have to answer to God for their actions. But most people don’t fall into that category. We have far more of

The Politicians and Diplomats 

While I realize there is a need for diplomacy and tact, I think many in the church have forgotten that they are called to be prophets first and diplomats second. Such Christians seem to live to maintain balance, worldly accolades and the good reputation of the Church, while forgetting that the goal is heaven. Sometimes smooth-talking and double-faced, they also often scheme and manipulate, but they believe they are doing the right thing, and that the ends justify the means. They usually don’t have much room or interest in the work of the Holy Spirit, because He might just upset the apple-cart.

The Bitter Cynics 

To be honest, most of these guys don’t stay in the Church very long. They have seen enough of the first two types to be very mistrustful of anyone who represents the church, and by association the Church and of course Jesus Himself. They assume the worst about every religious person, read up on every anti-church conspiracy, and assume everyone in the church is either a villain or an idiot. While themselves hurt, these guys have built a fortress of pride around their hearts and minds and have stopped seeking truth and seeing goodness.

The Puffed-Up Clericalists 

At the forefront of every religious function, they love the authority and the power that comes with some of the structures of the Church. They are quite happy to hold up the hoops that people have to jump through. They are often sharp or abrupt, the power they wield corrupting their own perspective of themselves. They seek visible roles and recognition, and forget that all those who lead or work in any capacity in the church are called to be servants of all.

The Superstitious Idolaters 

Since ignorance is usually at the root of the casual idolatry we see among certain baptized Catholics, it may not be the most evil of sins. It is however deeply sad- these guys often live under fear, trying not only to appease a distant and unapproachable god with rituals and traditions, but keep at bay all the other evil forces by following every other religious tradition they come across. They often have giant statues of Mary, and not even a picture of Jesus. They do novenas, but won't go to Mass. They are not aware of a personal God and a faith and tradition based on reason.

The Well-Meaning Unevangelized Uncatechized 

Now these guys just want everyone to get along, and think that in order for that to happen they need to accept all the ‘nice’ truths, and none of the inconvenient ones. They will have a hard time admitting that maybe Jesus meant what He said when he said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But they are kind to people, get along well with people of other faiths, and in general try to be a good person. They are not malicious, but have just never been introduced to a very personal God of Love, and the freedom-giving truths He gave us through the Church. They are susceptible to any and all lies masked as ‘inspirational’ or ‘spiritual’ gyaan (knowledge). On the other side of the spectrum are

The Catechized Unevangelized 

These guys are often armchair apologists, who know the Catechism and documents of the Church inside out. Unfortunately they are also the people often straining a gnat and swallowing a camel. They are legalists, and think that if everyone just read the CCC and follow the liturgical norms, and perhaps went back to the Latin Mass, the world would be changed. They know the truth, but often it seems that they do not know the Truth-giver. They feel very uncomfortable with any terminology that sounds 'Protestant' to them, like a familiar way of talking to or about Jesus. But they consider their bitterest enemies usually

The Unevangelized SJWs 

Unlike many, I don’t think the term social justice warrior is derogatory, but if you subtract a saving knowledge of Jesus from their hearts and minds, then these guys turn into activists who consider the Church an archaic institution that needs to get with the times. Church teaching may not hold much weight with them, as they prefer to acquire teachers and theologians who tickle their ears with more ‘accepting’ teachings. Once again, pride holds sway, as a healthy desire for justice turns a disciple into his own god. Humility seeks to understand why Jesus said what He did, and why His Church has held the same position for centuries.

The Uncatechized Evangelized 

Such people have often attended a retreat (or many retreats), and have fallen in love with Jesus, experienced freedom from sin and darkness in their lives, and believe that only in Christ can they live a life of freedom and love. But many of them have never set down roots in the unchanging truths of Christ given to the Church, and so they have a hard time with sustaining a life of discipleship. When glib teachers use the bible to prove a point, they are often swept away from the Eucharist, the life-giving source of grace. Or they fall for the prosperity gospel, and crumble when God allows suffering.

The Catechized Evangelized Black-and-Whiters 

Now these guys have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They know the teaching of the Church well, and love it as the truth. But they often have a hard time accepting that God can work outside the lines He created. They can sometimes tend towards generalizations, and being judgmental or suspicious, and perhaps being ‘more Catholic than the Pope’. They may find it difficult to accept human weakness, the slow work of the Holy Spirit, the many, many areas that the Church leaves to our prudential judgment, and the many, many different ways that God calls and uses people.

The Catechized Evangelized Undiscipled 

These are the guys who have a genuine love for Christ, a pretty solid understanding of the teachings of the Church, but when it comes to living it out in their daily life, the rubber has a hard time hitting the road. Whether it’s their love life, their use of finances or spare time, or their relationships, they have just not gone all the way in living out the marriage with Christ, not just the romance. They are in need of the next step of conversion, walking with other people who are willing to guide and disciple them.

The Catechized Evangelized Comfort-zoners 

Similar to the last category, these guys have taken the big step into the household of faith, but then they got really cozy in one corner of it, and fell asleep. They forgot they are supposed to be in an army, not a luxury cruise (sorry, too many metaphors in one paragraph). These guys need to be converted to their mission- of loving till it hurts, befriending and lifting up the poor, and bringing to others the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

So what is the final stage, the stage hopefully we are moving towards? Who are the missionary disciples? Who are the saints in the church today? 

I have met a few of these guys. They are not perfect, but they are in love. They know and walk with Jesus, and you know they do because they are open to people. They are not suspicious or fearful, but open to the working of the Holy Spirit in people and events. They are convicted, but they are humble. They have their weaknesses, but they are willing to listen to feedback, and reorient themselves. They hold fast to the truth, but are willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. They are kind. They are willing to take unpopular stands, but not just on the internet – they personally walk the talk. They are committed to Christ even when it costs them. They pledge and live unreserved obedience and faithfulness to the daily will of God.

I’m not really at the final stage. Well, sometimes I am, and then I take a detour back to one of the other stages. But that’s why we are called to ongoing daily conversion. Let us begin again, and pray for renewal in our Church and in ourselves.

Related Reading

Joy of the Gospel

The Two Big Missing Pieces of Our Catholic Faith

Rad-Trads, Liberals, and Finding Balance in the Catholic Church

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

If My Friends and I Were Mary and Elizabeth at the Visitation…

In those days Sue set out after procrastinating for a few weeks, obsessively checking ‘what to expect in your first trimester of pregnancy’, and (over) packing her bags accordingly. She got to the house of Zechariah, and before she could even greet Elizabeth, she flopped into a chair, and exclaimed, 

“Oh my gosh, girl, have you any idea how bad the roads to Judea are? My legs are killing me!” 

“I know exactly what you mean! Man, pregnancy at my age!” 

“Which is SO cool by the way!” 

“I KNOW, right?! God is good! Who could have imagined! You should hear all the other old cats talking about it, I’m the talk of the town.” 

“Oh yeah, people love to gossip. At least you’re MARRIED! I thank God for Joseph – he has been a GEM, so discreet. But let’s get down to business. I need some tips for the morning sickness! And is it normal to have cramps? What has it been like for you?” 

“Well- OH!” “What? What happened?” 

“Oh my gosh, put your hand here! Can you feel that? Baby just jumped for joy! I think he KNOWS!” 

“WOW! So exciting. And yet.. so scary! What lies ahead? Where am I going to give birth? I hope my mum will be there. Can this baby really be… the son of God? I mean, I know it’s true, but it feels so unreal! How am I supposed to figure this all out? It’s not like angels come visit me every day, telling me what the next step is! And Joseph has been so great, but I’m sure he has the same questions too. I’m sure he thinks I’ve got it all figured out… but I really don’t! Why wouldn’t Gabriel give me a slightly more detailed plan? Maybe even a five year plan. How am I supposed to mother GOD? Does that even make sense? Do you think God accidentally picked the wrong person? Maybe Gabriel was supposed to appear to my neighbour, Miriam- there's a nice, composed, holy girl for you. Gaaah! These hormones are making me crazy! Or maybe that's just me. I love my sweet tiny baby already, but how can it be, that I can be so protective of my Protector? How come I’m in charge of this tiny human?” 

“You know, Sue, technically, God is still in charge.” 

“I KNOW. But STILL. He seems to expect a lot of me. He definitely seems to trust me more than I trust me.” 

“I often feel the same way. You know, Zechariah STILL can’t speak? I know something crazy happened that day in the temple, and he has been so tender and reverent since that day. But he can’t speak! Why would God have cursed him and blessed me? How does that even make sense? What if he never speaks again? What if our child never hears his father’s voice?” 

“Life is pretty confusing sometimes. I suppose God will work it all out. Anyway… is it okay if I take a nap now?” 

Yeah, so I noticed when I was reading Luke's account of the Visitation just how different my approach to life is from Mary’s. Basically, no matter how great the blessings, I will still land up talking about all the challenges, the potential struggles, the doubts and questions, the anxiety I feel, and the many, many things that could go wrong. Of course, it is good to be honest.

BUT like Mary and Elizabeth, I think I would like to spend a little more time and focus on just reveling in the Lord’s goodness, remembering the good things He has already done, and entrusting the unknown future to Him. It's a little less melodramatic and leaves less room for self-pity. It may be less funny than humorous re-tellings of my mishaps and trials. It may take a conscious act of the will to change the obsessive, overthinking habits of years. But sometimes I just need to stay in the moment and sing my own Magnificat.