Tag Archives: virtue

The Gift of Shame (And the Habit of Justifying Stupidity)

God is so kind to me.  Knowing that I would suffer from writer’s block today (despite a list of potential blog topics and questions to answer), He nudged a reader to send me this list, knowing it would give me an idea of something to write about.

So thanks for that, God.  (and Joe!) :)

Onto the post:

The aforementioned link is to a list of “25 Things I’ve Learned in My Twenties.”  (If you haven’t figured it out by now, us bloggers like these kinds of “list” posts.  They’re almost as simple to write as they are to read.  Plus, they’re fun!)  Posts like these serve as sort of cautionary lists of advice while at the same time patting the reader on the back, as if to say, “what you’re going through is completely normal experience.  We’ve all been there (or will be there).  But if you haven’t been there yet, here’s what you can do to make it a little easier on yourself.”

Anyway, a casual glance at the list will likely be enough for you to figure out that I don’t agree with everything on it.  There are things like drugs being normal and fine so long as they’re not negatively affecting you (because hey, drugs can sometimes be a good and productive use of your time, right?), or getting wasted and puking in public (everyone does it, so you should too!), and sleeping around (the solid foundation of any healthy and fulfilling lifestyle).  “All of these are normal experiences in your twenties, so don’t worry about it,” is the vibe we get from the article.

Okay, fine.  I can’t address every one of these, but the ability to reason that you’ve hopefully developed by the time you’ve hit your twenties ought to be enough to give you a hint that some of the items on this list are not exactly the best advice to be following.

However, in my opinion, number 12 is worth addressing specifically, because I think it’s a lie we might be tempted as young people to tell ourselves quite frequently:

12. You’re going to betray your convictions. You’re going to feel shame. You’re going to continue to put yourself in situations that aren’t good for you. And then, slowly but surely, it will become less frequent. It might not ever go away completely but it won’t be as bad. In the meantime, stop shame spiraling about it. It gets you nowhere.

For starters: Why are we considering it a given that you’re going to betray your convictions?  Sure, we’re all human and we all make mistakes.  We may very well do things that betray our convictions.  But a surefire way to guarantee that happening is to tell yourself that it’s going to.  By definition, if you have convictions, you should be doing everything in your power to keep them.  If you’re not, then they’re not very strong convictions that you have in the first place.  But then again, maybe that’s the author’s point…

...deep, man.

My advice: develop strong convictions before your twenties, so you care so much about them that you wouldn’t dare betray them.

In any case, what he says next is the reason I chose to address this point all on its own:

You’re going to continue to put yourself in situations that aren’t good for you. And then, slowly but surely, it will become less frequent. It might not ever go away completely but it won’t be as bad.

This is just not true.  This is the lie we tell ourselves over and over again so that we won’t feel as bad for doing whatever we’re doing when we know it’s wrong.  “It’s not like I’ll be doing this forever,” we tell ourselves.  But the fact of the matter is: unless you make the conscious decision to stop, and unless you actually make the effort to stop putting yourself in those situations which you recognize are not good for you, then the only thing that will change is that you’ll stop recognizing that the situation is bad for you.

The author even acknowledges this!  “It [the bad that you’re doing] might not ever completely go away,” he says, “but it won’t be as bad.”  Why won’t it be as bad?  What has changed about the situation other than the fact that you’re now more accustomed to putting yourself in a bad situation?  The truth is that it’s still just as bad as it was when you started.  You’ve just (unfortunately) become accustomed to it.

My advice: You might find yourself choosing to place yourself in situations that are bad for you.  Stop it.  Cut it out right now, or you’ll justify it (and other things that are wrong) for the rest of your life.

And praise God when you feel shame for doing something wrong!  It actually does get you somewhere; that’s the point.  You don’t like feeling shame?  Then stop doing whatever you’re doing that’s making you feel shame.  It’s as simple as that.

It’s a sad place to be in when you do something terrible and don’t feel a drop of guilt for it. But regardless of your feelings, if you know you’ve done something wrong, go to confession and then do whatever you can to avoid doing it again.  Making excuses for yourself is what gets you nowhere (except for into deeper problems).

Hard Work

“…being a Christian is easy – if you believe in Jesus, you will never be tempted again, and everything will go your way”

-from a thought-provoking post written by the fabulous Tara Stone over at ImpactingCulture.com

But more on that later.

Depending on what time you are reading this today, I am either stressing out about my Greek final, currently taking my Greek final, or incredibly thankful that my Greek final is over.  After my final is over, I have approximately 6 days to finish two 10-page papers before I get to board a plane and officially begin my Christmas break.

Funny thing about school: most of the time, just “being smart” isn’t enough.  There may be those classes that you can skate by on just natural-born intelligence, but the classes that you actually get something out of usually require a little bit more effort.  Or worse: a lot more effort.

There are a lot of things in life like this.  We may be born with a certain knack for something—be it painting, music, closing a deal, etc. but no one in this life is exempt from hard work.  The things that matter most in life rarely just fall into our laps.

The crazy thing is, when it comes to our faith, there is no question that it is a gift freely given by a God who owes us nothing and to whom we owe everything.  We would not know God had He not chosen to reveal Himself to us; and ultimately, everything we have in this life (our faith included) is His gift to us.  In this manner, it can very much be said that our faith has fallen into our lap.  (And of all the things to come without effort, this is by far the best one possible).

But, as any Christian trying to live his or her life for Christ knows, the fact that we did not, and cannot, earn our faith does not mean that we are exempt from hard work.  As much as we may wish that the quote at the top of this post were true (or pretend that it is when others are around), the fact is that truly living life as a Christian is hard.  And like many of the best things in life, it requires discipline and effort.

Fortunately, like the relief I’ll be feeling a week from today when I’m on that plane, the hard work will all be worth it in the end.

Also, today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary! (Holy Day of Obligation).  Don’t forget to go to mass!

(And in the spirit of my Greek final: κεχαριτωμένη , a title for Mary translated as “full of grace” in Luke’s Gospel, is actually a perfect participle, more literally translated as, “one who has been bestowed with grace.”  Could it be that she was “bestowed with grace” at the moment of her conception?)

Animals

 

Man is often said to be the intelligent animal.  But when he decides he wants to be like the rest of the animals, and chooses to pursue selfish and base desires, he becomes the worst animal of all.

Think about it.

“It’s Just Who I Am”

Waiting for me in my inbox over the weekend was something called a “temperament test.”  Having always been a fan of short little online quizzes and things that lead to self-discovery, I took it without a whole lot of hesitation and discovered: I have a mostly melancholic temperament.  Meaning?  This temperament quiz thingy seemed to understand things about me a whole lot better than I ever had.  I chuckled and nodded to myself as I read through the eerily accurate descriptions.  To name a few:

The melancholic is irresolute. On account of too many considerations and too much fear of difficulties and of the possibility that his plans or works may fail, the melancholic can hardly reach a decision. He is inclined to defer his decision. What he could do today he postpones for tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or even for the next week.

If he is called upon to answer quickly or to speak without preparation, or if he fears that too much depends on his answer, he becomes restless and does not find the right word and consequently often makes a false and unsatisfactory reply.

To be honest, as I read through these results, I couldn’t help but breathe a tiny sigh of relief.  For one, this meant these characteristics—unfavorable as they may be—were not specifically unique to Mary Lane. There is a whole subset of people in the world who behave just like me in these regards!  But it was my second reaction that really got me thinking…

My second reaction was also one of relief—only for a slightly different reason.  My thought went something like this: “This is who I am.  Not much I can do about it, right?”

While it’s true that we may not be able to do much to control our less-than-desirable predisposed temperaments or personality traits, I don’t think that excuses us for settling for them without putting up a fight.  My temperament may be one of a melancholic, but that doesn’t mean these characteristics have to (or should) define me.

Striving to be the best version of ourselves gets a little bit harder here.  Not only are we battling against some realities of our culture that are often contrary to our end goal, we also find we have innate struggles tied to our very personality that we have to overcome in order to get where we want to go.  Doesn’t seem too fair, does it?

As a Catholic, I believe that God knows each of us better than we know ourselves.  I think it is for this reason that God chooses to allow each of us to have these personal struggles.  It’s not that we are to define ourselves by them, or even to think that we have on our own the power to overcome them.  I think God allows us these struggles so we can trust in the one who alone can give us the grace to overcome them, and let Him use our struggles to mold us into who we are supposed to be.

Combatting Everyday Addictions

Yesterday a lot of people around the world celebrated Ash Wednesday – the beginning of the 40-day period in the Catholic Church known as Lent.  This is the reason why some people you may know are giving up things like candy, or alcohol, or even television until Easter.  It’s not that these things are evil in themselves, but Catholics believe that choosing to deny yourself certain earthly attachments is a way to honor God and to teach ourselves discipline in learning how to control our passions and desires.

I say all of that as a way of getting to what I really wanted to talk about, which is the struggle of giving up something you are attached to.  Catholic or not, all of us, at some point or another, will be faced with having to give up something we have an unhealthy attachment to.

Take an extreme case of a drug addict.  This person may realize they have a problem, hit rock bottom and resolve absolutely to change for good.  This time, they think to themselves, I am really going to stop.  Nothing is worth this.  I will never use drugs again. That is great!  Unfortunately though, if no further steps are taken beyond the rock-bottom resolution, this person will likely have a 99.9% chance of using again.  This is the ugly face of addiction.

We may not have a substance abuse problem, but all of us have things that are not good for us that we are “addicted” to.  It could be a television show, the number of hours we spend on Facebook, certain foods, or even a relationship.  If we know something is bad for us and yet we can’t help but continue to do it anyway, then we have an addiction (no shame in admitting it.  It is the first step, after all :) ).

We can make all the resolutions we want, but if that’s all we do, we’re going to be like the drug addict with an extremely high probability of failing.  Why?  Because it does a person no good simply to promise NOT to do something.  There is no action propelling us forward when we make a resolution not to do something; there is only blank space and unoccupied time.

The solution to a bad habit must be to replace it with a good one.  That way, we are promising to do something.  We are able to focus on action as opposed to inaction.  By occupying ourselves with things that build us up into better people, we are free to leave behind those addictions that destroy us.