"But They're Not My Type!" – Balancing Standards and Flexibility in Dating

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As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Taylor Swift. I really hope I’m not jumping the gun when I say this, but as I showed in a previous post, I’ve been very supportive of Taylor Swift’s recent relationship with Calvin Harris. Her recent posts on Instagram (as well as one post from Calvin Harris) has only made me all the more excited. But what makes this particular relationship interesting, aside from the fact that Taylor is being open about it, is that before they met, Calvin Harris didn’t consider Taylor Swift to be his “type.” Given what I know about Taylor’s relationship history, Calvin wasn’t someone she would’ve considered dating in the past, either.

We all have this image of the “type” of significant other we want to have. We have an idea of what love is and what the perfect relationship is. If you asked me what my type was, I would show you a picture of my favorite vampire from Buffy, the one with the bleach blonde hair, gorgeous blue eyes, and bad boy attitude all wrapped up in a black leather duster. My relationship history, however, has been very different from that. I dated different types of guys in the past: a dry-witted boy next door who liked The Godfather, a wild-eyed bad boy that always made me laugh, and a guy that I met in a ballroom dance class who couldn’t sing on-key to save his life. Growing up, my “type” was similar to the one I still have, except I wanted a nice, romantic guy who was taller than me and a big brain. There were parts of my “type” in each of the guys I crushed on and/or dated, but none of those guys were everything I pictured in my head.

It’s one thing to have standards when it comes to dating. We need to make sure that we’re safe, after all. But life can’t be like The Ugly Truth or Hallmark’s The Wish List, where a girl has a long list of things she wants in a guy and judges every guy she meets based on that one list. When it comes to dating, you gotta be flexible to some extent. What exactly is a “deal breaker” for you? There are things to keep in mind, like making sure that we stay chaste when dating and not go after married men, but we shouldn’t turn down a guy just because he doesn’t dress nicely or likes a kind of music that we’d rather not listen to.

Dating in the 21st century has turned into a balancing act: making sure you stay safe, but at the same time being willing to risk your heart. You have to think ahead, but enjoy the moment at the same time. Most of all, you have to be sure that you still love God and yourself and not make an idol out of the person that you’re dating or the ideal relationship you have in your head.

Relationships aren’t fairy tales that end with a happily ever after. They’re messy and broken and change as we get older. Relationships are a lot like this spoken word poem by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye:

The best advice I can give about dating and relationships is to offer it up to God. Just when you start to accept that you’re single and not ready for a relationship, He’ll probably turn around and surprise you. After all, as they say “Man makes plans, God laughs.”

 

Authentic Love: Intangible and Freely Given

I don’t know if it’s just me, but one downside about growing up cradle Catholic is that I have this tendency of taking God’s love for granted. Sometimes, when I feel particularly melancholy, I feel as though God’s love is obligatorily given. He created me, sure, but he also created mosquitoes, roaches, and Michael Bay. He’s God. He loves me and everybody.

But my mother reminds me that God cares as much for the individual just as much as he loves everything he created. You don’t send your only son to be tortured and killed because you have to save humanity. It’s hard for me to believe that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit truly love me, just as an individual and not as just a part of a larger species.

It’s a lot harder for me to remember the blessings in my life when I get into this melancholic state. I’m constantly haunted by my past and fear the future. My present state isn’t so great at the moment, either, because I feel like God is so far from me.

Even though I’m a person who tends to trust her intuition and feelings, there’s still a part of me that wants something tangible. I need proof of God’s love on a constant basis, as if the sacrifice on the Cross and saving me wasn’t enough. It takes a lot of prayer and some songs for me to remember that God holding me even now.

It’s during times like this that I turn to the saints and remember that they shared these same problems. And in spite of my melancholy trying to take over me, I fight against it and try to remember the blessings God gave me. There’s no point thinking of the tragedies that might have been when I’m starting a whole new chapter of my life.

As often as I envy converts, I still feel blessed that I was born and raised in the Catholic faith. I had the privilege of having great nuns as teachers (alongside a good number of lay women). I read The Imitation of Christ during my years in public school and attended a Bible study group that kept my faith afloat even when I felt so lost. God was always working in my life, even when I didn’t feel like He was there, keeping me from going too far. Eventually, I was led to a wonderful Catholic university that helped me to grow in my faith.

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Whenever I think about the stuff that happened after I graduated college, I’m reminded of this song from Laura Story:

In spite of the fact that I developed anxiety, experienced betrayal when I least expected it, and felt like I was stuck in a hole that I couldn’t get out of, God was there to save me.

I don’t have any tangible proof of God’s love, just a lot of memories.

I remember the white smoke that came out, the first little sign that things would be okay. The world gained a new pope while I gained a new hope. I graduated from college. I went to retreats and an Audrey Assad concert. I started teaching Catechism. I started volunteering at retreats as a staff member. I learned the power of intercessory prayer.

Eventually, God took me places I couldn’t even imagine. Sure, I haven’t moved anywhere, but I gained more friends and eventually went to a convention for the first time since my early college years. I eventually gave a talk at a retreat. And now, I’m doing what I wanted: getting paid to write. It’s not exactly writing the Great American Novel and being JK Rowling levels of wealthy, but you gotta start somewhere.

God’s love may not be tangible, but it’s there and it’s a gift that is given with all the love a benevolent Creator can have. It’s not an obligation. It’s a state of grace.

 

Woman In Love: An Interview with Katie Hartfiel

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

Katie Hartfiel is an author and speaker dedicated to sharing the intense love of the Lord. As a teenager, Katie fell in love with Christ at a Steubenville youth conference in her home state of Colorado. She received a degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. In 2012, Katie released her first book, Woman in Love. This work coaches young women as they strive for purity through praying for and journaling to their future spouse. She has been blessed to watch hearts come alive with the realization that our faithful God hungers to exceed our deepest desires.

I first met Katie and her husband Mark when they gave a talk at my school. It was part of a series of lectures called Bottom of the Cup. Katie’s testimony inspired me to address my journal entries to my “Beloved,” which could apply to a future earthly husband or a godly one.

 

What was the inspiration behind the Woman In Love book and the brand as a whole?

 

Woman In Love is a term that was coined by the girls in my youth program and I as an alternative to the phrase “Woman of God.” We tended to associate the thought of being a “Woman of God” with images of churning butter. There is nothing wrong with such an image, but we felt that what really described us was that we were women who were madly, deeply, passionately in love. This love radiates into everything we think, do and say. We are defined by this love. This is the heart of being a Woman of God… being a woman who loves and who is beloved. The book focuses on the fact that when we accept Jesus as our First Love, He is free to mold us for our second love- whether that be the Church or a spouse.

 

 

What are you doing nowadays?

 

I was a full time youth minister in Houston for seven years and left my position about 6 months after my second child was born. I am now a full-time stay-at-home-mom. My kids and I sleep too late and them stumble around getting ready for our day. I homeschool in the mornings, play in the early afternoon and work on my ministry in the late afternoon. Evenings are usually spent on my holey couch with my husband and a hot beverage. On the side I do some speaking and writing which allows me to be with teens and share my passion.

 

What do you have to say to those who think young adults aren’t participating enough (or even at all) with church activities?

 

It is hard to find a home in parish life when you are a young adult. Many programs are geared toward youth or families… and let’s be honest– a lot of old people. The truth is that the church will benefit from an awakening of the young adult demographic! Their gifts are endless! I have so many young adult friends who have given so much to our parish through heading fundraising efforts, teaching and serving. The truth is that when we give to our parish we receive.

 

 

What do you think is the best thing about being married and being a mother? How different is it from being single or a religious sister?

 

The best part is the experience of meeting God in my kids and husband. They teach me all the time about God’s unconditional love for me. At least once a day, usually more, I find myself looking at their faces and feeling overwhelmed in adoration of God’s generosity. When we find the path God is calling us on, He WILL encounter us. He does so in a particular singular way through marriage, and He does so in a particular singular way through single life and a particular singular way through religious life. He knows the place that will set our hearts on fire.

 

 

Who is your go-to saint for things relating to motherhood? Who was your go-to saint when you were waiting for your husband-to-be? Any saints that you designated for your daughters?

 

I spend a lot of time shooting arrow prayers to the Blessed Mother during the day. I often like to ask her to come and take over so I can have 5 minutes.

 

A saint that has really introduced herself into my life beginning during my Husband-To-Be prayer days is St. Philomena who is the patroness of purity for the 21st century. She stood up against her country, family and the most powerful man in the world in the name of purity and she is a powerhouse. She has been very faithful to me in her intercessions! My daughters both have a love of St. Philomena and St. Clare, but they are particularly partial to St. Therese.

 

 

What advice would you give to young women and their mothers about discerning vocations and relationships?

 

Trust. God will never be outdone in generosity, and if we are generous with God He will be generous with is. I heard before that faith is knowing that when you step off the cliff you will either be given solid ground to walk on, or be given the wings to fly. We tend to rush things in discernment, but young women- you aren’t waiting for your love story to start- you are living it RIGHT NOW. Today is an important day in your formation for your vocation. Worry about today and live one step at a time.

 

 

If you could go back to when you started writing letters to your HTB, what would you tell her?

 

I think about this a lot actually. I would say, “Katie, put your head down and just make it. It’s all going to be better than you could imagine on the other side. God is hiding you in His wounds and sharing tears beside you- He is sharing in your cross, but He will also share with you His Resurrection.”

Perspectives on Past Relationships

The beginning of February brings on many mixed emotions throughout the American population as Valentine’s Day gets closer and closer. Hallmark Channel is doing a Countdown to Valentine’s Day, three movies targeted towards couples are being released on that day, and people are sent into a frantic frenzy of frivolous freak-outs. The people in relationships worry about what kind of gift to get their significant other. The single people worry about dying alone and not having a date for February 14th.

 

I decided to take a step back and talk about my relationship history. For the longest time, I always saw myself as having the worst luck. Either the guy I had feelings for didn’t return my feelings or the relationships were with the wrong guy. It took me some time to realize that one major problem with my crushes and relationships was too much emotional investment, too little rational thinking, and a lot of bad timing. To save myself and the parties involved major humiliation, I will use pseudonyms. Brace yourselves. You’re in for a long story.

 

My first relationship took place when I lived in California. George was my friend from eighth grade. He had a weird, dry sense of humor and our friendship was a bit strained while we adjusted to high school life. But after a bit of flirting, he finally kissed me. There was just one problem…I had to move across the country. I had to leave California dust bowl for the wide open skies of Texas.

 

To say that the move was unwanted at the time was an understatement. With time, I realized that George saw our relationship as good as over, but I still held onto hope. I lived with that delusion up until one of my friends, whom we’ll call Lydia, sent me a message via MySpace (the early 2000s version of Facebook). Lydia told me that she saw George dating someone else. Except she forgot to mention that she was the girl George was seeing. I didn’t find that part out until years later, when I was in college when I saw Lydia’s profile picture, which featured a picture of her and George together. I was furious at both of them, to the point that I contemplated making them the antagonists for a book I was writing.

 

It wasn’t like I still had feelings for George. I was just mad that I never got closure. To me, it felt like my friend stole George from me. But I let that grudge go on for a lot longer than I should’ve. With time, I learned to forgive both of them. I’m actually still friends with Lydia and talk to her sometimes on Facebook. And while I haven’t talked to George since I moved, I hope for the best for him.

 

While I was still in high school, getting over George, I had a friend we’ll call John. John was your typical high school bad boy, complete with the fact that he was spiritual, but not religious. He made me laugh like no other guy ever did. I could talk to him about anything and everything, so falling for him was basically inevitable. But like any relationship with a bad boy, things were complicated. He was living with his exgirlfriend by the time he and I got together and I was getting started with college. Although we never had sex, I gave away parts of myself that I shouldn’t have. On top of all that, he was also enlisted in the military. Most of our time together was spent over the phone and John’s time in the military changed him into someone I didn’t recognize. He went from being agnostic to losing faith in everything altogether. By the time I was in my 2nd year of college, my friends made me realize how wrong for me he was. I basically got to the point where I would either let him back into my life or dive into my renewed relationship with God. During the winter break of my 2nd year of college, I chose God.

 

But that’s not to say that my college years were all about studying and developing my spiritual life. I kind of look back on those years and see myself as clueless and boy crazy, having a crush on a different guy almost every year. Then, during my third year of college, there was David, a guy I met in a dance class. I took dance classes as a way for me to improve on my social skills. He was tall, charming, and shy. And like a fairy tale prince, he was there for me when I had a bad day. Then I made a big mistake. I made a move on him and said “I missed you.” Things cooled down between us until Valentine’s Day, when he called me up and asked me out on a date. It was awkward to say the least. And the dates we went out on after that were still awkward. I felt like I was pulling my teeth as I was trying to maintain a conversation with him. And I probably would’ve backed out with less pain if it wasn’t for my best friend, Angel , who insisted that things would work out.

 

Well, things didn’t work out between me and David. I felt devastated. But looking back, I realized that he was sending me a lot of mixed messages. He was a nice guy and he had good intentions when he kept talking to me after breaking things off, but it took a long time for me to stop beating myself up or blaming him over what went wrong.

 

Before I knew it, I graduated college with no clue to my future. I stated on this blog before that I had a toxic friendship that could’ve led me away from God and turned me insane. Angel was that friend. I’m still trying to sort out the emotional trauma I experienced, but if you want more details, I’ve written about this friendship in previous entries. I don’t consider this a relationship so much as a toxic friendship with major emotional manipulation, but Angel considered it a relationship, which is why I’m mentioning it.

 

But there is a blessing that came from all the hurt and pain. I learned something from each relationship. I learned that timing is everything. I learned the importance of having shared values. I learned that you have to let go of something bad for you even when you don’t want to. I learned that in the end, you have to trust God over anything else. And eventually, I learned to fall in love again. But that’s another story.

My Year In Photos: October

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The month of October usually consisted of 2 things: 1) Prepping for Halloween and 2) watching lots of scary movies. But this year, Taylor Swift took over with the premiere of her latest album, 1989. I already went into detail about how I obsessed over Taylor Swift ever since her first album came out. And lately, it seems like each song from 1989 has been applying to things I’m experiencing now or plan to do in the future.

Today, I wrote my first song and I listened to some of the tracks to get the bridge done correctly. And like Taylor Swift, this song was inspired by love. All I need now is just to set it to music.

 

I Always Tell Myself

 

Lately I find myself constantly astonished

At the way you always smile at me

You come into my life and all of a sudden

Part of myself wants to run and flee

 

Pre-Chorus:

Because I’m not afraid of wanting you

Not scared of losing what I never had

But I’m terrified at the idea that

you could love me back

 

Chorus:

I always tell myself you gotta take chances

I always tell myself you gotta take risks

Even when I’m standing next to you

Feels like I can’t handle it but

I’m willing to see this to the end

Put my heart on the line again

Want to see if this goes well

I always tell myself

 

I have no idea how this all began

It’s like I had all these questions

But the answer’s in your hands

Just when I thought I was safely in isolation

I find myself off my guard, at a loss for explanation

 

Pre-Chorus and Chorus

 

Bridge:

Sparks make flames where love begins

Felt so warm when you let me in

Could love give me a second chance

make me happy once again?

 

My Year In Photos: February

 

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February is associated with love. I’ve written on this blog about how there are many types of love and for this photo reflection, I’ll talk about how I experienced each of the Four Loves (as named by my favorite author, CS Lewis).

Storge: Although Storge is more associated with family, the definition of storge is affection. Once a week, I teach Catechism to a class full of kids in my parish. One little moment that I felt stood out for me was getting a small gift from some of the kids. We were doing crafts that represented “the eyes of our hearts,” like the song “Open The Eyes of My Heart.” I love getting these gifts from my kids because these kinds of gifts are sincere and sweet. It’s things like this that make teaching Catechism worthwhile to me.

Philia: I spent time with my friends preparing for a young adult retreat taking place in March. It was my first time being on staff for any sort of retreat. (I usually attended college retreats instead of staffing.) The friends I made through the Awakening retreat I attended a year ago were still there and they would soon become the best friends I could ever ask for.

Eros: Eros is the most well-known form of love and CS Lewis defines it as being in love. It doesn’t start with superficial physical attraction, but appreciating one particular person. Romantic love by itself is a neutral force. Although I didn’t get involved in any romantic relationships, I did realize that I was crushing hard on one particular person. But he’s an actor. And married. So it ain’t gonna happen.

Agape: God’s mercy is the most beautiful form of agape that one could experience in my opinion. I wanted to detach from my obsessions because I felt like they were getting in God’s way. But God still let me have my obsessions and fandoms. I increased my prayer life by starting up my consecration to Jesus through Mary, which would end on the feast of the Annunciation.

Most people only see love one way, as having a romantic relationship with somebody. In reality, everyone can give and receive love in its many different forms. We can receive affection from families and those we share a close emotional bond with, friendship with those we share great experiences with, romantic love from one particular person, and selfless love from the One who is love.

How to Handle Crushes and Relationships in 8 Easy Steps

You know what’s worse than being a hopeless romantic? Being a hopeless romantic who can’t figure out social cues and has relationship drama worthy of a Taylor Swift song.

Back when I was in college, I had a crush on a different guy every year. Before that, I had a couple of boyfriends in high school. Sadly, my relationships ended badly and my feelings for the crushes were unrequited. The good news is that I learned a lot of things from having these crushes and relationships. So in no particular order, here are 8 steps for handling having a crush and building a better relationship.

1) Acknowledge what you are feeling, but don’t dwell on it

Whenever I had a crush, I would go between two extremes: 1) I would be in total denial about what was going on or 2) I would let the feelings I have overwhelm me to the point that I couldn’t think about anything else. Childhood television taught me that it’s good to acknowledge whatever you’re feeling and find a way to deal with it. My way of dealing with a crush nowadays is to write poetry about it.

2) Figure out the best way to communicate.

Some Aspies have problems expressing how they feel, either verbally or nonverbally. Others, like me, struggle with understanding what other people express and what that means.  Honesty is the best policy in this case. Whenever I meet somebody, I always ask them what their preferred method of communication is. If I forget to ask that question, I usually try very neutral methods such as e-mail or social networking. However, face-to-face interaction is still the most preferred method for non-Aspies.

When it comes to face-to-face interaction, work on maintaining eye contact and read up on body language. During college, I took classes that put me in situations that involved a lot of face-to-face interaction such as presenting a speech or learning how to act for a play. These classes helped me to express myself better in the day-to-day conversations.

3) Don’t talk about your feelings/relationship with everyone.

This is something I learned the hard way. I wasn’t the kind of girl who whined on social media about how perpetually single I was…but I whined about it to pretty much everyone I interacted with in real life. I’m pretty sure I annoyed a lot of people, but they were way too nice to tell me otherwise.

When it comes to asking for advice, I suggest talking things over with someone you can really trust. It might be a relative or a friend or even a counselor. It’s better to confide in a handful of people rather than your entire of circle of friends because if/when said crush/relationship doesn’t work out, you don’t have to tell everyone about said fallout.

4) Remember to love yourself

One major problem I had was that I entered into my relationships with the idea that I would find my sense of self-worth with them. I realize now that the men I liked weren’t going to give me love if I didn’t love myself first. I still struggle with self-esteem issues, but I’ve found things about myself that I love and try to be the best version of myself on a daily basis.

If you’re having problems with having a good sense of self-worth, I have a Bible verse for you:

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you. When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.” Psalm 139: 13-16.

No, you are not a Special Snowflake entitled to everything you want, but you were created with love and are loved just for who you are.

5) Take it slow

Most dating advice articles say that it’s good to start off as friends. While I also advise to start out as friends, don’t obsess over how you’re “stuck in the friendzone” with said crush. Again, you are created with love, but you are not entitled to everything you want. It’s a slow process, but good things take time. Get to know your significant other and enjoy the time you spend with them. If you play your cards right, you’ll either end up with a good friend or a significant other. Worst case scenario, you’ll learn something from said relationship.

6) Treat the person as a person, not as an object

Something I learned from my crushing was that I was more often caught up in the idea of having a relationship rather than falling in love with the person I crushed on in question. Don’t get obsessed over a person’s physical features and DO NOT push things too far with too much physical contact. No matter what your views on casual sex may be, relationships tend to be better with delayed gratification.

Ask them about how their day went, things they like to do in their spare time, hobbies they enjoy, etc. It helps you find out more about them and it makes them feel more comfortable. It also leads to them asking questions about you. Just remember that both parties have to hold up the conversation.

7) If a crush ends up being unrequited or a relationship fizzles out, it’s not the end of the world

A common problem Aspies face is anxiety especially when it comes to frequent change or facing disappointments. Don’t stay in a bad relationship just because you hate the idea of changing your life. It’s better to let go of bad influences than to stay with them and watch your life slowly get worse and worse.

Whenever I found out that a crush didn’t return my feelings, I would often blame myself and then blame the other person. In reality, relationships end for a lot of reasons and both parties are responsible. Take responsibility for whatever mistakes you may have made, learn from them, and move on.

8) Don’t compare your relationship to anyone else’s!

No two relationships are the same. Teenage girls will usually crush on a boy their parents don’t approve of and compare their relationship to Romeo and Juliet, completely missing the point that Romeo and Juliet died at the end of the play. However, the best love stories are ones that are unique. While one might compare relationships to stories such as Beauty and the Beast and other fairy tales, the people in the relationships will always be different from the characters in said stories.

It’s not easy for an Aspie to not compare things because most Aspies like to gather facts and analyze them. Relationships, however, are a bit messier than that. Each relationship and each crush will be a new and unique experience. You can use what you learned in past relationships to better yourself going into a new one, but don’t compare the new loves to old flames. Instead, find what you love about them that is unique only to them.

There are definitely some more tips out there, but this is just a starter for handling the always-new situation of falling in love. I hope these tips help you out!

Lent Day 31: What is Love?

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection talked about how compassion and forgiveness became God’s weapons as Jesus hung upon the cross. The reflection is titled “The Weapons of Love.”

I’ve written about love on this blog before. But there’s always two questions that I keep asking when it comes to people who write stories of love: Do they portray a healthy, wonderful, loving relationship accurately? And if they didn’t, why?

Take JK Rowling for example. She created relationships in her books, but recently had second thoughts about one of the relationships she created. Also, in my very biased but hopefully honest opinion, I don’t think she convinced her readers that James and Lily were truly, happily married to each other given that we are given little about them aside from stuff other characters said about James and Lily and Snape’s flashbacks, which show that James was a bully. In my opinion, I don’t think that Rowling is a romantic. She was divorced at the time she started writing Harry Potter and by the time she married again, she was world-famous and writing Book 5. It’s hard to find a normal relationship in between then, but that’s just my speculation.

On the other extreme, we have the author of the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer. The Twilight series is entertaining, but many critics have pointed out that the relationship between Bella and Edward isn’t a healthy one. And yet, Meyer’s stories became a household name for a while, leading to the creation of Fifty Shades of Grey and other stories revolving around relationships with one partner being dominant and another partner being submissive.

It doesn’t help that television doesn’t portray relationships accurately, either. Just ask the fans of How I Met Your Mother about how they felt about the series finale. (I’m still hurting from it, by the way.) So often, in television and film, characters get caught up in the sweeping ideas on what a relationship should be like, caught up in the drama or the idea of a person or objectifying a person rather than actually loving the person for who he or she is.

Going-to-be-a-Saint-Soon Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body provides a middle ground between a detached viewpoint of romance and the overly dramatic portrayal of love we see in films and television. Click on the link to read the whole series. But if you’re like me and you don’t see yourself as someone who really understands theology, there’s a book by Christopher West that introduces Theology of the Body in ways that the everyman can understand. West’s book was actually the first book I read this year.

What do you think makes a relationship healthy and loving?

Four Loves Friday: Agape AKA Charity

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

The last section of CS Lewis’s The Four Loves brings in a form of love that goes beyond the natural loves of Affection, Friendship, and Eros. The difference of life with three of the four loves but no agape and life with all four loves is the difference between a garden and a wilderness, according to Lewis. He also emphasizes that the three previous loves are not rivals to God’s love (Agape) in and of themselves. The way that the rivalry was created was when we put the three loves ahead of Agape, an idolization of them if you will.

Think of it this way: it’s harder to find works in media that portray selfless love. Eros is easy to find, due to our hypersexualized culture. Agape is stuff saved for Oscar movies or movies that want to get Oscars. It’s harder to find in the everyday life, partially because of how selfish and skeptical the culture is. We often scoff at the “Christ” metaphors in superhero movies such as Man of Steel, we often question a celebrity’s altruistic motives, and while we all love A Christmas Carol, our minds cling to the image of the miserly version of Scrooge rather than the changed man he became in the end.

But does being selfish and skeptical really benefit society and ourselves in the long run? To make a long answer short: NO! 

No matter how hard we try to pride ourselves as an intellectual society, the fact of the matter is that we are a culture that follows our passions. Human beings can’t cut themselves off from emotion unless they want to be labeled as a “sociopath.” There’s no such thing as being “incapable of loving” because even the worst of humanity has something or someone that they love.

This is also the most theologically centered chapter of the book because Agape ties into so much of what God means to Christianity. In the eyes of Christianity, God IS Love. He created humanity to love him, but the love He wants isn’t a forced love. God NEVER forces any person to love Him if they don’t desire it because real love comes from free will. Christians don’t do good things because they think they’ll go to Heaven. They do good things because God’s love inspires them to love others in return.

So often, people think that Christianity is hateful when in reality, Christianity is so selfless that they want to protect people from hurting themselves. In the end, everyone has a choice to make, but Christians want to encourage people to make good choices. Christians don’t get anything out of trying to stop somebody from hurting themselves, if their motives are for all the right reasons. Real Christians don’t actively try to condemn others, but they admonish others.

Admonish means to caution someone, to remind a person of his or her obligations to something. Think of a child who is still learning the ways of the world. If a child was going to climb a tree, you would caution that child to be careful. If a child was procrastinating on an important project, you would remind that child of his or her duty as a student.

This all falls under the category of selfless love because the person who is admonished may hate the person doing the admonishing; he may not listen or he may condemn the other person. But the person doing the admonishing will still love the person being admonished anyway.

The best example of Agape in a person is Mother Teresa. She serviced the poor, but she never discriminated against a person’s religion. However, she did admonish wealthy countries and spoke out against abortion. Some people have hated Mother Teresa for what she stood for, but she continued to do her work anyway.

I’ll end this entry with a quote attributed to Mother Teresa and leave you to think about how our society would be if we were all a little more like her…

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

 

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

 

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

 

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

 

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

 

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

 

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

 

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Four Loves Friday: Storge AKA Affection

To paraphrase a well-known quote, if love was rain, Storge or Affection would be drizzle and Eros would be a hurricane. But what’s so wrong with a drizzle? Drizzles are a manageable kind of rain, the kind of rain that helps the flowers grow instead of flooding cities. In a similar way, affection and familial love are such a part of everyday life, that it’s often overshadowed in the hurricane that is Eros. As I said before, romantic love is not the end-all, be-all of life, nor should it be. Like Eros before it, Affection has a lot of misconceptions. 

Lewis says that Affection is different from the love we have for our pets or to put things in modern day terms, the love a fandom has for a certain show, movie, book, or celebrity. Affection is something that grows over time, can be mixed with the other three forms of love, and produces appreciation for the recipients of said affection. What sets Affection apart from the other three loves is that it can love things that some may not see as loveable. I’ll go into detail on how affection works by combining it with what I wanted to write for True Love Tuesday, but got delayed to to my being ill at the time.

There are examples of Affection seen throughout media, but it’s rarely the central focus of the show. TV shows like Charmed and Gilmore Girls have Affection as the premise and theme, but a lot of plot points in those shows tend to move towards romantic love. So instead, I’ll look into three examples of Affection from some more recent works. BE WARNED! SPOILERS AHEAD!

1st Example: Elsa and Anna’s sisterly bond in Frozen.

Believe me when I say that Frozen deserves all the hype it’s getting and I really hope it wins an Oscar. The central focus of the movie is about Elsa and Anna’s sisterly bond. The two sisters spend the time between the prologue and the first act isolated from each other and they cope in different ways. The entire plot is moved forward by Anna’s desire to be close to her sister again and Elsa’s fear of hurting Anna. Distracted by the expectation that the movie would follow Anna as she falls in love with Hans and the expectation that either Hans or Kristoff would be the one to save Anna via True Love’s Kiss, it comes as a shocking and refreshing surprise that Anna and Elsa end up saving each other in the end. Anna saves Elsa from Hans by throwing herself between them, even though it came at the cost of her entire body becoming frozen due to Elsa accidentally freezing Anna’s heart. However, that selfless act of bravery made Elsa realize how much Anna really meant to her and the mistake she made of isolating and hurting the only person she wanted to protect. 

In true Disney fashion, Anna’s heart thaws Anna herself and Elsa realizes, through Olaf’s words and Anna’s sacrifice, how she can control her powers: her love. In the best example of showing-not-telling, Elsa channels the Affection she has for her sister and her kingdom to end the endless winter she inadvertently caused. 

Other examples of Affection in Frozen can be seen in Olaf’s affection for Anna and Elsa. Before Anna sacrifices herself for her sister, Olaf creates a fire for Anna and tells her that “some people are worth melting for.” He also helps Elsa to see that her ice powers aren’t a curse if she could create life from it. In the end, Olaf is rewarded for his Affection by getting an affectionate gift from Elsa: the ability to enjoy summer with a personal little flurry over his head. 

2nd Example

The True Love that I wanted to write about on Tuesday was the Affection between Henry and his birth mother, Emma as well as with his adopted mother, Regina. In the first season, Henry is what motivates Emma to stay in Storybrooke and what leads the major characters to go to Neverland when Henry gets taken there in the Season 2 finale. Season 3, so far, had Henry at the center of the plot, with Affection being played against Pan’s manipulations. 

And no matter the ship wars in the Once Upon a Time fandom, the one thing fans can agree on is that Emma will always put Henry first before anyone else. Henry was willing to eat the poisoned apple turnover for Emma to prove to her that magic existed. By the time of the Season 3 mid-season “finale,” Emma and Regina have put their differences aside to save their son from Pan and Henry considers both women to be his mother. Lesbian undertones aside, the interactions between Emma and Regina in Season 3 were seriously awesome and there is at least a form of platonic affection developing between the two of them. Whether the affection leads to friendship or a romantic relationship is up to the writers.

3rd Example

In this world of new media, it’s amazing how far YouTube has come from the everday cat videos. Some content creators have taken the risk towards adapting literature into a series of YouTube videos. What started this trend? The Lizzie Bennet DiariesAn Emmy-award series created by Hank Green and Bernie Su, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries took Pride and Prejudice and turned it into a series of video blogs by modern day 24-year-old Lizzie Bennet. Pride and Prejudice is famous for the love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, but what makes this adaptation just as good as the book, if not better, is that it focuses on the relationship between Lizzie Bennet, her sisters (Jane and Lydia), and her best friend, Charlotte. 

The romantic leads of the story (as well as the romantic rival) don’t appear in the videos until certain episodes, so events in the novel that are usually seen through a third-person narrator are often re-enacted with “costume theatre.” The majority of the action in these videos isn’t on the romantic plotlines, but on how Lizzie, Jane, Lydia, and Charlotte feel and react to the things that are happening and the things they decide to do become major plot twists.

The best example of how Affection is more prominent is shown in Episode 15: Lizzie Bennet is in Denial. In this episode, Charlotte and Jane give a different point of view to an event that Lizzie would rather dismiss out of her own negative bias. Their affection for Lizzie doesn’t blind either of them to the fact that Lizzie has a lot of personal prejudices to get over. And eventually, lack of Affection leads to a major important plot point that I won’t spoil here.

So for this Valentine’s Day Weekend, think about the people you feel Affection towards. See how you can show them how much you love them. After all, hurricanes aren’t for everyone.