Lean on Me

Lean on MeToday I’d like to expand a little on my recent post about emotional modesty, and talk more about maintaining a healthy balance in communication. Guys especially have to strive to achieve good communication because (surprise, surprise), it doesn’t come to them as easily as girls. One of the reasons relationships are so tricky is because while feelings aren’t everything, they are an important factor. Most other things we do, work for instance, can be done well regardless of how we feel about it, but a relationship can’t be a dispassionate exercise. So one of the most important things in maintaining a healthy relationship is communicating thoughts and feelings. As I see it, there are two major pitfalls to avoid when it comes to communication: the first is not communicating enough, the second is destructive communication, such as excessive venting, or “emotional dumping”—which is when you use another person as a total dumping ground for all your troubles.

It’s important for men especially to understand that women are much more intuitive and sensitive than men are, traits which make women better at empathizing and nurturing than men. But these same traits mean they need more emotional connection than men, because emotions play a bigger part in how women experience the world. So even though it may not seem “manly,” men need to share their feelings with their wife or girlfriend regularly if they want to stay connected to them. It doesn’t matter how close you feel to her, if you don’t tell her, it’ll make you seem more distant. Men also need to understand that women need to vent more about their lives than they do. To male ears this may sound whiny, but it’s a vital part of how women work through things. Often enough, when your wife or girlfriend tells you about her problems, she doesn’t even expect you to solve them for her, just to listen and express sympathy. It really couldn’t be simpler, but men are built to problem solve, so we get it mixed up all the time.

On the flip side it’s easy to fall into the trap of putting too much emotional weight on your boyfriend or girlfriend. Communicating about all the good and bad things in your life is vitally important to maintaining an emotional bond, but one has to be careful not to view your boyfriend or girlfriend as the answer to all your problems. It can be really easy to see your whole life as merely an extension of your relationship, which is, often rightly so, the most important part of it. However, the paradox is, if you’re not complete without a relationship, you won’t find yourself complete with one, even if it feels that way. Nobody can be solely responsible for another person’s happiness; it’s too much to bear. Donald Miller sums it up nicely in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “I think that’s why so many couples fight, because they want their partners to validate them and affirm them, and if they don’t get that, they feel as though they’re going to die. And so they lash out. But it’s a terrible thing to wake up and realize the person you just finished crucifying didn’t turn out to be Jesus.”

There’s only one thing that can satisfy a human completely, and it’s not another human. Sure, it might work for a while, but not forever. So confide in each other, trust each other, but don’t put your full emotional weight on anyone else, because it’ll just make you both fall.



Tolerance Does Not Lead to Happiness

We all already know what Christ preached and what He desires, and that is love. “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love” (Rom 18:4). But what does love mean? John Lennon once sang, “All you need is love.” But there must be some difference between what Mr. Lennon was shouting about and what Christ was proclaiming, right?

So what is Christ’s definition of Love? There is a really solid definition right in the letter to the Corinthians:
Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.

The first few lines show that Christ desires a world where people are patient with each other. He desires people to be kind to each other, and not to be jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, self-seeking, or short-tempered with each other. Today’s popular belief is that love means tolerance. We are told that we can show our brothers and sisters in the world that we love them by being tolerant and accepting of everything they do. However, this is not the case. We cannot pretend to rejoice over wrongdoing. If our brother sins we are supposed to rebuke him (Lk 17:3). Christ does not wish to see a culture of judges and condemners, but He does want to see brothers and sisters who admonish each other in order to help guide one another off the wrong path.
Guys on Modesty is not about telling individuals that they are bad people; it is about guiding each other on to the path to happiness. Just remember this: any kind of vice will eventually bring you sadness. Those who seek the path of virtue do so because it is the only thing that will bring happiness, and that is man’s most fundamental desire: happiness, beatitude, bliss, joy, grace. So if you wish this joy for your brother or sister, do not do them the disfavor of allowing them to continue down the path to heartache.

Emotional Modesty

Emotional ModestyRelationships can be like a scientist in a lab who ecstatically discovers a secret formula, only to have everything suddenly blow up. This is because getting to know someone intimately is one of the most risky and tricky things people do. And unlike most dangerous chemicals, there’s no standard method for handling estrogen and testosterone. Something which I feel people fail to talk about or prepare for is emotional chastity, by which I mean maintaining the right level of emotional commitment and intimacy at all stages of a relationship. Just as physical unchastity can lead to pain later on, so can emotional unchastity. One must be very conscious and careful how much and when you share yourself with another person.Think of getting to know someone deeply in the same light as getting to know someone physically.  You can see how someone looks the instant you meet them, just as you can learn even the most intimate facts about them quickly. Yet as you get to know the person, you realize that even their physical appearance changes. In the same way, while the facts about someone remain the same, we intellectually see them differently based on our experience of the person, which is the greater part.Taking the analogy a step further, we don’t usually come to know everything about a person physically when we first meet them. There is a necessary progression of further “discovering” if you will a person’s physical form. To speed through this process (or skip it entirely) is dangerous at best. So too should the progression of emotional connection be properly timed. Maybe it’s tricky to figure out because it actually plays a bigger role in the discovery of a person than physical intimacy, and it’s harder to judge where the lines should be. For this reason, even greater vigilance should be given to emotional chastity.

This vigilance can be termed emotional modesty—the protection of your own and other’s emotional state. It’s fun to come to intimately know someone in a relationship, but that intimacy cannot be peacefully maintained without the right level of time and commitment. So even when we feel drawn to get intimately close and attached to someone, emotional modesty keeps us from saying or doing things before the right time.  This is important to keep in mind, because the actual right time will probably not be when something “feels right” for the first time. Just because there’s a full moon and a choir singing “That’s Amore” in the distance doesn’t mean it’s time to say something rash which you’ll probably regret before too long. It only works that way in movies. And even if that special someone makes your life feel like a movie, sadly it’s not. Remembering that will give you a better shot at your own real life happily ever after.


The Importance of Being Beautiful

The following is an excerpt from Story of a Soul, the autobiography of St. Therese of Liseux:

I was six or seven years old when Papa brought us to Trouville (France). Never will I forget the impression the sea made upon me; I couldn’t take my eyes off it since its majesty, the roaring of its waves, everything spoke to my soul of God’s grandeur and power. I recall during the walk on the seashore a man and a woman were looking at me as I ran ahead of Papa. They came and asked him if I were his little daughter and said I was a very pretty little girl. Papa said, “Yes,” but I noticed the sign he made to them not to pay me any compliments. It was the first time I’d heard it said I was pretty and this pleased me, as I didn’t think I was. You always took great care, Mother, to allow me to come in contact with nothing that could destroy my innocence, and you saw to it, too, that I heard nothing capable of giving rise to vanity in my heart. As I listened to what you and Marie said, and as you had never directed any compliments to me, I gave no great importance to the words or admiring glances of this woman.

At first this might sound a little shocking/extreme. You might think to yourself, “What?! Her parents never told her she was pretty? They never paid her any compliments about her beauty? How could a little girl survive like that?! She must have been so insecure! What terrible parents!” But before you take that stance I would ask you to take into account two details 1) Consider that Therese was not insecure about her appearance in the least. In fact she says right there in the passage that compliments about her appearance were of no great importance to her. 2) Also consider that St.Therese’s parents are also on their way to becoming saints. They have both been beatified in the Catholic Church. Her parents were not martyrs, they did not found a religious order, they were just parents. So if they have been beatified for being parents, that obviously says something about their parenting abilities.
Next, you might be thinking to yourself, “Well Therese was just a nun, and nuns don’t care about how they look.” But take into consideration that this story from her childhood took place long before she entered a convent.
The French philosopher Blaise Pascal defined vanity as putting too much emphasis on things that are really not that important. Obviously it is important to look nice. Pope Pius X described God as “infinite beauty.” All of creation contains beauty in different ways, and some things were created even just for the sake of beauty. However, a problem arises when too much emphasis is put on external beauty and not internal. You have a limited amount of control over how pretty you look exteriorly, but there is no limit to how beautiful you choose to be internally, there is no limit to how much love you choose to give people. That is where the real importance is.

Modesty for Men

GuysDefining what modesty means in a man’s life is tricky, because the entire debate on the subject has been spun to revolve around how much skin is showing. Since most men have no problem in that area, it would be easy to make the mistake of assuming modesty is just something for women; but that’s not true. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says, “Modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man” (par. 2524). This presents a much richer idea of modesty than as turgid rules about the length of a skirt. It also means that everyone is called to participate in modesty by recognizing both their own spiritual dignity, and the dignity of those around them.

For men, this means respecting everyone at all times, especially in our demeanor towards them. So there’s a lot more to modesty for men than making sure your pants cover your whole rear. For example, imagine if the president of the United States addressed the United Nations in jeans and a sweatshirt. He would be lambasted, and properly so, for disrespecting both his own office and the assembly he addressed. This is an extreme and obvious example, but there are plenty of similar if more subtle moments like is in all of our lives. Ask yourself if the way you dress says that you care about yourself and what you do, or does it say that you don’t give a darn. When you talk to people, are you genuinely concerned about their needs, do you ever think about what you could do for them, or are you only concerned about what you can get from them.

Even at social events, it’s easy to only talk to people because we can get something from them—enjoyment, social standing, etc., and to ignore people who we perceive as having nothing to offer us. Really though, everyone is important, regardless of what they can or can’t do for us. Especially as men, it’s our calling to reach out to reach out to others, not because of what they can do for us, but because of what we can do for them.

Manhood is always equated with strength of some kind. The lie of the world, however, is in defining that strength as the ability to take what we want. In reality though, the measure of a man lies in his ability to give, whether he wants to or not. Be a man. Be modest.


Modesty and Happiness

Screen shot 2013-02-15 at 1.45.30 PMWhile there are many ways to achieve material success, there are only a few ways to achieve happiness, which is often a different matter. A universal truth of mankind is that we find the highest and best happiness not in serving ourselves but others. While this truth may be cliché, it is nonetheless a struggle to implement in our own lives because we seem hard-wired to focus first and foremost on our own wants. Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J., a noted modern physicist and philosopher, has written at length on what he calls the “four levels of happiness.”

They are:

  1. Psychical pleasure
  2. Egotistical pleasure
  3. Joy in serving others
  4. Joy in serving God.

Each level provides deeper and longer lasting happiness. People stuck on the first two levels continually struggle to maintain happiness, and then they discover the happiness they do achieve to be less and less satisfying, while people who find their happiness in the 3rd and 4th levels find lasting and increasing joy.

Modesty refocuses a person’s attention from themselves to those around them. This paves the road for happiness in two ways. Firstly, modesty alleviates the pressure of worrying what others think of us. Secondly, in directing our thoughts and actions to the needs of others, modesty leap-frogs us to the third level of happiness: rejoicing in others’ good instead of our own. So, far from restricting our interactions with the world around us, modesty enables us to participate in it more fully and fruitfully.


Our Stance

Our StanceWell it’s been a busy couple of days. We were featured on Jezebel.com in an article subtly titled “Modesty is Bullshit” (I’m honestly disappointed we didn’t make the cut for their “F–k You Week” line of articles, maybe next time). This brought us to the attention of a previously untapped audience—angry feminists, who’ve been visiting our blog and Facebook page in droves. So, in the wake of that I’d like to clarify a few things:

We are not out to dictate women’s clothes
Of our posts, only three have dealt with the issue of clothing. Two of those stressed that clothing is only a reflection of modesty, not the virtue itself.

We dictate nothing. We claim no authority
We’re just expressing our thoughts and appreciation of a virtue many people are  interested in pursuing and learning more about.

We just want to spread a new appreciation for modesty
Both Christian and secular circles focus the question too exclusively around clothing. We want to refocus the discussion on a broader understanding of modesty.

Modesty is positive and uplifting
Far from oppressing people, men or women, modesty gives the human person the respect it deserves. It’s not a long list of rules, but a fulfilling way of life.

But of course, this all presupposes that one thinks modesty is worth pursuing and the human person worth respecting. Our critics’ moral code seems to be that people can do whatever they want and respecting them means staying the heck out of the way. Now, our page assumes belief in a real system of morals, specifically, traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. If someone rejects all traditional virtue, discussion of one of those virtues in particular is an impossible and futile endeavor.