By Tim Scheidler | Staff Writer
Most guys have their lives perfectly together, right? Look at your brother, your coworker, your teammate, your friend at church; they are all making steady progress in their careers, relationships, and retirement planning, right?
As men, it is very easy to think that every other guy’s life is perfect, and that they aren’t struggling with the same things we are. In the Facebook-saturated world we inhabit, we constantly see the great highlights of others’ lives. But we don’t see their terrible boss, their imminent divorce or breakup, the never-shrinking balance on their credit card. (To wit: I recently posted a picture of a gorgeous San Diego sunrise. I’ve never posted a picture of gray, overcast San Diego “June Gloom.”)
This creates a skewed view of reality: that every one else is great, and we are the only ones with problems. So what is the modern man to do? Fake it ‘til we make it. While that rule of thumb certainly has its value, most of the time it leads us to create a veneered life: we put a gilded outer life on display, while we struggle with a troubled inner life. One we are afraid to show to the real world because it has real problems.
Guess what? You’re not Superman. You have struggles and sin and hurt. So do I. And that’s ok. We are human. I bet our struggles are a lot more similar than they are different. As such, I’d like to talk about five battles that I believe affect most authentic, virtuous men yearning to live a countercultural life of Christ in a secular world…
Identity. One of the most fundamental questions a man will ever have to answer is: “who am I?” How would you describe yourself in a single sentence? What defines you most? Your family? Your job? Your faith? Are you a husband? Or a soldier? An athlete? An intellect? A son of God? A sinner striving to imitate Jesus?
In the end, our answer to this simple question affects everything else in our lives. It orients our daily lives, subtly but surely. Many men, though, don’t know how to answer that, and it leaves us rudderless, drifting, without orientation. As long we have a map to navigate our lives with, we can keep running the race. Without it, we are lost, wandering…
Many men do have an answer to that question, but life changes. And when our answer to the essential question changes, we experience hurt – even grief – over our lost image of self. In our fallen human condition it is far easier for us to know what we are losing instead of what we are gaining.
In my own life, I experienced great loss and anxiety as I saw my old identity slowly fading, and I tried as hard as I could to grasp at something that was inexorably slipping away. What I didn’t know was that Christ planted the seed of spirituality in my heart. Only after months could I see my new life emerging, and it has taken years of careful nurturing to keep it growing. But now the faith is the defining element of my life.
This month’s challenge: take some quiet time and answer this question for yourself: “who am I?”
Pornography. The plague of modern culture. Every man (and sadly, every boy) has hi-def hardcore porn available at the click of a mouse, instantly and free. This level of sexual temptation has never existed before, and as a culture and a church, we are still grappling with how to deal with this addiction.
Now that high-speed internet is prevalent in modern culture, (almost) every single guy you know has consumed this media. Your brother, boyfriend, husband? Yes. The men sitting in the pews at Mass? Yes. Me? Yes. It is terrible, and it is everywhere. Thankfully, there is a way out…
- Want to stop. You will never break free from the slavery of instant-access porn unless you really have the desire to stop. You know that little voice inside telling you that the woman on your screen is someone’s daughter or sister or mother? Listen to it.
- Realize you’re not alone. (Almost) Every guy you meet is either watching porn or found the strength to break free from it. Other men understand your struggles.
- Know thyself. What leads you down the path towards sin? A certain person/location/time of day? Stress or boredom or loneliness? Getting out of your routine? Business travel? Understand your triggers: it’s far easier to avoid the first step at all than trying to stop once you’ve started.
- Tell another person. Do it today. You must find someone you trust and be 100% honest about your struggles. For me, when I first told a very dear loved one it felt like I was flipping a light switch. It made quitting possible.
- Be accountable. Here’s the hard part: you must keep telling someone. Not just once, but permanently. Find an accountability partner you can text/call at least weekly to talk about how you did.
- “Hail Mary…” Here is the key! In the very first moment you feel temptation creeping into your heart, immediately stop whatever you are doing and pray a Hail Mary. Keep praying them until the moment passes. No one else can help us more than Our Lady in battling lust and reorienting our hearts towards pure love of femininity.
- Go to confession. When you slip up – and in the beginning you will – immediately go to the sacrament of reconciliation! And be brutally honest with yourself… and the priest. Yikes! Scary, right? Nope. Incredibly liberating.
- “Never, never, never give up!” Winston Churchill said it right. When you feel dejected, when you feel like you’ll never slay the dragon, when you actively want to stop caring and start looking again, don’t give up! Be a man and start back at Step 1.
There is so much more to write on this subject. We merely scratched the surface. And this issue is only one of a plethora within the purview of chastity. Much more at another time.
(This concludes Part One. Part Two is coming tomorrow…)