I was watching a chick flick with some girls one night, and when the movie was over, one of the girls turned off the TV and said, “Well, my life is worthless!” We all giggled, but deep down inside I knew that girl may have meant it.
Our teens are faced with an immense amount of pressure, namely, the pressure to be perfect—to have the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, the perfect relationship, straight A’s, the perfect body, a flawless athletic career, the list goes on and on. To fall short here is to fail, to deem oneself worthless.
I have seen this in the eyes of countless teens and young adults as I travel the country. Yet, they hear the words of our Lord saying, “Come to me just as you are, and let me love you, flaws and all.”
I love to speak to students about Emotional Virtue. Virtue is a lost word in our day and age, and passions, desires, and emotions seem to guide our lives. So much of our entertainment and media is dripping with emotions.
Virtue forces us to ask ourselves, “Who do I want to be?”
Virtue flies in the face of, “Do what feels good, it’s all about you, take, use, abuse.” Virtue says, “Be strong, have the freedom to do good,” forcing us to ask ourselves, “who do we want to be?” The notion of virtue exhorts us to strengthen our moral character from within.
This plays out in dating relationships today. It has been said that men will use love to get sex, and women will use sex to get love; but the problem is that neither of these situations involves true love, but is literally a cycle of use. Pope John Paul II once said, “A person should never be used as a means to an end.” And that end can never be our own pleasure—whether physical or emotional. Human hearts are fragile and we have to work to protect them.
Changing the way we view relationships
We have to change the way we view relationships. The question should not be: “What can this person do for me?” Or, “What can I get from this person?” But instead: “When that special person comes along, who are they going to be falling in love with?” And: “How can I serve this person, help this person grow in virtue, and not use them?”
The best dating advice I ever received was from a priest on a retreat, and he said, “Run, just run, run straight to our Lord and fix your eyes on Him, and when you are whole and strong and you have been healing, look to the side and see who is running with you, and that is who you should be with.”
Becoming the person we are called to be is the first step toward laying the foundation for lifelong and meaningful relationships. Take me up on this challenge to change our thinking and teach our children to do the same – you won’t regret it.
(Sarah Swafford, founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries.)
More from Sarah Swafford
Visit Sarah’s website, EmotionalVirtue.com for video, audio and articles on the topic of emotional virtue.