A Father’s Identity: Distinct from Instinct
At our last FOSJ meeting we discussed some very important principles regarding fatherhood, family and our sexuality:
1) If our children would one day live in heaven, heaven must live on earth today.
2) Heaven is experiencing the Trinity, Who is an eternal exchange of love.
3) The Trinity’s self-giving love can be identified by three basic attributes: Distinction, Unity and Fruitfulness
4) Like the Trinity, a husband and wife are created by God to give themselves to the other. Two distinct people come together in marriage and sexual union and by means of this union bear life. Here we see the marks of Distinction, Unity and Fruitfulness.
5) Sexual difference and sexual attraction gives us the power to image the Trinity. But true love must maintain these three attributes: Distinction, Unity and Fruitfulness.
To achieve Trinitarian unity in our marriages and in our families, sexual difference and sexual attraction are demanded. This complementarity between the sexes leads to true unity. In other words we must have the character of distinction. To properly give ourselves to our wives as authentic gifts we must posses our own person. Without self-possession—self-mastery—our distinct person will eventually become engulfed by our wife’s person—or vice-versa. In other words, if we are dominated by the female sex or dominate the female sex we lose our identity as true men. So how do we remain distinct from our wives in order to give ourselves away to them—to achieve the unity of the Trinity? To love our wives properly we must remain distinct from the animals.
In the beginning, when God created Adam, though he may have reached the conclusion, based on the experience of his body, that he was like the animals, he rather discovered that “he was alone,” distinct from the animal realm. Adam realized that he was distinct from the animals by the fact that he was endowed with the capacity to love, and this love enabled him to not be bound by mere passionate instinct. Adam could say “yes” to love, whereas an animal can only say “yes” to instinct—to passions. If you can’t say “no” to your passions then your “yes” to another means nothing. Animals do not have the capacity to say yes to love, to sacrifice themselves for something greater. We, however have the capacity to say yes to love by overcoming our passions—particularly lust.
When we reduce woman to an object for our self-gratification we are no longer distinct from the animals, but are bound to lust like them. When we are bound by lust we not only lack distinction from the animals, but also lack distinction from woman. How can this be? Am I not a real man when I am dominating a woman? No. By attempting to dominate women with our lusts we become dominated by woman and our lusts. Rather than being true men who can freely love like God, our masculinity is robbed from us—hence we lack true distinction from woman.
“In the heart is the battlefield between love and lust.” (TOB 3) Lust is the opposite of love. Lust uses the other for selfish reasons, whereas love gives itself for the sake of the other. Lust attempts to divorce love from sacrifice. The man who has not undertaken the battle to defeat lust cannot accept and give love. Our sexual attraction integrated with sacrifice enables us to set the pace of self-giving love. By initiating self-giving love we maintain our distinct character as men of God, and therefore become capable of achieving true union with her. True sexual difference, expressed properly, achieves Trinitarian love.
Lust has two forms: an apparently positive character and a negative character—both are wholly disordered. Lust in its pseudo- positive sense affirms the woman in her beauty though the man uses such affirmation in order to possess her as an object of self-gratification. A woman can be deceived by this false affirmation, for it appears to her that the man loves her in desiring her. Lust in its negative form assesses the woman by her physical attributes and finds her lacking the beauty and sexual attraction that the man desires. In this case a man commits the sin of lust by assessing woman negatively, comparing her to an impossible standard of beauty, finding her unsuitable for meeting his sexual desires and fantasies. He does not see her true person—her true feminine beauty—and therefore cannot love her rightly. Lust, then, is not a butterfly that we play with and chase after as it gently flies aloft, but rather a roaring dragon that will consume us with its fire if we draw too close.
The evil one, though he at one time was higher that all the angels and men, reduced himself to something less than the animals. Now, he is incapable of giving his yes to self-giving love. His life is determined by base instinct. His goal is to have all fathers, all men, follow his deadly descent—to lose our identity as he has lost his. The true man integrates love with sacrifice—he obtains the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit to overcome lust and love his wife for her sake. This is our identity. We are not boys, not animals, not demons, but men who are distinct from women and from the animals.
Grace builds upon nature. To obtain supernatural aid from God we must begin to overcome lust with our human nature. God, seeing that we are using our nature to strive to overcome lust, will aid us with supernatural grace, giving us the power to become true men. St. Joseph in his human nature did five things that we as men should follow: 1) He decided to love woman (Mary) rightly 2) He strove at this ideal with his human powers 3) He recognized his weakness (this is evident in his fleeing from his her to save her from shame) 4) He offered his weakness to God in prayer 5) God granted Joseph the supernatural grace to be a true man, distinct from woman and therefore his family became an icon of Trinitarian love. These are our steps 1) Decide to love woman rightly today – make the commitment 2)Strive at it – work at it – offer mini-sacrifices in the flesh to build up strength in our nature 3) Admit our weakness to God when we fail 4) Trust that grace will be given.