The spiritual classic, The Imitation of Christ suggests the following words might come from the Mouth of Christ, "My child, you must give all for all, and keep nothing for your own. You know that self-love is more harmful to you than anything else. The inclination and attachment you have for a thing determines the hold it has on your heart. If your love is pure, simple and moderate, you will not be the slave of any earthly creature."
This quote makes me think back to a time I was a "slave" of televised football. One autumn, many years ago we would come home after Holy Mass and quickly prepare some snacks to plop down for the 1pm kickoff. I would then sit there for the entire game, shooing away children, ignoring my wife, and yelling at the silver box in front of me like a lunatic. If a child were to try to interrupt me or block my view of the t.v. they would catch my wrath. This was my time after all, the only time all week that was blocked out for me, myself, and I. I had a right to it, didn't I? I had worked hard all week to support the family...I deserved this...right?
Self-love is that state that turns our focus on ourselves. I deserve this chocolate, I deserve this new car, I deserve this promotion...and on and on. This self-love then turns to hate for others with our will is not met. It may be our secret loathing of a co-worker who received a desired promotion. It may come out as a short temper with a spouse who asked us to take out the garbage or change a diaper in the middle of an exciting football game. It may be a failure to comfort a child in the middle of the night, "because I have a big meeting in the morning!" All of these examples show how self-love turns charity on its head...instead of focusing our love and devotion on others, we focus it on ourselves.
This is particularly true when it comes to purity. We may tell ourselves such lies as, "I deserve a little comfort, after all, my wife keeps pushing me away." Failure to live purity is often the result of giving in to our self-love and attitude of selfishness. When we continually give in to our selfish desires, they more readily take charge and turn us into "slaves". When this happens we find ourselves at a critical moral moment, and often will fail because we have already failed in a hundred small ways.
What is the answer to this? Mortification. The Imitation of Christ puts it this way, "Do not desire that which you may not have, nor seek to possess anything which will impede your spiritual progress and deprive you of interior freedom." In other words, do not fight to satisfy your own desires, but only that of Christ. Live a life of selflessness. Live for what really counts, and most of all, become that true priest, prophet, and king of your family...that will be the greatest mortification of all, for the world will not accept you in your sacr
So there was once three men. They all were part of an orienteering exercise.
The First Man was dropped off in a location he knew nothing about. He had been blind-folded so as to not be able to retrace his steps. In other words, he had no idea where he was. He was then given a map, and told he had to find his way to a rendezvous point on the map.
The Second Man was also driven to a location, however he was not blind-folded and knew precisely where he was. This man was also given a map, but was not told where he needed to go.
The Third Man was driven to the drop-off point, let out of the vehicle, and was given nothing. He was told to meet at the rendezvous point and was given a very vague description of it.
These three men all start somewhere, and must end up somewhere. The difference lies in these three things:
1. Knowing where you are starting.
2. Knowing where you are going.
3. Knowing how you are going to get there.
When you take away any one of these you lose some ability to go in the right direction. Manly leadership is much the same way. First, you need to take a real assessment of your current situation, the state of your soul, the state of your marriage, the state of your family, etc. You need to first come to grips with where you are, no matter how far from the ideal, to get a good grasp on the way to your goal.
Secondly, you must have an ideal, a goal, a purpose to motivate you. I think Dilsaver outlines a very strong ideal for us men to follow in his book, The Three Marks of Manhood. At times it may seem unattainable, but still, we set the ideal before us and trudge through to move closer and closer to that goal. In other words, what kind of man do you want to be? Who are you called by God to be? What is the vision for you and your family? Sometimes a retreat can be a good place to find this goal. However, it is important to commit to your goals and work towards them in both good times and bad. It can often happen that once we return to the daily grind, we find ourselves slipping and losing our momentum. This is were a good, trusted, fellow man can help as a mentor/advisor.
Thirdly, in order to find our way, we must have a "map". This is probably the most difficult part of manhood - that is, to find the ideal and learn how to live it. Real Catholic men are hard to find. A clear, concise definition of manhood and patriarchy is also not very accessible these days. They are out there for those truly interested, but one must have the desire to seek them out. Again, a good start is Dilsaver's book. However, the most important road map is Christ. He is the ultimate man and the ultimate ideal for us to follow. We must come to know Christ and His Way, so that we may more quickly imitate Him. The Scriptures and the Imitation of Christ are the best reads to learn Christ (paired with daily prayer).
So, which man are you? Do you know where you are going?