New girl pops up, BAM! Attracted. You think about her, you want to be near her. New boy shows up, WAM! Attracted, you wonder what they are thinking and feeling… It is rather endless. There is some strange belief we have that when we find “The One” we will never be attracted to anyone ever again. The emotional highs in being attracted to someone lead us to believe that attraction is an imperative mandate for us to drop everything for the chance for romance with a girl. Over the course of my short life, I have learned that attraction is so much more complicated then that, and that most of the time it is not even about romance. I think committing myself to celibacy has actually helped give me a clear vision for myself, and I call my friends on their nonsense sometimes. So here is my perspective.
An Anecdote about “Kaitlyn”
In my first year of community college, two years before I even decided to enter religious life, I met this girl, we will just call her “Kaitlyn.” I had her in lit class. I saw her at daily mass outside college. She wore modest long skirts. She seemed to be traditional by way of class discussions. I was attracted to her, but why? Well she was not my type, I don’t like white girls, and honestly I did not even want romance with her. The fact is I wanted more young adult friends who consistently lived their faith, and well, she did. I talked to her, and it was fun to get through the class with this whole thing. Rarely did dating or romance enter my imagination. My best friend (who is now happily married), told me “I think I like Kaitlyn.” Knowing that his eyesight is not always as focused, and he was not wearing his glasses, I immediately responded “You don’t like Kaitlyn! Your just attracted to her because she is a girl with long hair! You don’t even know her!” And he laughed.
I rarely saw Kaitlyn after that. While visiting my dad, I bumped into her randomly at Mass after having entered religious life, and I think she was happy to see some random guy she met at Community College had a vocation.
My best friend did that a lot with other random girls. Heck, a lot of people I know did that. “I like her.” They go out, and get to know them, and get bored. The thrill and anticipation of getting to know another person explodes their hopes, and they get back on the rollercoaster for another ride, until they are quickly bored. But what is the point of it all?
Reflecting on Attracting
We are not taught the value of asking why. We are not asked to reflect on the meaning of things. We are not even allowed to talk about there being a deeper meaning. Attraction, our culture insists, is about our genitals trying to merge or whatever. Attraction is about following them in whatever direction they lead us. Attraction is about an emotional high, that we must follow at all costs. We are not permitted to publically ask on the value of each individual attraction, or even imagine that there is a bigger picture to the whole thing.
What we learn is, add them on facebook, learn about them, stalk them. We learn to spend all our moments with them soaking in all their glory.
What if there is a bigger picture to attraction? What if there is a meaning behind it all? What if there is something more then our emotions or sexual feelings?
I do believe there is. The more I reflect on that, the more liberated I feel. The more I sit in faith and believe, the more I have clarity and focus in life. The more I acknowledge my attraction honestly in prayer, the more I can see the bigger picture. Almost all of the time I see the bigger picture, the attraction is sort of silly, if not utter nonsense. Yet, I am satisfied, more satisfied then I can ever be by mindlessly slipping myself under submission to the whim of every attraction. Then what is the bigger picture?
Attraction is Grace?
When we are small children we cry, and expect our parents to stop everything they are doing to attend to us. Heck adults cry, and expect the world to pause and bow to their sorrow sometimes. Psychologists call it the god-complex. We think the world revolves around us. It is so affixed to us, that when something goes wrong, we blame ourselves and feel guilty. An example is that a child who goes through a separation of their parents is likely to blame themselves for their divorce, when there are easily so many other reasons that contributed to their decision (one of them probably being that they did not understand the dynamic of attraction).
We hit puberty, and suddenly we become so fascinated with the opposite sex, who up until then was our enemies. You know, as a child, what threatens our egotistical sheltered world, is an enemy. But we are still threatened, yet we see something else we did not see before. And it changes us. We start wanting to go out of our way to do kind things to someone, or we want to go out of our way to present ourselves as bigger and more worthy. Not only does it get us out of our narrow selfishness, but it brings the best of our talents out of us. Attraction makes us better people, and I think there is Grace there.
Jesus and the Saints were attractive
Jesus was just another guy with sandals and a beard right? Those saints, they all look fragile and pale timidly staring with their head slightly tilted to heaven. But there was something different about them. People were drawn to them in crowds, because there was something different about them. They were crazy, they were visionary, they were absurd, they spoke harmony to hearts.
Yet, sometimes while we altruistically try to say that the outside appearance does not matter, we neglect to even consider that the saints were lovely women and handsome men. I mean Jesus son of Joseph (as he would have been known) was rugged, had calloused hands, but preached in a way that exuded confidence and authority. He was direct in his parables, but there was a rich deep truth to his parables that got them thinking over and over again.
Augustine was seized by his people to be their bishop, even though he was not a priest. He had no credible confidence, but people instantly trusted him. He had a way of words, and actually trained in persuasive speech. He probably had a lot of charm, therefore.
Rose of Lima used to have to beat off the boys with a stick. Several of the woman saints were fighting off marriage proposals left and right. Their refusal to conform only arouse a greater beauty at the mystery of which made others wonder why?
But Attraction is Dangerous?
Maybe you have had your heart broken, maybe you have a broken family. As I said yesterday, there is sadly so much manipulation going on, and maybe a lot of it is our failure to actually reflect on the meaning behind certain attractions. So we can be in the opposite extreme of being so closed off to opening to other people, because we know the risk. If anything, this indicates that there ought to at least be a sort of moderation in the way we deal with attractions. Sadly, this is not the wisdom that we are told to deal with, instead we are told to “follow your heart.” When our heart is open to the beautiful bigger picture, when we are lives are harmonized by grace, following our heart becomes fortitude ennobled. When following our heart is about our ego, lust, and desires, it is more about enslavement.
Why am I attracted to her?
Rarely do we ever think that we need to step back and reflect and pray about the mechanisms of heart that makes us attracted to a particular person. It is normal for us to find a person intensely attractive for a relatively short time. Sometimes it is more subtle and persistent. If the attraction appears random, and rather short lived, it could be that that person manifests something that we want for ourselves.
I have noticed myself attracted to different girls at different times, and it is usually linked to something in my life. There are a lot of times when there is a mutual attraction which will cause my ego to manipulate my idea of what I know is right, just so I can feel pleasure. At these times, if I prayerfully step away, I can see how egotistical and selfish it is.
There are other times, sometimes when the attraction is intense, that make me realize that I am attracted to the strength in another person, because I am weak there. There was a time when I was around a lot of older priests very often, so a girl being just a year young then me made her unusually more attractive. Another time there was a girl who was very prayerful with a clear sense of self-respect that I found attractive. There was a girl who was outspoken virgin, when I needed more chastity in my life.