I am having a very hard time “doing the right thing” when it comes to my dating life. Sometimes it’s as bad as sleeping with a date when I know I don’t want to marry her. Other times it’s as simple as not calling a woman back when I said I would. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but then again at other times I look at all my buddies and they are doing the same thing. I do want to get married, I feel like I just haven’t met the right woman met. Any advice?
Not Doing the Right Thing
Dear Not Doing the Right Thing,
The first thing for you to know is that struggling to “do the right thing” is very normal. We all fall short of the expectations we have for ourselves, and we all fall into sin. Even Paul struggled with doing what he did not want to do. I’m impressed you are looking at your behavior and willing to admit you don’t like what you see. Insight is the first step. Motivation to change is the second.
Which leads me to a question. I’m not quite sure about your true level of motivation to change. What would be “better” in your life if you started doing the right thing? I hear you are feeling guilty, but a negative emotion isn’t the strongest way to make changes. And, at the same time, you see everyone around you doing the same thing. Do you have any buddies that are trying to live an authentic Catholic life? A life in fidelity to Christ and the Church is a lifestyle very different from what we see in the media, and different from what our friends might be doing. Living the Christian lifestyle is truly counter – cultural. We are called to be “not of this world” (John 18:36) but at the same time in the world. Sounds like you need to decide which world you want to live in.
I want to warn you against thinking if you follow some set of rules that you will be rewarded with the date of your dreams. That is moralism, and it doesn’t reflect a true desire to live more intimately in Christ. Yes, it is true that if you choose to remain chaste and treat others with dignity and respect it’s likely you will stop wasting your time with women who you don’t want to marry, making you more available to meet the woman you will want to marry. But if she doesn’t show up immediately, you will need your faith and longing for intimacy with Christ to strengthen you. You simply cannot live a Catholic dating lifestyle on your own. You need Super Hero help. You need the Holy Spirit to be alive in you. The good news is there is a way out of the cycle of not doing the right thing.
The first step is a visit to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God understands your struggle, and He accepts you for where you are in the journey towards holiness. He wants us to reach out to Him in the midst of our struggle and in the midst of our sin, so He can send the power of His Holy Spirit down to help guide and comfort us. Being truly sorry is part of the motivation to change. We must all accept that we are not perfect, we do sin, and the life of a Christian includes struggle. But that doesn’t mean you need to keep beating yourself up. As Saint Paul tells us in Romans, “there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”
Reconciliation opens your heart to explore your reasons for change. After you are clear that you do want to change, then the rest is knowing what to do. A few ideas: get close to a Catholic community that supports the type of dating lifestyle you want to live. Have buddies that do the right thing. Remain humble knowing you may still fall, but don’t give up. Tell your dates up front that you are trying to date in a Catholic way. Participate fully in the sacraments, and consider going to daily Mass or adoration to support you new path.
Thanks for your question, and please know that your journey towards a more authentic Catholic lifestyle is one towards discernment, and peace beyond understanding.
Michele Fleming, M.A.