Dating: Vocation and Risk

     My last dating relationship lasted two months. It was recklessly timed and executed.

     Stanton started a good conversation a few days ago. I’ll add this to the foundation: Dating cannot be separated from vocation. It has been my experience that vocation cannot be verified without risk, a step toward following.

     When we fret about dating, let’s do so without the audacious fear that taking the wrong risks will cost us our vocations. Out vocations exist despite ourselves.

     Neither let us fear that the pain we experience when we discover ourselves on the “wrong” path is a waste (boy, have I been there...), or that vulnerability wasn't worth it (and there, too). A serious, good faith attempt to follow our hearts to Christ brings us closer to Him. Always.

      I only dated my fiancée for two months. It was recklessly timed and executed. Perhaps the wedding is, too. But I couldn't be happier. Thanks be to God.

Pray for us on June 11, and for all others risking for their vocations.

Tribalism and Truth

We’ve been busy here at Catholic Beer Club. As we generate new posts through a new growing mentality of writing, we are continually building ourselves upward and outward. A key facet of our mission is to evangelize and encounter the world without agendas. That’s a tough mission, considering the purpose of evangelizing is to bring the Good News to all people. We, though, are committed to ensuring that this Good News comes in the form of a beer and not a soapbox, given to you in a relationship, not a lecture. We believe this in all things that we do, and we are confident about it. And we love to do it. We live in a world of lost souls, and like you, we are a people longing for a place, a home, and a community. We are lost sheep seeking our flock.

We notice as one of the most prevalent aspects of our being lost is something everyone likes to talk about: dating. Yes, dating, the D-word, the one where we all have some opinion or another and we all still don’t have a clue what the right way forward is. Of course, I exaggerate with all; there are certainly some helpful and truthful commentaries out there. But for the most part we struggle to build relationships with our counterparts and to establish and enjoy joint companionships of both love and responsibility.

For the past two months CBC has been banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out what it is that prevents us from understanding something that should be inherent to the human heart. I began with a forcefully blunt criticism on the unproductive overreaction to the secular dating crisis. Our editors liked parts of the draft, but made some significant changes. We went back and forth, not exactly sure we were getting anywhere. We couldn’t figure it out. We kept thinking, “Surely it can’t be this hard?” We chewed on it until we couldn’t chew anymore. We brought our heads together, and sometimes they banged a little too hard, and we just got even more dazed. And that’s how we stumbled upon something very important. Division.

Part of the Good News is unity. We are a united body of people, and despite our cultural, geographic, and historic backgrounds, we are one. Don’t take this as some idealistic desire for peace on earth. What we’re say saying is that we are all rational animals capable of arriving at the same truth. The problem, though, is that our pride awakens a subtle yet strong division. Meaning, someone can say something truthful or founded on the truth; but, because of the many diverse experiences we each have (which we often take as the totality of truth), we divide the truth into a sort of opinionated tribalism. “This is the truth!” Well, sort of. You have a stake in the truth, but that doesn’t mean you have the whole picture.

Dating is a victim of this tribalism. Our human intellect should lead us to a universal truth about dating that we can all utilize. But, our human pride says that when we experience just a sliver of this truth, we claim it as the only and entire truth. This is wrong. The division is perpetuated by tribal leaders who comprise the vast majority of people talking about dating. Call these 90 percent or so of people the theoretical experts. They’re smart, they have background, and they are probably correct in numerous aspects. But they batter back and forth on the validity or invalidity of each other. In the end, when we all present different ideas, we are no closer to understanding what to do. Or worse, we subscribe wholesale to one mentality or another at the risk of excluding something additionally truthful.

But then there are those who refuse to partake in a tribe. They exile themselves and, like nomads, go from place to place, gathering everything they can to understand the whole truth. Call these people your field experts, the 10 percent that not only have a stake in the truth, but have an experiential authority on the broad spectrum of human experience. They’ve seen just about everything, they’ve rooted themselves in the truth of human nature and natural law, and have drawn valid conclusions on the human heart. They do not make comments that simply add onto the truth; they establish declarations about the truth itself, which we can all understand. We have some examples in mind, and we’re excited to share some of them in the future.

We at CBC and many of our readers know that there is some problem in dating today, even if we can’t quite name it. We believe that this problem cannot be remedied by creating more problems or by dividing our solutions into tribes. And we believe that the path forward to resolving our difficulty lies with the truth, and begins with its most basic fundamental facets. These three principles are how we at CBC plan on presenting any further posts on dating. We call it a lens, and not a platform. We don’t have perquisites on dating that must be met; if we did we would be guilty of establishing a hegemonic tribe. We understand that people experience dating in vast and diverse ways. What we are doing here is asking our authors to take those experiences and look at them through our three-part lens. The problems they find and the solutions they offer must begin with truth, which is most universal to all, and elucidated by the field experts, not the tribal leaders.

What we ask from you is to help us find those field experts, those Noble Nomads who have experienced the world and seen humanity at its best and worst. We have some pretty good ideas of where to start, but we’re not monopolists, and want to see who else is out there that we haven’t thought of. Comment below to offer your suggestions. We’re all lost sheep today, just trying to find our way back home.  

On Flirtation

Flirt (v): to court triflingly or act amorously without serious intentions; play at love; coquet. Flirt (v): to behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, but for amusement rather than with serious intentions.

Disclaimer: I am writing from a female perspective. This means that everything I say here is influenced by my experience as a woman in flirtatious situations. I do not claim this to be the experience of all women, or any of the claims I make about men to be fact, as they are merely the fruit of observation. I hope this is a springboard for thought and self-reflection on your relationships with the opposite gender, with the goal of making them as healthy as they can be, whether they be romantic or not.

Now let me be clear, I am not about to rant against flirting. I find this definition true, but only in certain circumstances. When wanting to show genuine romantic interest in someone, a little bit of flirtation can go a long way, and in these cases, is a really good thing. It can make your intentions clear, and calls for a response from the other person.  When flirtation is not being used for the sake of such clarity, however, it creates problems.

In flirtatious friendships that are not actually moving in a romantic direction, the flirtation sends mixed signals. In the simplest of cases it can leave one person wondering what the other’s intentions are, while in the worst it leads one person to begin investing emotionally more than what is proper for the relationship. This confusion can lead to the relationship becoming a distraction. Not only do we forget to focus on other people and opportunities in life, but we also end up distracting ourselves from the person we are so confused about. When the situation takes up excessive amounts of thought, we spend less time thinking about and appreciating the person we are so concerned about our relationship with.

The other problem with flirtation in the dictionary sense is that it takes the meaning out of genuine flirtation. If we accustom ourselves to sending flirtatious signals when we don’t mean them, and frequently receive insincere flirtations we are soon unable to flirt and recognize flirtation authentically. When flirtation is frequently used as a means of having fun or seeking attention, whether consciously or sub-consciously, we atrophy our ability to show romantic interest in someone.  

While we look at this, it is important to keep in mind that the intentions of the flirtation often change the way it manifests itself. Genuine interest ought to include taking interest in the other person, where they come from, what they do, why they do it, what they like, and what they don’t like, while flirtation for it’s own sake takes an interest in the flirtation itself. This makes it easier (not easy) to distinguish between the two in ourselves and help us to evaluate our intentions.

Do you like spending time with that person, even when they aren’t paying attention to you? Even more so, do you like spending time with them when they are paying attention to others? Does your laugh feel genuine when you are with them? Do you find yourself wondering more about them when they talk? When you show them attention are you more concerned about how they receive it?

Or, do you want others to notice when they make you laugh? Are you uncomfortable or frustrated when they show someone else attention? Do you ask questions to ask questions? Am I ok with being perceived to be in a relationship even when I am not? When you show them attention are you concerned about how much attention you show them in return?  

Of course, there is not a standard definition of which behaviors are negatively flirtatious and which ones are positively so. Each situation must be looked at individually and evaluated. The point, however, is to be intentional in your relationships, to show genuine interest when you are interested, and not to sink into flirtatious friendship when you are not.

In modern society, there is often an idea that young adulthood is a time to enjoy “freedom” in friendship and flirtation. There is a sense that marriage is the time when you end your flirtatious friendships as you move into something more committed. The problem with this attitude is that if you can’t live intentionally non-flirtatious friendships with the opposite sex now, there is no reason to believe you will be able to do so once you are married, or once you enter any vocation for that matter.

This is not easy to live out in modern dating culture, and there aren’t clear steps (other than evaluating your relationships) to tell us how to do so. But living this way is worth it, not only for the future, but now as well. Living this way now means paying more attention to the people around us, especially those of the opposite sex, for who they are, and less for what they can give us, and in doing so, we give them the opportunity to give us more than we could ever imagine. And perhaps you will find you have a genuine interest in one of them, and desire to show them a little more unpretentious attention.