Men as Brothers
As a woman it is easy to complain about men “objectifying women.” I find myself quick to judge them and prone to pity myself, complaining about the paucity of “good and holy men”. Theology of the Body has shown me that a man’s deepest desire is not to use, but to love, protect, and pursue. Opening my eyes to the challenges men face to live in purity and virtue in today’s society, Theology of the Body has invited me, by the way I act and dress, to allow men the opportunity to give and open myself to receive. Ultimately, it has compelled me to see all men as brothers in Christ, loving them authentically without seeking to obtain their attention or affection.
This spring I had the opportunity to attend a retreat based on the Theology of the Body. Although this was not the first time I encountered Theology of the Body, it genuinely deepened my understanding of my own femininity and opened my eyes to better appreciate the dignity and vocation of men. One thing I found rather ironic, but at the same time incredibly fruitful, was that, during our “girls only session,” we spent as much time delving into the purpose and vocation of men as we spent seeking to understand our own femininity. In hindsight this makes perfect sense. Men and women were created to complement and complete each other – if I do not first understand and appreciate the dignity and vocation of men, how can I truly recognize and embrace my own dignity and vocation as a woman?
“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). In this verse I have found the key to understanding our sexuality. Because men and women were created to become together the image of our Divine Maker, we have desires written in the depths of our hearts, desires which reflect our vocation to love authentically. Moreover, they reflect how, as men and women, we are called to fulfill this vocation in different ways. Men desire challenge and adventure. They desire to pursue, protect, and defend. These desires reflect how men are called as husbands and fathers to love, protect, and defend their wives and families. We as women, on the other hand, possess a caring and nurturing nature. Furthermore, because, as the crown of God’s creation, we are a beautiful mystery and treasure, we desire to be sought and loved. These desires reflect our call as wives and mothers to love and care for our families as well as to receive the love of our husbands by allowing them to pursue, protect, and defend us.
Clearly, men were made for more than using and lust. Deep down, men truly desire to pursue women with chivalry and honor. Unfortunately, in our society we have been caught up in a tragic downward spiral. Women, desperate to feel loved, throw away both modesty and dignity in order to obtain attention from men. Men are left with nothing to pursue, no purity and dignity to defend. Consequently, they resort to using women rather than respecting them. On and on, this vicious cycle goes. We were not made for this mediocrity of use and emotional dependence – we have been made for greatness, the greatness of authentic love.
Through Theology of the Body I have come to see how, as a woman I have an incredible power over men. By the way I act and dress, I am inviting men to look at me either as an object for their pleasure or as the woman of dignity who I truly am. Modesty is often presented as something we ought to embrace out of respect for ourselves. Although this is quite true, what I find to be an even stronger motivation is the idea of respecting men. On account of our fallen human nature, both men and women have intrinsic weaknesses, which we must battle. As women, our weakness is our willingness to throw away modesty for the sake of feeling loved. Men, on the other hand, struggle to control their imagination, to see women as persons who must be honored and not as objects for their own pleasure. Simply out of Christian charity, I ought to dress in a way that does not provoke a man’s imagination. Moreover, although immodesty does attract attention, usually it is not the love, reverence, and respect which I am ultimately seeking. If I as a woman want men to treat me with respect, I must start by respecting them. Furthermore, I now see how my actions too impact men more than I imagined. Not only must I take care not to send men the wrong message through flirtatious behavior, but I must always strive to affirm them in their masculinity. Even actions as simple as allowing a man hold a door for me or carry my bag offer him the opportunity to embrace his vocation to love and protect me as a mystery and treasure.
Transforming not only the way I see myself but also the way I view men, Theology of the Body has been the light of truth in the darkness of my soul. Through it God has opened my eyes to see the challenges men face to live with purity and honor in today’s society as well as the greatness and dignity of the vocation to which they have been called. Moreover, Theology of the Body has shown me that, before I can complain about the actions of men, I must first hold myself accountable. If I truly want men to treat me with dignity and respect, I must respect them in both my actions and dress. Ultimately, Theology of the Body has challenged me to love all men as brothers in Christ. When I look at my own brother, I can love him genuinely because I am not trying to obtain his attention or affection. My challenge is to always see and treat other men as I do my brother – to truly desire their holiness and sanctity without attempting to “get” anything from them. Each and every day I pray for my brothers in Christ. I pray that they may have the courage and strength to manfully embrace purity and chivalry in a world where these virtues are mocked as something for the weak and faint of heart.