Most people are not aware of the subconscious ways they judge others they encounter. For better or for worse, preconceived notions are well established in all of us. For those who are in the dating scene, this is a part of everyday life. Only time and familiarity with another person can naturally alter and adjust these preconceptions so that there is an authentic experience of the person.
A major part of growing up (i.e., becoming a mature adult) is learning about what’s working at the subconscious level (self-awareness) and taking control of thoughts, words and actions at the conscious level (training the will).
The problem is that many adults haven’t grown up yet, or at the very least resist it as long as they can. They don’t want to do the hard work of taking responsibility for themselves. They would rather do whatever they feel like doing (the rule children live by).
For Catholics who are dating, it’s imperative to grow up when it comes to their faith as well. It’s absolutely shocking to come across a Catholic who is so accomplished in their career, from academic and other important learning experiences necessary to help this achievement, and know so little about their own Catholic faith. And further, some believe it’s within their religious education achievements to declare the Catholic Church is wrong regarding certain teachings.
I think what might be worse (and, frankly, more dangerous) are Catholics who know the basic teachings of their faith that they learned as a child from the Baltimore Catechism and believe they have everything they need to know. It’s kind of scary to me that there are adult Catholics out there living their adult lives content to have a third grade level of faith.
All this is to say that adults are not children, so they cannot live any aspect of their lives like a child. Adults must constantly be learning. Education combats ignorance and forms the person. Adult life rarely has an easy one sentence answer to a simple question. There are many hard questions that must be asked, and not so easy answers to them. Sometimes there is no answer to the question.
Adults have to be ready to ask more questions, do more research, and be open to the processes of life rather than expect absolutes. Mostly, adults have to be compassionate, good listeners, and able to be part of another person’s process.
We should not be people who get quick answers and act, but rather become humble searchers for God and truth. Truth is a wonderful thing. But the process of living truths is often difficult and challenging.
This is imperative for successful dating. The truth of love between two people takes time to discover and foster. There is no quick answer to whether or not someone is right for you. Dating is not a catechism experience of a question and answer. There is always more to it.
For example, suppose your catechism dating experience of a first date had you asking “So are you Catholic?” and the response is “No, not anymore,” from which you conclude “this one is not for me,” and never see that person again. Maybe if you hung on one more round and found out they left the Church because they don’t believe in going to confession.
To you, it’s simple: “I will not date a non-practicing Catholic.” Okay, fine and dandy. This certainly excludes a lot of people. Also fine and dandy. But what if it turns out that the person left the Church because of the way they were treated by a priest at their last confession? Bad experiences of treatment by fellow Catholics and/or those who are to officially represent Christ are often the root reason for a fallen away Catholic.
Had you hung on to show sincere interest in the full story of that person, you might have developed more compassion and perhaps even been a source of healing that lead them back to the Church.
Life is not a catechism. It’s full of lots of gray that can’t be easily dismissed or answered with one sentence. Even with an objective truth involved or at stake, there are too many factors that can be involved and considered.
Now take your dating experiences. Here are few scenarios:
- The person starts eating dinner without making the sign of the cross to bless the meal first. You decide they don’t really live their faith enough, and are immediately turned off and uninterested, rather than consider they might be nervous and forgot.
- You’re listening to music in the car from your date’s iPod. You learn it’s full of songs you hate or think no good Catholic should listen to and decide this person doesn’t take their faith seriously, rather than wondering if your own preferences might show how outdated and limited you are, or that maybe you are too rigid about something that isn’t actually so objective.
- You are viewing the online profile of a person who seems very attractive to you, but you notice they have been divorced and annulled. You decide you can’t contact them because you believe the Church gives out way too many annulments and that divorced people have too much baggage you don’t want to deal with, rather than considering that bad things happen to good people and your view about these matters might be too narrow and uncompassionate.
There are a lot of really good people out there worth knowing and loving who have a past or a way of life contrary to our preconceptions. If we want to be successful in our relationships, it takes a commitment to growing up.
Do yourself a favor. Go over your transcript of personal inventory and see what areas about yourself need further education. Never stop learning how your faith applies to the complexities of life and people. Faith is a gift, and walking with Jesus Christ is a journey of learning how to live that gift as we interact with others and encounter Him within ourselves.