Learning How to Give

[Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a five-part series on “Renewing the Church and Transforming the World.” Click here to read the first article.]

It is certainly true that everyone in society is affected by the trend away from the concept of family and common good and toward the concept of personal rights and freedoms. But no group in our society exhibits the traits and suffers the consequences of modernity’s radical privacy so much as do single adults.

One of Pope John Paul II’s favorite quotes was that, “man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself” (Gaudium et spes, n. 24). Giving is God’s nature. Giving is the essence of love, and giving is exactly what singles typically have not learned how to do. Even more, giving is precisely what single life in our culture has taught us all not to do.

Giving is most naturally learned within the context of family. In family life we learn to put others before ourselves, and in the joy of this giving we discover who we are as God’s children. In our modern culture, and particularly in living the modern single life, we learn to put ourselves and our own desires first, and second and third and fourth and so on, as we isolate ourselves more and more fully from those around us.

Who can doubt that this isolation reaches its fullest expression in the modern sexual lifestyle, especially as lived by singles? An effective, descriptive term for the preferred and certainly most common sexual lifestyle of the modern single is “serial monogamy.” Serial monogamy is systematic reinforcement of abandonment, of abandoning and being abandoned by the person to whom we are bound the closest. Serial monogamies, more popularly and politely termed “committed relationships,” almost always involve some form of subtle, implicit deception as to what is actually being committed.

What is in fact being committed is almost never stated out loud. If it were, it would perhaps sound something like this. “I promise not to have sex with anyone other than you until I’m through or almost through having sex with you.” This is too crass, too depressing, to be admitted out loud. And it is certainly not consistent with the longings of our hearts. And so there is almost always a pretense of a promise or commitment to something vaguely more meaningful — but it is only a pretense. That is why serial monogamy, with its serial abandonment, is experienced by its participants as serial betrayal.

Serial monogamy, abandonment, and betrayal are the instructors in the school of isolation. This school decimates our capacity to give and to receive love, teaching us that we have nothing of value to give, and that all we can expect to receive in return for our nothing is a lie. We need look no further to discover why today we have few successful marriages and few consecrated vocations. This school of serial monogamies is the anti-marriage prep course, and the anti-seminary.

The good news is that everyone knows that serial monogamy is empty — and no one really wants it. Almost everyone is open and ready to be offered a better way, a way that speaks to the truth of who we really are and fulfills the desires which are found in the depths of our hearts.

To be continued in “The Revolution in Singles Ministry — Part 3.”

Dave Sloan writes and speaks across the country on God of Desire: From Dating to Courtship to Paradise. Dave has appeared on many radio and television programs, including CNN News and EWTN's Life on the Rock. His Twelve Principles Program shows how to begin every relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ, who can discover the wonder of one another without fear while growing ever closer to the God of Desire.

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