Discussing Changes at Catholic Match

In today’s post at ‘Catholic Match,’ I give advice on when you should ask your significant other to change:

In the first place, let’s be clear that you do have the right to ask your significant other to ‘change’ in some way.

When you enter a relationship with someone, your life is no longer quite your own, and thus what you do affects the other person and hence they are well within their right to ask you to be a certain way.

That is, to an extent. It must be remembered that intentional change is difficult and stressful, and so basic charity requires that it should only be demanded in important cases. If you find one of your girlfriend’s habits to be mildly annoying, or if she occasionally does something embarrassing or silly, then you should really let it go at a comment or two and not insist that she alter it. If you try to get her to correct every minor fault or quirk as it arises, she’ll feel badgered and stressed, and what is worse, she won’t be as inclined to listen if you ask her to change something serious.

Just as human laws do not, as a matter of practicality, cover the whole moral law, so you should not try to ‘fix’ every flaw in the other person. Everyone has flaws, and some flaws you simply have to learn to live with because the cost of removing them isn’t worth the pain and effort.

Read the rest here.

It’s a Wonderful Life at Catholic Match

If anyone were to ask what I think the best movie ever made is (understanding there’s objectively no such thing), I would probably say It’s a Wonderful Life. I might do a piece going into why I think this, but in the meantime I get to give some idea of why in today’s piece on Catholic Match. 

I have sometimes thought it a shame that It’s a Wonderful Life is regarded as a ‘Christmas Movie.’

It is, of course (in more ways than one), but if we think of it as ‘merely’ a Christmas movie we risk undervaluing it.

Frank Capra’s masterpiece, of course, needs no introduction. You’ve seen it at least once, and if you haven’t you know the basic premise: an ambitious, gifted young man named George Bailey wants nothing more than to escape his small, provincial town and do something big and important with his life.

But, one way or another, he gives up every opportunity to make good on that dream in order to help the people around him until one Christmas Eve finds him contemplating suicide, feeling he’s wasted his life. A roly-poly, ‘second class angel’ named Clarence then appears and shows him what the world would be like if he had never been born.

The message of the film is usually given as “every life has value.” Yes, but not quite in the way you might think. It is not George Bailey’s intrinsic value as a person that leads to his vindication, but the choices he made along the way.

Read the rest here, and Merry Christmas!

New Catholic Match Post on Holding Doors

My latest Catholic Match post is up, dealing with the subject of holding a door for a lady.

The great ideal of chivalry has, in our time, largely been reduced to things like “hold the door for a woman.”

As it’s largely been stripped of its context, some of us are even questioning this last and least remnant. After all, what does it possibly matter who opens the door? Also, shouldn’t a strong, independent lady be able to open her own bloody door or pay for her own meal? Isn’t it infantilizing a woman to cater to her in this sort of way?

I always found the latter objection especially strange. Apparently, to be catered to and deferred to now implies weakness on your part. By that logic, a king would be considered the weakest and least respected man in his own kingdom, as he is the one who is most catered to.

There is a moment in Ben-Hur where the Emperor Tiberius is preparing to give a proclamation. The servant tasked with handing it to him is momentarily distracted and doesn’t realize that Tiberius is sitting there with his hand held out, glaring at him and waiting for him to give him the scroll. It’s within easy reach, but he is the Emperor; he doesn’t move to meet his servants, his servants move to meet him. No one who valued his head would dare suggest this implied weakness on the Emperor’s part; quite the contrary. His power and authority is shown in that others do things for him, not because he can’t, but because he shouldn’t have to.

This is useful to know if you ever meet the Roman Emperor, but what does it have to do with dating?

Find out the answer here.

Catholic Match Post on Being a Provider

Another essay up on Catholic Match, this one on man as provider:

Okay, so what constitutes ‘providing’?

Well, in this sense, to provide simply means that a man gives his family what they need to live; not just in the sense of what they need to survive, but a context in which to live and grow as healthy human beings (‘life’ is more than mere biological existence). A man gives of his own to sustain his children’s lives just as he gave of himself to beget them.

This begins before he even has children. When a man marries, he is said to take his wife into his own house. That is, he provides her a new home: a new context in which to live her life. This is, in fact, part of what a marriage is (the question of why it ought to be the man who does this is too intricate to deal with here).

It ought to be clear that this is a wholly different question from what sphere of life that home is formed in. Mr. Darcy welcoming his wife into a fine house richly furnished and heavy with tradition is not for that reason a better provider than Mr. Gargery welcoming his wife into a humble blacksmith’s cottage. The point is that in both cases, a form of life and a context for living it is provided by the man out of what he has to offer.

This is absolutely a necessity of the married state, and a man who is unwilling to provide for his family is as unworthy of marriage as a man who is unwilling to remain faithful to his wife. Rich or poor, a man takes care of his own and provides for them.

Read the rest here.

Catholic Match Post on ‘Bringing Up Baby’

Basing another post off of one of my favorite films.

In case you need a recap, the film features Mr. Grant as a milquetoast scientist too wrapped up in his career to have a life and Miss Hepburn as an insane socialite who becomes fixated on him after a few chance encounters. Then she acquires a pet leopard with a taste for music and dogs (“I don’t know if that means he eats dogs or is fond of them”) and enlists him to help her take it down to her aunt’s farm. In the process, she turns his boring, dead-end life inside out.

Poor Grant just wants to get back to his normal routine, with his frigid fiancée and dry career. But, as time goes on, not only does he slowly start to enjoy himself, but the experience also provides a much needed injection of energy and manliness. He not only has a better time, but becomes better for the time. After all, one almost can’t help but grow more assertive when trying to wrangle a wild, untamable creature that’s out for your blood (not to mention the leopard).

Grant, when we first meet him, is a thoroughly conventional man, bound up in his work, engaged to a modern working woman who is so dedicated to her own career and his that she insists they won’t have any children lest they distract from the job. He seeks to follow the script that life has given him at every turn, reciting the correct polite phrases at the correct time, following the correct path of a distinguished career followed by marriage to the correct woman.

Then Hepburn suddenly comes in and, to his consternation, she doesn’t follow the rules at all. They meet on the 18th fairway, where she helps herself to his ball, cheerfully talking over his attempts to explain, then when she’s finally convinced its his ball shrugs it off with “it’s only a game.” Things do not improve from there.

Read the rest here.

Jekyll and Hyde at Catholic Match

For my Halloween post at Catholic Match, I got to gush a little about one of my all-time favorite horror films, 1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

You all know the basic outline of the story: the brilliant, good Dr. Jekyll uses a chemical potion to transform himself in the evil Mr. Hyde, the embodiment of all his worst instincts and desires unfettered by even the smallest shred of conscience. Jekyll uses Hyde because, in that form, he can indulge in the pleasures that “a gentleman like me daren’t take advantage of.”

G.K. Chesterton perceptively pointed out that Jekyll and Hyde is not a story about how one man can be two, but how he cannot.
 
The whole point of the story is that Jekyll’s double-life, his attempt to contain and keep his sins, was doomed from the start. Because what Jekyll refuses to acknowledge, until it is too late, is that he and Hyde are the same person; what one does affects the other.

The more he lets Hyde out, the more the Hyde personality becomes his ‘true’ self, until by the end of the story Jekyll has effectively been absorbed into Hyde.

Read the rest here.

Cardinal Virtues Begin on Catholic Match

Over the next few weeks, CatholicMatch will be running a series of articles I wrote on the Cardinal Virtues. The Introduction went up today:

When we only have ourselves to consider, we can (and many do) distract ourselves with hedonistic indulgence, with ever more novel and transgressive pleasures, or, failing that, with the bitter delights of resentment towards a world that has ‘cheated’ us and so live what seems a tolerably happy life even without virtue. But when we share our lives with someone else, when we’re responsible for not just our own but another’s happiness, it’s much harder to fake contentment.

The other person generally doesn’t let us get away with it, and, assuming she’s just as bad as we are, we get to experience the abrasive, sandpaper-like results of vice without the anesthetic of self-approval. This is one reason why so many relationships fall apart, and why they often end so acrimoniously.

Basically, to have good relationship requires good people; you can’t live well together if you don’t know how to live well in the first place, any more than you would suddenly be able to draw well just because you’re partnered with someone who doesn’t know how to draw either.

Read it all.