Today, in society, with the ease of accessibility to pornography, dating websites, chat rooms, drugs and other vices, we can hide behind a character of our creation and separate ourselves from the Law of Virtue. We can easily put our morality and spirituality in a box and escape in fantasy.
There are many references that can be made about the individual harm each of these vices can impart both in our Christian and secular world but beyond these critically important injuries, we need to identify the separation that occurs when we allow ourselves to become something we are not in these fantasy lives. We change. We lose parts of ourselves that blur the line between our fantasy world and our real world.
Engaging in fantasy has a real impact on the individual and those connected with the individual.
Consider a woman who has been married for 30 years and has begun dabbling in pornography and online sex chat programs. She escapes from her every day life by becoming this fantasy person. She meets men online and exchanges provocative pictures. She doesn’t necessarily see the harm in her behavior. Yet, those around her are beginning to experience a loss. She is emotionally separating herself from those she loves as she continues to become emotionally engaged in the fantasy character she has created. The implications to her healthy relationship with her family and friends continues to cause suffering and pain that she is not necessarily attuned to. These behaviors may continue or may stop abruptly because her activity is discovered.
The fantasy she and so many others escape into has implications that are rarely considered in the beginning. In a Catholic relationship, the Sacrament of Marriage is a binding commitment. Both parties agree to take the good with the bad. Unfortunately, when these vows are committed to, the partners may not have considered the extremes between good and bad.
Recovery is a challenging path for both the injured. There are two injured parties in a case like this. The woman, even though she is the cause and the man, who suffers the effect. The woman is impacted several times. She suffers the separation from her morality and spirituality. Her relationship with God becomes fragmented as she distances herself from the love of God for her. She also suffers the hardship that creates a break in trust with her husband (and friends). She is left with fear of loss and the abandonment of the support system she relied upon.
As a minister, it is important to look beyond the Christian implications in helping to bring both injured parties back into the fold, without ignoring the true need to help the couple find their path back to a moral and spiritual life through the Law of Virtue.
The healing process can begin when both identify and accept their insecurities and the impact the event had on the relationship. Very rarely does a person start out with the intention to cause suffering to another. Helping the couple to see what may have driven the behavior and utilizing a Christian approach to help both to understand the healing nature of God through Jesus, helps to bridge the divide. Restoring faith and hope are essential to the healing process. From there, the foundation can be set that will help the couple understand their Sacrament of Marriage commitments to work together at building a future together.
The woman’s behaviors were sinful, and she separated herself from God by her own behavior but that was never her intention. Through her action she has suffered the consequences of her free will. Through her Catholic support system, she can relieve herself of the sinful burden and make herself right with God. She may also rebuild the bridges of her relationship with her husband. The healing process takes time and effort. The love of God allows us to again take a risk on the goodness of others and gives us hope of normalization. We can never undo what has been done but we can grow into a deeper understanding of how to avoid the same pitfalls and build a stronger bond with God and those we’ve injured.
The pastoral ministry in this case is to truly listen to the couple and allow them to self-heal during the journey while also helping them to understand more fully, their moral and spiritual foundations. The Law of Virtue provides a road map and they need to understand how to read it. God is central to the healing process and through Jesus, we’re able to better understand how to enact the Law of Virtue. Jesus’ own life is the standard we must aim for and model after. Through pray, we’re able to receive the Holy Spirit and better understand the revelation of the divine love and in turn offer Jesus’s Great Commandment, to love one another, in return.
Richard Gula refers to Virtues as the face of faith. “Virtue ethics stresses that who we are overflows into what we do”. Faith, Hope and Charity along with Self-esteem, Humility, Gratitude and Justice (“Gods way of caring for us in setting relationships right”), are essential to the healing process. It is our obligation as Christians to help foster the Virtues in both the healthy and sick.
Gula, Richard M. The Law of Virtue. New York, NY. National Pastoral Life Center, 1999. Print.