Man to Man
Courage to Commit
Our failures to break free from sinful habits, commit to relationships, and say yes to our vocations are ultimately a lack of courage.
Seth: We are all human and weak. We all make mistakes. It’s hard, but a man needs to be humble enough to admit his inadequacies. He should never be complacent in his willful habits of vice and sin. But let’s be real here. At the heart of our sinful failures is always a lack of courage. We’re afraid to be vulnerable…with the people closest to us, and with the Lord. So we choose to hide, to allow ourselves to be distracted, to turn in on ourselves. We choose the cowardice of selfishness over the courageousness of love, and – if we’re going to be honest – we should feel ashamed for this.
Derek: I think part of the problem is that we’ve learned “don’t sweat the small stuff” too well. As men, we tend to reserve courage for dragons, I mean, for great challenges. But courage isn’t just about slaying dragons. Courage is taking out the garbage the first time you’re asked. Courage is speaking the truth to a friend in charity. It’s being the first one out of bed to tend to the wailing baby and then not hitting the snooze button in the morning.
After all, a snooze-buttoned morning is often unplanned, unintentional, and it blurs the start of the day. Courage is never blurry or unintentional. Rather, courage is the strength to overcome challenges, great and small. Just like with other virtues, we have to pray for and practice courage, even in seemingly small matters.
Seth: Absolutely. Practicing and praying for courage yields greater courage, and it prepares us to love. It prepares a man to suffer heartache, humiliation and the daily struggle against sinful habits, because he knows the people in his life are worth it. Saying yes to his vocation is easy in theory, but it takes real strength, real courage, for a man to do this in practice.
What is it about human nature? Because of our fallen state, we find a crutch in sinful behaviors. Vegging out on Netflix, drinking or smoking too much (or too often), shallow, idle talk and gossip, hiding in our work, over-indulgence in selfish hobbies and interests, or even in prayer, if it causes us to neglect our vocation in life! Any of these can easily become an escape mechanism to mask the fear of vulnerability we harbor in our relationships.
Derek: One of the ways that we slide into these escape mechanisms is through passive decisions, as in, “I’ll watch another episode on Netflix, because, why not?” An active decision takes intentionality and planning. Active decisions bring us closer to a desired end; they address a challenge; they help us hit a target. Passive decisions have no aim, they just happen. There’s nothing courageous about passive decisions.
Consider the Church, which bears the mission of Christ through the ages. She sees the challenges of the present, she reflects on them, engages them, and presses on. As Christians, we are not part of a passive, “I guess so” Church. We are part of an active and coura-geous, missionary Church.
Seth: Amen, Derek! And I think you’ll agree with me that to be a man means to commit our hearts and minds to live for those we love, beginning with Christ. His love is meant to become the grace that nourishes and empowers our vocation.
We stay stuck, unable to break free from our sinful habits, because, either we don’t care, or we’re trying to do it by our own strength. We need courage, and this is literally a Gift of the Holy Spirit. We need to admit our need, our utter reliance, and pray for the gift of courage everyday. Manhood is a battle.
Collect for the feast of St. Sebastian:
Lord, fill us with that spirit of courage, which gave your martyr Sebastian strength to offer his life in faithful witness. Help us to learn from him to cherish your law and to obey you rather than men. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
“The beard signifies the courageous; the beard distinguishes the grown men, the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man.” (Saint Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 133, 6)
Frodo: “Why was I chosen?
Gandalf: “Such questions cannot be answered... you may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.”
The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Shadow of the Past”
This Month’s Challenge:
For those of you who feel that you are in need of purging some deep-seated, disordered or sinful habits, check out the following 90-day personal growth plans designed specifically for Catholic men. You may also be interested if you’re looking for a real challenge!
Nineveh90 – Intermediate (free)
Exodus90 – More intense (small fee)
Derek McDonald (top left) is the Director of Family Life Ministries for the Diocese of Manchester. He and his wife, Emily, have three children.
Seth Evangelho (top right) is the Director of Lifelong Faith Formation at St. Andre Bessette Parish in Laconia. He and his wife, Christine, have four children.