Home is the place where we grow into the person we are called to be. Those whose home do not offer them these things will have all kinds of personal problems that disrupt their ability to develop.
Because it is a fundamental reality in every person to desire God, Who created us for Himself, and to be with Him, all pursuits of a home in this life are connected to the natural desire to seek God and can never be completely satisfied until we are in our eternal home in heaven with God.
We all want to be loved, which is to meet God in others. To be loved is to experience the Heart of Christ. All people deserve that home, that Heart, no matter what they have done.
The first call of the Christian is to love, to live that Heart of Christ, to be merciful. “What would Jesus do?” is sadly not a question we Christians are too anxious to seriously ask.
When it comes to dating and marital love, this is even more of a concern.
When you are falling in love, you are developing a dependency on the other for your happiness. It’s natural. The more you love someone, the more it hurts when they fail you. The law of love demands there be forgiveness if there is a sincere desire to be forgiven and of never doing something like that again.
If Jesus were sitting next to you, you would have no trouble disclosing every detail about what you did, and your regrets. Jesus, in all His mercy, would say something like, "It’s not beyond any human being to do such things" with the kindest voice, and in such a welcoming way. You would share what you did and ask forgiveness solely because you feel completely safe with him. The environment that Jesus provides is a safe, homey one. There is nothing that can happen that is unforgivable. His mercy endures forever.
We are also to provide such Jesus environments for others. Most especially it must be there for those we love. As you develop a relationship, and love grows strong and marriage becomes desired, that safe and homey environment should be present, cultivated, and well established. The more it is established, the safer the other feels about being themselves, sharing themselves, and even sharing their faults, weaknesses and sins. As they fall, they recover quickly because the mercy of the other is always there.
Now some cynical people might say this is a recipe for disaster because the other person will take advantage, knowing that mercy is waiting for them no matter what. This discounts the notion that justice for actions that must be tended to within any relationship, not to mention the emotional pain that needs healing. Though one might be merciful, they also can be hurt and must heal.
Starting with mercy is best because it says that no matter what has happened, we love each other and we are safe. We can get through anything. If the one who hurts you does not have a sense of that Jesus environment of mercy, they will have fear about what has happened. This fear can keep the person from doing what is necessary to remedy the problem, which can hurt the relationship.
How many of us have been in relationships where we felt we could not confess something we did, or fear disclosing parts or all of what happened? This is not normal in a healthy relationship. The Jesus environment is one of true friendship. True friends love each other regardless of what they do. When a true friend is wronged by us, their mercy is waiting. It might take time to re-establish the level of friendship and trust again, but they do not abandon you, physically or emotionally.
Being merciful is also incredibly attractive. It’s very hard to find people who will see you as Jesus sees you. People tend to first react with anger or some other negative reaction, instead of with mercy. This is very unattractive. When we do something wrong and that we regret, it is hard enough to face that within ourselves. When we have to face the one we love whom we have hurt, it is that much more terrifying. How incredible it is to have the first hurtful experience with the one you love be a merciful experience. They don't react negatively. They don't scream or cry or throw a fit. They don't storm out.
Instead, they calmly look upon you as you share what you have done. Perhaps they first take your hand, or hug you, or softly speak. They first remind you that you are safe and home. They help you realize that nothing you have done is something they couldn’t have done as well, that you are not unforgivable, irredeemable, or unloved.
People do a lot of stupid things on dates. Most of it is out of bad habits they have developed. All of it is out of weak human nature. It's way too easy to pass judgment on others as you are dating, and way too convenient to say that this is not "the one." And for many, it is entirely too difficult to trust those they date enough to cut them slack, give them a pass, be merciful. The risk of them taking advantage of you is too great.
Merciful we must be. We must cut them slack. We must give them a pass. We must make them feel safe and home so they can be themselves. We must work at friendship; true friendship. Love is kind and merciful. If you want love in your life, it must start with you.
When a person hurts you, consider what Jesus would do. And consider first that the only way for there to be real progress with the problem is if the person first feels safe enough with you to fail.
I can't stress this enough. There are so many relationships where one or both live in fear of how the other will react if they screw up. What this means is there are way too many people seeking love who are not encountering the mercy of Jesus Christ in the person they are trying to get to know and grow in love with. Instead, their relationship is tainted by fears of what the other might do or say because of their shortcoming. What kind of relationship is that? Is that the kind of relationship we have with Jesus?
Our Lord told us that love casts out all fears. We are never afraid with Jesus because he is home; we feel safe with Him; we can tell Him anything and know that He will forgive us and share with us grace that helps us be better.
You most certainly are forgivable and redeemable. You are NOT your wrong doing and sins. You are a person. You have a right to feel safe enough to hurt the one you love, trusting in their mercy first, and prepared to fulfill justice in the situation second. You aren’t a terrible person because you feel too afraid to talk to the person you are in love with. A true friendship will naturally drawn out the desire to share everything as you feel safe and comfortable in that person's love.
This is the essence of marital love. All single people need to practice providing the Jesus environment of mercy for those they date. It is the first priority for both of you, since married life is primarily about hurting each other and needing a safe, homey environment where forgiveness can be asked for and applied. If you fear talking to the person you are dating, or have experienced negative reactions as a result of trying to talk to them, and you don't feel comfortable sharing your faults or wrong doings with that person, then there is a serious problem that must be remedied.
There are always going to be problems. Loved ones are going to fail you. Your first call in all situations is to be merciful, and to maintain a strong sense of the reality that only God can never let us down. In fact, expect failure in others and you will live more peacefully.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.