C.S. Lewis writes in The Four Loves:
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
As we approach the new year, let us take some time to pray in quiet solitude. Ask God what He really wants from you. Then ask yourself, how are you holding yourself back from the person God wants you to be? Where you spend your time, money, and energy will tell you where you have made your investment. Have you made yours in love? No one is perfect; we all have our failings and vices that hold us back from becoming saints. Be sure to take this time to identify those weak spots, go to confession if you need to, and then formulate solutions around them.
I have heard far too often from people who hide behind their temperaments or use them as excuses for not living fulfilling lives. Not everyone understands that these categories were created by researchers solely for the purpose of research. While it’s great we have researchers to identify these areas of our lives so that we can know ourselves and each other better, that’s all it is: knowledge. It in no way is meant to restrict and confine us to our own little boxes. Once we’ve acquired knowledge, however, we’ve also acquired the responsibility to use it wisely. This means we can’t stunt our own growth by excusing, “Well I’m a shy person. That’s just who I am. I just wait for others to approach me.” Or even, “I’m a people person. I have to be around people all the time. I hate being by myself.” The categories and definitions just provide the knowledge that we need in order to grow. Once you’ve used that knowledge to acquire new information about yourself, your next task is to do something about it.
This year, pick specific situations in which you can practice getting over your fear or discomfort. If you’re shy, instead of declining the next social function, say yes. If you haven’t initiated contact with someone on CatholicMatch in a while, do it now. If you’re used to being the life of the party and the center of attention, stay home. Give a second look over some of the people who have viewed your profile or sent you a message, and give them a second chance. If you’re obsessed with maintaining your budget so you can keep your savings, be generous this year, and in place of your savings, donate the money. If you’re really great at making your regular holy hours and Mass times, try performing works of service for the sick, elderly, or new mothers. If you’re having a hard time maintaining a daily prayer schedule, just pick one simple prayer to begin. My husband, Alex, and I like to use the Byzantine Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s a simple prayer, but when practiced enough, every breath becomes a prayer.
If you haven’t been finding dates through CatholicMatch, try a different approach. Update photos and information on your profile. When I first joined CatholicMatch I had no intention of dating anyone. I just wanted to meet like-minded Catholics and know there were others out there like me in cyberspace. While I was uncomfortable with the online dating scene, and even more uncomfortable with dating again so soon (I had just ended a serious long-term relationship), I went through the motions anyway. Because I forced myself to do that, I met Alex. While I tried to discourage him from dating the mess that I felt I was at the time, he persisted, and he was patient. Now three lovely souls exist because we embraced courage over fear.
Don’t let knowledge hold you back. Pain is going to be part of your life, no matter what path you choose. But if you choose love, it will also lead you to the greatest joy on earth. Make love your investment in 2014.