Why do people hate? Answer: They fear the price of love, which is sorrow

My wife was working an overnight shift not long ago and I had the apartment all to myself. I used that time to think about my love for her and, more specifically, the metaphysical price of that love. I thought about how my love grows exponentially with each year that passes, the grief I would feel if she died tomorrow, and then marveled at the level of suffering that awaits the first one of us to pass away many decades (I hope) from now.

Translation: The price of love is sorrow. We are all debtors to love. There is no escaping it, and anyone who truly engages in such a conscious act of the will towards another human being must pay the bill.

Given this truth, it is reasonable to conclude that many of the perpetually angry people you encounter on a day-to-day basis (whether online or in person) take on that state as a kind of defense mechanism. They may not even be conscious of it, but on multiple levels they are scared of sorrow and, by extension, terrified of truth.

“Okay Doug, that’s all well and good,” you say. “But why is this relevant to my life?”

The answer, dear reader, is that how you answer life’s big question — “Why are we here?” — will determine how you absorb and process the inevitable love-born sorrows to come. If the love within us is infinite (while paradoxically being able to grow within our finite bodies), then a commensurate level of pain will ensue as a result of losing a spouse or a child. If you have not seriously pondered the aforementioned question, then it behooves you to begin now, as on some level you too are running from truth.

The longer a man runs from the truth, the more likely it is that his final destination will be a place of hatred, anger, and spiritual unrest.

The follow-up response now becomes, “Okay Doug, but how do you plan on absorbing grief?”

This is where I humbly submit to my non-Catholic friends that all I have is an answer as viewed through my own faith. Even if you do not agree with my conclusions, I hope that there is something — no matter how small — that helps to comfort you in the years to come.

It is my assertion that many American preachers you see on television who subscribe to what has been called the “prosperity gospel” are, besides perverting the Christian faith, setting people up for spiritual and psychological failure. They want to experience the Glory of God without the Cross. They weirdly stress the idea that material wealth springs from faith in the Lord when, in actuality, one should dwell in the Crucifixion of Christ: It is through the Passion that we gain self-knowledge and (although counter-intuitive to non-believers), peace and joy.

Saint Catherine’s The Dialogue is perhaps one of the best sources for understanding this concept. The 14th century mystic’s encounter with God produced the following:

“The willing desire to bear every pain, even death, for the salvation of souls is very pleasing to me. The more the soul endures, the more it shows that it loves me. By loving me, it comes to know more of my truth. The more it knows, the more pain and intolerable grief it feels at the sins committed by others against me.

You asked me to sustain you and to punish the faults of others in you. You did not say that you were really asking for love, light, and knowledge of the truth. I have already told you that as love increases so do grief and pain. Those of you who grow in love also grow in sadness. I say to you all, if you ask, I will give it to you, for I do not deny anything to the one who asks of me in truth.

The love of divine charity is so closely joined in the soul with perfect patience that neither can leave the soul without the other. If the soul chooses to love me, it should choose also to endure pains for me in whatever way that I send them. Patience cannot be proved in any way other than suffering, and patience is united with love.”

There is much more to unpack here than a single blog post would ever allow, but for brevity’s sake let me once again reiterate that anyone who wants to fully experience love must also willingly accept that they can only do so by embracing pain, suffering, and sorrow.

A Catholic man knows that when he suffers for love — true love — he can rest easy, as he is being drawn closer to Christ on the Cross.

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Media’s next goal: Sell public on non-monogamous marriages

It was just this past summer that NY Mag contributor “Michael Sonomore” attempted to make the case for “open marriages.” Tech Insider has now jumped on a new study by Journal of Marriage and Family to basically say, “Hey, did you and your spouse ever think of becoming a swinger? Maybe you should.”

First the goal of popular culture was to divorce the definition of marriage from Christianity. Then the goal was to strip people of the idea that the union between one man and one woman is so integral to building a healthy civil society that it should be cherished with its own institution. Sometimes sociologists describe marriage without ever using the world “love,” and now it’s essentially “marriage means whatever we say it means,” (i.e., it means nothing).

“Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice: The Detraditionalization Thesis in Contemporary Marriages” includes the results of surveying 90 Canadians who were questioned on monogamy and marriage. Researchers spoke with 26 heterosexual females, 21 heterosexual males, 21 gay males, and 22 lesbians. Most of the couples were relatively young.

Tech Insider reported Wednesday:

“Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that another big change is happening in how people think about marriage: Some no longer consider monogamy an absolute essential. …

The first questions the couples answered revealed that people are becoming more open to the idea of non-monogamous marriages. Less than half of all the heterosexual female respondents, about one-third of the heterosexual male respondents, and “relatively few” homosexual couples felt that marriage and monogamy were inseparable, the researchers concluded.

Most people interviewed thought that monogamy isn’t something that a marriage necessarily requires. As one participant explained:

‘I’ll say that it’s different for everyone … and you have to find what works for you … [maybe] you’re committed to each other and you’re married but then you guys decide every Friday night we’re going to swinger parties and that’s what we want to do, and that excitement is what brings us together, then awesome. But is it going to be for me? No. Am I going to say, you can’t do it? No.'”

Where is this idea coming from? We know the New York Times has been exploring it since at least 2011:

Although best known for his It Gets Better project, an archive of hopeful videos aimed at troubled gay youth, [Gay-rights activist Dan] Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.

What does it say about a culture when a growing number of couples see nothing wrong with taking other human beings, objectifying them, and then using them as nothing more than masturbatory devices?

Popular culture does not promote loving relationships — it promotes lusting relationships.

The spiritual fulfillment that comes when two adults have a proper understanding of marriage — and then they put in the effort to realize its potential — is unmatched. It takes patience, perseverance, humility, selfless sacrifice and a whole host of other virtues to arrive at the final destination, which is why “pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements” are peddled to the public instead.

Is it easier to act like an animal or act like an angel? The answer is self-evident.

Yes, it may bring “excitement” to act like a beast on occasion, but marriage was never meant to bring two beasts together. Marriage unites human souls, which is why perverting marriage’s proper definition and function is a travesty.

Here is what the modern American male is up against: On every level — physical, mental, and spiritual — there are forces at work to turn him into glorified cattle.

On the physical level he is encouraged to embrace sloth and gluttony; on the mental level he is encouraged to become a servant of the state; and on the spiritual level he is encouraged to become a libidinous pig who drags his wife into the muck.

True happiness can be found, but the path does not begin by taking directions from the purveyors of moral relativism.

Ten tips for a stable relationship

There are only so many national security threats a blogger can cover before he needs to create something a bit more uplifting. Valentine’s Day is over, but it’s never too late to go over tips to a successful relationship.

Douglasernstblog.com has never given out such a list, but there’s a first time for everything. Since I’ve been with the same woman for roughly 13 years (with only a few hiccups along the way), I will now give you one recipe for a healthy relationship.

  • Never swear at your significant other. I have often seen couples who will turn towards “asshole” and “bitch” when they’re angry. They say it doesn’t mean anything, but quite frankly it does. It means a lot. No matter how angry you may get at your significant other, it sends a powerful message if you never go down the rout of expletive-laced tirades.
  • Communication. Communication. Communication. This may sound like common sense, but it’s one that everyone — everyone — falls short of on occasion. Think about how many problems could be squashed if we would just be direct and honest with our significant other instead of letting poisonous thoughts swirl around inside our head until they manifest into arguments. A little communication with a lot of tact goes a long way.
  • Your job is not to fundamentally change your significant other. Political junkies will remember the time President Obama said he planned to fundamentally change America. Note: You do not try to fundamentally change something or someone you love. If you see your significant other as a “project” that needs to be fundamentally changed, then you probably should not be in a relationship with that person. People change, but their “core” self (i.e., spirit) is incredibly stable. If you find yourself trying to change your partner’s core traits, then something is probably wrong — with you.
  • Consciously work on growing together so you do not grow apart. If you’ve ever watched ivy growing up a wall (e.g., Chicago’s Wrigley Field), you’ll notice how it can twist and turn and overlap. You and your significant other will change over time, but in many ways you should grow like ivy: you should be separate, but one. Sometimes people fall in love with a very specific person at a very specific moment in time, and then seem to want to keep that person physically, mentally, and spiritually frozen in that moment forever. It doesn’t work. That is why it is important that you fall in love with the “core” or “root” of a person instead of the outer branches of their personality. If you don’t realize that the person you fell in love with at 20 may have many different interests at 30, then you will be in for some painful days down the road.
  • Don’t hold grudges. This is easier said than done for a lot of people, but it’s extremely important. If you can’t “wipe the slate clean” relatively quickly, then it will cause a lot of unnecessary suffering. People do stupid things. Sometimes they almost wreck your car. Sometimes they forget to pay bills. Sometimes they make insensitive comments. If you live in the past, then your present and your future will pay the price.
  • It’s not always about you. If you have always identified with the Peanuts character Lucy van Pelt, there’s a good chance that you will have some rocky romances before finally realizing that a pinch of “Linus” makes relationships run much more smoothly. There is a difference between having a “take charge” attitude and being a bossy jerk. Most people get bossed around at work. The last thing they want is to be ordered around when they come home at night.
  • Stick to your principles. No one likes a push-over. If someone knows your principles, then they may get irritated from time-to-time when a situation demands that you stand firm, but deep down they’ll respect you. You don’t have to have bulging biceps to have a spine of steel — women respect men with backbone.
  • Demand excellence at all times — from yourself. If you are your own toughest critic, then there is a good chance your significant other will never “nag” you. If you exude excellence, then it makes no sense for those around you to harp on the little things — you’ll have already taken care of them.
  • Employ random acts of kindness. Besides the fact that random acts of kindness make you less predictable (in a good way), this sort of behavior has a way of “infecting” the person targeted so that they return the favor. Random acts of kindness create a positive feedback loop that is hard to reverse.
  • Say “I love you” regularly. This may sound strange at first. In fact, your significant other may even sigh with exasperation — but do not relent! If you truly mean it, then they will never get tired of hearing you say those three words. You can never truly love someone too much, but you can definitely love a soul too little. If you exclaim your love every day, then it will yield enormous benefits for years to come.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. These ten tips are simply a few of the things that have helped me sustain a relationship with my girlfriend (now wife) for over a decade. If I’ve left anything out, then feel free to add to it in the comments section below. If you have any questions, then feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer.

Take a few minutes to read Joan Marans Dim’s ‘A Decade of Goodbye’ — it’s worth it

It’s hard to really live until we come to terms with death. Many people spend their entire life running from it, but one way or another the conversation will be had. If you had five minutes left to live, who would you call and what would you say to them?

Because none of us know whether we have fives minutes or five days or fifty years left on our clock, it’s a good idea to regularly treat our loved ones as if we knew our passing was close at hand.

If you’re not someone who has seriously thought about death, reading Joan Marans Dim’s ‘A Decade of Goodbye,’ will likely prompt you to do so.

Here is just an excerpt from ‘A Decade of Goodbye,’ but I suggest reading the entire piece.

He has never let me tend to his most personal needs, but today he willingly sits on the corner of our bed as I help him disrobe. His entire body is jaundiced. I soap a sponge, gather towels and wash him. The moment is intimate, a rarity for us. I massage his back, chest, arms and legs with moisturizer.

“That feels so good,” he murmurs.

Joan Didion never had such a moment, I think.

I dress him, and he asks for his walker. But I am not finished. I want to comb his hair. In 52 years of marriage, I have never combed his hair.

“O.K.,” he says. And smiles.

I am meticulous in this act of grooming. Then I step back and study him.

“You look handsome,” I say, and mean it.

Beautiful. It’s hard to read such passages without trying to fast forward life in your own mind to try and see how your own final moments will play out with family, friends and loved ones.

As I read ‘A Decade of Goodbye’ I couldn’t help but think of Pearl Jam’s newest single, Sirens: “It’s a fragile thing, this life we live.”

Elderly couple die hours apart, remind us of the kind of love we all deserve

Just over a year ago, my grandmother died at the age of 98. Less than 24 hours later — without having heard the news — my grandmother’s best friend passed away. While it might seem bizarre to find joy in death, I did. It was comforting to know that as my grandmother moved on to the next life her good friend was experiencing it all with her. In a similar sense, I believe many family members of Harold and Ruth Knapke are feeling the same sense of peace:

The Associated Press reports:

DAYTON, Ohio — Relatives of an Ohio couple who died at a nursing home 11 hours apart on the same day said their love story’s ending reflects their devotion over 65 years of marriage.

Harold and Ruth Knapke died in their shared room on Aug. 11, days before their 66th anniversary, The Dayton Daily News reported.

Their daughters said they believe their father willed himself to stay by his wife’s side despite failing health until they could take the next step in their journey together. He went first — his children saw it as his “final act of love” — and she followed.

“We believe he wanted to accompany her out of this life and into the next one, and he did,” daughter Margaret Knapke said.

The couple had known each other as children and began their courtship as pen pals while Harold, known as “Doc,” served in the Army during World War II. Ruth would later joke: “I let him chase me until I caught him!” …

“It is really just a love story,” said Carol Romie, another daughter. “They were so committed and loyal and dedicated, they weren’t going to go anywhere without the other one.”

The body often fails us, but the mind and the spirit are extremely powerful. A person with a reason to live can will the body to hold on to a quality of life others would find unacceptable.

There are many lessons we can take away from the Knapke story, but I find two in particular to be of utmost importance:

  • To make the most of life, finding your reason for being is paramount.
  • You not only have the power to forge deeply spiritual relationships with friends and family — the kind that you would want to carry over into the next life — but you deserve them.

For many people, mastering these two elements of life can seem like a 7-10 split in bowling, but it can be done. I suggest starting with introspection and regular acts of kindness, but there are many ways to accomplish the task.

One of the reasons many relationships end is because people fail to grow in concert with their partner. If you married your “perfect” mate tomorrow, they would soon not be perfect to you because you will change over time. People are like plants, and they can be like two strands of Ivy wrapping and winding around each other as they thrive and expand, or they could allow their desires to take them in different directions. The key takeaway is that every step along the way we have complete control over how it all unfolds.

If you have someone in your life that you care for so much that you’d will your dying body into a kind of loving life support, say a prayer of thanks for them every day. If you do not have someone in your life like that at the moment and have been wondering why, ask yourself if at the core of your being you believe you deserve such a relationship. If the answer is “no,” then I implore you to find a way to realize that you are worthy of love, abundance, healthy and happiness. When you make that mental shift, your life will begin to change.

Mr. and Mrs. Knapke had a connection many consider rare, but the truth is much more nuanced: all of our relationships have the potential to produce deeply spiritual love. We stand on fertile ground with pockets filled with seeds, but it’s up to each individual to sow them.