Maura Byrne, the founder and director of Made in His Image would like to thank Nick Meyer for his contribution to her new “Men’s Section.” If you are a man interested and inspired to write for Maura please email her at ifightHimwithlove@gmail.com
I don’t often watch TV anymore, as my life has proved to be full of other activities, interests, and hobbies in the past five years. I do watch the occasional football game, mostly Notre Dame, because I am a glutton for punishment. However, the other night I was watching Transformers: The Dark Side of the Moon with my younger seventeen-year-old sister. I was appalled at the unnecessary explicit emphasis on sexuality in the beginning of the movie. Sam, the main character is living with his girlfriend who only wears the skimpiest of clothing. There are several other scenes with sexually suggestive material, which I commented on to my sister. I wondered, though why a few scenes must ruin an otherwise intriguing, entertaining movie?
As I’ve been home over the holidays, I have watched several shows and movies with my sister and noticed this disturbing trend. Every show and movie is overly sexualized. One of my favorite movies from high school was Anchorman starring Will Farrell. I watched it enough times to have it memorized and I loved quoting it with friends. Then, I went to college, graduated, got a job and didn’t watch it until this past year, almost six-years later. I was appalled at the overwhelming emphasis on sex, particularly outside of marriage. I was sickened enough by it that I had to throw it out. Yes, you read correctly. I threw it in the garbage!
Some respond with, “There isn’t anything that bad about it. It’s just a funny movie!” Yes, there is some comedy in it, which I appreciated, but I would like to submit an analogy for consideration. I’m not exactly sure who to give credit to because I have heard multiple people use it.
The analogy is this: Would you eat brownies? How about if I put just a little bit of fecal matter in them? Not enough that you could really tell much, because the baker put just a little bit in the mix before stirring it all together and putting them in a pan to bake. You look at them, think they look tasty, and smell pretty good too. The baker tells you to help yourself and you do. Right before you bite into your generously sized brownie the baker says, “Oh yea, I almost forgot to tell you. I put a little poop in the brownies. Not enough that you’ll notice, but I just thought that I would let you know.” Your face suddenly cringes and you slowly put the brownie back as you simultaneously respond, “You know, I’m actually not as hungry as I thought I was.”
Why not eat it though, it’s not enough crap to harm you, is it? One saying goes, “You are what you eat.” I would like to extend that saying with, “and you don’t become what you don’t eat either.” If you eat healthy food, your body will feel better. Doctors tell us that if we eat a large amount of unhealthy junk food on a consistent basis, we will gain weight and not feel very well, in general. Let us consider this then: the mind, eyes, and ears are not much different when “eating” or “consuming” information, images, or ideas. What we watch, listen to, and subject ourselves to often becomes our way of thinking and affects how we act as well. This is especially true if we don’t have a filter or our conscience is not well formed. Are you seeing the connection?
There was a big shift in my life for me to go from watching and listening to whatever my friends suggested and what was popular to actually analyzing media with a filter. There were several aspects that affected me. Certainly, I grew in my faith….an incredible amount actually and I thank God daily for that growth. Yet, when I think more about my transformation (and it is still happening), I can pinpoint a few aspects that were/are integral to the process. First, I was surrounded by older guys in college who were more mature and would question my actions, thoughts, and opinions. Second, I immersed myself in a culture of men and women who were striving to deepen their faith through the frequent reception of the sacraments, reading, conversation, and prayer. Third, I tried to examine myself honestly, find areas of my life that I was embarrassed by, and began rooting out those sins or wounds. Fourth, and maybe most importantly, I began learning about virtue.
Virtue, I propose, is the key. Virtue in its truest form means manliness. There are seven main virtues: four cardinal (Prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude) and three theological (faith, hope and love). All the virtues are critical to becoming men of God, but I would like to focus on the cardinal virtues for a brief moment. Cardinal in this sense has its root in Latin and stands for hinge. Therefore, these virtues are the hinges upon which the door of the moral life swings. Virtue brings about manliness and the cardinal virtues, in particular, direct the moral life, which is where our culture is clearly struggling. We must become men who are directed by prudence, standing up for justice, temperate in all things, and courageous in all situations. The Church gives great guidance, definitions, and clarity when it comes to the virtues. Look them up.
Men, begin this New Year with a resolution to learn about virtue. Then, look at what you’re watching and see how it affects the way you view women. Our culture is saturated with sex and it affects both men and women. I think it’s time for us to stand up, be the leaders and warriors we were created to be, and become men of action for the true, good, and beautiful.