Thursday, May 29, 2014

Resisting the Impulse

One of the beautiful gifts God blessed me with during my freshman year of college was a strong, honorable, devout Catholic boyfriend.  I feel incredibly blessed to be in such a wholesome, loving relationship so early in college, and I know we are both looking forward to all the future holds.  Relationships are fun and wonderful things, but they are also a lot of work, and can be a source of many valuable lessons.  Ever heard the saying "Patience is a Virtue"?  Well, from experience I can tell you that you never learn how true that is until you are dating, though it is a lesson which is valuable to everyone, no matter what your state in life is.

The key to patience is learning to resist the impulse.  An impulse is an inclination to react a certain way in that moment, without thinking, often based off of immediate feelings or desires.  For example, if someone hits you, your first impulse might be to hit them back, because you're offended and angry, not because you took time to think about the offender's motives and what would be the best course of action.  Though not all impulses are bad, they often need to be accompanied by a little rationality and moral judgment before they are followed.

Relationships are full of impulses because they are full of emotion.  In the beginning, when everything is so new and the main attraction is physical (not the ONLY one, of course), there are so many impulses to act on that initial desire.  Are these bad impulses?  No, they are completely natural, just like your impulse to defend yourself when you're hit.  But should they always be followed?  No.  Learning to resist these impulses, to give up what one immediately wants for the sake of doing that which is safer, kinder, more virtuous, and based in true love and wisdom, cultivates a virtue quickly being discarded in the world of immediate satisfaction.  It cultivates the virtue of waiting.

Waiting is a virtue which, once cultivated, serves the soul in so many situations, helping it come closer and closer to God by forsaking that which would harm it.  This is why the spiritual Fathers always recommend fasting as a discipline to help dispel lust.  Fasting denies an immediate desire, forcing the appetite to become accustomed to not always being satisfied, and teaching yourself that it is not the base desires which rule and direct you, but the higher, loftier goals.  The wonderful thing about waiting, though it can be incredibly hard, is that it is always rewarded, especially when it is joined with a prayerful offering of that which is given up to God.

Is waiting always enjoyable?  Certainly not!  Right now, I am missing my boyfriend terribly, and still have several weeks to wait until I see him again.  But these summer weeks of separation are allowing both of us to reacquire the good habits the college lifestyle encouraged us to forget, to re-examine our spiritual lives, our relationship with clear minds, to become a part of our families again, and grow individually in the ways we need to, not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of being the best we can for each other.  Do I wish I could drop everything and drive to see him right now?  Of course, but if we always satisfied our impulses, we would be missing out on the graces God is making available to us, the lessons we could be learning, and the virtues we could be cultivating by waiting.  Just like waiting to cross the line of physical affection leads to a deeper, truer, more full love based on more than lust, and eventually leads to a more beautiful marriage, in which chastity and respect are upheld, learning to wait on the littler things: whether it's waiting at the red light instead of risking your own life and that of others, forgoing that drink so that you can drive yourself and your friends home from the party safely, turning down a date with that guy who has a questionable reputation, or skipping dessert to achieve a weight-loss goal, every single thing we decide to wait for, every unwise impulse we learn to resist, makes our lives that much better, and strengthens our ability to discern between what is necessary, what is wise, and what is harmful, physically or spiritually.  And once you learn to wait on the little things, you suddenly discover that God provides temptations which should be resisted for our own good, that He sees everything we give up for the sake of following Him, and that waiting on His timing instead of our own often brings about rewards greater than the desire forgone originally.

Learning to wait makes you step back and examine how much the desired thing is truly worth to you, and oftentimes the longer you wait to receive it, the more you learn to value, respect, and cherish it.

And, believe me, if you wait for God to satisfy your heart's desires, He will always make sure it is worth the wait!

God bless all of you as you endure, and learn to embrace, your own seasons of waiting!  My prayers are with you!

Both images from a Google Image search.


  1. Really insightful article Abby! It's so helpful to have a reminder that waiting for something can be so fruitful and have so much greater results than instant gratification does!

  2. Wow, this is beautiful! Thanks so much for your insights. I especially like what you said about fasting.


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