Editor’s Note: This article has been modified from its original version to more clearly reflect the intent of the author.
Each stage in life is filled with its own set of struggles, and the time between high school graduation and marriage (or a religious vocation) is certainly no different. There is an uncertainty in this season of life that can easily devolve into frustration and selfishness. The regrettable thing is that these years are given to us as a gift, meant as a time of preparation, and yet they are often wasted by us due to a lack of generosity, vision, and discipline.
There is one especially troubling manifestation of this selfishness which I have begun to notice over the last few years. What makes it disturbing is that I have noticed it mostly in the our most gifted young adults, the ones who have the most to offer. A few months back, a friend of mine sent me this screenshot from his social media feed, which I think sums up the mindset I’m referring to pretty well:
A significant minority of our Catholic young adults do not appear to be seriously interested in anything except themselves. One common example of this apparent selfishness is going on frequent, extravagant vacations around the world, making sure of course to keep everyone informed of their fabulous existence via social media. Some have excellent jobs and careers geared toward maximum flexibility to travel, naturally, but others simply work until they have enough money to take the next extended vacation, and then find another short-term job upon returning.
The apparent message to everyone else is clear: “How could marriage compare with this?”
As a side note, I am certainly not against travel, especially when it is done in the service of some higher goal, such as learning about other cultures, philanthropy, study of a foreign language or history, etc. Travel is simply one area I have observed where the mindset of self-gratification can take hold.
Back to the social media post that my friend shared with me. The mindset in that post is one that blatantly glorifies selfishness, and yet there were replies to it from young Catholics saying how awesome it would be. As a Catholic, having as your first choice a single, child-free existence, that allows you maximum personal pleasure, does not meet the ideal we should be striving for. Living a truly Catholic life requires a profound and constant death to self, and yet we so easily forget this reality.
I’ve highlighted this particular type selfishness, but the reality is that we all do this in our own sneaky ways. If we really take an honest look at our actions, most of them are geared so that we come out on top, even many of the actions that appear, at first glance, to fall on the “giving” side of the spectrum. It’s a natural inclination that we all have to be aware of, and fight against. It is all too easy to take the gifts we have been loaned, and turn them inward. Each one of us needs to fight against these inclinations to selfishness that are constantly trying to rise up within us, or we will be overcome by them.
As I mentioned earlier, the years after high school and before marriage or religious vocation—however many they may be—are deeply important and should be used to their full potential. This means fighting against the self-indulgent mindset that we are all prone to. We should all be working on our spiritual lives, educating ourselves, learning skills, training the body, saving money, and developing deep Catholic friendships, just to name a few things. There is much work to be done, and that is the reason for the existence of this website. So let’s get to it.
Do I have weakness? I am nothing but weakness. I am not naturally strong, or fast, or flexible. I am certainly not the smartest person in the world.
I get emotional over stupid things. I eat the wrong foods. I don't sleep enough. I procrastinate and I waste time. I care too much about meaningless things, and not enough about important things. My ego is too big. My mind is too small, often trapped inside itself.
But I don't accept that.
I don't accept that I am what I am and that 'that' is what I am doomed to be. No. I do not accept that. I'm fighting. I'm always fighting. I'm struggling and I'm scraping and kicking and clawing at those weaknesses - to change them. To stop them.
Some days I win. But some days I don't. But each and every day, I get back up and I move forward. With my fists clenched. Toward the battle. Toward the struggle. And I fight with everything I've got to overcome those weaknesses and those shortfalls and those flaws as I strive to be just a little bit better today than I was yesterday..."
- Jocko Willink