Put Your Brain in Charge

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci


--John Paul II, prayer service at McNichols Arena

So here we are back on the nuptial meaning of the body, or "What We Learn about Sex from the Book of Genesis." And you thought it was just about a garden, a snake and an apple.

Before Eve ate the apple and sin entered the world, people -Adam and Eve-got along very well. Love was complete and each cared only about what was best for the other, so each totally trusted the other. Sex was a bodily expression of that total love. Then, with sin, "people" figured out that they could use each other instead, and get more for themselves. They were no longer naturally oriented to being good to each other. They became tempted to use each other.

Did this just affect Adam and Eve? No. Unfortunately, we all inherited these little flaws," and they mess up our lives and our relationships to the extent that we allow sin to dominate our lives.

What exactly happens as a result of this? Well, God spelled it out pretty clearly for Adam and Eve. Of particular interest is something He said to Eve. God said, "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall lord it over you." In other words, Eve will want that total unity and trust that they had before the Fall. But it'll be tougher for her to get, because Adam's temptation will be to use that desire of Eve's for unity to get something for himself, like sex or attention.

Now I don't believe that this has to be a gender-specific thing. There are plenty of guys who want love from a woman, but instead of getting love, they get used. It works both ways.

There's another way I've noticed this "desire" thing working. Adam and Eve were made for each other, literally. They were perfectly compatible, which is easier when you're sinless. But for us, sometimes it's more like, "your desire shall be for someone your desire shouldn't be for." Have you ever seen this? I'm sure you have.

When you've got these incredibly intense feelings for someone you know you shouldn't. Like the girl who wasn't faithful to her last five boyfriends. Or your ex-boyfriend who treated you rotten. Or the class delinquent. Your brains say "no," but your heart isn't cooperating.

Among my high school friends, the typical "nice girl" response to these feelings was generally, "Well, I'm in love with him, so I guess I'll just change him. I'll make him into a Catholic model citizen who drives a station wagon."

Does this work? Generally no. Is it the right approach? Definitely no.

Entering a relationship with the intention of changing someone is a form of using them. You don't want them. You want the remodeled version you're going to create, so they can fill a vacancy you happen to have. The results may be good, but the reason isn't. It's not about wanting what's best for them, it's about wanting something for yourself, and maybe incidentally helping them. And, for that reason, it doesn't generally work.

Look at it this way. If they didn't change, what would you do? If the answer is "dump them," then maybe you shouldn't have gotten involved in the first place. How would you feel if someone was going out with you just because they want to remodel you?

So what if your "desire" is doing a number on you? Do you just have to give in and date (or, God forbid, marry) someone your brain objects too?

No. It's important to remember that those feelings, alone, don't constitute being in love. They may be a result of your hormones, your loneliness, your legitimate attraction to that person's good traits, but they don't equal real, solid, lifetime type love. For that to happen, your brain has to agree. You not only have to feel, but you have to know, too. You have to have a standard for what you're looking for in a date-and in a mate (treats you well, respects you, would be a good .no, a great parent, etc.) If that standard isn't met, let your brain lead the way. Your feelings will line up sooner or later.

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve's feelings and knowing always agreed. Ours don't- Original sin created a rift between our feelings and our brains.

Fill your brain with the best information that you can, and then put it in charge. Just because you feel like doing something, you don't have to do it. That goes not only for dating someone you're attracted to, but a whole host of other things. Telling someone off. Throwing something. Drinking. Hurting someone. Using someone. Anything.

We could go on and on about the ways original sin affects our lives. This is just one example, but a good one. The important point is this-we're not naturally inclined to be good. We're naturally inclined to be bad. And sometimes we're naturally inclined to do things that are bad for us. In order to be good, we need help.

First and foremost, we need God's help. Staying close to Him and praying to Him will give us grace, that fuel we need to overcome those selfish tendencies that hurt our lives and hurt our relationships. And second, put that fuel to work. Practice doing good by putting your brain in the driver's seat. Your feelings may moan and whine for a while, but once they get used to it, they'll start to cooperate.

Original sin doesn't have to get the best of us, or of our relationships. Just keep God and your brain in charge. You'll be amazed at how much better things can be.

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity. This article appeared in the July 7, 1994 issue of "The Arlington Herald."