The Sum of Those Five

By: Brian Limas

When we journey towards the vocation of marriage and family, it is quite necessary to gain an understanding through the lens of self-awareness. Why? Without this self-referential knowledge, one would never be able to ascertain the response to two questions that echo within man, “who am I?” and “to whom am I for?”

It is within these questions that, through the encounter and experiences of love, mankind can only discover the path to climb the mountain of the Lord through the accompaniment of another. Therefore, when we have these assumptions as our foundation, we can enter the dimensions of how social bonds, positive or negative, have an impact on marriage and the family. In this post, I hope to answer two questions that fulfill a sense of meaning in our origin. Hence, it is rightly ordered that our origins are important to comprehend for us to strive to love well.

The Wisdom of Brokenness

To begin our discourse, we look to the comment provided by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

Each of us ends up in a plot where relationships are distorted. Everyone is therefore disturbed from the beginning in their relationships, does not receive them as they should be. Sin extends to him and he becomes co-participant. This also tells us that man cannot redeem himself. What is wrong in his existence consists precisely in the fact that he only wants himself. We can be redeemed, that is, become free and true, only if we stop wanting to be God, only if we give up the illusion of autonomy and autarchy. We can be redeemed, that we become ourselves only if we welcome and accept the right relationships.
— Pope Benedict XVI

The words of my father come to mind when he would show concern in my choice of friends. He would simply reiterate an age-old American proverb that states, “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.” This simple phrase derives the wisdom in understanding that the influence of the social relationships I would choose in life had a universal nature; positive or negative. I was blessed with the opportunity to have mostly positive influences in my life, however, it seemed that as I began to see my closest friends and I enter our vocations, the importance of our familial relationships became monumental in our vocational paths to heaven. It was the presence or absence in experiences of love within our immediate families that fueled or decentralized our path towards love.

As Saint John Paul II writes in Redemptor hominis, “Man cannot live without love. He remains an incomprehensible being for himself, his life is meaningless.” [1]

In these prophetic words, we see that our very identity is contingent on how we give and receive love. Using this logic, when we peer into our childhood, specifically within the home, this is also what Pope John Paul the Great referenced as the “school of love.” In how we were raised, the approval of a father, the nurturing of a mother, and the love in a marriage between man and woman; we see the systematic construction or destruction in how to love.

In a negative perspective, the lack of approval from a father has been linked to men who are searching “for emotional connectedness with his father through homosexual behavior.” [2] In the absence of a mother’s nurturing love, the impacted children are “likely to develop fewer social skills and have lower levels of communication skills.” [3] Lastly, in a home impacted by divorce, this tragedy has the power “to diminish a child's future competence in all areas of life, including family relationships, education, emotional well-being, and future earning power.” [4] What is the common factor in all three scenarios? The problem of egoism.

Rejection of Individualism

In every one of these realities of the family, the desire of self-preservation is not fully embracing one's identity as a gift to another; this is the epicenter of Individualism. This reality is primarily based in embracing material and superficial means to substitute the beauty of love within the human person.

As many note “pure relationships" (a term coined by English sociologist Anthony Giddens) today are based on a mutual contract of utility that, should one become rendered useless, there is no foundation to build authentic love. Everything within the relationship is transactional. Therefore, it unfolds in a little boy’s desire to be loved by his father in empty and disordered homosexual relationships to be treated as such.  When a mother, who most likely never received warmth from her mother either, is distant and cold to her children, the children choose to close in on themselves socially.  They become defenseless in a world that is social in nature. These effects are magnified in families destroyed by divorce.

At no point does any man or woman enter a marriage hoping to get divorced, but one must look to the foundational destruction in paternal relations to realize through their childhood experience; it is almost chosen for them to believe this way.

In families statements such as “you’re just like your father/mother” are used as touch tones to trigger and wound an individual. Alas, a major or minor quarrel ensues to unravel the conflict. However, I truly believe that if families today would look deeper and desire to self-evaluate which positive or negative behavior results from our family of origins, we would not have to accept Benedict XVI's assertion that every human relationship “does not receive them as they should be.”

My challenge to each man and woman is to love themselves as God does.  God sees them beautifully made, and that image, that pure love, will transcend into their marriage. We are all destined to be part of the equation in someone's five closest influences. The main question is are we building or destroying this person's life? Their vocation?

If we are destroying, do we have the courage to change the course? Yes, if we desire to allow Christ to transform our hearts, mind, and soul. The decision to transform oneself into the greatest version of themselves has the power to forever change the reality of love in the context of building trust in social relationships. Ultimately, to know where you came from, to build on that legacy, to have no blemish of shame as you move towards recognizing the gift of yourself to the other. This is the greatest sum of all.



[1] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Redemptor hominis. (Vatican City March 2, 1979) 10

[2] Seutter, R. A., & Rovers, M. (2004). Emotionally Absent Fathers: Furthering the Understanding of Homosexuality. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32(1), 43-49. doi:10.1177/009164710403200105

[3] Hong, Y. R., & Park, J. S. (2012). Impact of attachment, temperament, and parenting on human development. Korean Journal of Pediatrics55(12), 449–454.

[4] Anderson, J. (2014). The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce. The Linacre Quarterly81(4), 378–387.