I was at a SEEK conference in 2015 surrounded by thousands of other College students listening to a talk by well known Catholic speaker Sarah Swafford when my life changed in an instant.
She was speaking about relationships and at this particular part of the talk she invited the crowd to repeat after her as she said “I will not use you… and I will not let you use me.”
Using… had I been doing this? I knew that I had been used before. I knew what it felt like to have someone take advantage of my feelings for them in order to achieve something that they wanted… but had I done this to others? It didn’t take much soul searching to realize that I too was guilty of this. I had used people to try to numb my loneliness, I led guys to think that I might have feelings for them so that they would give me attention and boost my ego, I used people to make other people jealous–to make myself seem more desirable to the person I had true feelings for.
The feeling that came with this realization can rightly be defined as guilt. I could feel the hurt that I imposed on these people in order to get what I wanted. I had no idea how to go about making this right but I wanted to. I never wanted to use someone again. In order to do this successfully, I needed the advice that I would receive in confession shortly after.
The Priest told me that using people is something that wounds all who are involved. He explained to me that it takes a change in perspective to correct this behavior. The first thing that needed to change was the way that I viewed myself: I needed to realize that God created me on purpose and with a purpose. I needed to realize that the sheer fact of my existence in this world meant that I was loved immensely by God. From there I also needed to realize that this meant that there was nothing lacking in me–no void that needed to be filled. My estimation of God’s love was so weak up until this point. I desired human validation without giving a thought to the truth that I was already loved for everything I was by the most perfect being. I was loved by Love itself and I was still begging for the affirmation of creatures.
Once I could get to a place of knowing who I was, I could then understand that I was not the only person God created. I realized that, just like me, everyone else in the world was created on purpose and with a purpose. I realized that God loved them in the same all-encompassing way that He loved me. This realization rocked my world. How could I ever want to take advantage of someone who God loved? How could I ever think that I needed temporary gratification to convince me that I had value?
You might think that this is where the cycle of use ends–and it can be–if you’re perfect and learn every lesson the very first time you’re taught it. But if you’re like me, you’re an imperfect sinner who needs constant reminders of things like this.
Like many things, treating people around us according to their dignity is a choice that we make daily. If this question of whether you’re treating someone the way that God would want you to treat someone he loves makes you uncomfortable… odds are–you need to take this to heart. God loves you and loves them way too much for you to be acting like that.
I know that life is tough and we desire companionship, whether through relationships or friendships. I also know that this quarantine-induced loneliness might be a powerful motivator to go after someone you know isn’t right for you. I want to remind you that through Christ, there is no loneliness too deep to handle. Don’t forget how deeply loved you are.