Monthly Archives: July 2013

You get to make mistakes.

Look, much of the time the right thing to do is fairly obvious. (Don’t smack your sister for borrowing your clothes, do pray for your enemies, don’t flip off the other driver and start screaming at them because they cut you off on your way to the monastery retreat, etc.) Sometimes it’s not, and “least bad” is as good an option as you can find. And sometimes you just choose the wrong option, whether it’s because you were mistaken, ill-informed, tempted, rebellious, hurting, confused, or just human.

Of course you feel terrible. Sin is a wound, and wounds hurt. And they do damage if they’re not addressed, so of course you have to deal with things. (They also itch when they heal, so the path from here to the straight & narrow is going to be unpleasant at times. Just a heads up.)

You are still loved. Go to Confession, talk for a good long while with your spiritual father, and have a good cry. Then pick yourself up, and start again. tumblr_mnnz6b0lDq1rr4zq1o1_500

There is so much to say on sin, and so many better people have said it. But it’s important to note that you haven’t ruined everything ever.

First and foremost, talk to your priest. Go to Confession, repent, pray, cry. Then pick yourself up and keep striving.
Fall and get up, fall and get up. This is the Christian life.

Repentance is hard. Moving forward is hard. Forgiving yourself, though, can be hardest of all.

Sometimes berating yourself is used as a way to get out of actually dealing with the underlying problems, and that’s a copout. The fact that you have sinned does not mean you somehow get a pass on working on your spiritual life because you’re now damaged beyond repair (FYI: you’re not); rather, the sin has made your struggles pretty glaringly obvious, and now you get to do the hard work.
Also, this will not be the only “something terrible” you do. Cf. being human.

As far as the hows of dealing with your situation, well, that’s a definite AYP* issue. But you do have to deal with it, and you do have to move forward.
You’ll need to make adjustments. Figure out what works and what doesn’t with your boundaries, and how to protect yourself from making the same lousy choice again. How can you keep yourself out of that situation in the future? How can you prepare yourself to make the hard, better choice next time around?
And when you fail again, re-evaluate again. Ask yourself the hard questions. Talk to your spiritual father a lot, pray, talk to people you respect, read nourishing things, and hold yourself accountable. Change isn’t easy. Healing isn’t easy. I mean, crikey, living isn’t easy.

Sin is a wound. The church is a hospital. And the Great Physician is not going to abandon you just because you screwed up.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions blot out my transgression.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know mine iniquity, and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee only have I sinned and done this evil before Thee, that Thou mightest be justified in Thy words, and prevail when Thou art judged.
For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me.
For behold, Thou hast loved truth; the hidden and secret things of Thy wisdom hast Thou made manifest unto me.
Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be made clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness; the bones that be humbled, they shall rejoice.
Turn Thy face away from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and with Thy governing Spirit establish me.
I shall teach transgressors Thy ways, and the ungodly shall turn back unto Thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; my tongue shall rejoice in Thy righteousness.
O Lord, Thou shalt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.
For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I had given it; with whole-burnt offerings Thou shalt not be pleased.
A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise.
Do good, O Lord, in Thy good pleasure unto Zion, and let the walls of Jerusalem be builded.
Then shalt Thou be pleased with a sacrifice of righteousness, with oblation and whole-burnt offerings.
Then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar.

Don’t give up.

– – –

* Ask Your Priest.

See also this. And this.

Categories: Articles | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why is dating hard?

Some context from Roger Scruton:

The modern adolescent is heir to the sexual revolution, and to the disenchantment of the sexual act. It is impossible for modern adolescents to regard erotic feelings as the preliminary to marriage which they see as a condition of partial servitude, to be avoided as an unacceptable cost. Sexual release is readily available, and courting a time-wasting impediment to pleasure. Far from being a commitment, in which the voice of future generations makes itself heard, sex is now an intrinsically adolescent experience. The transition from the virgin to the married state has disappeared, and with it the ‘lyrical’ experience of sex, as a yearning for another and higher form of membership, to which the hard-won consent of the other is a necessary precondition. 

Excerpted from “An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture” (2000)

Categories: Articles | Leave a comment

Are we responsible for another’s feelings?

One common problem that women, especially the younger, gentler, and less worldly, run into is the problem of being overly responsible for other people feelings. Symptoms of this include being excessively apologetic, saying yes when we mean no, and, worse, being passive-aggressive.

A typical single gal example, and of course I never did this in my younger days (ahem), is continuing to go out with a guy because you feel bad telling him that you don’t like him romantically. You don’t want to “hurt him”. This leads to Stray Puppy Effect* (you keep on going out with him, after all). However, because you’re not being honest with your feelings and with him, you are stuck in a relationship you don’t want to be in with this particular person.

The antidote to this is thinking not about what the other person might feel if we were honest with them, but what would we  feel if we were on the receiving end of the treatment. For example, what if you found out someone hung out with you just because he didn’t want to hurt your feelings and for no other reason? You would probably be offended that you weren’t being treated like a person who can handle themselves like a grown-up. It shows respect for another person to be honest with them about your feelings.

It can be hard to know what exactly we are responsible for and what we are not. If you read too many writings of Orthodox monastics and are a highly conscientious person, you can be left with a crushing sense of responsibility for the world’s sins. I like this recent Carolyn Hax article because she brings “commonsense moral reasoning” to explaining what one is responsible for, and what one is not.

Q: You have said a few times something along the lines of “We are not responsible for someone else’s feelings,” and when it comes to the extremes of narcissistic or victim-playing behavior, I get this. But if I do or say something legitimately hurtful, prejudiced, etc., to someone else, whether through malicious forethought or benign error, it’s hard for me not to feel at least a little responsible for the likely distress that person then feels, and I do my best to make amends.


A: Truth is, I think a lot of what I advise and espouse amounts to a system — an emotional word problem, in a way. Therefore, talking about it involves breaking down very emotional things into transactions, which is inherently cold. But that’s just in the mechanics; the result is an emotional exchange, which, if handled with respect and fair concern for all involved, tends to be the opposite of cold. Take the transaction you cite: If you “do or say something legitimately hurtful, prejudiced, etc., to someone else,” you’re still not responsible for the other person’s feelings; it’s his or her place alone to decide what to think about and do with your actions. BUT: You are responsible for you — which means you make a good-faith effort to express your regret and repair or mitigate any damage when you do something you recognize as wrong. Short version: Your actions can cause pain, of course, but you can’t reach in and personally adjust the pain levels. You can only change your actions.It is a cold word problem, but it also shows the path to a happy result where people care about each other while also recognizing the line between what is under your control (the outcome you intend) and isn’t (outcome you get).


*Thanks, Brigid!

Categories: Articles | 4 Comments

Words of Wisdom


Source unknown, via Proverbs 31 Ministries

Categories: Images, Words of wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Creep Factor

The last time all three of the Orthogals got together, an Orthofella we’re friends with asked a very good question. What is creepiness? How can he tell whether his action will be taken as creepy?
He didn’t want to freak out the women he was friends with, and he didn’t want to scare away those he had a romantic interest in, but he also didn’t want to become a doormat and never take any actions at all.

Let me get straight to the point: Creepy = you do not have emotional permission

Sometimes it’s situational. Sometimes it’s a given. But either way, it means that a boundary was crossed.

Continue reading

Categories: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Linkage: On Beauty

Several years ago, the singles Sunday school at my Protestant church was split by gender. The women were asked by the leader, “Be honest, would you rather be called ‘godly’ or ‘pretty’?” Most, if not all, of those present fessed up and said, “Pretty.” And from there we were able to have a great discussion.

Below are some encouraging posts for whichever age group you interact with the most, from 5-year-olds up to adults. We hope you enjoy.


  • Latina Fatale encourages real conversation with little girls. A classic.
  • Emily from Chatting at the Sky encourages moms (and women with influence in a teen girl’s life) to stop with trivial sayings.
  • Amanda Magee writes, “I need to once and for all shake this idea that I am supposed to be a way other than I am.”
  • Sally McGraw of Already Pretty reveals a big secret: There is nothing wrong with you. Another oldie-but-goodie.

And a few more worthy pieces:

  • I’m Pretty, but: Jezebel covers 10 reasons women don’t call themselves pretty.
  • Audrey Hepburn never thought she was beautiful, according to her son.
  • Katie Makkai’s poetry slam “Will I be pretty?” on beauty and motherhood. Transcript here. It’s sharp, but we get where it’s coming from.
  • And perhaps most touching, Dustin Hoffman talks “Tootsie” and what he realized women face in everyday life in the preliminary phases of the film (for the 5 of you who haven’t seen it already).
Categories: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Desperate Wife Hunter

“For some, there are few requirements…”

Categories: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Q: How to make friends as a single in Kid Central?

Orthogals and Orthogents, we have our first reader-submitted question! To submit your question, go to the Contact page. 

What do you do when you are new and single amidst a community of young married couples with kids?
In my parish, I often find myself talking to the men because the women are too busy taking care of their children, but it’s a little uncomfortable making new friends with some else’s husband (especially when you aren’t already close with the wife).  I have a hard time talking to the women because their children are in constant need.  I often worry that I’m just another person who wants her attention, but at the same time I recognize that they enjoy adult conversation too.  Thoughts on cultivating friendships in a kid friendly environment?

Dear Orthogal,

Anna, Laura and Brigid are also single and childless, so we turned to a few married folk we know and love for their answers. Here’s what they had to say.


A, L & B

Continue reading

Categories: Articles, Q&A | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Headship

The following post is by Svetlana Smith, an Orthogal who has been happily married for quite some time. It’s an “in the trenches” post, if you will.

When I was in college, I discovered a most wonderful treasure: The Oxford English Dictionary! This reference work tells you not only what words mean, but what they used to mean. And that’s so important, if you ever read old books. The problem, of course, is that you don’t always realize that the meaning of a word has changed.

In Shakespeare’s Henry V, in the king’s speech before the Battle of Agincourt, when he says:

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition,

it’s easy for a modern reader to think that the king is saying that dying on the battlefield would somehow tame his soldiers, that their death would allow them to leave the chaos of war and enter the next world in tranquility. Of course that’s not what Shakespeare meant at all — the very idea would be absurd!

But those kinds of misreadings happen. They’re not uncommon. And if they happen when we’re reading things written in English, how much more do they happen when we read translations? How often do we get the right word, but the wrong idea?

Now, I haven’t studied Greek, so when I read that the husband is the head of the wife, it’s easy to assume that, by “head” St. Paul means something like “boss.” That’s what it means, right? The CEO is the head of the company, the general is the head of the army, the husband is the head of the wife.

But my husband has studied Greek, and he tells me that there’s a Greek word that means head in exactly that sense — archon, which is the word that’s the base of hierarch. But that’s not the word that St. Paul used! He used a word that, in Greek, never, ever meant “boss.” He used the word kephale.

So what, exactly, did kephale mean? What sort of head was it?

Almost always, kephale meant that thing at the top of your body that has two eyes and a nose and a mouth. It was almost always used literally. So when Paul talked about the husband and wife being head and body, he was emphasizing their unity. Paul didn’t know that we controlled our bodies with our brains, or that the brain was the seat of our intellect or will. The part of the body Paul would have thought about that way was the heart. But the head and the body are inseparably joined — cut them apart, and the person died. That was what Paul was getting at when he was talking about the husband being the head and the wife the body.

There’s another idea he might have been getting at, as well. Kephale was sometimes used figuratively in the military, to refer, not to the commanding officer, but to the person you might call the point-man: the person in a formation who went first, the one who was prepared to take a bullet (well, an arrow, I suppose, at that time) for everyone else.

So now look at Ephesians 5:23: For the husband is the head (kephale) of the wife, as Christ also is the head (kephale) of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

Christ is the one who was prepared to die for the Church, so that he could save it. He was the head, the point-man, the one who volunteers for the most dangerous position, so that he can either get everyone through or die trying. That’s what it means for the husband to be the head of the wife. The husband is the point-man for his wife, in the same way that Christ is the point-man for the Church, being the One who protected her body (with his own body).

Categories: Articles, Guest post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Songs to Heal a Broken Heart

For when you’re missing someone specific:

  • The Civil Wars, Poison & Wine
    • You think your dreams are the same as mine. Oh, I don’t love you, but I always will.
  • Abandoned Pools, Sailing Seas
    • Damn this destiny and damn this twist of fate, and damn it’s 5 am and I’m still awake.
  • Coldplay, The Scientist
    • Nobody said it was easy; no one ever said it would be this hard.
  • Al Stewart, In the Dark
    • In the dark, in the dark, I was feeling like a stranger ’cause I never saw the changes in your heart.
  • The Eagles, Wasted Time
    • Oh, another love has come and gone. Oh, and the years keep rushing on.
  • Keith Urban, You’ll Think Of Me
    • Take your cap and leave my sweater, ’cause we have nothing left to weather
  • Taylor Swift, The Story of Us
    • The story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now.
  • Dixie Chicks – Cold Day In July
    • The moon is full and my arms are empty…
  • The Wreckers, Leave the Pieces
    • You’re gonna break my heart anyway, so just leave the pieces when you go.
  • Les Miserables, On My Own
    • On my own, pretending he’s beside me, all alone I walk with him til morning…
  • Ella Fitzgerald – Cryin’ Mood
    • Seems the moon is low and so am I, I’m in a crying mood.

For when you’re just lonely:

  • The Weepies, Not Your Year (Brigid says a band with this name can only be apropos)
    • You cannot say if you’re happy. Keep trying to be; try harder, maybe, maybe, it’s just not your year.
  • The Civil Wars, To Whom It May Concern
    • How long will you make me wait? I don’t know how much more I can take.
  • Daniel Powter, Bad Day
    • You’re faking a smile with the coffee to-go…
  • Alison Krauss, Crazy As Me 
    • Some folks seem to think I only got one problem: I can’t find nobody as crazy as me.
  • Gaelic Storm, Me and the Moon
    • Me and the moon stayed up all night. I brought the whiskey, he brought the light.
  • The Carpenters, Rainy Days and Mondays
    • What I’ve got they used to call the blues. Nothin’ is really wrong, feelin’ like I don’t belong…

For when you’re angry:

  • Dresden Dolls – Good Day
    • God, it’s been a lovely day and everything is going my way. I took out the trash today, and I’m on fire.
  • Foreigner, Cold as Ice
    • You never take advice, but someday you’ll pay the price.
  • Gotye, Somebody That I Used To Know
    • I told myself that you were right for me, but felt so lonely in your company.
  • Plain White T’s, Hate
    • Hate is a strong word, but I really, really, really don’t like you.
  • Imelda May, Tainted Love
    • I love you even though you hurt me so. Now I’m going to pack my things and go.
  • Dixie Chicks, Hello, Mr. Heartache
    • So hello, Mr. Heartache, I’ve been expecting you. Come in and wear your welcome out the way you always do.
  • Adele, Rolling In The Deep
    • The scars of your love remind me of us, they keep me thinking that we almost had it all.
  • The Band Perry, You Lie (TRS finds this song rather therapeutic and appreciates the raw stage version.)
    • You lie like a priceless Persian rug on a rich man’s floor… It just comes so dang natural to you.
  • Miranda Lambert, Mama’s Broken Heart
    • Fix your makeup, girl, it’s just a breakup. Run and hide your crazy and start acting like a lady…

For when you’re ready for a dose of hope or humor:

  • Bob Bennett, Co-Dependent Love
    • Rewriting history, it’s a twisted kind of fun. You can be Joan of Arc and I’ll be Atilla, hon.
  • Sara Bareilles, Gonna Get Over You
    • I’ll be all right, just not tonight, but some day.
Categories: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at