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Mgr Burke offers a meditation upon the exercise of fortitude in the context of the vocation to womanhood. This was part of a lecture given at Strathmore University, Nairobi, last year. We hope to publish the complementary reflections upon the other cardinal virtues.
Virtue is not a very popular word today. It is hard to say why, but perhaps the reason is that while everyone can have and in fact needs virtues, they cannot be acquired without an effort: an effort to rise above self-centeredness. And rising above self is not seen as an attractive proposition nowadays.
Yet to rise above self is the only way to true personal fulfilment. Let us briefly consider why. A virtue is a stable and acquired quality that makes for the fullness of a person's humanity. For we are all developing beings. What we are today is not exactly the same as what we will be tomorrow. We will have changed, probably just a little; in terms of the worth of our humanity, we will be a bit better or a bit worse; perhaps a bit better in this and a bit worse in that.
In any case we will not be the same. And after a year or five years we may have become quite different: more or less sincere, more or less reliable, more or less selfish, more or less Wife want real sex Cardinal in attitude towards others. In a word, more or less fulfilled as human persons.
More fulfilled if the habitual ways of thinking and acting in our lives are positive, are virtues; less fulfilled if they are negative, arevices. These cardinal virtues are fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance. I am going to maintain that while all the human virtues should ideally be acquired by everyone, certain virtues are more appropriate to men, and other virtues are more appropriate to women.
When I say "more appropriate", I often though not always mean more necessary. More necessary, that is, in order to develop a more integrated and developed sexual identity. Because it is a presupposition of our argument that the achievement of sexual identity is integral to full personal fulfilment.
If this is so, then one can expect the same virtue to be expressed in a somewhat different way according to whether one is a man or woman. This difference should not be exaggerated; but it should not be minimised either. It is simply not possible to acquire a true sexual identity, and to be proud of that identity, without developing certain virtues in a masculine mode if one is a man, or in a feminine mode if one is a woman.
Tenderness, for instance, is a virtue that most people would expect to find in a woman, and would consider her less of a woman if she lacked it.
Yet a man too is poorly developed as a man if he has no tenderness in him. Cowardliness would be considered a main defect in a man. Yet a woman too needs to be brave and strong. Which brings us to our first cardinalvirtue. Fortitude means strength, strength in the face of difficulties.
It is not properly applied to animals or machines since it is a human quality, a moral virtue, that a person may have or lack, may have in a high or low degree, may develop or may lose. If fortitude is possessed, it has been acquired. A baby may be naturally tough, never bawling when it falls, just picking itself up and carrying on. But we wouldn't say it has fortitude. That, if it comes, is for later on, when the growing boy or girl is faced with the inevitable struggle to mature, to overcome moral defects - a struggle that works out well in the measure in which one manages to acquire moral strength, or works out badly to the degree that one fails to acquire it.
So, when we speak about fortitude we are not talking about physical strength. Otherwise we would have to conclude that for the most part men have more fortitude than women. And that is certainly not going to be our starting point or our conclusion.
Women can have as much fortitude as men, or more or less. But our main argument is that generally they won't have it or lack it in precisely the same way. Yet there is something basic here that women can learn from men - or, perhaps better, that girls can learn from boys. Think of how often boys are or used to be challenged to grow in their sexual identity, Wife want real sex Cardinal a few simple words that most sisters will have some time heard their dad or mum say to their brother: "Come Wife want real sex Cardinal, be a man. Naturally he must understand the challenge before he can even face it.
Most boys have, or at least used to have, a fairly clear idea of what defects they need to fight against if they want to be more manly: not to whimper too easily before pain, not to be a sneak, not to fold up in the face of difficulties. Now and this is important, and will be even more important when we come to talk about girlsmost boys used to have some model they could refer to in cases like these: their dad, an older brother, or perhaps a footballer who could rally his team to turn apparent defeat into victory.
In other words, they could more or less understand what was being asked of them in the challenge "C'mon, be a man". What strikes me is that I have never heard anything equivalent said to a girl: "Come on; be a woman! Are girls today becoming women? Physically, and with the passage of a few years, yes. But are they developing a truly feminine nature, truly feminine qualities? Do they see this as a challenge?
A challenge that, unless it is met, means they will never be themselves, never become a truly feminine woman? I say a truly feminine woman, because today we are in danger of getting more and more masculinised women, just as we are in the danger of getting more and more feminised men.
It takes prudence to see that. But it takes fortitude to avoid it. Modern education offers little help in grasping this, as is brought out in a letter from a young mother, a few years out of an American college: "I have come to realise that I was educated to be a successful man, and now must learn by myself how to be a successful woman. Am I suggesting that women should not aim at being top in the professions, at becoming the CEO of some large company, or going high in political life?
Certainly I would not want to see them succeeding because they have imitated the worst in men, those masculine defects that can lead to political or business success - but, at what a cost! We have enough of hard and ruthless people in business life, of domineering professionals, of robber barons in politics. Not everyone is like that, but too many are.
And if a woman goes into those fields with a tough, macho spirit, she may be as "successful" as many men, but she will be a failure as a woman. Think of it. Not even the men who are successful that way are happy inside unless they are extremely vain and superficial. They know, if they are sincere with themselves, that their courage is largely intimidation; their honour, deceitfulness; their word, false.
Their cronies may play up to them, but in their hearts, if they ever go there, they know they are debased and corrupt. Perhaps that is why they never really open their heart to their wife if she is an honest person and least of all to their children: they would be ashamed for their children to know that their dad is a small or big crook, and certainly not a role model, not someone they can look up to, not a real man at all. It is much worse if this happens to a woman. Whatever the reason, Wife want real sex Cardinal all societies have expected more of their women than of their men.
One can take this as a cultural bias, or take it as a tribute. A woman can certainly ignore the "higher standards" that others may expect of her, and be content with the goals she sets herself. But, consciously or unconsciously, and especially in her early years, she will be moved by some "role model" whom she thinks has achieved those goals.
What types of role model prevail in a woman's world today? They vary of course; but all in some way seem to involve being a celebrity. If one's only role model is that of being a "celebrity", what if one fails? Many girls dream of being a celebrity. How many become one? How many are fulfilled by becoming one? In a word, it is not in the same way that a man or a woman fails to achieve a clear sexual identity or a legitimate self-esteem. Many men are failing to be men today. Perhaps even more women are failing to be women. Maybe they have even fewer good role models than boys have, or used to have.
Now, we may ask, what has all this to do with the virtue of fortitude? A lot. Because it brings us back to the challenge that needs to be put to girls and women today, and to be heard by them - that challenge of "Come on; be a woman! For to understand that challenge and to respond to it takes courage and strength: moral strength, strength of character; feminine strength and feminine character. In a word, feminine fortitude. An education that inspires one to go out and assert one's self is not real education.
It is antisocial and just develops selfishness. Education is positive and can lead to fulfilment when it inspires a person to go out and make their own unique contribution to society. In many cases, the uniqueness of a contribution will consist, at least in part, in being more distinctively masculine or more distinctively feminine. But it is more and more evident that our modern society is being shaped almost exclusively in a masculine mode. The feminine contribution is being lost.
Moreover, I would venture to say, if it is being taken away from women, they themselves are letting it be taken away from them. In some cases, I would go further and say that it is they themselves who are throwing itaway.Wife want real sex Cardinal
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