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“Ask a Priest: What If a Fine Young Woman Now Shows a Crude Side?”
Q: I am 20 years old, and last year through YouTube I saw an 18-year-old girl who was featured in part of a channel where they show the rural life of Middle America. They talk about God and help others in need, etc. Nothing is scripted, and they show the raw reality of how people are there. Throughout this year I’ve seen more about this girl and her family. She is wonderful because she is humble, kind, simple, modest and grateful. She is very close to her family, talks wonderfully about God, and has a very strong faith. I believe she is part of her church somehow (not sure). I got to talk to her a few months back and everything went well. However, recently I’ve seen her “like” a few very vulgar “memes” on Facebook, and most recently one that takes the name of the Lord in vain. I don’t like that. I was planning a trip there to meet her but also to see my family. But now I don’t know if I should just give up on her, or should I keep pursuing her? Even though I feel something very strong for her, God is my priority now. – F.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Given the nature of social media, it isn’t easy to get a real handle on people.
You have seen two sides of this young woman via Internet. Which is her “real” side? Perhaps both are. We are complex beings, after all.
Perhaps those good qualities you have noticed in her are real. It’s just that they are mixed in with elements that are less than perfect. Given the seedy media content that has flooded the culture, it is understandable that even goodhearted people can get accustomed to and accept vulgar or even irreverent material.
What is often needed is a bit of education and better formation of a person’s conscience.
Rather than try to offer an assessment of this young woman — which isn’t the place of Ask of Priest — I would suggest that you give her the benefit of the doubt for now.
If you want to pursue a true relationship, you will want to have face-to-face meetings with her.
Your initial impressions of her were elevated and perhaps fragile. You might have been quick to project your own hopes and ideals on her. Then those hopes were quickly deflated by the meme and the misuse of Our Lord’s name. Either way, you now want to establish things on firmer ground and not on the roiling waves of social media.
You mention that God is your priority now. God should always be your priority. By keeping him first your life, you might play a part in helping this young woman to live her Christian faith in a deeper way.
She is probably a work in progress, like the rest of us. And if she is as humble and simple as your first suspected, she could be a potential saint. All this is something to take to prayer.
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“We are complex beings. . . ” Indeed, we are. A few “likes” does not make a person any less a “good” person – if the young man is so disillusioned with this young woman, wait until he gets to really know her! We are called to help each other to heaven if we love, yet requiring others be perfect is not the way to do it.
“Give her the benefit of the doubt for now. . . ” I respectfully submit, Father, that she should be given the benefit of the doubt ALWAYS. No one is made a saint overnight. If this young man is so shocked and disappointed because she isn’t the perfect woman he imagined, then he has a lot of disappointment ahead. He perhaps ought to work out his own salvation and not be so concerned with the truly small missteps of a person he doesn’t really know.
A lifelong relationship involves thousands of instances of giving and receiving the benefit of the doubt.