In Kuwait, I’ve learned how to fill grease points on a truck, exactly how much sweat the body produces in 120° heat, and that love can look very different from what I expected.
At the beginning of my rotation, Blessed Is She published an article discussing the difficulty and grace of life as a military spouse. A friend then asked me to write something similar from the perspective of a Catholic woman on active duty. In truth, the military is not the easiest place to be a young, practicing, Catholic woman — and for months, I didn’t feel equipped to write anything. However, I am increasingly convicted that we, as women, have a specific and necessary role to play in the military as much as in the business world.
Thus far, the biggest lie I’ve experienced in the military is the philosophy of utilitarianism, which preaches that morality is based in usefulness. Under utilitarianism, good and bad are determined by the usefulness of a choice, an item, or even a person. This ideology makes some sense in context, given that the job of the military is to fight and win the nation’s wars — nothing more, nothing less. (Just as I’m sure every business has its own goals and standards for success.) We can and do work to care for our people as best as we can on the lower levels, but the military, as an organization, cannot reasonably dote on individuals. The challenge for each of us is to not internalize the lie that the individual is defined by his or her usefulness. After all, in the words of St. John Paul II, “We are the sum of the Father’s love for us,” not the sum of our successes and failures, the sum of our usefulness, or the sum of how likable we are.
This is where women come in.
Ladies, it is inherent in our nature to make space for others. Our bodies show us how to welcome new life, and our hearts have the capacity to welcome new people in a radical way. Women are the fight in the world against the damaging ideology of utilitarianism. We remind people of their worth, even when they can offer us nothing. We bear the hope of authentic love to the world.
Women are the fight in the world against the damaging ideology of utilitarianism. We remind people of their worth, even when they can offer us nothing. We bear the hope of authentic love to the world.
Think of Wonder Woman for one moment: Recall the scene when Diana asks Charlie, “But who will sing for us?” We, as women, are uniquely called to love people and remind them of their dignity, even when they fail. Our Soldiers need us to hold them up, especially when the machine of the military knocks them down.
But it’s hard, isn’t it? Even though it’s in our nature, it’s hard because it makes us vulnerable to attack. It opens us up to be taken advantage of and to participate in another’s failure. In a professional organization, that’s no small sacrifice — and, frankly, it’s not always prudent.
So how do we live this radical, feminine love in an environment that attacks it? I believe it comes down to making space for people as they are. It isn’t enough to love in ways that make us feel good, but we have to love others in the ways in which they can receive that love. Falling on the sword for every person who comes along can make us feel useful, but it doesn’t necessarily inspire or console the other person.
So how do we live this radical, feminine love in an environment that attacks it? I believe it comes down to making space for people as they are.
The fact of the matter is, the motorpool (my Soldiers are mechanics, so that’s where they work) is a lot more gruff and tough. Highly theological expressions and explanations of love won’t reach them — if anything, they come across as haughty and disconnected. What will reach the Soldiers is a genuine interest in their work and families. What will reach them is speaking their language — even if that means brushing up on our “sh*t talking.” What will reach them is standing up for them, and for ourselves — even if that means standing up for ourselves against them. They need to see us hold our own in their world.
For the feminine heart that knows the gentleness of self-sacrificing, unconditional, uplifting love, the military world can be especially trying. Where have we ever seen telling someone they’re full of crap (censored) as more loving than listening to their gripes and struggles? Since when is engaging in flippant, nonsensical conversation more loving than deep, genuine discussion? It can be hard to love in a way that feels so much less than what we are accustomed to — but, really, it isn’t less. We won’t see it every day, but these Soldiers form closer bonds than average co-workers elsewhere. Authenticity and supportiveness arise right when it counts.
So, right here, in the messiness of lower enlisted life, in the motorpools of Kuwait, in the FOBs and foxholes around the world, the feminine heart makes space for people as they are. We love people as they can receive that love. And if that means only scratching the surface of relationship or speaking much differently than in any other loving relationship you’ve seen, so be it. Because even if I sometimes feel less loved or if I feel that my “deep, heartfelt” love is rejected, love isn’t about me — it’s about them.
Right here, in the messiness of lower enlisted life, in the motorpools of Kuwait, in the FOBs and foxholes around the world, the feminine heart makes space for people as they are.
This author would like to remain anonymous.