Love and the “Language of Bodily Presence”

(I wrote this piece for the February 2023 newsletter of the California Association of American Mothers, Inc.:

For this Valentine’s Day month, I would like to share some insights from Mary Stanford’s brilliant essay “Technology and the Language of Bodily Presence” that can help us be more attentive and loving to our families—and find deeper peace within ourselves. [Her essay, based on Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, was published in Christendom College’s Principles, Volume II, Issue V.]

Our technological devices can be a great help, but they can also tempt us to neglect our most essential relationships in favor of superficial, disembodied interactions. Bodily presence is necessary for the most meaningful communication. We need face-to-face interactions to know who we are, for it is only when we receive relational feedback that we can grow. Children especially need the attention and bodily presence of their families to learn that they are cherished. Young children wisely insist: “Mom, Dad! Look at me! Watch this!”

Our devices can also tempt us to prioritize efficiency to the detriment of relationships. Instead of simply enjoying the presence of our loved ones, we can become overly focused on checking off those boxes and constantly worrying that we are “wasting time.”

Bodily presence is also required for an important warning system: shame. Shame is a signal that something is not right: someone has said or done something that is threatening to hurt another. Why do people say or do things online or via text that they would never do in person? Because bodily presence is necessary to be warned by shame.

Let’s examine our whole family’s use of technology and see if there are any changes that need to be made in favor of love and bodily presence. God bless you all!

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