Join Greek life, they say. You’ll make lifelong friends, they say. It’ll be the time of your life, well worth the investment, they say. Promises, promises.
Yet day after day, you find yourself exhausted with the pace of your sorority or fraternity. First, trying to maintain decent grades (I mean that’s what college is all for, right? Right???). Second, keeping up with friends. Third, attending required event after required event, or else the dreaded fine. Fourth, possibly, feeling sick yet again after the roller coaster that was Thursday through Saturday night.
Lastly, maybe, you’re trying to find where God is in all this. After all, Mom is expecting you to keep up with Sunday Mass and urging you not to forget “how I raised you!”
So, is that it? Is this really the “time of your life” that people are referring to? Is this the pinnacle of your youth and existence? Is it really only downhill from here?
What if, just what if, there was something more to experience in college and in the Greek world? I believe that it is totally possible (and in fact desired by the Lord) for us to live a life fully alive while in college and in our sorority or fraternity.
It just takes a little digging, determination and resolution to look at what might be keeping us from this freedom.
After living through Greek life in college and spending many years in FOCUS working specifically for our Greek students, I have narrowed down some of the big obstacles to living fully alive in the spectacular world of Greeks, and how we can (with some grit and grace) overcome these obstacles.
For more information on these obstacles and how they can be overcome in Greek like, see the FOCUS Greek Fully Alive Bible study on FOCUS Equip!
Obstacle 1: Misplaced Identity
To briefly summarize the first three chapters of the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis: We are created by God SOLELY as a gift out of love. We are made in His “image and likeness,” meaning we are made to be His beloved children, His sons and daughters (Gn 1:26). We are made very good and, like God, with free will. Simple to understand, right? But this is not always easy to see in ourselves and others, or to believe with confidence.
Often, we are tempted to find our image and worth apart from God. For example:
- Seeking the approval and appreciation of others (getting drunk or providing alcohol to minors at parties so that you are liked, buying expensive and superfluous clothing, working to maintain the status of your chapter amongst IFC and Panhellenic and taking pride in the “tier system”)
- Seeking emotional and physical comfort (missing class because of exhaustion from a terrible night, relying too heavily on a brother or sister for their friendship, one-night-stands, getting drunk, late-night binge eating)
- Seeking security and control (worrying about our responsibilities or executive duties, staying up late studying to make perfect grades, cheating to maintain a reputation)
- Seeking influence and power (hazing new members to gain authority over them, ruining friendships within your chapter because of an excessive drive for an executive position, tearing other chapters down who you consider to be less than yours, unhealthy pride in your status in Greek life as you relate to non-Greek students in class or other groups on campus)
So I ask you reflect here: Which of these human desires do you find yourself seeking most often? How might God be inviting you to surrender your pursuit of these false sources of image to Him?
Obstacle 2: Sex
We are made for relationship, and especially for a relationship with God, who is love. Often, we feel this truth about our nature most when it comes to the desire for romantic relationships: We desire to be known in deep ways, and we look to fulfill this desire through romantic relationships. However, we also know how quickly these relationships can become sources of pain, confusion and hurt, particularly when sex becomes part of the relationship.
It can be easy to see the ways sex can thwart our identity and our relationship with God and our relationships with others:
- Through seeking approval and appreciation: “Having sex makes me feel wanted, loved, approved, and affirmed.”
- Through seeking emotional and physical comfort: “Sex makes me feel closer to him/her” or “Looking at porn makes me feel less lonely” or “Having sex or looking at porn relieves my stress.”
- Through seeking security and control: “I think that having sex will make him/her stay with me.”
- Through seeking influence and power: “I feel powerful when I am able to sleep with multiple guys/girls” or “I like to give or withhold sex to get what I want.”
Fortunately for us, God has revealed to us his vision for sex and relationships that will lead us to greater unity with him, ourselves and others. God is not anti-sex; rather, He views it as so sacred and important to who we are as human beings that we must be careful to treat it with the reverence it deserves, which means honoring it within in the context for which it was designed, which is marriage. Sex, as God has designed it, can reveal to us incredible truths about the infinite and eternal love we all desire and are created for, but only within the sacred, committed and lasting bonds of marriage. Outside of marriage, sex often becomes a way we use and manipulate others.
What is a next step you could take this week to live more fully alive in the area of relationships and sexual freedom? Who in your life could support you in taking that step?
Obstacle 3: Alcohol
There is plenty of information in the media and the culture that shapes our understanding of alcohol — often we hear the lie that alcohol (particularly in excess) will lead to us being fully alive.
However, in response to the various dangers of alcohol, some groups take an opposite approach: they use scare tactics about the dangers of binge drinking and alcoholism to encourage moderation through fear or view consuming any alcohol as sinful or hedonistic.
Let’s see what the abuse of alcohol could look like on campus:
- Through seeking approval and appreciation: “If I drink with this certain group, I can finally get their acceptance,” or “I’m willing to break the law to get this group’s approval.”
- Through seeking emotional and physical comfort: “Getting drunk helps me to numb the pain, get rid of stress or escape the problems in my life.”
- Through seeking security and control: “Drinking with this crowd ensures that I won’t spend my Friday night alone,” or “Getting in with this crowd will give me a group of friends I can relate to.”
- Through seeking influence and power: “Drinking with this crowd will make me more popular,” or “I need to drink with this crowd for them to respect me.”
But what is an ordered, Christian outlook on the topic of alcohol?
The Catholic understanding of alcohol strives for a healthy middle ground between these two extremes. The Church calls us to the virtue of temperance, which helps us moderate our desires in a healthy way; Scripture also points out how we can view alcohol as a gift from God that can foster joy and cultivate relationships, when used appropriately and moderately!
What is one action you can commit to this week to grow in temperance or moderation towards alcohol?
Obstacle 4: Perfectionism
Success is not a foreign concept to Greek life. It’s easy to see that Greeks are successful not only on the college campus but in the world post-graduation. In Greek houses, members are encouraged to strive to be successful, as many of their founders had been. However, a disordered emphasis on success can lead to anxious perfectionism, overcommitment, fear of failure or rebellion and rejection of responsibility. How can we view and pursue success rightly and with virtue? How can we strive for excellence in a wider culture that often encourages the opposite?
Some of you may be struggling under the pressure to succeed in worldly ways; others may struggle to be motivated to excellence and to give their best every day. Perhaps there may have been a draw to Greek life to be a part of something that can give access to greater friendships, academic successes and extracurriculars to add to a résumé.
What could an unhealthy drive for worldly success look like in your chapter?
- In seeking approval and appreciation: “If I get this award, then everyone will see what a success I am” or “If people see how successful of an athlete I am, people will start to talk about me and desire to know me.”
- In seeking emotional and physical comfort: “When I get good grades, a promotion at work or recognized for something I did, I will have proof that I am not a failure.”
- In seeking security and control: “My reputation as a successful person will help me get what I want in the future” or “If I’m successful in the classroom and get the job I want, then I can make a lot of money and secure the lifestyle I want.”
- In seeking influence and power: “I love the respect I get when I’m leading other people” or “I don’t matter unless I’m in a position of leadership.”
It is possible to embrace a true Christian understanding of success! We typically refer to it as “excellence.”
Excellence is the ability or the habit of giving the best of ourselves in our daily commitments and responsibilities, regardless of whether the task is monumental or small, if it is seen by many or only a few.
Reflect: In what ways do you struggle to live up to the excellence to which you are called? How has God provided opportunities for you to use your God-given talents and work ethic for his greater glory? How have you been a witness of true excellence for others?
Phew. What a reflection of our time on campus and in Greek life, eh?
I have no doubt that with some time, practice, and prayer, you can implement some of these tenants into your life and in your sorority or fraternity.
Do not be afraid to ask your FOCUS missionary or a sister or brother you look up to for help and accountability. We are called to give glory to God in all stages of our lives! For more information on these obstacles and how they can be overcome in Greek like, see the FOCUS Greek Fully Alive Bible study on FOCUS Equip!
After all, “the glory of God is man fully alive.” – Saint Irenaeus.