Is it Okay to be Attracted?

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Guest post by Margaret Graves.

As the pain and thrill of attraction took hold in my head, my rationality lasted just long enough to ask, “What are you supposed to do with attraction?” A quick internet search of my usual Catholic resources came up with nothing satisfactory. So, I plunged into Love and Responsibility, aided by Dr. Edward Sri’s Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love. John Paul II did not disappoint.

  1. Attraction is morally neutral

Thomas Aquinas, and several devout Dominicans, had taught me this one before, but it bears reinforcing. Attraction is morally neutral. That tug you feel towards that person is not wrong or right. It just is. You don’t need to pretend it doesn’t exist. What is wrong or right is what you do with it.

Attraction can be understood as a recognition of a perceived good in the other. Maybe the person you are attracted to is handsome, kind to strangers, intellectually brilliant, or their singing moves you to tears (or all of the above). Your attraction to them is fueled by recognizing something you think is good in them.

Let’s go back to that word “perceived.” This word cuts two ways. First, your perception of the good. You may be attracted to something in them that you think is good, but actually isn’t. Because we are fallen human beings with sins and wounds in our life, sometimes we think something is good when it actually isn’t. Our view of the good may be incomplete and through our experiences we may have unconsciously learned to seek certain behaviors in others that aren’t actually good or healthy. Second, the reality of the good. You meet someone and they seem out of this world kind. You are charmed off your feet. But, slowly you realize their initial kindness was just an act. You were attracted to something that is actually good, which you thought you saw, but wasn’t actually there. Perception is surface level and does not constitute actual knowledge.

  1. Get to know the good

Building any kind of relationship requires knowledge of the other person and who they actually are. In my reading of John Paul II, he never used the word attraction. Instead, he spoke about a similar idea under the title of sympathy. He describes sympathy as a shared emotional connection. Of sympathy he says, “sympathy must be transformed into friendship and friendship complimented with sympathy.”1 While sympathy is slightly different, because it is defined as mutual, the same principle can be applied to attraction. That initial emotional attraction can lead to friendship, but shared emotions are not all there is to friendship. If you recognize a good in someone and you want to be around them, try to get to know them. See if that perceived good really exists, see how that good relates to the person’s other qualities. Assuming neither of you are already vowed, actively make yourself open to the possibility of a relationship. (If you are, you need a very different article. Try this one.)

  1. Emotions obscure knowledge

In getting to know someone you are attracted to, be aware that your emotions are going to obscure the truth. John Paul II makes no bones about this, he writes, “In the eyes of a person sentimentally committed to another person the value of the beloved object grows enormously – as a rule out of all proportion to his or her real value.”2 Prince Charming may actually play the guitar well, but perhaps not as well as you think. To balance your emotionally rosy vision, focus on building a concrete friendship beyond the emotional connection. John Paul II defines friendship as wanting what is good for the other as much as you want it for yourself.3 That requires deep knowledge of the other, and sharing in life together so that you actually have the opportunity to do good for the other.

Alongside the idea of friendship as central to marriage, actual or potential, John Paul II presents companionship as a key aspect of friendship. Companionship is objective shared experience. Objective shared experience is doing something concrete together, like building a trail or serving at a soup kitchen. You are both objectively and undeniably experiencing the same 45o grade of the trail or the same 190oF soup. You may react differently, but you are sharing the same objective experience. This helps you objectively get to know each other, by learning how you react to different circumstances, people, and each other. The concreteness of it helps you attain true knowledge to guide your feelings.

  1. The Personalistic Norm

Another concept I found helpful in guiding my emotions and pursuit of friendship is the personalistic norm. The personalistic norm is an idea developed by John Paul II. In brief, it means that you always treat another person as a good in and of themselves and never use them as a means to an end. How does this apply to what to do when you are attracted to someone? It means respecting them as a separate entity from you. You may offer them friendship, and they are not open to it for whatever reason. Pursuing friendship doesn’t mean there will be friendship. It means giving it an active opportunity to develop. Also, don’t seek out their friendship just for your own pleasure, your convenience, or any other reason that reduces the other person. You are seeking to know them and the good that they are on the possibility that you may also be a good for them.

John Paul II has taught me many things. I am grateful for his copious writings being around to help me navigate the world of relationships. I am now confident that seeking to know someone I’m attracted to is a valid path. Emotions may obscure reality, but do not need to prevent truly getting to know the other person and building an authentic relationship. The offer of friendship may not be accepted, or may not turn out as expected, but you’ll never know the truth if you do not seek it.


1 Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2013, p. 74.

2 Ibid., p. 112.

3 Ibid., p. 73.


Margaret Graves tries not to measure her worth in the number of books she reads a year. Her main area of interest is exploring the necessity of human relationships in the light of faith. This quest was fueled by undergrad studies at Magdalen College and a summer spent at the Pontifical University in Krakow. She now spends much of her free time reading and figuring out ways to bring people together.

Photo: Timo Stern, Unsplash / PD-US
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2 thoughts on “Is it Okay to be Attracted?”

  1. Avatar

    This applies to other emotions as well — instinctive fear, or anger, or loathing. If your “spider sense” goes off when a stranger comes to the door, it is foolish to ignore it; it is also foolish and uncharitable to accept it as though it were an infallible judgement. It is positively unchristian to cherish and nurture these emotions — as it is with attraction when that attraction is leading towards sin.

  2. Avatar

    One way to transform emotions into good ones for all around too could be seeing same as arrows that point to deep Father wounds – ‘ show us The Father ‘ as the Disciples pleaded .
    Our Lord as well as His Mother, filled with the Holy Spirit of love from and for The Father , most likely never experienced that type of attraction towards any one but rather would have sensed the need for The Father love in the wounded around them and tried to help with same in the wisdom and good judgement from the same Spirit .
    Good to have seen the quote in the article above to caution persons who have to be lots more careful with such attractions and feelings , when they can be destructive .
    The myths of old about the arrows of cupid and such possibly have more truth to it as well , thus good to see such occasions as needing prayers of deliverance as originating from the carnal spirits . Asking to be renewed in the graces of baptism again , seeing both as babies betting baptised , surrounded by family and the Holy Spirit pouring His graces and love into them and all around , that all call together – ‘ Our Father ..’ one such means of transforming such into good ; carnality , being more of a one to one relationship , countering same , by being in the fold of the flock , seeing oneself surrounded by those in The Lord , would be a powerful prayer for good of all , to heal the Father wounds and help to do away with all enemy spells too . Asking for the graces of the non carnal love of the Immaculate Conception also another such means .

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