Is Human Nature Fraught with Frailty?

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Intimate couple.Frailty is perhaps understood by many as physical weakness due to old age or illness. Others may correlate frailty with weakness of character that causes a person to do things that are morally wrong. There are certainly huge differences among people about what they consider frailty or sin, and moral right or wrong. A common ground seems to be hard to find, as the histories of politics and religion, marred by conflict and war, attests to.

However, a conversation on human frailty may not only be had in terms of old age and illness or character’s choices and cultural norms. Unsurprisingly, one could argue that human behavior is not only predicated on agreed-upon social norms, but also on human nature with which we are involuntarily endowed. Human nature seems to be a primary driver of behavior, giving rise to morality, social norms and the attempted compliance therewith by people. The human condition, as all this might be called, speaks not only to the frailty of human nature but also of the frailty of human affairs.

Human sexuality is a real hot button for many and attitudes on sexuality vary to an astonishing degree. Religious people love to speak of the “weakness of the flesh” (Matthew 26:41) as driving men into ruins; while social thinkers speak of natality, implying sexuality, as the “miracle that saves human affairs from dying or natural ruin and destruction” (Arendt 247). Regardless, sexuality is part and parcel of human nature – we do not choose to be sexual beings, we may only choose the when and how.

Whatever view one might prefer to give more weight, one’s own sexuality could easily be perceived as one’s greatest frailty – even if not the only. Are we not most vulnerable in the act of falling in love, or even making love? Courtship, the extended time period prior to marriage, requires sincere self-disclosure to the other – not easy for those aware of frailty. How can intimate relationships be expected to work out if touchy items are not properly explored prior to the commitment of marriage?

Which brings us to ponder: “Why are people getting married?” Literature about that topic abounds, for sure. In many traditional cultures, marriage has been and still is a strategy tool employed by parents to maximize their interests, sometimes at the expense of the two to-be-wed. Anyone watching Game of Thrones on HBO will be familiar with that allegation.

Courtesan.
Courtesan.

In medieval Europe, the House of Habsburg engaged in dynastic marriages to enable the royal family to vastly expand its domains from a little castle in Switzerland to over most of the Holy Roman Empire. Asian nobles in the East did much of the same. Courtesans were often part of these arrangements upfront, in the East and the West, and for a reason.

Additional motivations, intentions and reasons for marriage are varied and thus plentiful. However, it is worth pointing out that people seem to not be entirely satisfied when taking care of some of their own needs by themselves. Am I wrong? People love to go out to dinner together, we rarely dance alone – we are social beings. Our sociability seems to go hand in hand with our frailties. Why are people getting married? They truly need each other, apart from any overarching interests or norms. When it comes to perhaps the greatest frailty of all, the two people of the couple can and must support each other. Which is to say that “you have my back, and I have yours.” If this quid-pro-quo commitment is wholeheartedly enjoyed and practiced, a relationship will have a good chance of lasting – even modern, dynastic marriages. If ignored, neglected or overshadowed by other interests, the relationship will struggle.

van Epp asks in his instructive book: “if I scratch your back, will you scratch mine?”, and continues to advise that “you must master the important area of embracing your partner’s needs. Equally important, you must be sure that your partner will also embrace your needs; this mutual embracing of needs leads to a deeply satisfying relationship (241).

Suggested readings

  • Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. University of Chicago Press, 1958. Print
  • van Epp, John. How To Avoid Falling In Love With A Jerk. McGraw Hill, 2007. Print

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