Monday, July 15, 2013

Excuse Me, Ma'am, But Your Ducks Aren't All In A Row

Human beings have certain responsibilities to each other, at least they do if they want to rightly and accurately call themselves civil, or religious, or kind.  In my last blog post, I talked about how Catholic Christians in particular need to "get Amish" so to speak.  By that I do not mean we should isolate ourselves from others; rather, that we need to man up and make certain that our words and actions match what we claim to believe, what we vow to live by in the creeds we speak and the Sacraments in which we participate.   The topic expanded for me this week . . . I saw two phenomena occurring around me, orbiting my little planet, and they made me shake my head, and they brought me to tears at Mass.  I was hit by Christian coldness and Christian competition. Now to be honest, my crying at Mass is really not an occasion for alarm.  I choke up every time the Gospel is lifted!  But this was different -- I was crying out of my heart and my hurt feelings. Feelings hurt by Catholics and other Christians.  And if you're claiming the title of practicing Catholic you have to practice kindness, or you simply do not have your ducks in a row no matter how many morning prayers you say or committees you join.

Catholics and other Christians should not engage in Schadenfreude, competitiveness, nor should they enjoy the heck out of public one-upsmanship under the guise of fraternal correction.  Catholics and other Christians should not engage in ad hominem attack, wish death or pain on others, nor should they refer to entire groups of people of any stripe or inclination as being less human and less worthy of respect than they themselves are.  We are a people called to peace and love.  The second command Jesus gave us was to love each other so much that it equaled the way we loved and attended to OURSELVES.  This did not come with a clause that exempted people of other religions, colors, sin stylings, or people whose only sin is that they have MORE or BETTER stuff than we do.  We cannot and should not feel free and comfortable name calling people simply because they are in the public eye.  We cannot and should not feel free and comfortable name calling people simply because they are of a religion that we do not understand, living a lifestyle the Church considers sinful, or even daily committing mortal sin.  Fraternal correction, prayer for conversion, evangelization = good.  Wishing people off the face of the earth = bad.

Competitiveness is a trait I have never possessed, so to be fair, I don't know what it's like to be given to the sin of feeling hateful or acting cruelly toward another person because of jealousy or a sense that someone has taken a piece of a pie I wanted.  I have many sins to count, but that's not my category.  I have been the victim of it, however, and I can tell you it cuts to the bone.  Sometimes I want to hand out a little flyer to every new female acquaintance that says: "This document acknowledges that now and forever you are prettier, smarter, nicer, funnier, more devout, and generally of a higher caliber of humanity than I am.  Your kids are more athletic, better in school, cleaner, better fed, and more attractive.  Your house is the perfect size, not so big as to be sinful but not so small as to be  cramped and make you anything less than an amazing interior decorator.  Your hair is never floopy in humidity.  Your husband loves you more than my husband loves me.  Your skin looks younger than mine, and you smell fresher.  You are more well-read, better at all sports (and your body shows it!) but you are not obsessed with your physical appearance to the point of being vain.  Your parents were superior to mine, unless of course you wear as a badge of honor that you survived a rough childhood, in which case, you had a harder childhood than I did.  Your pets do not shed or emit an odor or make any annoying sounds, unless of course they do, and you want to talk about how that pet owning life is a sacrifice you are making, in which case, wow, I'm not even a pet owner, so I again fall short.  In summary, you rock and I stink.  You win.  I lose.  Please do not pretend to be my friend and then pull your friendship away because you somehow perceive that I have started gaining on you in any category because I hereby legally declare without qualification or reservation that the aforementioned state will NEVER OCCUR."  I will, of course, have this notarized.

Friends, I use humor and hyperbole here, but the point I am attempting to drive home is such an important one.  I can't stress enough how the secular world is watching us.  How lukewarms, on-the-verges, fallen aways, and nones are watching us.  They are waiting for us to screw up, to behave in such a way that they can call us out for being hypocrites.  It's bad enough that they will accuse us of what we don't do, but don't give them ammunition.  Our children are watching us.  Moms, don't teach your daughters to be competitive, to snipe, to envy, to gossip, to wisecrack, to hate those in sin instead of having mercy on them and praying for their conversion.  God is watching us.  Guess who else is watching?  The foe.  He loves discord, competition, pride, arguing, Schadenfreude, stereotyping, hatred and contempt of the poor, shunning of other races and religions, disgust at homosexuals, and sneering at post-abortive women.  He laps it up like Nutella.  Why? Because it's a BOGO for the devil!  He buys one, and gets one free.  They sin, we react sinfully to their sin, and he collects twice on his bet.  

The foe loves when Christian men and women are competitive with each other, too.  We who are supposed to be wanting as much for others as for ourselves?  How much win is there for ole' fault face if we actually want our acquaintances and even "friends" to have LESS than we do!?  What a victory for him.  Stop handing the devil victories.  These are habits of mind we can break.  Think with your heart and your Catholic-formed conscience before you speak or type.  Before you give a dirty look.  Before you spread a tale.  Think, and I blatantly rob here from Peter Kreeft, do I want to be doing this or saying this when Jesus comes back?  If Jesus returned right now, this instant, would he find my heart full of envy?  Full of judgment?  Would he find me NOT fraternally correcting with love, but one upping for the feeling of rightness and security it gave me?  

Tonight in our examinations of conscience, let's all search ourselves for these things.  The tongue is a weapon, as is the stare, the keyboard, the pen, the phone . . . please operate these things as you would if you were the very hands and feet of Jesus on earth, because as St. Teresa of Avila reminded us, you are. 


  1. I just stumbled across your blog. This is a wonderful, wonderful post! Thank you and God Bless!