Deacon Blog Oct. 29, 2019
Don’t Judge Me
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing, you just sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. I am feeling compelled to “bleed out” on a huge issue of today, personal responsibility, and how its absence is affecting the conduct of our lives. I’m pretty sure that loud sound we just heard was everyone closing this document all at once (or their snoring), but… I’m going ahead with this. In true deacon fashion I will try to contain my thoughts to our Faith lives, although I don’t actually believe we can or should separate secular and religious conduct in our earthly existence. The further distance we put between our intimacy with GOD and the world we travel in, the more turmoil and lack of peace we experience. Please know that for this article, because I am restrained somewhat by word count, the context here will be the ordinary, common lives we all lead here in America. Life certainly looks a lot different in other parts of the world, but I truly feel that in the U.S. we are uniquely positioned, as well as challenged, to express what the Kingdom of GOD can look like here on earth. We are responsible for our world.
I am coming at this from an unusual angle, our attitudes, because I believe it is ground zero for the behaviors we see across the globe. Right out of the gate I want to say, in this country we have no reason to complain…about situations or other people. No reason. Avoiding this behavior, at all costs, can change the landscape we all live in…rapidly. Our mood, our actions, our over-all attitude is adversely affected by this activity (complaining). At its root meaning, it implies a grief or discontent with something or someone. Persistent or habitual complaining naturally forms an environment of sadness. Unhappiness. This finding fault with anything, sometimes everything, produces a momentum all its own and it’s very difficult to stop once it gains any traction at all. We may complain about co-workers, and we may be somewhat correct in our opinions, but it won’t stop there. It creeps on to management, government, society, the Church…you name it. Our personality gradually forms an outlook that views the world in general, as being negative, revealing a profound lack of (or shallow, at best) Faith. We see the “worst” first. Some may say “Who cares, it’s just my personality” or “I call it like I see it”. Neither of these views are wrong, necessarily, but neither is necessary either. Say that ten times fast. Unless our stated goal is to ignore our own faults, or to open our lives up for the scrutiny of others, placing our thoughts and energies into criticizing could not be a greater waste of our time. In a proper context, evaluation is an effective tool for change. These settings could include civil debates, political discussions, the voting booth, suggestion boxes, newspaper editorials, and thorough unbiased research to name a few. These processes include alternating viewpoints, lest our own thoughts become the whole dialogue. It’s some of the conversations around the dinner table, the “water-fountain” at work, or on barstools that can do the most damage. Why do I feel this way? Because Hope becomes the victim. Hope and complaints are not compatible. Eventually, negativity will devour Hope. Our conversation becomes punctuated with sarcasm and phrases like “Some things never change” or “Knowing that “person” it makes perfect sense”. Our comfort level with cynicism grows under the guise of “realism”. We assume others are intentionally dishonest or automatically inept. And we often do this possessing a small fraction of the available facts. We begin to operate from opinion, and partial information. Objectively reflect on the public discourse we see today, the proliferation of lies (false news), and the level of verbal bullying. Complaining is the “petri dish” for this atmosphere of cruelty.
Now, you may be thinking (or complaining) about my blog and wondering what this has to do with Faith. You’re partially right… this is about Faith. My blogs are about Faith. How many of us have encountered brothers and sisters of other denominations (or non-believers) who hold pre-conceived notions or opinions about the Catholic church that are not true. To be honest, some of my Catholic friends can be guilty of this. My least favorite conversations are with former Catholics, who through their own experience or the influence of public opinion, feel the need to drag the Church down with their opinions…the same way a drowning person tugs at a rescuer. Leaving the Church is a personal choice, disagreeing with the Church is a personal choice. Attacking and slandering something most don’t adequately understand and attempting to tear it down in the process is another issue that speaks of a reality that flourishes in the psychology of our world. It is a “human operating system” that feels the necessity to denigrate others to feel justified (scapegoating). Why do you think there are forty thousand plus Protestant denominations? And it all starts with false information or weak unfounded opinions. I have as many non-Catholic friends as I do Catholic, and the ones I respect the most are the ones who allow different beliefs to exist along- side their own. They are actively focused disciples, engaged with their beliefs, and realize profoundly that we are all “on the same side”. Our common journey is Holiness, traveled in different shoes. I read an analysis by a Protestant theologian once who concluded the Catholic and Protestant faiths share a common belief in 91-93% of Christianity’s main message. Why we dwell on the 9-7% discrepancy is truly beyond me, but I think it makes my original argument. When we travel the path of judgement, we become more focused on the conversion of others and not ourselves. The negative thoughts we use complaining eventually escape to the world around us, becoming behaviors and habits firmly cemented in the structures of society.
While it may sound as if I am complaining about those who complain, through contemplative prayer I’ve become acutely aware that these thoughts produce a dampening of my over-all mood and a darkening of my outlook, and I see this all around me as well. We live like we don’t believe GOD “has this”. Our devotion and intimacy with HIM is at risk by ignoring the JOY and Peace in the relationships around us…and this life is ALL about relationship. With GOD, with each other, with our planet. Let go of negative critiques and focus on how we can be better versions of ourselves each day. Be accountable. Let’s make our voices loud for advocacy and silent on criticism. The world around us is counting on the fact that Christ within us will prevail around us. PAX CHRISTI, Deacon Mike
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