A wonderful part of being a priest is the opportunities to listen and reconcile hurts that are caused by ruptures in relationships. Even though I am not married, I tend to listen to a lot of marriage and family-related problems. It is an honor for me, but it also causes many headaches and heartaches. One cannot simply be indifferent or unaffected by each encounter. Sometimes, the most frustrating thing to see is the resistance one side puts up as to excuse oneself or as a fearful reaction to change. Yet, all of us have those personal blind spots that we need to learn to see beyond or ask people that we trust to help us reflect what we cannot see ourselves.
All of us have our limitations, shortcomings, and blind spots due to our family of origin and the complex interplay of many things in the past. Yet, often times, we think that we are right and expect everyone else to follow what we are convinced about. Many arguments spring forth from one’s frustration why the other side cannot understand what he or she is going through or trying to say. However, many people often expect people to read their mind and follow their will without respectfully and patiently communicating what they are trying to say properly. One example that I like to use when trying to pervade this lack of proper communication to struggling couples is to use the image of changing lane without using the signal. Think about it, just as one who changes lane without the proper signal upsets the other driver or endangering him or herself, when we do not learn how to communicate properly and give respectful signals to those whom we are trying to communicate, we end up getting frustrated why they do not understand us and jeopardize the possibility of hurting the other side.
I believe many problems in this world can be resolved when we learn to respectfully and properly communicate with one another. Imagine, many accidents would be avoided if everyone is respectful and give the proper signal when driving. For sure, giving proper and sufficient signals with respect is a key to solve many relationship and communication problems. On top of proper signaling, it is also important to have a healthy sense of respect for the person that we are talking to. It is important that we treat them with dignity and respect and communicate in a calm and effective way instead of letting immediate, reactionary emotions or feelings cloud our judgment and drive our intention.
One thing that often comes up during an intervention, counseling, or listening session when there is an argument, family or relationship problem is the desire to pour out all frustrations and blames upon the other side. I have heard people coming up with so many justifications and excuses for why the other person fails to do so and so. Yet, often times, failures in relationship and communication come from both sides. I had several cases in the past when one spouse blamed the other for why they would go to church and hear what is being said but did not put into practice. Some even went to the point of calling the other side as being a hypocrite for not putting into practice what the homily or the Scriptures is trying to teach. Wow! I often became speechless and shocked at those moments, especially considering that such words could be said about one’s spouse. Long stories short, I always try to take the time to explain to both sides of why things escalated to the present situation and try to help them understand and how to properly communicate what is going on beyond the reactionary or clouded emotions and feelings.
At least the ones who are angry are still willing to communicate. It is harder when one already convinced one’s self to give up and move on as if the relationship is beyond repair or cannot be fixed. While many people came to look for excuses to justify what they are doing is right, most will learn to overcome when giving a chance to be empowered with respect and proper tools. Nevertheless, there are people who just come to a counselor or priest to look for an affirmation of their decision without the willingness to try to see the fuller picture, to learn from what is going on, or to overcome the obstacles at hand. Those are the sad and disheartening cases, in my opinion, because you can still see the love for one another hidden behind the hurts. Cynicism, negativity, despair, and indifference are detrimental to the relationship. They stop us from being effective human beings who can properly communicate, respect, and understand one another. Yet, these negative things are becoming more common and accepted as the norms for what it means to be truly human. However, I would like to argue that, while there are many reasons to walk away, there are many more reasons to forgive, reconcile, and give one another a chance to overcome the obstacles in front of us. These fundamental qualities and foundational willingness to love are what make us humans!
I recently stumbled upon a commercial done by the Marriott hotel chain on my way back to the United States from our Holy Land Pilgrimage. The message was so precise and heartfelt that I watched it several times in order to write down the message for you. I truly believe if we are able to practice what is being said in this little commercial and its message, the world would be a better place.
“It would be great if human beings were great at being humans, and all of mankind is made up of kind women and kind men. It would be wonderful if common knowledge was knowledge commonly known, and the light from being enlightened in every heart was shown. It would be glorious if neighbors were neighborly, and ‘indifference’ a forgotten word. It would be awesome if we share everything, and being greedy is absurd. It would be spectacular if the Golden Rule is golden to every man, and the good things we ever did was everything that we can. Treating others like we would like to be treated has always been our guiding principle.”
When we are willing to reach out, love, and care for one another, we will learn to embrace and grow in what makes us great at being humans. Kindness cannot simply be expected but has to be chosen, willed, and practiced as it is the standard foundation of what makes us human beings. It is important what is commonly passed on to us from previous generations and shared among ourselves need to be treasured, enriched, and nourished for the greater good of all. The light of faith has to shine in and through us so that the darkness of evil and its lies cannot overcome the light of grace that has been entrusted and enlightened in each and every one of us. We have to remember that we are called to be good neighbors by the way we treat and give ourselves genuinely and completely to those who are around us. Greed is pitiful because it isolates and turns us against one another while our the greatest gift of love begins with the desire to give ourselves wholeheartedly in care and respect of all. Truly, the greatest achievement is not based on quantifiable possessions or successes but that we have touched and given ourselves with everything that we can to those who are around us, beginning with the least of all. The Golden Rule is the beginning of wisdom because it reminds us of what founds and grounds us as great human beings; and without the willingness to be great human beings, we will fail to internalize, enrich, and grow in our calling and vocation as children of God. Especially for us as Christians, our faith and humanity go hand in hand, for what is being given to us by grace strengthens what we are called to live as children of God. Our words and actions glorify and express who we truly are as those who are loved into being and are called to love by the Most High.
Therefore, let us not be afraid to be human. Let us learn to properly communicate and give respectful signals through words and actions to those around us. Let us embrace and help one another through our cares of one another, beginning with those who are around us and ultimately toward the least of our brethren. Let us not give up but to glorify and share what makes us loving children of God by how we live our life.
We are truly children of God when we pray, reflect, practice, and grow in the fullest of our capacity to be great human beings to one another by the light and power of His grace for us.