I went out one day to get some fast foods for lunch. While waiting in the drive-thru line to get my order, I saw the driver of the car in front of me letting out unkind words to the drive-thru worker. They were very unkind words. However, what is most ironic was that the driver was of a race that often cries out social injustices and mistreatments, yet talking down and yelling at the worker who is from another race that might not resemble the typical “American” qualities. I wonder if the person was having a bad day or did something really happened between them beforehand, but I felt that the employee did not do anything wrong. I wonder if the person who blasted the worker really understand the irony that happened in this short exchange, where two seem-to-be minorities cannot treat one another with respect. I believe this is where our nation fails and fails often! We speak much of respect, tolerance, and equality but we seldom practice what we preach and advocate as political agendas and social changes. It is sad and hypocritical when we, even the minorities, who only talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. Where is the love being preached, the compassion being advocated, the mercy being called for, the tolerance desired, the equality so yearned for, and the justice we are trying to achieve? I believe this one encounter reminds us of what is being asked of each and every one of us if we truly believe and try to work for a more just, fair, and respectful society, nation, and world, for all things need to be grounded in our own personal and God-given gifts of compassion and mercy.
I hear a lot about change and the desire to initiate a new social revolution. However, I wonder if any of those people really make a personal effort to know the people that they are “advocating” and raising awareness for? I wonder if those matters and exchanges are simply for show or are they actually humanly grounded? I wonder if our desires for change and revolution are actually people-grounded with true care and respect or are they simply social items and political agendas? Perhaps you can sense a real distrust coming from me when someone talks about social changes or political revolutions because I have personally witnessed those matters to simply be self-serving. I have distrusted revolutionary movements because they are too worried and focused on proving themselves and their agendas instead of truly being grassroots and people-based. Things might sound so good ideologically speaking, but how many really mean what they say or they just simply say words that sound good, to get the vote or support, but really do not have any substance or depth to them? How many of our ideologies are really life-giving, truly care about everyone, have a sense of greater solidarity with the whole world and is inter-generational, especially to embrace the greater good of all? Unfortunately, I am afraid too many are too particular or self-based. I hear a lot of noises and voices, but not many are willing to carry what is important with depth and substance. I hear too many things that sound nice but nothing that moves my heart because they are not truthfully presented, well thought out, life-giving, or God-centered.
Therefore, I believe if we are to fight for what is real and substantial for our society, this revolution will have to be counter-cultural in order to discover, create, and revive the theocentric culture that encompasses eternal, transcendental, everlasting, and life-giving values. The cultural revolution that I am hoping for will definitely be counter-cultural in the beginning because it challenges our current social thought patterns, especially its objectification of people, manipulative means, utilitarian-based, consumeristic, egoistic, temporary, and reactionary culture to its core. We have to rebuild a culture that is not only based on the trendy, ever-changing desires of the self nor its reactive tendencies to create new things as to feel that it is doing something productive or worth noting. I am afraid that our current culture and its predominant thoughts are simply flashy, catching immediate or short-term attention, feel-good, trendy, but lack qualitative discernment and knowledge of greater truths and higher goods of transcendental values. That is why our current social culture desires constant flux and perpetuates apparent changes because it simply feeds on uncertainty to validate its desire to be on the cutting edge and self-created (yet empty) avant-garde attitude.
We have to do a lot more than to embrace change and uncertainty, else we will create more divisions, self-righteousness, and meaningless revolutions that are simply self-serving. Those things are dangerous because we only care about our immediate or particular needs and goods now but not the common and greater goods of all. It is dangerous when we make the law into something particular, manipulative, and ever-changing instead of something accountably higher, universally applicable and responsible, well thought out and discerned in truth. It is very easy to become a society that only cares about itself, yet divided ad intra (within itself) because everyone is too worried about themselves and what is good for them or their group alone. Nonetheless, anything that worries only about itself will lead itself to perdition. If we truly understand real power, it is not there to influence or manipulate people to get what we want. It is not there to become apparently attractive or vocally expressive to get the attention needed, as if to be used only to move and shake things up, but to serve and assist one another, especially the ones who have no voices and are abandoned, ignored, and forgotten by many. True power, especially for Christians, is grounded in humility as to accompany others around us as we recognize in them, brothers and sisters in Christ, as to assist and support them along our faith and life journeys together.
In the Church’s perennial wisdom and treasure, there is a saying in Latin, “Humilitas est veritas.” It means that humility is — reveals — the truth! It means that anything that lacks humility needs to be double check and questioned because only true humility leads and reveals the truth. What is present as a truth requires time to be discerned and to be known in its intention, especially with the test of humility. Therefore, when a new ideology, idea, revolution, thought, agenda, or anything of the like is being presented, we have to give it enough time to reveal its real intention and its truth. If it is not grounded in the truth, especially if it is not humble and aligned with God and His everlasting truth, then we really need to question its real intention, purpose, and validity. This is grounded in Saint Paul‘s first letter to the Thessalonians:
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you, and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” (5:12-22)
Second, it is important to remember that in the midst of all of these cultural and social phenomena, we have to find our way back to being a culture of real compassion, mercy, generosity, and humanity. We have to get back to the fundamental and foundational qualities of what makes us human beings instead of simply saying words, pushing social agendas, churning political thoughts, and other merit-based (but preemptive) things. Have we been kind human beings to those who are around us? Have we taken the time to care about others? Those initial and kickstarting qualities are important because they help us go beyond our own little bubble in order to broaden our horizons, deepen our understanding, and stop worrying about our little circle or group mentality.
Compassion comes from the Latin words, “cum passio,” which challenges us to truly care as to will and to know the other person in order to have the desire to love, even if it means to suffer with him or her. Talk is cheap if we are not willing to invest and give ourselves generously, genuinely, and wholeheartedly as to care and will their goods. Words become nonsubstantial if we are only willing to do things as long as they are beneficial for us instead of denying, give, and offer ourselves for the common goods of society and the greater good of all. Hence, in order to do all of these things, we have to learn to be merciful to others. Mercy, again, comes from the Latin word “misericordia” which means to have the heart to feel the miseries, pains, and sufferings of the other. Both compassion and mercy demand that we go outside of ourselves and its preconceptions, prejudices, and reservations in order to know the person as he or she is. Only when we have that basic human connection (preferably personal) can we truly treat him or her as he or she is, a child of God — a brother and sister, with proper respect and dignity. Only when we know the person who we are talking about and making decisions for can we truly be able to will their greater good and desire the common good for all. Only when we know and love the other in our common bond of charity and humanity can we be moved to truly care and love them with the heart, even if it means to suffer with them. All of these invitations require that we know the people around us, treat them with respect as children of God, and cherish their dignity as human beings. All these things make us humans because they make us know the other person instead of just ideologies, policies, or revolutionary thoughts. Then, and only then, can we truly be generous in the gift of ourselves to care for the common goods of our society and the greater good of all because we discern all things on the same level as them as human beings, brothers and sisters in Christ, and children of God, united by the working and gifts of the Holy Spirit under a common bond of love.
So, how do we solve our world problems? I do not have the sociological or political answers, but I truly believe we can all make personal efforts to cultivate and nurture the culture of real compassion, mercy, generosity, and humanity. Society is not made up of laws and policies, it is bonded and united by the common bond of good men and women who choose to come together for greater goods that are beyond them, their generations, or what they can see or benefit in the now. Society is made up of people who make it what it is through dialogue and respect for one another in the truth by keeping it human! This humanity is not just something in our own image or our desire to create or justify ourselves, but the inherent knowledge and identity of who we really are, created in the image and likeness of God! What makes us real human beings and in touch with our humanity is our willingness to be who we are truthfully in the eye of God, living according to what He is asking of us by keeping His commandments, and putting things into practice by being kind men and women of faith, hope, and love in charity. It is not based on manipulation or exclusion, controlling or demeaning attitudes, but on basic, foundational gifts of what truly makes us humans. It is a respectful, responsible, and accountable use of power not to get what we want but to serve, accompany, and protect the God-given dignity of all in and according to His greatest commandment. What makes us human is our personal and intimate desire to be human in everything that we do and say with other human beings, treating them as we would like to be treated, respecting their dignity and value as His children, so that all of us accompany and journey with one another toward God who has created us.