Before Choosing a “Side”…

July 4, 2020

As we celebrate July 4th and the birth of our nation, a few thoughts for your consideration:

I have tuned into the nightly news and followed social media ad nauseam in recent months, watching events in our country unfold: the ups and downs of the pandemic and the arguments and conflict that have ensued; the passionate fight for the rights of all Americans; and the organized effort to address the issue of systemic racism in our country.

It seems that it is human nature to quickly choose a “side.” These types of challenging situations are very seldom viewed objectively, as topics to be presented and discussed. Society instead views tough situations subjectively; strong emotions and the intense desire to be right overrule any inclination toward open dialogue.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not questioning anyone’s right or inclination to be emotionally invested. It is when our emotions immediately join forces with our desire to be right that open dialogue and respect for others is pushed aside. To complicate matters, there are often people on both “sides” of these emotionally-charged issues that bring their own agendas to the table, muddying the waters for those of us who may be trying to understand what is at stake and making the situation even more divisive.

I offer this scripture passage as food for thought:

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

I would like to suggest that we take a breath and push the pause button before choosing a “side.” It seems that a good first step would be for each of us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Do I take my responsibility as a Christian to love my neighbor as myself seriously? If so, are my actions toward my neighbors on the other “side” reflecting that love?
  • Do I support the teachings of the Catholic Church on the dignity of all human beings? If so, would that be obvious to the people on the other “side”?
    • Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity. (CCC 1934)
    • Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design. (CCC 1935)
  • Are my thoughts and actions socially just or driven by the desire to be right?
  • And finally — is there a wooden beam in my eye?

You may have noticed that I used quotation marks each time I used the word “side(s)”. That is because when it comes to social justice, the dignity of all human beings, and the call to treat others with respect, “sides” should not exist. These Christian tenets should form the common ground from which all topics, regardless of how challenging, are discussed openly and honestly. A strategy of open and honest dialog offers hope in these challenging times and advances the will of God.

Free will offers us the opportunity to choose our actions. I would humbly suggest that before we choose a “side”, we first choose to take a look in the mirror.

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