April 2, 2010

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Like Jesus, let’s be people of love and compassion

David SilerThere is certainly a tremendous amount at stake in our country, our states, our cities and, indeed, our homes with the impending changes to how health care is paid for and provided. I believe that because of the high stakes, emotions are running at an all-time high.

The passion that has been demonstrated by legislators, co-workers, friends, talk show hosts and just about anyone you talk to about health care has been invigorating. It is the kind of passion that makes this country so great.

But, in many cases, passion has spilled over and sped right past anger to rage, and on to hate, bitterness and, in some cases, violence.

Violence does not only take the form of actions that lead to physical harm, but I submit that violence also takes the form of thoughts and words that do harm to the spirit, soul and mind of another.

Marshall Rosenberg coined the term “non-violent communication” in a book that he wrote with a similar title. He makes a brilliant case for learning and practicing communication that is non-violent—or simply communication that is born from love, compassion and understanding. He didn’t say so, but he very accurately described the way that our Savior communicated.

As Catholic Christians, we always look to the founder of our faith, Jesus, for the ultimate example of how to think, act and live. We need not look any further than the Gospel reading from John (Jn 8:1-11) that we read on March 21, which describes the story of the woman caught in adultery.

The angry crowd that gathered around the woman more than 2,000 years ago, ready to express violence by stoning her to death, was surely filled with all kinds of violent thoughts and words toward the woman. We know that Jesus did not express angry words, and I would theorize he had no angry thoughts. Instead, he paused to write something on the ground then invited the crowd to look at their own shortcomings.

Jesus’ own words to the woman were words of love and compassion while being direct about how she should live from here on out. Surely, Jesus was passionate about the situation of adultery, but his passion was expressed as compassion rather than passionate violence.

Passion and even anger have often been great motivators for change. But, as in the example of Jesus, when we pause to take action rooted in love and compassion, the change is real and lasting.

I often receive nasty, hate-filled, angry messages—and I expect more after this column—all from “Catholics.” I always wonder if the writer really believes that communicating like this is the best way to create positive change. Do they feel better after composing and sharing their hate-filled words? Do they think that I will be moved closer to Jesus as a result? I suggest that anger begets anger and violence begets violence—just as compassion begets compassion and love begets love.

Don’t we all feel much more pliable when we are approached from a place of love and respect?

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.)

Local site Links: