Life in America today is not easy for a lot of people. The economy is poor, jobs are scarce, and it seems like people who want to do the right thing are attacked for it. A business owner cleans up a vacant lot next to his own business at his expense, and the city sues him for it. An Army veteran comes under attack by his homeowner’s association for flying the American flag on his property. A mother has her children taken away by her ex-husband because she was labeled a fanatic for practicing her Catholic faith.
These situations and millions more like it reveal the truth about our society today: right is wrong and wrong is right. Morality is not tolerated anymore, and immorality of every kind is the law of the land. But as Christians, we are called to let our light shine, as we heard in the gospel readings yesterday and today. So how, as a single person, do you accomplish this in a way that makes a difference?
Well, making people think without saying a whole lot is really effective. Allow me to use my brother, Patrick, for a bit of humorous illustration…
In the grocery store, instead of requesting paper bags over plastic, he’ll ask for the stainless steel bags. Inevitably, the clerks pause with confusion.
He approached a female clerk behind the counter in a 7-11 store once and said, “I had my leg amputated this morning and it really hurts. Do you guys sell Tylenol here?” The clerk actually looked over the counter edge to see if he had both legs.
My favorite, though, was when he was walking through a parkinglot and saw a bumper sticker on a car that read, “Question Authority.” The owner was just leaving his car and Pat said, “Hey, I like your bumper sticker.” The guy smiled and said, “Yeah, right?” Then Pat said, “But who gave you the authority to tell me to question authority?” The guy looked confused and just said,”What?” Pat repeated the question. “Who gave you the authority to tell me to question authority?” At that point the guy just turned away, angry. He couldn’t even think it through because all that slogan really meant to him was “rebell.”
And I think that’s a huge problem today. People don’t think things through, they rebell. If they actually thought their position through, they might find out they’re wrong and would be faced with having to do the right thing, which is likely unpopular. So they latch on to politically correct ideas and causes without really understanding what they are taking a stand for. Their passion is strong, but their conviction is only one layer deep and if you challenge them, all they do is get angry and lash back because they cannot defend their position.
I am a firm believer that if you want to make a difference in people’s lives, you must first, be solid in your own beliefs and values and second, approach all people and situations with love. Meaning, recognizing the value of every soul and treating them with kindness and friendship. That’s how people notice who you are and what you’re about. They see the light of Christ that is shining within you and they will be attracted to that.
As a single person, humor is always a great way to attract people. Here are some other tips for how you can affect someone and make him/her think, simply by being yourself:
- Be Honest. Taking the honest approach in everything you do and say. No exaggerated statements, no lies, no private revenge for someone who’s hurt you, no excuses when you’ve made a mistake. Just an honest responsibility for everything you do.
- Be Pure. Not using foul language, telling off-color jokes, or participating in gossip speaks louder than you can imagine. And beyond that, dating with the commitment to avoid sexual intimacy sends a message that makes many others uncomfortable about their own behavior and makes them think (whether they admit it or not).
- Be Joyful! So many people believe that you have to be bad to have fun in life. But as a single person who is honest and chaste, you’ll really make them think when they see your joy for living life. You exemplify the freedom you have from being a slave to sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. People were attracted to Christ because of who He was and the same will be true for you.
Of course, the actual conversions are not up to us, they depend upon God’s grace and the openess of the person being affected. But we still need to do our part. So go ahead and place your light on a lampstand for all to see. You will be a guide for those in the darkness.