If you pay attention to the news these days, you may be noticing more and more that people are increasingly intolerant of each other. I’m not referring specifically to conservatives versus liberals, one particular race versus another, one particular faith versus another, etc., I’m referring to just people in general.
At a time when society has declared for itself that tolerance (despite it’s typically misused meaning) is the supreme virtue by which all shall be judged, it’s interesting to see the very people demanding tolerance are precisely the ones who are intolerant of others.
So we live our lives in disdain of each other, harshly judging those people who might be out of compliance with even the slightest iota of our personal beliefs and writing them off as unimportant. We completely ignore the person in the car next to us, the woman behind the checkout counter, the neighbor a few houses down or in the apartment across from ours.
We fill our day with our own concerns and worries, not noticing the lonely widow mowing her own lawn, the single guy who eats lunch by himself every day or the man sitting across from us in the conference room who just had his children taken away from him by a judge, a lawyer, and the woman who had promised to love him forever.
We blast people who comment on internet news and opinion sites with disparaging and deprecating words. The encounters we have with people day-to-day are rendered meaningless because we are so wrapped up in ourselves. But, I know this is not what God intended…
In the Gospel of John, Christ told his apostles, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”(John 13:35). And in the Gospel of Matthew, He says, “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:47)
So if we call ourselves Christians, we must take the command to love very seriously and in doing so, open our eyes and take note of the people God has put in our paths. But not only that, we need to treat them with dignity, fairness, patience and compassion. Whether we know them or not, like them or not, this is precisely the point where love is supposed to begin, for if you are incapable of loving someone for even a moment, how in the world do you expect to love someone for a lifetime?
I read an interview recently with the actor, Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, 50 First Dates, Rudy, to name a few of his movies) in which he noted his parents, actors John Astin and Patty Duke, always brought him up with the idea that treating people well was a requirement, not an option.
In the article, the actor talks about the frustration he felt toward his father when he made the family late to an event because his father had stopped to talk to someone and took the time to find out his name and a bit of information about him.
Being gracious to people was nice, sure, but was it always necessary? “Well, just shoot me in the head,” he reports his father saying, “because that’s life; every human interaction is sacred.”
Our human interactions are supposed to be sacred! Sacred in the sense that a) everything we do each day should be moving us closer to heaven and b) Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13: 34-35).
I remember in the days that followed 9/11, people were unbelievably nice to each other, considerate on the roads and in line at the market. It was almost as if we had the reality of that sacredness knocked into us and for the first time in a long time, we actually saw each other and we became interested in what was happening with each other.
Maybe we can bring that idea back to the forefront of society—the idea that love between human beings is sacrosanct—and not let it die. I pray for it, pray that it’s not too late. As Catholics, maybe we can take this bull by the horns and through our commitment to Christ, become the catalyst for reviving a tone of true tolerance and love for family, friends, and citizens.
As always, I love hearing your comments and answering your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.