These seemingly harmless well-intentioned words, can appear on the surface to be a wonderful wish for someone we love or care about. I submit to you however, that they are rather more platitude than love, and more harmful than good.
The world is filled with people far more experienced than I in many areas of expertise. I do not claim to be an expert in anything, although I do fancy myself a chocolate aficionado. I am a parent of five young adults, yet there are others with many more children, (the Duggers), who could teach me plenty about parenting. I am an experienced youth minister who worked with hundreds of teens for over a decade.
My current profession as a marriage coordinator, has allowed me to talk and work with numerous young and old adults alike, yet compared to some, that is inconsequential. So I offer my thoughts herein as the beginning of what I hope is a rich, well thought-out discussion, requiring your participation.
In reality the words, “do whatever makes you happy” sends shivers down my spine. I have uttered these fateful words in frustration many times in the past. They were most often my surrender phrase used after a painful, emotionally charged discussion which was no longer productive. Looking at the fruit of those words in hindsight, I find a field of rotten produce. Anything that has at its core selfishness, egotism and self-interest can never be good.
Happy is a subjective, transitory state of being. It differs for each of us. When we seek to make ourselves and our desires the focal point, it rarely turns out well. We are made by Love for love. At the heart of love is sacrifice. Love does not place the “I” above the other. Love in fact- real, authentic, genuine love, lays down its life for the other.
Love does not fear speaking the truth, even if it will not be received well. Love seeks what is best for the other, not for itself. There have been many folks I know and love, who chose these ill-fated words rather than speak what is on their hearts to those they care about. “It’s their life,” they tell me, “I’m not getting involved.”
As Christians, God expects us to do just that, speak the truth in love whether popular or not. If those closest to us cannot expect to hear what is ultimately best for them from those who supposedly love them, then who will speak it to them? The culture? Modern media? Their friends?
Speaking truth is risky I know. You don’t make a lot of friends that way. If your end game is what is best for the other, your motivation is out of love, and prayer has been applied to the situation; you must speak up. Words are like seeds scattered in the wind. They are out there, they will eventually find fertile ground; although it may take years.
I know it is scary. I am sometimes so paralyzed by fear of someone’s reactions that I remain quiet. What is it Scripture says about fear? “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (I John 4:18) I know I have a long way to go. So here are some of my personal thoughts based solely on my experiences where I find it most effective to speak the truth in love.
Parents, live out the Baptismal promises made at your child’s Baptism. What do I mean? For the whole of life even into adulthood, you are their parents? What is required to keep our kids Catholic means living our faith, speaking the truth, and witnessing love from the beginning of their lives.
What I see often when working with the engaged is that the seeds planted in their young years is what they remember fondly. It is when families, (modeled first by mom and dad) live out their faith in the day to day that oftentimes brings them back to the Church, when they think about marriage. All the Catholic schooling in the world will not make up for a faith not practiced in the home.
Learn what the Catholic Church teaches on faith and morals. The Catechism is a great starting place. If you have “issues” seek answers. Don’t just assume you know what the Church teaches. Read, study and grow in understanding.
Don’t stop talking when the talking gets tough. If you have laid a good, trustworthy, and open foundation then you can continue the dialogue into the teen and adult years. Do not be afraid of talking to your child and teen about sexuality. If you are unsure yourself, chastity.com is a wonderful resource.
If parents do not talk to their children about the beauty of sexuality that is reserved for marriage, where shall they go to find answers? Theologyofthebody.net is one of many wonderful sites to learn more about this transforming teaching by St. John Paul II.
Do not be afraid to talk about saving sex for marriage or to avoid cohabitation. Many couples already cohabitating never were told by their parents or other faithful adults, why the Church is against it. Parents remain very silent in these areas and could have saved their offspring much pain and heartbreak.
In the workplace
Live your faith authentically. One of Satan’s favorite lies was to discourage talking about and living our faith out loud. I’m not saying get on the corner and make a fool of yourself. Rather, really listen to what your fellow human has to say about their life and don’t be afraid to pray for them, pray with them, or invite them to mass.
Jesus is the answer to a hurting, broken, hungry world. Why do we allow the solution to remain hidden? If someone walking in front of us was in the path of an oncoming car, would we really just pretend they weren’t in mortal danger?
Talk to your friends, co-workers and your extended family about faith. Don’t be afraid. We need to remake a culture and it starts one person at a time. It’s not so much about apologetics as it is about the integrity of our life, especially that space between Monday and Saturday, in the workplace and marketplace.
Start today, right this minute, to promise to live in truth and speak it in love. It won’t be easy, and will take lots of practice. If we all do this, the tide will begin to shift and then we can all be genuinely happy together in heaven, because we did the good work necessary here on Earth.