June 25, 2010

Charity and Friendship

The other day I spent some time with an older parish couple who love to recount all of their travels and adventures. To hear them speak, it seems like everyone they ever met was the most wonderful person ever and everywhere they went the most delightful.

It raises a spiritual question for me. Why is it that some people go through life sustained by the happiness of making friends with all kinds of people who are interesting, thoughtful, and a joy to meet and get to know, while other people go through the world finding other people to be annoying, aggravating, and difficult to live or work with?

Are they meeting totally different sets of people? I doubt it. The difference is not in others, but in ourselves. More and more I realize that our day-to-day spiritual health and peace depends a good deal on how we consider and relate to other people. In order to achieve the happiness of being the kind of person who finds others to be enjoyable and interesting, a twofold ascesis is required. First, I must train my thoughts to look upon the best parts of others, considering their goodness before anything else. Second, by my speech and action, I must be a peaceful presence to them, a good influence, and someone who brings out their better qualities. The name of this ascesis is charity. When we find the person who is able to do the same thing for us, it is called friendship.

7 comments:

Jeanne said...

I firmly believe that we get what we give, and our perception and filters on events color them for good or ill. I also believe that if we salute the Christ in everyone we meet - see them as a child of God, despite their flaws - we can see the good, and somehow, it works and the relationship or situation improves. I think the couple you know is doing this somehow. When they meet someone, they are not looking to judge, or criticize. They look for the good and thus they find it!

Rachel Gray said...

I read an interesting argument that the way to understand people is to impute the best motives to their actions-- because in our own heads we always do think we have good motives. If you're thinking, "That person was rude to me because she's a jerk who has it in for me," well, not only are you being uncharitable but you're also judging her inaccurately and you won't come to understand her that way.

ben in denver said...

It could be that just as God gives us each different gifts personally, He also gives us other people in different ways as gifts as well. For some, their gift just might be seeing the best in people and having a good time, for some their gift might be the opportunity to suffer with others and bring them the comfort of Christ, while for others their gift might be to suffer at the hands of others so that they can most closely identify with Christ and draw closer to Him.

We need only be mindful that everything--even all of the people whom we meet--is from the Lord and in accordance with His great love for us.

Jennifer said...

Thank you Father, I needed this reminder! There have been times in my life when I think I appreciated people for who they were much more than I have recently. This was a good reminder for me that the people I'm around now are not more pleasant than people I used to be around... but that I am not treating them as pleasantly as I should!

4narnia said...

nice post, Fr. C! what you say is exactly right! it definitely starts with us and the way we relate to others. it isn't always easy, but when we see the good in others and see Christ in others, it makes a difference. your last sentence in your post reminds me of the words to a hymn we sing at church - "where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found." the rest of those words to this hymn are good to meditate on. PAX! ~tara t~

Jack Regan said...

One of the chief callings in life is to see good in one another; indeed, to see God in one another. If only we could all learn to do that, then maybe it would make some of the contentious debates within the Church that little bit easier.

Julia said...

Reminded me of this:

"Must you continue to be your own cross? No matter which way God leads you, you change everything into bitterness by constantly brooding over everything. For the love of God, replace all this self-scrutiny with a pure and simple glance at God's goodness." -- St. Jeanne de Chantal