Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 16, 2003
Revere, don't revile, those around you
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
I was having lunch with some priest friends recently when the names of other priests surfaced. These are men who have become leaders, many holding important positions of responsibility in the Church.
As each name came up, it was fascinating to see and hear the reaction. Good and talented as the priests we spoke of are, each fell victim to criticism, put-down and sarcasm. The world might think them gifted, but we knew better!
I started wondering why we do things like that. Why, when we've known people for many years, we're inclined to minimize their abilities and achievements.
We went to college with these men and they've been our peers for almost 30 years. We knew them first as teenagers and now as middle-aged men.
So why the quick inclination to criticize? The world may see their glasses as more than half full, but not us. Why do we do that?
The answer, I suspect, is our history together. We've known each other so long that we tend to lock our perceptions into that earlier time frame and are unable or unwilling to re-form perceptions created long ago.
After all, when you've known someone as a teen, it's not easy to take them seriously as an adult. Young people can do some pretty immature things. It's not surprising that we hold on to those images.
But, people do change, develop and mature. We all have the ability to become better people, to advance in wisdom.
Jesus of Nazareth was aware of our inclination to minimize the people we think we know and therefore pigeonhole. He says in the Gospel: "Prophets are not without honour, except in their own country and in their own house." (Matthew 13:57)
And it extends not only to old friends and acquaintances, it happens in family as well. I know a man who recently said as much about his own wife of 20 years. She was a nice and pretty partner when they first married. She's become much more than that since then.
Diagnosed with breast cancer about 10 years ago, she not only fought her way back to good health, but became a crusader against cancer. She organizes annual walks to raise funding for research and runs a support group for other survivors. She's often on the phone, encouraging those who have learned that they have this not uncommon cancer.
She does all this while raising three great kids, holding a job outside the home, and being an active force in her Church community.
This amazes her husband. He told me recently: "I cannot believe this dynamo is the same woman I married. Frankly, I'm shocked by Beth's talents and dedication. I never knew what she was capable of." He said this with equal parts of surprise and pride.
But his surprise is what amazes me. How could he not have seen her potential and possibility? The answer: he had already taken her measure. Even with love, he had decided who Beth was and what she was capable of accomplishing. And he missed her by a mile.
What my friends and I did, what Tom did with Beth is all too common. It's a perfectly human response to people we've known for so long. We minimize and categorize: We miss wonderful possibilities.
The human spirit is limitless. And it doesn't ever have to stop growing. So look again at that friend you think you know. Gaze once more at the wife or husband, child or friend that you thought you knew so completely.
Be open to a new reality. People become so much more than we imagined. Let's have the eyes and ears to see, to listen - and to celebrate the possibilities. They truly are limitless.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: email@example.com.)
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.