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8th Commandment Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Martina Sacraments Ten Commandments

The Art of Keeping it Classy Online

 

The world really showed what it wants to be when news outlets recently made the decision to run a partial story. What happened next could have happened to you, your child, your spouse, or another loved one.

How we behave in real life and how we behave online ought to be similar. Let me say that again.

How we behave in real life and how we behave online ought to be similar.

The disconnect between who we are in real life and who we become online (as a society) has become so polarizing in and of itself. I frequently head out into my local community to do mundane stuff, like pick up groceries, go shopping, go to church, meet with friends, order food, etc. I have yet to run into someone in my everyday who behaves like some a lot of the folks I see commenting online. The temptation to stick your oar in is great. When Catholic Sistas began, many of the writers – myself included – had many years of online experience under our belts going in. We had seen quite a bit and witnessed the underbelly of many online forums. Sometimes under the guise of “debate” the discussions quickly devolved into ad hominem attacks. While there are plenty of opportunities to witness for the Catholic Faith, we had to also recognize that the comboxes (slang for comments on blogs/websites) could quickly spiral into occasions of sin, if not outright breeding grounds for dissent. We collectively determined that we would not babysit the comboxes, but instead would put in place a standard for leaving comments, rooted in Christian charity. So, how can we carry ourselves online in these polarizing times in a way that upholds what we believe as Catholics? Here are some quick tips of mine that I’ve developed over the years, going back to 1994 when I was the teenager online.

HOW TO KEEP IT CLASSY

  1. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, then don’t say it to them online. Going back to 2007, I witnessed a once well-respected online community devolve into what could only be described as a public sewer. Under the guise of being called a Debate Team, its original purpose was to engage in constructive conversation involving some hotly debated topics. It started out fine, but eventually became a cesspool that original members began to back out of. The writing was on the wall and people’s true colors came out. But, why had it become such a toxic environment? Was it due to lax rules? Lax leadership? Members constantly pushing the boundaries, stretching the rules in ways that led to the implosion of the group? Or was it simply an indicator that if left unchecked, people would turn to a mob mentality?
  2. Avoid posting on unhappy or angry impulse. Take a step back, wait and pray. Posts/comments should come from joyful experience, sincere curiosity, thoughtful reasoning, tender concern, and lessons learned. In listening to and receiving the thoughts of others, PAUSE before posting/commenting in haste or out of emotion.
  3. You are responsible for your words. Allow them to reflect a spirit of charity, understanding and good will. 
  4. Give special care when writing about your spouse and the Sacrament of Marriage. By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies…and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Casti Connubii #7. When an issue treads into the sacred realm of marriage, be deferential to different marital styles, always assuming the best of our spouses. Prudential decisions are best left between spouses. 
  5. Respect the differences of personalities and family styles. Intend charity when reading, do not assume offense is intended.
  6. Avoid lying, in all senses of the word. The Church warns us against the danger of lying: through rash judgement (who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor), detraction (who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them), and calumny (who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them).

WAIT! I’ve done all these things before. Now what?

It’s not ok, but…it’s something most of us grapple with. We’ve all slipped and made mistakes. Seek out forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then with those whom you’ve harmed by giving them your apologies and making restitution where possible. You can also read up on the damaging effects of excuses on how to craft an authentic apology.

Lastly, I leave you with this story that makes a rather profound statement of the effects of gossip and its pernicious nature. It is the story of a most unusual penance St. Philip Neri assigned to a woman for her sin of spreading gossip.

The 16th century saint instructed her to take a feather pillow to the top of the church bell-tower, rip it open, and scatter the feathers to the four winds. This probably was not the kind of penance this woman, or any of us, would have been used to. But the penance didn’t end there. Philip Neri gave her a second, and more, difficult task. He told her to come down from the bell-tower and collect all the feathers that had been dispersed throughout the town. The poor woman, of course, couldn’t do it – and that was the point Philip Neri was trying to make in order to underscore the destructive nature of gossip. When we detract from others in our speech, our malicious words are scattered abroad, and cannot be gathered back. They continue to spread dishonour and division in people’s minds days, months, and even years after we have spoken them, as they pass from one tale-bearer to the next.

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8th Commandment Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Liz Ten Commandments The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

The Danger of Being “Fine”

“I’m fine.”

“Just great!”

“Doing well, thanks.”

No matter how we’re actually feeling or doing, it’s generally considered a matter of American etiquette to put on a cheery face and respond nicely to anybody and everybody we meet who asks the quintessential question of politeness: “How are you?” Even in the face of grief, loss, injury or suffering, you’ll hear folks attempting to respond to the question with as much positivity as they can muster.  It’s almost reflexive.

Have the flu or broke your arm? “Oh, I’m doing OK, really!” 

Just had a 24-hour labor ending in a C-section or finished a round of chemo? “Oh, I’m just a little tired. I’m sure I’ll be on my feet in no time!”

Someone you love passed away? Going through a divorce? “Oh, I’m ‘getting there’ one day at a time!”

While societal customs insist we put on our bravest, happiest attitude for everything from the casual encounter on the street to the concerned inquiry from a friend, are we really doing ourselves any favors by defaulting to “fine?”

 In this Washington Post article from last July, pediatrician Dr. Smita Malhotra talks about shifting her outlook on defaulting to a happy face after she realized she was lying to her young daughter about her feelings.  She comments that, as a physician, she can clearly see the damage that forced positivity has on mental health:

“By constantly telling children to “turn that frown upside down,” our society sends them the message that being sad is almost unnatural. That it is something that needs to be fixed immediately … In my work as a physician I have seen increasing numbers of children and young adults being put on antidepressants. In many cases, these drugs are needed … But sometimes, they are used as a way to avoid dealing with sadness.”

Dr. Malhotra goes on to explain how mindfulness and honesty about one’s own emotions is a healthier choice that leads to greater resilience, more empathy for others and a realization that we do not have to be defined by our feelings.  Her column comes from a secular and medical viewpoint, but her words also have great value for those of us who live the Christian life. What she’s talking about is actually directly related to one of the Ten Commandments. Number Eight, specifically.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Before you go feeling panicked you’ve got one more reason to head to the confessional, let’s put the brakes on for a moment.

It’s not a mortal sin to let “I’m just fine,” slip out of your mouth when someone asks you how you’re feeling.  And it’s not immoral to want to protect others from your own suffering, or keep your personal problems private, or put on a happy face, or make the best out of any bad situation.  The Catechism summarizes the Eighth Commandment as “forbid[ding] misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others.”  It defines a lie as “speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”  It also makes clear that intention and circumstances often define the gravity of a fib, and that we’re never bound to reveal information to someone who has “no right to know it.”

But it’s also not being needy, or too negative, or a “complainer” to be politely open and honest with anyone, even a stranger, who asks what’s going on in your life.  In fact, this approach has a lot of spiritual benefits to recommend it.

Displaying our mental, physical and spiritual wounds to those who inquire about them grows us in humility and truthfulness.  It makes us vulnerable like Christ was vulnerable, but it also allows others the chance to be Christ by ministering to our needs.  It opens up channels of trust by allowing others in our lives to see our true selves, and it helps us all dispel the widespread and anti-Christian societal illusion that the only people worth associating with are the ones who “have it all together.”

So the next time you’re having a bad day and someone asks you how you are, pause a moment and considering answering more honestly.

“I’m struggling a little today.”

“Oh, my heart hurts over the things going on in the world.”

“I’m working on feeling positive this morning, but I’m not there yet.”

“Not so well. Actually, could you help me with this?”

You might feel needy and awkward, but you might also find God’s comfort and love hiding in an unexpected place. 

And that is just fine.

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

 
Categories
8th Commandment Faith Formation Mary P. Ten Commandments

Bearing False Witness

Election season is upon us. We’ve already been treated to debates among the potential Republican nominees and poorly-veiled campaigning by the current President, and we have just under a year left ahead of us for more debates, town hall meetings, questionable campaign promises, and attack ads on television. But don’t worry – this post isn’t about who should win the Republican nomination or why the Republicans need to beat Obama in 2012. This post is about a topic that transcends partisan politics. Something that has infected our entire political process. Something that we take for granted as simply being “par for the course” around election time. That “something” is an offense against the Eighth Commandment, called “calumny.”

I’ve found that “calumny” is a little-known word, even among Catholics. I know that I had never even heard the word until sometime within the last few years, and when I told one of my Catholic friends that I was writing about calumny for the blog, she responded “calumwho?” It may be an unfamiliar word to many, but it’s not an unfamiliar concept, I’m sure. It’s essentially the same thing as slander or libel. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it as making remarks contrary to the truth, which are harmful to the reputation of others and give occasion for false judgment of them. “Calumny” is the appropriate word for so much of what people say about Catholics and especially about our Church leadership (for example, “Pope Benedict is/was a Nazi” – a charge which couldn’t be further from the truth).

Calumny is related to rash judgment and detraction because they are all offenses against truth, and more specifically offenses against the respect that we owe to the reputations of others. They violate the overarching command to love our neighbors as ourselves. I find it interesting that the Eighth Commandment, which we all take to encompass all types of lying, specifically names the kind of lying where you speak an untruth against your neighbor. This is a serious sin, and we need to take heed!

I may not need to connect the dots for you, but in case I do, this is related to election season because, unfortunately, a lot of what passes for “campaigning” among political candidates these days is nothing more than mudslinging, which often involves calumny (in addition to both rash judgment and detraction). Candidates on both sides of the party line actually seek to damage the reputation of other candidates. I believe that some “dirt” that is “dug up” against candidates is fabricated whole cloth for the sole intention of destroying their chances to be elected; other times, partial truths are twisted into untruths. It’s not just candidates who do this to each other, sadly. Sometimes this happens via the large portion of people in the mainstream media who are not so much concerned with truth as they are with their personal ideology.

I promise that I am not writing this post for the purpose of pointing fingers at political candidates and mainstream media members. I began this post talking about politics because I thought it was an extremely accessible application of the principle of calumny – something we could all understand. To be honest (which is important in a piece on the Eighth Commandment!), I foolishly failed to see it as a sin that would be easy for the average good-willed person to fall into, or a sin that I personally struggled with. Oh how naïve I was! After starting this piece, I suddenly realized that I am much more tempted toward calumny than I had thought I was, and I bet it is something that we have all struggled with.

It’s true that I am very unlikely to fabricate out of thin air a story about someone and then spread it around to damage their reputation. I despise outright lying, and am much more tempted to commit detraction (sharing true but damaging information about other people). But how likely am I to share second-hand stories about others (especially regarding politics) without honestly assessing whether the stories are true? How likely am I to jump unthinkingly on the chance to help damage the reputation of a person who I think is undeserving of a good reputation and needs to be “exposed” for who they really are? The answer to those questions is that it’s more likely than I’d like to admit. And if I were to spread around a second- hand story about someone without concerning myself too much with its truth, and with the express hope of making people look askance at that person, is that really very different than fabricating a story myself?

I want to tell my readers not to worry about my being tempted by this sin, because at least I am only tempted to do it because of good intentions! I’m not like those other people who commit this sin. The only time I would ever spread around a damaging story without caring about whether it was true is when there is a good reason! People need to know who these people really are – and even if this or that particular story is untrue, that doesn’t mean that what it says about the person is untrue….

That’s what I wish I could say to my readers. I wish I could say that my sins aren’t really sins because I have good intentions. I wish I could say that I am so much better than the people who commit the same sins with much more nefarious purposes in mind. It’s so easy to point fingers at other people who we think are committing sins out of pure evil or selfish intentions, and whitewash over our own sins because of the fact that we think we are committing those sins for a good reason. But then we aren’t being honest with ourselves, are we? We aren’t remembering that Scripture and our Catholic faith teach us that we can never do something evil for the purpose of bringing about good. Getting back to the political theme, even if Candidate A is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Candidate B cannot make stuff up about him in order to ensure that he does not win the White House. And I cannot uncritically pass on that made-up stuff because I want everyone to know just how evil Candidate A is.

It can be so tempting to think that we must stop at nothing in order to ensure that this or that candidate does not have control of the White House – especially when millions of human lives are on the line, as is the case in the fight against legal abortion. At those times that we are tempted, we’d do well to remember who the “father of lies” is, and Who the Truth is. How can we ever hope to be victorious for the Truth when we are using the tactics of the “father of lies”? The reality is that we cannot hope for that. It’s nonsensical to think that we will beat satan by breaking the Commandments given to us by our Lord. Scripture tells us that the Truth will set us free! We have to place our trust in that – in HIM – even if it means that we have to endure periods of time where great evil is being done in our nation. When we resort to using sinful means in order to bring about a perceived good, we have given up true hope and trust, and despaired of the power of God. We have grown impatient and decided that He isn’t working fast enough and that we have to step in and get the job done more quickly. We have sacrificed the health of our own immortal souls for some lesser good.

But if I’m being REALLY honest with myself, I also would have to admit that my sins aren’t all committed for noble purposes (shocking, I know)! There have been times when I have been tempted toward calumny for purely selfish reasons. How often have I at least wanted to embellish a story about someone or, as political candidates sometimes do, to twist a partial truth so much that there was barely a semblance of truth left by the time I was finished – all for the purpose of making myself feel better or look better in someone else’s eyes? How often have I actually followed through with it? How often have I let my emotions overshadow my love for the truth, such that I convinced myself that something negative about another person was true when I knew deep down that it wasn’t – and then shared that “truth” with someone else because I was hurt or angry?

Again, the answer to those questions is “more often than I’d like to admit.” It appears as though calumny is a sin that is easier to fall into than I had thought. So, I need to be on guard against it, as do we all – especially because calumny can be grave matter and thus can constitute a mortal sin (depending on how damaging the untruths are to a person’s reputation and whether the other usual conditions for mortal sin are met).

One of the best ways to avoid both detraction and calumny is to have a general rule not to gossip or talk badly about other people. I know – it’s so easy to fall into the trap of gossiping, or “venting” when someone upsets you, especially if you are surrounded by people who have no qualms about doing those things.  But through the grace of God (and, practically speaking, the avoidance of near occasions of sin), I believe we can conquer any sin that tempts us. We have to pray for that grace to overcome the urge to do injustice against our neighbors (even when we think they really really deserve it!). We have to pray for a zeal for the truth.

As we enter into the New [Liturgical] Year, let us resolve to be more mindful about how we can honor the truth and love our neighbors as ourselves (yes, even the neighbors we dislike), and to avoid occasions of rash judgment, detraction, and calumny. As we tidy and decorate our homes in preparation for Christmas festivities, let us clear out the cobwebs in our hearts and souls and prepare our spiritual houses for the coming of our Savior!

 

Eighth Commandment image borrowed from  http://www.christian-myspace-layouts.com.

Image of gossiping women by Stuart Miles.

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8th Commandment Colleen Faith Formation Ink Slingers Ten Commandments

Can You BELIEVE She Did That!?

As Martina wrote in her post about rash judgment from a few weeks ago, often when we think about the 8th Commandment, we assume it means:

 thou shalt not lie

{read with ominous voice}

However, as she pointed out, detraction is a sin that also falls under the 8th Commandment, and it doesn’t involve lying at all. The opposite, in fact: detraction is the the vice in which we disclose, without good reason, another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them. (CCC 2477) Basically, detraction is gossip.

The problem with detraction (besides the fact that it is sinful) is that IT’S TRUE; therefore, it’s easily justifiable in our minds. While we can still get that little guilty twinge of “Maybe I shouldn’t say this, it’s really not very nice…”, we can convince ourselves that it’s okay because “I’m not lying!” But simply “not lying” isn’t good enough – we must not tell a truth that is damaging to another’s reputation. Everyone is entitled to their good name, and to be given the benefit of the doubt. This is a basic principle of common decency. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Socrates said, “Regard your good name as the riches jewel you can possibly be possessed of.” Regardless of how TRUE the tidbit of information we are about to share is, if it injures another person’s reputation, it is detraction.

Courtesy of oliviadelamere.files.wordpress.com

It’s also important to not spin something neutral into something bad. For instance, if we are having a conversation about how to handle potty training with a friend,* we might feel compelled to mention that ANOTHER friend, Sarah, is also having difficulties with potty training, and how we were JUST talking about this same thing this morning! In fact, her son had already had 2 accidents today. While mentioning this is not bad in itself, SO OFTEN conversations like this can turn into: “Well, he has some discipline problems on top of that. It doesn’t seem like Sarah knows how to handle him. Actually, at church the other day, you should have seen what he was doing! And Sarah didn’t even blink an eye.”… and then the conversation turns into a 10 minute commentary on Sarah’s poor parenting skills.

The internet can be a huge stumbling block for those who struggle with gossip. Before, the avenues for gossip were limited to phone conversations and face-to-face contact with people. Now all we have to do is to turn on our computer, and we have the ability to have contact with millions of other people, most of whom we don’t even know. We could go to the effort to write a blog post about another person that’s annoying us, or we could make it even simpler. All it takes is one Facebook or Twitter update to broadcast to the world the faults of others. Some people are more subtle in their approach: “People who can’t afford necessities shouldn’t be buying luxuries!”, while others are more blunt: “OMGosh, my sister-in-law complains ALL the time about how she can barely put food on the table, and yet she smokes a pack a day and took her kids to the movies last night! $9 a ticket! And they got popcorn! And drinks! That probably cost her $80! How totally irresponsible – I’m so furious! I don’t know how I’ll even be able to have a pleasant conversation with her at Thanksgiving dinner.” Yeah, some people actually do this kind of thing! Not only is this detraction, it is also just completely unclassy. And the unclassy meter maxes out if your sister-in-law is actually on your friend list. (Not that being classy makes something less sinful – often it’s quite the contrary. Gossip is often disguised as something fashionable, and those who refuse to participate may be considered “socially awkward” or “self-righteous.”)

Courtesy of www.debbieschlussel.com

In fact, most of what counts as “celebrity news” today is really just detraction. Sure, some stories are positive, but the majority of them are negative, broadcasting to the world things that should be kept private, or putting a negative spin on positive news. (And while many people justify it: “These people are in the public eye, so they should expect to be talked about!” Yes, but that doesn’t make it right, and that doesn’t mean we have to participate in it.)

Sins against the 8th Commandment, including detraction, are not only sins against charity (as are all sins), but also sins against justice. Sins against justice require restitution – that is, those who have sinned against justice must repair the harm done to their neighbor, as much as he is able. But making restitution for the sin of detraction is quite difficult – we can’t exactly undo the ideas we’ve planted into others’ heads.

In instructions he gave to a penitent, St. Philip Neri illustrated how difficult it is to undo gossip. The woman confessed that she had been gossiping, and St. Philip told her to climb to the top of the church bell tower, rip open a feather pillow and let the feathers fly into the wind. The woman performed the task and returned, where she was told that the second part of her penance was to go to town and collect each of the feathers that she had scattered. She attempted, but it was, of course, an impossible task – they had blown every which way, and she would never be able to collect them all. So it is with gossip – once the words have left our lips, there is no way to get them all back.

How can we make restitution for this sin, then? We cannot go back and deny the statements we previously made, if they are true, since we would be guilty of lying (and lying, even to make someone else look good, is still wrong.) However, we CAN apologize for the statements we made, and we can praise the person whom we have detracted. Because we have lowered their esteem in the eyes of another, we must seek to restore their reputation. If we have detracted in a group setting, or we know that our gossip has spread beyond the first friend, we must try to restore the reputation publicly, so that all who heard the gossip will also hear the praise.

Of course, the best offense is a good defense. We can avoid situations where we know there will be widespread gossip, if at all possible. If we find ourselves in a situation where others are gossiping, we must not participate in the sin ourselves. Rather, we can attempt to change the conversation, or to say something good about the person to direct the conversation in a different direction. We can also show displeasure over what is being said. Gossip thrives on an attentive listener. If we act bored with what is being said, or appear saddened by what we hear (rather than enthralled with the juicy details), the detractor may realize that we are not the appropriate audience. If all else fails, we should leave the conversation. If we struggle with gossip on the internet, shut it off.

A good rule of thumb is: “Would I say this if the person I’m speaking about were standing in front of me?” Or, as Christ says in Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” If the words about to escape our lips are words that we would not appreciate being said about us, zip it. It isn’t very hard to tell if you’re slipping from innocent conversation into detraction – if you can insert the words “Can you BELIEVE he/she did/said that!?” into the conversation rather seamlessly, then it is likely detraction.

Many have fallen by the mouth of the sword, but not as many as have perished by their own tongue. ~ Sirach 28:22 

In addition to the sinfulness of detraction, relationships are destroyed and feelings are hurt by gossip. We attack those whom we should be assisting along their path towards holiness. St. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” Let us banish gossip from our hearts and our tongues. Instead of sowing seeds of contention through gossip, let us sow seeds of peace through charity in our words, for Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

**********

Note: There ARE times where it is permitted to reveal the faults of others; however, they are few and far between. I refer you to Fr. John Hardon’s writings on detraction.

 

* I apologize to those who are not mothers of toddlers for the potty training reference. Feel free to mentally insert a different example, such as an incident with a coworker.
** All examples in this post are hypothetical, especially the sister-in-law part. No sins of detraction were committed while writing.

**********

This is the second part in a series of posts on the 8th Commandment. Part One can be found here.

Categories
8th Commandment Faith Formation Ink Slingers Martina Ten Commandments

You just. don’t. know.

Have you ever had this happen to you? You sit down in the pew before Mass starts, you pull down the kneeler and begin to say your prayers. When you’re done, you sit back and calmly look at the beauty of the altar and what’s about to transpire in a matter of minutes. Then, you hear people whispering behind you. The whispering turns to low chatter. After several attempts of ignoring, it’s enough to aggravate you and tear you away from mentally and spiritually preparing for the Sacred Mysteries. Your eyes and ears are now fixated on other things going on in church…and not in a good way. Your eyes are drawn to a family that looks like they just walked off the boardwalk. You look away, saying nothing. But the damage is done. The thought that crossed your mind did enough damage by rendering rash judgment of a situation or person.

 The eighth commandment is one that seems fairly simple to follow…but is it? On the surface it reads very straight forward –

 thou shalt not lie

{read with ominous voice}

What does that encompass, exactly? According to the Baltimore Catechism, it outlines the eighth commandment as one that commands truth and forbids lying. {Incidentally, I find the irony too delicious to keep to myself. While writing this, I had my oldest bring me the catechism. She quickly located the 8th commandment and then handed it to me, using an examination of conscience brochure as her “bookmarker” – is she trying to tell me something??} I have to say I really like the Baltimore Catechism because it doesn’t mince words and uses fancy words to describe sins, making it easy for me to not only identify what my faults are but say exactly what they are to the priest…I can also give the illusion of being smart, too, while repenting. It’s win-win! There are several sins that fall under the category of lying – rash judgment, detraction, calumny, and telling secrets we are bound to keep. We will spend future articles addressing the other sins so I will focus on rash judgment for today’s entry.

I want to start with rash judgment because thoughts typically infiltrate our minds first. We don’t often say something without first thinking it. A person commits the sin of rash judgment when, without sufficient reason, he believes something harmful to another’s character.

The problem with rash judgment is it appears innocent enough…oh, it was just a thought {if you’re lucky enough that it didn’t escape your mouth!}. It can be easy to justify or brush off as “it wasn’t that bad” but the effects are very real. I heard it best said once, “the best way to kill your conscience is to ignore it.”

If you find yourself criticizing someone who is wearing a veil to Mass because she must be “holier than thou” or thinking to yourself that the family next to you with only one or two children must contracept, keep in mind those thoughts are where it starts.

It’s a mentality that plagues all of us at one point or another, myself included.

 

Myself especially.

 

It is something that really drives me in my faith because I detest what it does to myself, I detest what it does to my friends, I detest what it does to strangers when I see it happen. It makes me cringe to think this is something we do by default, when we lack true charity in our hearts.

So, how can we combat this all-too-easy-to-fall-into-the-trap sin? Well, I’m a huge advocate for piquing awareness, or the constant realization of our wrong doings. Let’s call it an ongoing daily examination of conscience. We can first start by recognizing on our own when we first formulate those thoughts. One way I personally combat this is to actively come up with a list of plausible antidotes to my flawed thinking. So, when an ugly thought crosses my mind, I automatically force myself into a “what if” scenario and then make myself reflect on the damage my initial thought causes others…and especially myself if I dwell on it too long.

Let’s go back to the family with two children I described above. The first thought that could pop into my head about making assumptions about family size, or worse, accusing them {if only through my thoughts} of not being open to life…my immediate thought process in order to combat this could be the following:

  1. Would God be pleased with this thinking of mine in judgment of others?”
  2. Place myself in their situation. This family may have struggled with primary or secondary infertility. They may have a unique medical situation that precludes them from having the large family they thought they would have. There could be a myriad of reasons that aren’t known to me…nor should it be.
  3. And lastly, considering I am sitting in Mass while having this thought, shouldn’t my attention be on Christ anyway? This distraction, and certainly the negativity of it does not come from God.

We are called to lift each other up, not tear each other down.

Our homework from now until the next time we meet to continue discussing the 8th commandment* and all the fun new words for sins is to pique that awareness when we are headed down the road of rash judgment. Do your best to pinpoint those flaws because your best weapon against overcoming rash judgment is to know when it happens.

*I had been wanting to write something about rash judgment for such a long time that when I finally did, the obvious next thought came to mind – too late. It would be PERFECT to start a Ten Commandments series! Of course, this would ideally start with the 1st commandment, not the 8th. So for that, I apologize that it will appear choppy as we start going through each of the commandments. Mea culpa.