Life, in all its glory, is pretty messy. Sin skips and trips us through life as we try to be faithful and nothing halts us up more than the compare and contrast game.
You know the game: Why did she do that? Can you believe he said that? I would never…
You would never… lie or cheat, commit adultery or covet your neighbor’s good fortune, speak poorly about another to the advantage of your own reputation?
The golden rule — to love our neighbors as ourselves — is not a friendly suggestion: It is a commandment of God, and it teaches our heart to love until it hurts. And it will hurt, sometimes. Loving another does not mean liking them. It means giving them the benefit of the doubt, holding your own tongue from a harsh rebuke, gentle counseling when they are taking the wrong path, and forgiving.
It means training your mind to combat the vices planted by jealousy: why not me?
Instead of why not me, try, What does God have planned for me?
We all have a different story to tell, a different vocation to fulfill, and our own life to lead. None of us are in charted waters all our life; mistakes will happen. Things will not go as planned; but do not give up hope! God wants the kind of relationship where you wrestle together through the rough patches, like Jacob, unwilling to let go until he received his blessing.
As Holy Week approaches, let us remember that Christ died for us and our sins, and your neighbor and his sins, and that lady who honked her horn at you, and the co-worker whose jokes rub you the wrong way, and the guy who would not just take a hint. Instead of stewing, turn toward prayer. The Book of Lamentations, Job and the Psalms are full of frustrations.
Saint Ambrose wrote in Explanatio Psalmorum (XII, 1, 4, 7-12),
“In the book of Psalms, the way for progress for all men is to be found, and there lies the medicine for the health of all. Whoever reads it, will find the way to cure the wounds of one’s own defects with a specific prescription. Whoever takes the trouble to look at it will find, as on a training ground for virtues, various kinds of exhibitions. And one can choose for oneself, whatever one considers most suitable. The prize is thus more easily within one’s grasp.”
The reality is, we are humans prone to sin. Only God is infallible, and it is wisdom that recognizes our own fallibility as well as that of others’. Instead to dismissing or condemning, we should see others’ weaknesses as an opportunity to be a non-judgmental listener, a support system, and/or, someone to pray with and for them, and hope that they see our own weaknesses in a similar merciful light.
It does no good to say or think: If I had been in that situation, I would have acted differently. We can only learn, and lean more on God. Jesus, I trust in you. Holy Spirit, fill me with courage – give me the words to say.
The sooner we remember that we are responsible for loving God above all and our neighbors as ourselves, the sooner we can forgive as our Heavenly Father forgives, and love as our Heavenly Father loves.