I’m not sure if this has always been the case or if I am more in-tune to it now that I am an adult, but it appears that the prevailing attitude in society is that if you don’t agree with someone’s choices, you hate them.
This is a harmful attitude that distorts both truth and the meaning of love.
There is absolute truth in this world.
There are things that are definitively right and wrong.
We may disagree on this, but I recognize that the fullness of truth is found in the Catholic Church*.There is absolute truth in this world. Click To Tweet
However, the truth can be a tough pill to swallow. Father Dwight Longenecker acknowledges this much when he said “Truth sounds like hate to those who hate truth.”
Sometimes, that truth is an acknowledgment that we are harming ourselves. Sometimes, that truth looks an awful lot like a cross. Sometimes, that truth feels like an attack on what we view as an integral part of our identity.
Inside that truth is love: the love of Christ willing a holy life so we can experience eternal happiness in union with Him. I’d much rather find beauty in the ugly than live my life believing something is beautiful only to realize it is harming me.
Knowing that the Catholic Church promotes all that is good, true, and beautiful, I want to share this with others. I also know that this will be met with rejection and anger. Though it may be painful, it is still necessary to share the truth.
Jim Burnham even goes so far as to say “Withholding the truth of Catholicism would be even more uncharitable than withholding a cure for cancer.”
However, if we present the truth without love, in most cases, it won’t be received well.
Love means willing the good of the other. Sometimes, this will mean calling someone out if they are doing something harmful. Unconditionally supporting someone we love and not trying to help them do better is not love; it is selfishly putting our fear of rejection above the best interests of the person we claim to love.
However, sharing these truths doesn’t matter if it isn’t done out of love.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
We also need to evaluate our motives. Are we sharing the truth because we believe we have moral superiority or are we sharing the truth because we love the other person? The truth is important, but if we share it because we wrongly believe we are less sinful than the person we are sharing it with, we are not helping them and are harming our own souls.
We need to base our interactions on love and compassion.
We must seek to understand what others feel even when we disagree.
We need to treat them as who they truly are: people with immortal souls, made in the image and likeness of God, deserving of respect and upholding their inherent dignity.
If you love me, tell me the truth.
When people talk about encouraging others not to sin, they often resort to a parent and small child relationship. While these are certainly valid comparisons, I think it treats us as though we are moral superiors rather than people who are both sinners longing for truth and the love of God. Accordingly, I am going to share a personal example of someone telling me I wasn’t doing what was best for me. Though it still relates to a parent and child relationship, I was an adult at the time.
While we were still in college, Ben and I were broken up for a while. This was an incredibly broken time for me. My mental illness issues grew to a borderline unbearable level, academic stress was eating away at me, I was very ill with type 1 diabetes but hadn’t been diagnosed, and the man I planned on marrying broke up with me. It’s also worth noting that my relationship with God was not good at the time. Ok, it was bad. I was longing for love that I didn’t recognize I needed from God, and I was seeking it in human relationships.I was longing for love that I didn’t recognize I needed from God. Click To Tweet
A friend I had known for eight years and I were hanging out, and I shared all the hurt I had been feeling. He comforted me, and this eventually led to a relationship. In my mind, this was something wildly romantic: we had known each other for years, but after both of us having failed relationships, we were both single at the same time and found each other. In hindsight, I realize that the comfort I got from being cared for and caring for another person was filling the void that was yearning for God, but at the time, I just thought I was happy.
My parents, however, recognized that this was not a healthy relationship. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the relationship, but I ignored it because being in that relationship made me feel better, and I mistook that feeling better as a sign I was doing the right thing.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad relationship. He cared about me a lot. He helped me as I came to understand my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. He cared about me. He wanted to take care of me and give me the love I was longing for. If it wasn’t for the mistakes I made after he and I ended it, I suspect we would still be friends.
However, I shouldn’t have been in a relationship. I was totally destroyed by my break-up with Ben. I felt hurt and broken and unlovable and clung to what made me feel better rather than what I truly needed. Obviously, I see this all now as I look back, but at the time, I couldn’t understand why my parents didn’t want me to be happy.
While I was at SEEK, I started to realize that my relationship wasn’t as beautiful as I believed it to be, and I begged God to tell me what I needed to do. As soon as I finished that pleading prayer, I received an e-mail from my dad. In it, he beautifully expressed how much he loved me and why he was concerned about my relationship.
Because my parents love me, they told me the truth.
While this relationship made both him and I happy, and it maybe would’ve stayed that way, there was something better out there for both of us. While in this situation, there was something better for us in earthly terms, for everyone who receives the truth, that something better is drawing closer to God.
The key to this story is that my father found the proper balance of compassion and truth. As Bishop Robert Barron says “Love without truth devolves into sentimentality. Truth without love becomes cold and calculated.”
We need to keep this in our minds when we share the truth with others.
Where Truth and love meet
As Christians, we need to show our friends, family members, and even strangers that we care about them as people. We need to acknowledge our common position as beloved children of God and also sinners. If we don’t start with love, the truth will fall aside.
If we avoid the truth, we are harming them. It is true they may be happy and not experience that harm now, but it could permanently destroy their relationship with God which is much more important.
Saint Augustine said, “the greatest kindness one can render to any man is leading him to truth.” Bishop Robert Barron provides the path “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.”Saint Augustine said, “the greatest kindness one can render to any man is leading him to truth.” Click To Tweet
*I haven’t always felt this way. I’ve had my ups and downs as I sought the truth. Though there I’ve had doubts and still struggle at times with the feeling that I am a bad Catholic, I’ve come to realize that the fullness of the truth can only be found in the Church instituted by Christ.