What with all the bad news lately, it's been difficult to think of something to write. Sometimes I get stuck in a rut, focusing on well, the bad news. The media has a knack for focusing on the bad as well. Truth be told, humans tend towards the sensational. We're like moths to a flame. It's sad. We need to seek out the good. Hence the purpose of this blog. This blog has been a great challenge to me, from day one! It is partly the reason why I scarcely update. It's a work in progress. I'm a work in progress.
With the tragedy in Orlando, I was moved to reflect on what will finally make things better. On facebook I kept reading "love is the only thing that can overcome hate". Indeed! It is true! Love is the only way. Love is what our hearts yearn for. But how, in God's name, do we, (little ol' me), become a part of the bigger picture so that tragedies like this will cease to happen?
Sure, we can focus on specifics: LGBT issues; gun control; ISIS, terrorism. We can go down the line of what is wrong with this world but where will that get us? One quote has kept surfacing in my heart: "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." It is traditionally said to come from St. Francis of Assisi. Is this way we can change the world? There is wisdom in history.
We must change our hearts. The revolution that we need is a revolution in our hearts! In. Our. Hearts!
I would like to reflect on two words. One we hear all the time of late and the other, rarely. Virtue and Tolerance. I will begin by reflecting on the latter.
Tolerance is "the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with." Is this what is going to change the world for the better? Tolerance? I think, as persons, we are called to greater things. Tolerance, in many respects can seem like a good place to start, but tolerance can make way for "acceptance of what is not good." It's a slippery slope when we say we will be tolerant.
Tolerance can help us to love others in that we need to love the person, no matter their choices. But going above and beyond tolerance means that I love the person but do not have to accept their bad choices. We cannot accept the unacceptable just for the sake of tolerance. I cannot and should not accept the criminal choices others make because it goes against human nature to kill, to lie and to steal; to hurt others. Yet, I can accept the person who makes these choices because they are created in dignity and ultimately in love and for love. Because of love, I am required to look past their choices and love them. It is within the context of this love that I may then seek to show them the truth of their ways and lead them to better choices. More loving choices.
Virtue, on the other hand is "behavior showing high moral standards. synonymous with goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, integrity, dignity, rectitude, honor, decency, respectability, nobility, worthiness, purity. These are the things that make up the human person. This is the greatness that we are all created for: goodness. Goodness stems from love; love of self and love for others. If we live a virtuous life, if virtues are planted firmly in our hearts and are not a mere facade to impress others, than we will steer clear from the things that destroy this world, that destroy the human ability to love. It is through virtue that we can not only change our own hearts, but the hearts of others. The human heart is attracted to virtue. It longs for virtue because virtue is what leads to a life of joy and fulfillment.
We were made for greatness because love is great. Love goes far beyond our love for material things. Love holds a high standard if we consider the true meaning of love. The perfect definition of true love is "I want good for you" (the Italian way of expressing love: ti voglio bene). This is true love. Love is beyond feeling. Love is a decision. Feelings fade, but decision comes from the will; from the heart. Love wishes the good of the other, beginning with ourselves. Love is not tolerant of what is hurtful. Love does not tolerate a utilitarian view of the human person. Love does not accept what goes against it. Love is firmly planted in truth.
We have arrived at a time where each person makes their own truth. We are living in a world where reality is malleable. Each person makes his own reality yet, we all belong to the same reality. We all belong to the same world. We live in our own little created "world" until tragedy strikes and then we realize that in fact, what happens to my brother, happens to me. In tragedy, we see the worst that resides in the human heart, but from tragedy we also witness the best we are capable of: love, compassion, empathy, sincerity, generosity, heroism.
Love can only exist alongside truth. Love can only flourish through virtue. Love will wither away if it only seeks to tolerate. Love must wish and seek the good of the other. If this desire for virtue, for truth and for genuine love begins to take root in our own hearts and in those of our children and all those who surround us, this will truly be the revolution that will begin to change the world.
We hear of so many Muslim refugees that are arriving in Europe and asking for baptism into the Christian faith (read article here.) This is happening not because they are being proselytized but because they have witnessed the goodness of virtue in those Christians who have cared for them along their journey. Those who survived the tragedy in Orlando on Sunday witnessed the heroic virtue of many, such as Joshua McGill who helped to save a total stranger. Those who are considered bigots to the LGBT community went out of their way to serve food to the volunteers and those donating blood (Chic-fil-A story).
Love will conquer all, but it has to be planted in a life of virtue. We must fight the revolution of virtue in our hearts, and in the hearts of our families. Only this way will we begin to see what is true, good and beautiful in this world. And there's lots to see, but we need more!