Some say that a pessimist sees a glass as half-empty and an optimist sees the glass as half-full.
I believe Christians are called to see it full.
Full of God’s grace and providential care. Full of the love that surpasses all understanding. Full of care for us even in the midst of a fallen world.
We are not in charge.
Even though He oversees all things and could make all decisions, He allows us the ability to choose our actions, beliefs, values, etc - we call this “Free Will”.
It is the greatest gift we have and many times I (like most others) really don’t like it much. More precisely, I don’t like the free will of other people.
I am a pretty stubborn and prideful guy. This means that I think WAY too much about my own opinion. When I get annoyed, frustrated, or angry with another person, it is my problem, not the other person’s. Of course, I usually don’t start off seeing things that way, which is why I get frustrated, annoyed, and angry. But, the truth is that I allow myself to wallow in those feelings.
I love my own free will. I love the freedom to choose how I am to act, what I will believe, etc. But, I hate the free will of others. This is because I think I know better than everyone else does. I think things would be fine if they just did, said, and thought how I think they ought to. What pride!
Why should I choose when or how others change?
Why should I be the one to choose the actions of others?
Why would I ever want to have someone change just because I think it is best?
Of course I shouldn’t be the arbiter of what someone else chooses or how they live their lives. But, in many cases, I think I should.
The few people who really and truly love the free will of others are saints. Since we are all called to be saints, we have to all work on loving the free will of others and not letting their decisions change how we react or give away our interior peace.
This AMAZING quote from Jacques Phillipe, from his book Interior Freedom, sums it all up for me.
At times of struggle we need also to recall the conversion we should be concerned about is not our neighbor’s but our own. Only if we take our own conversion seriously do we stand any chance of seeing our neighbor converted too. This point of view is realistic and encouraging. We have little real influence on other people, and our attempts to change them have only a very slight chance of success, since most of the time we want them to change in line with our criteria and aims more than God’s. If we are concerned first with our own conversion, however, we have more hope of making a difference. It does more good to seek to reform ou hearts than to reform the world or the Church. Everyone will benefit.
Let us ask ourselves this question: “To what degree can the evil in my surroundings affect me?” With apologies to those I am going to scandalize, I say that the evil around us - the sins of others, of people in the Church, of society - does not harm us unless we let it penetrate our hearts.
The point isn’t that we should become indifferent. Just the opposite. The holier we are, the more we will suffer due to the evil and sin in the world. But external evil only harms us to the degree we react badly to it, by fear, worry, discouragement, sadness, giving up, rushing to apply hasty solutions that don’t solve anything, judging, fostering bitterness and resentment, refusing to forgive, and so on. Jesus says in St. Mark’s Gospel:
“There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him!” -Mark 7:15
Harm does not come to us from external circumstances, but from how we react to them interiorly. Phillipe says, “What ruins our souls is not what happens outside, but the echo that it awakes within us.” The harm that other people do to me is nothing compared to the harm I cause myself. The worst harm is self-inflicted.
We are called to stop holding onto our possessions and to have a freedom from attachment to things. Sometimes, I think the possessions we cling to more than others are mental, and one of these is this idea that we can save ourselves-that if we get the right party or the right people in power it will solve all of our problems. But, that’s not how I understand grace to work. We can’t do everything ourselves and it will wear us out to think we can. God often works despite our weakness and through our weakness. We do the best we can to take care of our affairs here on earth, and even with our best efforts we make mistakes, no matter who is leading the charge. No leader is perfect, because no person is perfect.
It’s a noble thing to aim toward a more just and compassionate society and legal system. However, the Christian realizes that ultimately a perfect society is not something we can create by ourselves. (We’ve had a lot of attempts at it in the past.) If we’re walking around without hope, maybe it’s because we’re placing our hope in places and people who can never live up to our expectations. If we believe God is all powerful, we believe he’s in control.
There’s some comfort that at the end of the day we’re responsible for our own decisions, no one else-even if those decisions are at times easier or more difficult. If we don’t like the decisions other people make, we can try and change their mind, but unjust anger or force don’t help.
Some things change and some things stay the same. If we don’t like the change we can sharpen our logic, hone our rhetoric, and soften our hearts. What should stay the same is our joy, a joy that no human being can give or take away, hopefully a joy that is attractive and contagious. Let’s engage and love others.