Recently on The Inner Life, Josh Raymond began his segment by going back to his childhood and recess at his elementary school. At this particular school, they had three recess periods and he distinctly recalled a usual separation of the students during these periods. Even though nobody was intentionally being excluded or separated, the boys would often play their own games while the girls would play theirs.
And during these times, it was interesting to notice how his classmates would react when somebody got hurt. If it was a boy who took a fall, the other boys would usually pause the game, approach the injured player, but stand back as if to observe how this injury would affect the game and if they needed a sub. On the other hand, if a girl got hurt, the other girls would usually get down on a knee, inspect the injury, care for the person manually, and go get help from an adult.
Josh used this example to point to the concept of counseling or accompaniment. It is a common act of support that takes many forms, and different people or events require different types of consolation. While it’s impossible to discuss every iteration of accompaniment in this article, we can use one simple guiding question to help us in every situation: How do we live Jesus’s second greatest commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself?” As long as the Holy Spirit and the Catholic Faith are guiding us toward our neighbor’s best interests, we can make a positive difference.
Father John McDonald of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama joined Josh to discuss this topic. The discussion began with the idea of community, pointing out that we were meant to be together, social, communicative, interactive creatures. We were meant to function based on the help and trust of others to build relationships with one another. Love is one of the distinguishing factors of our species and we cannot have that without a degree of interdependence.
While independence is a strength in itself, it can be perverted in a way that allows us to isolate ourselves from others, and even from God. “When the Lord tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven, he’s not really trying to make it out that all rich people are terrible, people who have means I guess, people who have been blessed and fortunate through their labors and sacrifices to have things. But there is that sense in which having things makes us feel independent and can even make us feel independent of God and neighbor and of course that’s what will destroy a person in the end,” said Father John.
A big step in allowing ourselves to be counseled or supported in an effective and respectful way is to identify and acknowledge our weaknesses. To realize that we are not indestructible and we do need help is a surprisingly difficult thing to do, but it is the only way to genuinely accept the strength of God.
On the flip side, we should also recognize our weakness in giving counsel to others. By appealing to the Holy Spirit, we are better able to ground ourselves in our good intentions to help certain people regarding their suffering or difficulty. Without it, good intentions can often get lost in the emotionality and semantics of it all. Father John agreed, saying of one of his seminary instructors, “He said, ‘You must always ask yourself this question when you head out into ministry. You must ask yourself, ‘Who’s needs are being met?’’ And similar to that idea about being frank with oneself about one’s weaknesses, we must always be very frank with ourselves about what our needs are.”
As long as we are rooted in the Faith, we will put the needs of others ahead of our own, as Christ did.
Listen to the rest of the conversation below:
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