- Maciej Rejniak, '11
“Treat others as you want to be treated”.
A phrase that is seen and uttered countless times in elementary and middle schools across the country. By high school, it is ingrained in the psyche, and you either get it or you don’t. As today’s Gospel shows, this phrase has at its core the teachings of Christ. So, it would seem easy for us to follow this simple phrase, both as Christians and as former school children, right?
In reality, the opposite is true. We often set high expectations for others, criticize them if they fail, and then get upset when they make an excuse. Yet, when in the same situation, when we are the ones being criticized, we often make excuses, and feel that we are justified in them. If the other person doesn’t get it, well, then they do not understand you, and you feel upset at them.
This is very true for me. Having an almost OCD-like work ethic, I like things to be done quickly, effectively, and properly, without the foolishness that accompanies most things that teenage boys do. When something isn’t done my way, I become very critical, and being a very funny and sarcastic guy, I will be sure to humiliate you repeatedly until you do what is asked of you, or until I do it myself.
However, Christ’s teaching doesn’t only apply to schoolwork, extra-curriculars, or a job, it applies to everything.
We love to gossip, yet feel betrayed when someone talks about us behind our back.
We love to slack off, yet when someone else does we call them lazy.
We love to bask in our achievements, yet call 'arrogant' others who do the same.
We love to hold a grudge yet, when someone is angry with us, we expect forgiveness.
We love to be in charge, yet when others are we regard them as tyrants.
It would seem that our fallen nature makes us susceptible and weak to criticism, that we love to be the judge and jury, and not the defendant. Society, in my opinion, makes this trend even worse, as its promotion of being a rebel, of acting and not caring about the consequences of actions, of putting material things above personal ideals makes living Christ’s teachings difficult. One just has to turn on the TV and you see it: reality TV, slander news, and someone famous having a breakdown. Society demands that we watch things like this and make judgments, that we say things such as “This guy is crazy”, and “what a dumbass”.
We then turn that critical eye on ourselves and our peers. Perhaps this is why America is known as “the Prozac nation”, why depression is so rampant, especially among teenagers, why suicide and divorce rates are where they are…we do not know how to forgive the faults of others and of ourselves. In essence, we like to play God, an angry God, with sinners in our hand.
Christ tells us to resist this temptation. He tells us to accept people as they are, to forgive them their faults, and to leave their judgment to his Father. Perhaps, if we aren’t so critical, if we do not always measure ourselves against others, we will not feel the negative effects of being judged. Perhaps that is the way to be true Christians.
Lent should be a time of redemption, but also forgiveness. We should try to not only forgive those that had wronged us, but also ourselves. For example, those that I have criticized and made fun of in the past, I am trying to apologize and make it up to them somehow. Will I be forgiven, I hope so, but I do not expect it, at least not right away. We are human, and thus flawed, but love and forgiveness are gifts from God, gifts that are very hard to uncover. Perhaps, this Lenten season, we should pray for a deeper understanding of them. I know that I certainly will.