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Person over ideas

Fr. Roy CimagalaBy Fr. ROY CIMAGALA
November 4, 2009

IN our dealings with others, a daily, constant affair, we should pay a lot of attention to the concrete circumstances and conditions of the persons rather than just pursuing the abstract merits and demerits of our ideas, views and opinions.

We need to be personal rather than just go ideological, simply because in the end it’s not ideas we are actually interested in but rather the persons themselves. The ideas are hollow without the persons who are their subjects or targets, their sources and goals, their beginning and end.

Not that the ideas are unimportant. They are indispensable. But we need to hew them according to our actual grip of the who and how the persons we are dealing with are.

We should not allow our ideas to have a life by themselves. They have to be made fit to all the persons involved – us, others and ultimately and constantly God. This is not just a theory. This is simply how things ought to be!

Without this conscious effort to adapt ideas to the circumstances of persons, they can go wild and extreme, absolutizing what is relative and vice-versa, and easily deteriorating into biases, rash judgments, and other forms of lack of charity.

That’s why our Christian faith always admonishes us to put charity and truth together, as well as mercy and justice. Truth and justice get spoiled once they get detached from charity and mercy. These latter virtues precisely lead us to treat others the way they should be treated – as persons and ultimately as children of God.

In Pope Benedicts’s third encyclical, Caritas in veritate (Charity in the truth), the same point is reiterated when he said: “To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity.” (1)

He also said that it’s when charity and truth are put together when meaningful and substantial dialogue among different and even conflicting parties as well as genuine integral human development can take place.

This, of course, will be a very dynamic affair, for which a lot of patience is needed, a lot of adjustments and adaptations made, an abiding monitoring of personal and other circumstances done.

Of course, this presumes the fundamental virtue of humility, since it’s only when one humbles himself – that self-denial that Christ told us – can we be patient and progress in our task of blending charity and truth together.

We need to develop the necessary attitudes and the appropriate skills to comply with this human requirement, because our tendency to go impersonal and to be led simply by ideas is strong and sadly quite inherent in us.

We need to go through a perpetual cycle of mutually relating theory and practice, doctrine and experience, ideas and persons, study and work, isolation for purposes of recollection and immersion through actual contact with people.

In our dealings with others, we have to know when to move fast and when to go slow, when to be demanding and when to be tolerant, when to be driven and when to waste time with them.

We have to wary to with our inclination to be indifferent to others, to consider only our own preferences and views, to control or herd others according to our schemes and plans.

We should find time to really get to know others thoroughly. Thus, we have to invest time and effort to improve our relationship with them, enhancing our friendship and fraternity with them.

And in this, we have to go all the way, down to the personal and even the intimate spiritual and moral levels. We have to learn how to listen, and simply to journey with them, but always trying to be a good friend, a help, a light.

We also have to be wary of the alienating elements that are sprouting thick and fast in our environment nowadays. These are the gadgets and other facilities that worsen our self-absorption by putting up invisible walls that separate us from others.

We need to continually examine ourselves just to be more discerning, since we are now living in a world where the line between good and evil is often blurred and where the new things can trigger dormant weaknesses that can lead us into a spiral of unhealthy obsessions.

Indeed, we need to constantly focus our mind and heart first of all on God, then on others before we think of ourselves and of our brilliant ideas.