Getting On With People Around Us – A Lenten Reflection 2013

Contrary to what we have been told, we have to learn to get on with everyone, no matter what their defects, their ideas, or their peculiarities. We must learn to be the kind of people who are open to others with a capacity for making friends and always ready to understand and forgive. Especially for those who follow Christ, you must not become shut in on yourself without any concern for what is going on around you.
From: In Conversation With God: Daily Meditations Volume III – p.32 Getting On With People Around Us

This is not about being a fool or a sucker. This is about not becoming a hardened person who condemns others and refuses to be around those who are not like-minded. You will be. Be part of a solution – help to heal them as Christ did. Meeting people where they are is so important as is understanding and forgiving. So is drawing your boundaries with love. You do not have to be a push-over or overly sentimental. Showing love is not about throwing away your conscience or intelligence. You do, however, have to be civil, respectful, and looking for the good in others – because we all have some…really! Finally, be cheerful. If someone wants to gossip – change the subject with a smile. If they need an ear – give it with true kindness then refuse to let yourself gossip about it or whine about having to listen to them. Just do not let yourself do that. You will be amazed at what kind of person you become. You will begin to see others more positively because you are consciously looking for the beauty in them.

You have to practice though. This cannot be an idea that lives in your head. you must choose to live these virtues out. For Christians, this is living out Christ’s love and when you are not doing it, you are keeping Him locked up in the Church or a nice icon on a cross. A mere symbol.

This is Lent – the time to turn away from sin and face Christ head-on. We can joke about ashes or talk about giving up meat but how are you going to turn away from sin. The receipt of ashes is a way to remind us about Christ’s own 40 days in the desert to strengthen him for his upcoming passion. Fasting and abstinence help us stop comforting our sensual self and work on building up our higher self. I suggest we use this Lent to work on civility and getting on with others.

Let’s view each other with warmth, gratitude, respect, friendship, and optimism. Think about viewing those placed in your life around you as friends: parents, co-workers, family, neighbors. This would mean you must make an effort to live out virtues that make friendship possible, i.e. lack of self-interest, understanding, a spirit of cooperation, loyalty. This Lent gives that to the people around you without the need for them to “deserve” it. Just give it freely.

Be happy for others and cheerful around them no matter what you feel. Your feelings are what you are “giving up.” Refuse to be that person who swears at someone who cuts you off. It just happened to me yesterday. I was shaking my finger at him right after he pulled dangerously out in front of me and in response he veered intentionally back into my lane again. And you know what, this time I was successful in pushing that anxiety and anger away. I slowed down, stopped thinking about it, forced a smile, and prayed for his safety on the road. It wasn’t easy but I did it and no, I did not get some immediate gratification or reward for it. Nothing but effort to let it go. But I know from my own dedication to living a life in Christ that continued practice of this kind of virtue has changed me – in a big way. And that I must do it more…

Being open to others in this way leads us to understand others more. When we understand others we become more accepting of both their virtues and their flaws. This opens up the other and gives him permission to release that goodness he possesses deep in his heart. It also releases him enough to allow himself to be helped because he knows he is not being condemned. Closely aligned to understanding is forgiving. Being able to forgive is necessary otherwise at the slightest upset our charity turns cold and we distance ourselves from others. You must be able to forgive because we humans need it so much.

For me, Christ is my example of love because God is love. He gave us His Son who came to earth imprisoned in the womb of a woman to be born both man and divine. At the same time he ate, drank, laughed, caroused, made and enjoyed friends, got tired, was tempted, felt physical and emotional pain, He also did what no other has done, He died on the cross to save us only to rise again in three days. His mission was fulfilled. He was obedient and above all, demonstrated love for us. We as His followers must imitate His love and Lent is the time to start anew, washing ourselves in His passion and His resurrection.