Since I was a young girl people have been attracted to me and I am equally attracted to people. I always thought, even back then, that everyone has something beautiful about them and it is just a matter of time before I will see it. Once I do see it, I shower it with love, and my relationship with that person is solidified in the heart because that love is what I use as the cornerstone. That love stemming from the “good” I find allows me to accept unconditionally so much about the person and to speak with them from my heart because we relate only in the most “real” sense. I know that I can see into people’s hearts and know what is in there as opposed to what they are manifesting to the world which, as we all know, can be two very different things.
Throughout my life, I have met and befriended people with so many different beliefs and opinions. Their lifestyles may not be appropriate, their actions may be questionable and sometimes they continually make choices that are totally contrary to loving, God-centered life. However, I tell you that from most of these people I learn and continue to gain valuable insight regarding my own faith, the love, and graces of God, and the reminder that all of us are each uniquely gifted by God! So often I can see and feel Christ in these people despite what other negatives are present in their lives. I can hear Him in their speech or their actions and I cling to it despite the fact that, for example, my girlfriend might be leaving to go strip in a club or a good professional friend is cheating on his wife, or a good catholic is straying from the faith and being seduced by moral relativism. I also deeply feel and understand the pain, loneliness, despair, and hopelessness present in so many that I know who have no relationship with Christ.
I have always counted on my love in action to not only witness my faith to people but to act as a balm in the relationship because I know that when I give that love I am giving them Christ and it always, always, feels good to them. It is my little secret that it is Christ I am giving. To me, talking is always overrated and actions speak louder than words. This is how I have always done it.
These days, however, my mission seems to have enlarged through His grace and I am being presented with more and more situations where the conversation is necessary. I am being asked directly to explain and defend my beliefs, to talk about how Jesus Christ affects my life, and to explain more complex concepts within Catholic thought. Additionally, in my work as a coach, mediator, and facilitator especially in marriage mediation. divorce cases and other family situations I must discuss with people their moral compass and where that is in relation to dealing with this conflict. It brings up matters involving faith, love, forgiveness, charity, commitment, and trust in the Lord through the storm. It also brings up what holds them back and what is enslaving them to anger, frustration, fear, or any other emotion playing a key role in the conflict we are attempting to resolve.
So I am waist-deep in all the talking and it scares me a lot of the time. But I do find when I take the risk and engage people directly about their heart, their morality, their faith as it plays in the conflict, we get to the root of the emotional issues so readily at play in so many types of conflict. Further, I know that the years of training in loving people without words is meaningful to my new transition. Words without love are what in our modern age is turning people away and making Christians seem so intolerant, condemning, and un-Christlike. Bringing my years of “training” in love coupled with my newfound assertiveness with words will, by God’s will, be the bridge that is needed to witness and to help people in conflict.
Prior to writing this post, I read the wonderful Father Robert Barron’s most recent blog post Evangelization: Flawed, Yet Valuable Influences from his website Word on Fire. In it, he discusses people who have influenced his life. You would be surprised by some of the names but I was so pleased to know that he too looks for the gifts of God in all. His openness and love of God’s children show in his citation to sometimes off-color people such as Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, and the controversial Thomas Merton. All these people did not lead perfect lives but offered up something beautiful and poignant and Christ-like. Barron says that if we limit ourselves to citing those who “were utterly correct in every aspect of their thinking or acting we could lock ourselves up into a feedback loop that limits our discussions to like-minded people. What fun is that when we know that God made a world filled with interesting people in His image blessed with abundant gifts.