Time changes things, and through God’s grace, time also changes people.
I recall my teenage summers as a softball player, sitting in the dugout and sizing up the different girls on my team, choosing which personalities I could get along with and disregarding those I believed that I could not. From a young age, I began to form the habit of assuming certain things about my peers. At the start of an acquaintance, I would decide that I “meshed” with certain people, and not others.
While this was true to some extent, looking back I wish that I could have understood then what I do now: that every person acts from a certain degree of vulnerability, and that those of us who may appear to have it all figured out, really do not feel this way in our hearts.
Judgments & Decisions
Every day and moment of our lives, we are constantly making judgments and decisions. Indeed, God gave us rationality in order to use it, and we are called to train our reason through virtue, and to use it well. There is nothing wrong per se with making judgments about things, because we must make decisions: which food will I eat, what book should I read, or which college I will I attend?
All of these daily decisions must be made, but when it comes to applying our judgment to the area of human nature and individual persons, we need to be far more careful. Here, our judgment not only affects us, but it affects the people whom we categorize through our opinions. Our view of another may impact someone else’s perception of that person’s character, or perhaps even more importantly, may impact the person’s view of himself.
A distortion of just reasoning can turn into rash judgment, and this habit can begin a vicious cycle unless we apply constant work to check it.
Put on a ‘Show’
There is truth to the fact that our families know us the best. They are the ones who have spent the most time with us, and who can predict our personality strengths and flaws. They know what makes us happy and what drives us up the wall. We find strength and security with parents, siblings and relatives because we do not need to “put on a show” for them.
Yet with such security lies the tendency to put our family members into certain categories, and to limit our expectations of their abilities. True friends, whether siblings or not, believe in the infinite potential of each other’s character, for we believe that each person is created to become a saint in heaven.
We may be able to predict with great accuracy our friend’s faults or actions, but we cannot and should not assume that this person is unable to act beyond what we know them to be capable of. This judgment is unjust because we do not give allowance to the power of grace working in the soul, and to the person’s daily effort to grow in virtue.
If we are parents who have been given the gift of children, we are called to always show this faith in our sons and daughters. Through our confidence and faith in them, we enable them to grow into the beautiful image of God that they are meant to be. As God never gives up on us after countless failures, we must never give up on believing in and hoping for the best in those we love.
I have read many inspirational stories where an author will cite his or her parent as the motivating force to his success. Sometimes it is an aunt, uncle or grandparent, or even an outside mentor who inspires a youth to pursue a life of heroism.
In his book, “Gifted Hands,” Dr. Ben Carson speaks about the influence which his mother’s positive words played in his life. Her constant optimistic attitude and faith in her sons assisted them in becoming who they were called to be. Dr. Carson does not believe that he would have found the courage and perseverance to pursue a career in neurology were it not for his mother’s words: “You can do anything that others can do, and you can do it better.”
Inspired to be Greater
In the same way, the phrase, “through God’s grace, you can be anything you want to be” is a common attitude amongst parents whose faith has impacted a child’s future. Giving our children confidence in their abilities is a great gift, especially when we instill in them the truth that God is the strength behind all of their efforts, and that if we have trust and perseverance, He will always assist us in our quest to accomplish acts of greatness.
Do we believe deep in our hearts that we are continually called to be growing deeper, holier, and closer to God each and every day?
Do our efforts to keep learning, praying, and growing in our character impact the way that our children will live their lives?
I believe that the answer is a resounding yes, for it is nearly impossible to live in close contact with a holy person and not be inspired to become a greater person oneself.
Show our Confidence
Over time and through spiritual growth, we realize anew how often we have unjustly judged our neighbors. Hopefully we are filled with contrition for these false judgments, and are inspired anew to give others the great gift of our confidence in them. Sometimes I fall into the habit of assuming that my younger siblings are still children who will react to situations in an immature way. When I treat them in such a way, then I don’t give them a chance to rise beyond my expectations.
When my younger sisters return from college for breaks, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover a new ability to hold deeper conversations with them, and have realized the possibility for our relationship to develop to a new level when I give it a chance. When I do not give my siblings a chance to relate to me in a deeper way, then I find both of us become frustrated and more likely to make false assumptions regarding each other’s good will and concern.
If we feel unsure, unloved, or self-conscious, there is a good chance that others feel the same way, even while we may perceive them differently. When we put someone into a box based on their previous actions, we inhibit them from becoming more than their past immaturities or faults.
Instead, let us say the words, “I believe in you, I believe more of you, I know that you can do this” and show our confidence through our words, actions, and especially through our respect. We cannot know what is going on in another human being’s heart and soul, and when we extend the gift of charity to our spouse, our children, or any other person, we are giving them a gift of inestimable value: a chance to being anew, and to become the marvelous person that God has designed them to be.