They are the problem!

They are ruining the country! They are ruining the Church! They are responsible for every horrible, despicable, indecent, immoral event in history! They vote for the wrong people, and they don’t even get it! They are the problem, and I’m starting to think they can’t be reasoned with. They must be stopped!

Do you know who they are? Do you have a sneaking suspicion you know the group who is destroying everything good and holy? I must admit, I have no idea who they are; but I hear about them every day.

I’ve written before about my concern that we, as a society, have lost a basic appreciation of common courtesy. We cut each other off on the road; we post offensive items on our Facebook or Twitter accounts; and we tend to see anyone who disagrees with us as an obstacle that must be overcome or, worse, destroyed. There is a frightening lack of decency and respect in our world, and it seems to be snowballing; I fear it is only a matter of time before an avalanche overtakes us.

This lack of respect, courtesy or decency tends to begin with statements about they, them, or “those people.” You’ve no doubt heard someone ranting about “those liberals,” or “those Trump voters;” or worse, those whose titles I won’t write here. Have you noticed, however, that very rarely do you hear people make “I” statements?

I must confess that my hands are not clean in this matter. I, too, tend to forget that it is God’s will that everyone with whom I share the world was made for Heaven. I also admit that when I lose sight of the “I” God made me to be, I begin to look at “those people” who live differently than I do … and I use them to avoid looking at myself. I am they, I am the problem; and I want to change this

Look, the world is a complicated place. I know that I will not agree with everyone, and I know there are some views that just cannot be reconciled, but that doesn’t mean I have any justification in objectifying those with whom I disagree. Moreover, I’ve lived long enough to realize that some of my most staunchly held views may not be as rock-solid as I want them to be.

I must be prudent in my judgments, remembering that I can only judge actions, not the people who act. I cannot know a person’s motivations, nor can I know anything about how that person became who they are. But what is true of 100 percent of everyone I’ll encounter today is the reality that they were “beautifully and wonderfully made” in the image and likeness of God. If I choose to speak of them as “they,” it must be in this context: They are a child of God.

This is not easy; but in truth, it isn’t about anyone other than myself. I am accountable for my actions. My time in Purgatory (please, God) will be a result of how I reacted to the situations and people I encountered. Ultimately, I can only be accountable for making one disciple of Jesus Christ – myself. I cannot make others accept the salvation God offers them; but if I truly believe in my identity as a child of God, and if I accept everyone else as someone God created similarly, then it is my actions that I am called to judge. It is my own motivations regarding which I should pray. It is I who will be accountable to God for this life, not they who disagree with me.

It is not they who are destroying the world, the Church or anything else. Any mass judgment of others that reduces them to a nondescript they on which all blame is cast is merely scapegoating: Others may be doing things that are harmful, worrisome or dangerous, but that doesn’t give me the liberty to fail to remove the plank from my own eye. I am destroying the world, I am the cause of sin, and I pray for the grace of repentance and the desire for penance to change this. I take responsibility. God, have mercy.