Look for the Good in People

Look for the Good in People January 5, 2022

There is a corollary to my belief that there is something good in everything bad (See: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/musingsfromthepew/2021/12/good-from-bad-turning-the-tables/): There is something good in every person, no matter how bad.

The diarist Anne Frank had a similar belief. Despite the terror of her existence as a Jew hiding from the Nazis, she wrote: “People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.”

She added, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Anne Frank had every reason to hate, to despair, to think the world is a terrible place, but she didn’t. She had faith in a loving God, and since the All-Good God made us in His image and likeness, we inherit goodness.

Surely a piece of that goodness remains no matter what because God is always with us and in us.

The Oppressor-Victim Paradigm

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Sadly, we are going through a period in history when people don’t seem to be able to find the goodness in others. That’s perhaps because they concentrate on finding the bad and thereby miss the good.

Writer Heather King calls this social trend an “accusation addiction,” an “oppressor-victim paradigm.” She wrote: “Everything must be unmasked. Everyone must be exposed.” (https://angelusnews.com/voices/the-cure-to-our-accusation-addiction/)

This negative phenomenon, King says, is like a game of accusation. We spy on and expose colleagues and friends while political leaders bully and slander. We see “our side” as righteous and the “other side” as everything bad.

King observes: “People are fawned over, championed, and supported as long as they’re on the correct side of the ideological divide, whether that happens to be right or left.” People on the wrong side of the divide are vilified.

Such fanaticism is obviously unrealistic. No one is all good or all bad except God and Satan. (However, even Satan has the gift of faith (a goodness) because Satan knows there is a God.)

Christ’s Directive to Love and Accept All

Christ gave us directives to love one another and to forgive. Christians are supposed to build people up, not tear people down, King noted. So how can an extremist claim to be Christian? Polarization goes against everything Christ and His Church teach.

It’s been so sad to observe friends and family becoming radicalized. You used to have pleasant conversations with them about so many shared things in your lives. Yet now, if you disagree with them on political or moral issues, they write you off as being among the damned. I know parents who won’t speak to their children and vice versa.

They cease to find the good and focus on the bad. Would Christ do that?

No, Christ thought the shepherd should go after a lost sheep. The prodigal son was welcomed back enthusiastically. The apostle Matthew was a tax collector – the most despised person in the community. Even his parents wouldn’t be seen with him, but Jesus accepted Matthew as a disciple.

Finding the Good

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

Maintaining a dialogue is critical., You have to make everyone feel welcome and respected. In social media, however, there is a great deal of disrespect. The trolls seem to wait for the least opportunity to jump on your words.

Media trolls, whether on Facebook or doing TV commentary, twist words and accuse their target of connections and intentions that don’t exist. For what purpose? That’s not Christian behavior either.

Is our society that angry that we lash out at each other at every turn? Perhaps. A society that alienates itself from God, from church, from each other becomes a lonely collection of frightened, isolated people wary of strangers.

Is social media the problem? Partly. When we don’t communicate in person, we are cutting ourselves off from the interaction required for the wellbeing and happiness of the human, a naturally social creature.

Fanaticism, polarization, intolerance – none of these things are compatible with the command to “Love Thy Neighbor.” Sadly, even within the Catholic Church we see “conservative” versus “liberal” camps.

A clergy that also says “I accuse” to each other has lost sight of its mission to love and serve God and His people through the Church. Just as bad, extremists on the right and left give the impression to the laity that the Church stands for something it doesn’t.

We have to look for the good in others. We shouldn’t be like a minister I once knew who said he didn’t want to associate with anyone who didn’t believe in the Trinity the way he did. Wow! That’s narrow. That’s also a losing strategy.

Even your polar opposites will have something in common with you — religion, hobbies, children — something. Find it. Work with it. Friendship, understanding and peace will follow.

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