Dorothy Day and Peter Mauyrin, co-founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, defined a good society as one that makes it easy to be good. When asked, a group of students admitted to me that it is not easy to be good today — and for a variety of reasons. They cited the usual reasons: drugs, money, materialism, consumerism, and sexual temptations. But not one of them admitted to knowing or having the necessary tools to withstand these temptations.
Raising children has always been challenging. It’s probably fair to state that it will always be challenging to raise any person with a free will. But why does it feel especially problematic today? I will argue that it is because we have become such a tolerant people!
Yes, we have learned how to be tolerant and so we raise tolerant children. But tolerance shoves authentic love right out of our hearts, minds and souls. It breaks my heart to watch middle-school-aged children approach each other every morning at the corner school bus stop. All of the children arrive from houses that sit within a block of each other, yet every day the children act as if they don’t know each other and have never seen each other before. The children approach the stop reluctantly, then just stand quietly together — yet apart. In fact, the students remain a good yardstick away from each other. They do not acknowledge each other with either a glance or a word — yet they were created to be social beings! What’s up with the distance between these kids? These kids totally ignore each other — and every day! This is the freshest face of tolerance; it looks and feels kind of ugly.
Hollywood just got rocked by one of its biggest scandals ever. Finger-pointing in all directions is still going on. The only good news about the scandal is that it might pave the way for us to recognize how and why tolerance is largely to blame here.
Every society requires authentic love to survive and thrive. We are all called to love each other as Christ loves us. Our social contract with society should mean that we honor moral living for the sake of others. And that requires the arming of self with pivotal personal virtues including justice, fortitude, temperance and prudence. So, when we see something, we must say something for the sake of others. We are all harmed by the fact that tolerance beats out love. Thankfully, random acts of love committed during recent hurricane, firestorm, and earthquake tragedies helped remind us of what our real social contract with others ought to look and feel like. We are indebted to love as Christ loves us — that is our mandate today, tomorrow and the next.
Societies thrive when social relationships are healthy and good; this requires that we challenge each other to become the best version of ourselves. It’s not ok to allow the young to ignore each other at the corner bus stop. It’s not ok to allow a grandma to continue getting gruffer and rougher as she ages just because she is getting older. It’s not ok that mom and dad don’t have time for their children but have time for their bosses. It’s not ok that marriages dissolve and families continue to be torn apart. It’s not ok that pornography keeps being allowed to pummel families to death with its falsified images and messages. It’s not ok to use anyone for any reason; and it’s never ok to allow oneself to be used by someone else in order to get ahead. We need to say something when we see these things happening rather than standing silently around with our hands in our pockets like the tolerant school-bus children. Real relationships thrive on authentic love; they falter under tolerance. The same goes for society at large.
Recent events expose how wrong we have been about tolerance and the you do your thing and let me do my thing mentality [aka relativism]. For too long, we have allowed really bad actors and really bad actions and activities to break apart families and communities under the disguise of tolerance. We hide behind the false notion that talking about sex, politics and religion is the problem — rather than the solution. We hide behind the banner of tolerance rather than standing for goodness and rightness and against wrongness and badness. And there is plenty of that going around, as noticed by the kids in my group who admitted it is really hard to be a good teen today.
Have you noticed that tolerance forces us to use newly coined words and phrases that have little meaning while dropping the use of meaningful words and phrases from conversations? When was the last time you heard someone insist that virtue is the antidote for all the wrongs in our society? They are right, by the way — as well as citing the need for faith, prayer, and self-sacrifice.
And what about within your own families? Surely you may have noticed an emerging-adult son become overly distracted by activities that do not make him a better version of himself. Perhaps his relationship with a girlfriend is disconcerting to you. What do you say? The culture tells us to hold back — say nothing — while hoping that things get better. How is that working out for him and you? Wouldn’t it be better to say something when you see something — all the while employing the cardinal virtues when speaking out, of course. Or do you just tolerate situations and circumstances to keep a very fragile peace? What do you say when your beautiful daughter dresses to impress for the wrong reasons? When we see something, we must say something out of love for the whole person!
Pooh to those who taught us that it’s not polite to talk about sex, politics and religion. This revisionist tolerance pushed aside real Love and replaced it with fake love. This made it harder to be good and to go about the business of guiding each other to live and love as God intended.
Copyright 2017 Linda Kracht