Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Dangers of Being Nice

"Hell is full of good wishes and desires"
-- St. Bernard of Clairvaux
There's been a bit of stink regarding the Church denying marriage to homosexual couples.  The gay rights movement seems to eat this up and the common person can only gasp and say  something synonymous to  "Well that's not very nice."  And they are right, it is not very nice at all.  However, they seem to make the assumption that everyone is supposed to be nice.  I, to put it simply, do not agree.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, we're not supposed to be nice.  In fact, simply being "nice" might be one of the stupidest lifestyles humanity has ever created.  Now, before anyone gives me flak about this, let me be clear.  We're called to be kind, we're called to be loving, but these two things are not the same as "nice"

You see, "nice" is too simple.  "Nice" is too easy.  "Nice" is merely tolerating another person, usually with an empty smile.  When we are "nice", we are not really caring about the other person.  No, we're really just trying to get along and avoid conflict and confrontation.  Now while this can effectively curves the numbers of random bare-knuckled brawls and vicious cat-fights, it also stops us from genuinely caring about the person's well being, especially when they themselves are threatening it.

Thus, "nice" is merely selfishness.  Our desire to avoid conflict, confrontation, or the mere recognition that you and I may not be in good standing with each other.  So, while being "nice" might keep the peace on the surface, it also means I am perfectly content watching my fellow man get dragged into the screaming pits of Hell.  While some people seem content with that notion, Catholicism finds it shallow, callous, and selfish.

You call it bickering.
I call it fraternal correction
Catholicism calls people to go beyond simply being "nice."  The age-old commandment "Love your neighbor" does not equal "Merely be nice to your neighbor."  Love (or charity, as some prefer to call it) requires more.  When a person loves, his concern is not maintaining the social order, but redeeming redeeming the social order.  When a person loves, he doesn't see his neighbor as a potential quarrel, but as someone he genuinely wants to spend an eternity in heaven with.  Loving your neighbor requires the earnest willing of the good for another, as well as having the conviction to do whatever it takes to bring goodness to them, even (and especially) at the cost of self-sacrifice.

Peter and Paul:  These guys spoke the truth,
both to each other and the ancient world
even when it hurt.
When I love my neighbor, I'll tell him when he's wrong.  When I love my neighbor, I'll let him tell me when I'm wrong.  And all the while, I respect him, and never cease to demonstrate my genuine interest in his well-being. When I love my neighbor, my actions are never out of spite, vengeance, a desire to bring harm, but rather from a desire to help them be the best they can be.  Even if they're not to keen to the idea.

And so, our Church, although it's not at all nice, has a genuine case for withholding Holy Matrimony from homosexual couples, not out of spite or judgement, but out of genuine, loving concern for the immortal souls of the people.  It takes some courage to take a stance like that.  But love is usually hard, and typically requires considerable courage.  Love doesn't care for popularity, and often, love has led its practitioners to martyrdom.  But love cares.  Love matters.  Love is strong; Love is beautiful; Love is true.  And usually love isn't "nice."

P.S. If you found Bernard of Clairvaux's quote troubling, try this one on for size.
"Do not be troubled by Bernard's saying  'Hell is full  of  good wishes and desires'"
--St. Francis de Sales

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