“Don’t spoil your child.”
“Don’t let her watch too much television.”
“Don’t give her junk food.”
It’s not that I disagree with any of those statements. (For the record, I don’t.) It’s the focus on the negative. Stop telling me what not to do and start focusing on what I should do:
“Teach your child gratitude.”
“Engage her in a variety of activities every day.”
“Feed her a variety of healthy foods.
“Speak to her with love and respect.”
When did our society become more interested in what we don’t do than what we do? Is it any surprise then that groups of people are defined by their “restrictions”?
“Look at those Catholics! They don’t eat meat on Fridays! They can’t have sex before marriage! They don’t use birth control! They’re against abortion! They don’t….”
My goodness, we look like a group of highly repressed people, don’t we? What horrible lives we must have! Oh, that we were known for what we do:
“Look at those Catholics! They joyfully make sacrifices to cultivate self-control! They have such high esteem of marriage! They believe that sex is sacred and that children are a blessing! They fight for the disadvantaged and respect the sanctity of life at all stages! They are so kind and compassionate! They live such joyful lives! They follow Christ!”
I like to blame this “emphasis on the negative” on our society as a whole and mainstream media in specific, but it’s time that I’m honest with myself. We are - I am - part of the problem. If I live my life in a way that makes it obvious what I stand for then nothing, not even a force like the media, could characterize me by what I stand against.
Social media is an incredible evangelizing tool for the Church; it’s so powerful that it has been given the name “the New Evangelization”. It’s where people are and as Catholics, that’s where we need to be as well. I’m blessed to be part of a large community of Catholics on facebook and twitter and when I think about the majority of information I see shared through these media, I’m sad to say that much of it is exactly what I’m lamenting - articles and statuses and tweets that share what we don’t do, what we don’t support, what we don’t believe.
I recognize the need to defend ourselves from the many misconceptions out there but, when what we share may be the majority of interactions some people have with the faith, these constant defenses make us appear as a people in chains instead of a people of freedom and joy.
So I challenge you today to define yourself by what you do and share that person, and the faith behind that person, with the world. Focus on each action and word as if it’s the only contact with the Catholic faith that the people around you have and make sure that what you do is powerful and cannot be misconstrued.