“Do not despise any man, however poor he may be; but behave with full respect and kindness to every well-intentioned man, especially to the poor, as to our members worthy of compassion — or, rather, to members of Christ — otherwise you will cruelly wound your soul.
O, how easy it would appear to be to live in simplicity and love, and yet how difficult it is for our corrupt hearts to live in love!
At every step there is a pretext for enmity against our brother.” –St. John of Kronstadt
I once read a blog post about angry mommy essays.
The writer thought those angry mommies were out of control. Forget it, she concluded. I now have too many friends with different hot buttons; I can’t possibly keep track of them all. I’m going to offend somebody, so…I guess you just don’t want to be friends with me then (womp womp). In fact, *here* are the top 10 oversensitive moms who make me want to scream “bollocks!”
The post irritated me from top to bottom.
It’s not that there was zero truth in it. I hate open letters, too, or at least the angry ones. To me, they’re lazy. Passive. I hate confrontation as much as anyone, but if it’s really necessary to say, say it to the person who needs to hear it, not…everyone, right?
**Sidebar: Situations of domestic violence and hatred toward race/ethnicity, religion, gender, or LGBT status are excepted here–the victims in these groups are not afforded the power of confrontation.**
Furthermore, the writer’s suggestion that every day, there’s a new claim that nobody understands *this* exact problem and while I’m over here being so smart and progressive, how could anyone over there be not as smart and progressive? I hear you loud and clear, sister. It’s the new King of the Mountain.
By insisting that political correctness is impossible to attain–even if it is tongue-in-cheek–it communicates the exact same message.
I’m just poor, sad, regular old me, trying to make and keep friends, and I can’t because you’re a jerk.
Additionally, and maybe more importantly, it scratches out everyone else’s struggle like it’s not even real. And not only is it completely pretend, YOUR PRETENDING IS TOTALLY RUINING MY VERY REAL FUN.
So, if you’re anti-PC because it’s just impossible to attain, I want you to hear me out. Let’s re-think this together, because it’s probably not what you always thought it was.
Look through these three steps, which will automatically make you PC, 100% of the time. I think you’ll see why.
#1) Aim to be good, not “perfect” when you speak.
Think “spirit of the law” not “letter of the law.”
It was never about the list of buttons you need not push. If it was, you’re right. It’s impossible. But it’s something else.
It’s about being a loving person who recognizes that everyone has their own gunk to deal with.
See, I’m one of those moms who has a very long list of potential hot buttons. But you could say nearly any one of those things to me if I can see that it came from genuine effort, and I’ll love you for it. I am a reasonable person. I can see when someone’s trying, even if it is a bit of a swing-and-a-miss.
Likewise, I can tell when someone’s trying to follow the rules in order to be The Person Who Was a Hero Today, but doesn’t really care about me or my child.
Even St. James opens chapter 3 (happily titled “Taming the Tongue”) with this recognition:
2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
I love how he says that. Look at the ideal. That’s what perfect is. Also, we don’t know any person who’s done this from womb to grave yet, aside from Christ. We all stumble.
But that doesn’t mean we should tuck it all into a box labeled “politically correct” and pitch it out the window. He continues…
#2) Be humble, in wisdom.
Is it really more important that your witty joke or snarky meme be heard and admired than for no one to be harmed by your words? What about shamed? Belittled? Or less than human in any way?
James 3 continues to blow my mind today.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom…17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
You see, again, it’s not about the exact words. It’s about the heart.
It’s considering ourselves enough of a loose cannon to check ourselves before lighting matches. That’s a tough step. Nobody likes to think of themselves as capable of inflicting great damage.
But we are. And we do. It’s wise to be humble.
#3) Love people.
Ultimately, that’s the point of an angry open letter, isn’t it? We want to be loved, not cast aside or scorned.
So let’s do it, then. No “but he”s or “but she”s. Let’s just love people no matter what our judgmental thoughts say.
St. Paul explains to the messy Corinthian community that nothing else we can achieve in life amounts to anything unless there’s love behind it:
I Corinthians 13:1-5
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
And here, Christ himself points out the particular importance of love:
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Avoiding an endless list of “don’t touch” topics is impossible. But striving for goodness, humility, and love isn’t. When we genuinely care, we automatically check our words before we say them, we consider others’ wounds legitimate and worthy of respect, and we recognize that we have the capacity to inflict those wounds.
That’s the core of being PC. Really, it’s the core of being thoughtful.
Lord, have mercy, and grant us grace!