Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Human Being Problem

I’ve always been quite sensitive and tend to wear my feelings on my sleeves. This disarming personality trait of mine has encouraged others to frequently confide in me about their problems such as their mistreatment by others or the injustices they experience in their personal or work-a-day lives.

A frequent complaint I hear about is when people who have worked hard all their lives for little if any recognition or promotional opportunities.  They see other, less qualified, people promoted over them or hired at higher staring salaries than they are currently earning.  Many of these folks bitterly give up in despair and grudgingly do their jobs until they either quit or retire.  This problem is so common and widespread that there’s a name for it: envy!

Covetousness or envy is the inordinate desire for profit, possessions, power, prestige, popularity, pride, or pleasure.   The 10th Commandment says you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.  (See Exodus 20:2-17, Deut 5:6-12, or CCC: Part 3, Section 2, the 10th Commandment.)  Whether it be your collogues’ promotion, their status, their position, their salary, their popularity, their possessions, their spouse, their family, their friends, their health, or their attractiveness, we should never envy them.

We all agree that life is not fair and not one of us gets everything we want or need or deserve in life.  We work hard in life and in our jobs so we should be rewarded, right?  But we all know that rarely happens.  So we become filled with bitterness, resentment, and envy of others who we feel are less deserving than we are.  What begins with a noble desire to be treated fairly ends with the vice of covetousness or envy.

This Human Being Problem of covetousness or envy has plagued mankind since the beginning and has led to the downfall of too many souls.  You see, covetousness or envy is a problem of the heart and a lack of love for your neighbor, colleague, or coworker.  John the Baptist once said, “A man can have nothing unless it’s given to him from God.” (John 3:27)  

So instead of being resentful of another’s good fortune we should be thankful for what God had given us and praise God for blessing others?  There are reasons (which no one can quite explain) why God gives profit, possessions, power, prestige, popularity, or pleasures to some people and not others.  I think that God is the Grand Weaver of the tapestry of life, and our lives are woven together in such a way that it'll only make sense when we see the finished cloth.  But one of the best explanations I’ve ever read comes from St. Alphonsus de Liguori (1696 - 1787) who wrote: 

Who knows perhaps if God had given us greater talent, better health, a more personable appearance, we might have lost our souls!  Great talent and knowledge have caused many to be puffed up with the idea of their own importance and in their pride they have despised others.  How easily those who have gifts fall into grave danger to their salvation!  How many on account of physical beauty or robust health have plunged headlong into a life of debauchery!  How many, on the contrary, who by reason of poverty, infirmity, or physical deformity, have become saints and have saved their souls; who if given health, wealth, or physical attractiveness had else lost their souls?  Let us then be content with what God has given us.  But one thing is necessary and it is not beauty, not health, not talent, [and I might add: profit, possessions, power, pride, prestige, popularity, or pleasure].  It is the salvation of our immortal souls.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day

On this day July 4th 1776 the Continental Congress comprised of representatives of the 13 original States declared their independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.  The famous Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote these famous and inspiring words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

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