This morning on Facebook I spotted this in a friend's status post:
"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
I was intrigued enough to offer an opinion by posting, in the comment section, my kind of convoluted idea that one should try to have the kind of reputation that matches their character. In other words, the two should not be so different as to make what other think you are diametrically opposed to who or what you are as a person.
That being said, I get where the post is going - who or what I am (a good Catholic) may not be what the world designates as either good or Catholic. What I may be might be labeled according to the standards the world holds dear.
What I need, therefore, is the strength to accept that the majority of people might reject both (character and reputation) as unacceptable. What I see as good may be seen as bad. Light may be considered Darkness.
Which, of course, brings me to my character defect of wanting to be loved by people more than I want to be loved by God. This is not a good thing.
The unyielding problem that I experience as a Catholic is the acceptance of the promise by Jesus Christ that the world, which rejected Him, will reject me. I mean, look, I get it and I understand it intellectually but that understanding does not preclude my wish for a universal Leslie K. Fan Club.
Why do I have this need and why is this so darn difficult to be free of despite all the evidence I have that the need for love and acceptance by the world can be unproductive at best and damaging at its worst?
The simple answer is concupiscence. The effects of The Fall have damaged human nature so that what was meant to be a need and yearning for communion with God is perverted to a singular need for acceptance by my fellow creatures. My love for my fellows should be rooted in, and secondary to, my love for The Father. What is meant , therefore, to be a loving extension of my need and yearning for communion with God grows to be a focus for recognition and love from my fellow creatures. My own fallen nature shifts my focus from Him to you...or it....or stuff...and inevitably that shift causes me trouble. It makes me lonely, angry, hungry when I am full and tired when I have had enough sleep. It makes me worried and depressed and anxious. It causes me to be overly confident in my ability to fix everything and it drives my need to control those around me so that my life will be settled and happy...if only they would listen to me, they would feel better and therefore so will I.
What is interesting to me when I examine my conscience is the discovery that I can completely skip over the entire 'Love your neighbor as yourself' part of the commandment. In fact, to be honest, I change that to "Receive the love of your neighbor FOR yourself" - in other words, enough about me talking about me....let's talk about what YOU think of me.
And it better be good...or else.
Good works may not get you into heaven or insure your salvation but we know they are necessary for both or Jesus would not have clued us in that our actions will be the criteria for whether or not He recognizes us at the end of the world. In fact, He makes it pretty darn clear that there are actions we better be taking - we better be a member of His Church, we better be eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, we better be visiting Him in prison and feeding Him and making sure He has clothes and a place to live. More importantly we better be acknowledging His authority and to whom He gave it before ascending into heaven.
What I have to understand and discern is my reason for following His commandments. Wanting to avoid hell is a good start but my reason, if I am growing as a Catholic, should ultimately be to please Him, to be in communion with Him, to be like Him as much as I can. If my reasons for doing what is right remain rooted in selfishness (to avoid the pain and suffering of hell or because I really, really want to be seen as a good person by the world) I miss the point. I become someone who does the right things for the wrong reasons and that makes me vulnerable to attack from the evil one.
While I understand the sentiment expressed by my friend's Facebook post, I am held to a different standard. I should have a meeting of character and reputation. I need to have my actions reflect who I am and who I am needs to be in alignment with the Will of God, and not the will of the government or the latest political craze or the ideas expressed on Fox News or MSNBC. I have to be willing to proclaim the Truth not just because it is the right thing to do but because it IS Truth...not subjective but objective and real...not something but somebody.
And I need to be a part of that Body.