Friday, December 2, 2011


Shamelessness is seen all too often in our society laments the writer of the column on spirituality in the Catholic Times. In the press and on TV, we see so many that do wrong, and very calmly see it as an unfortunate quirk of fate, as the wrong-doers persist in maintaining their innocence. It makes the columnist angry.

These persons, he maintains, either lie, mitigate what happened, give excuses, cover it up with great audacity, showing no embarrassment or sorrow, or recall moments in their lives to show how upright they have been. Which reminds the writer of the problem Jesus had with the Pharisees and the lawyers. 

"Wanko," the Korean word he uses, meaning stubborn, obstinate, lack of adaptability, expresses this mindset and is understood by many to describe a person not able to see his own faults or understand another's position; a person living in his own world, his heart locked, judging the world with his or her own measuring rod.

The columnist tells us the story of a priest friend who had an experience while in middle school that exemplifies this kind of attitude. His friend was not well prepared to take the exam on music theory, so he surreptitiously opened the book on the subject and was seen by the teacher, who told him to come to the front of the room. He had never done any cheating before and was judged a good student by his teachers. So when the teacher asked him why he had cheated, he was so confused that he blurted out, "I was planning to look, but I didn't."
The teacher, seeing the student trying to justify himself, hit him and took him to the teachers' room. All the teachers were surprised to hear about his cheating. His homeroom teacher was called in. He showed no anger and asked for the circumstances and the student repeated that he was going to look but didn't. His homeroom teacher told him that the teacher who discovered the cheating was a wonderful teacher and usually overlooks a lot. If only you had acknowledged doing something wrong, he was told, it would have been all over. But now he had to ask the student to bring his father to school.

We can all imagine how the student felt. Now a priest, he told the columnist that if he had simply said he did wrong it would have been all over. However, with the words "I was going to look, but I didn't," he had unleashed a chain of unwelcome events: being hit, going to the teachers' room, having his father come to the school, and the embarrassment of it all.
This attitude, which can be compared to hardening the muscles of the mind, insisting on ones own way, is something we have to fight against. This will reduce our stress and make us more attentive to the words of others, more honest with oneself, and more willing to admit to being wrong. In time we become more generous, and as we open up to others our world also opens and becomes less stressful.  

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