Saturday, February 4, 2017

Understanding Others

The Question Box of the Catholic Peace Weekly answers a reader who had a problem understanding his pastor. The priest was recently assigned to the parish. At first, the parishioners were happy to see how devoted he was to prayer. Saying the rosary on his walks, unlike the previous pastor who related easily with the parishioners but wasn't publicly that devoted to prayer.

However, the new pastor was critical of the parishioners and would repeat that he had never done anything that embarrassed him in his actions. The atmosphere of the parish became cold and the pastor a difficult person to approach.

The columnist answers that he understands well the reader's concern over the parish situation. When you have someone saying they have never done anything wrong making a judgment is not easy. However, expressing himself in that way is in itself a shortcoming in the personality: seeming to show a weak understanding of sin.

When we do something sinful we should know about the wrongness of the act. In this case, we are dealing, probably, with a priest who prays but with a narcissistic personality, one with a saint complex or Pharisee complex.

Pharisees, with great confidence, considered themselves chosen. They were different from those who didn't keep the law. God had a special love for them. They also did not have the experience of living like the poor and experiencing their difficulties, which made them oblivious of their plight. They had no idea of what living in poverty meant. With this very narrow vision, they were unable to make a sound judgment about others. They also may have had mental difficulties.

It is not always easy to distinguish between psychological problems and serious mental health problems but when a person is attacking and imputing guilt of others continually and sees no problems in his own actions then it is not inappropriate to think that you are not relating to a mentally healthy person. Is this not the reason Jesus warned us to be wary of the influence of the Pharisees?

A normal Christian is one who has a normal sense of shame and understanding of guilt. When others are in difficulty and we do not help and are able to help and feel shame this is normal. When we see others doing something sinful we also see the possibility of our sinning and refrain from condemning unreasonably, we are acting like people of faith.

When our sense of guilt is exaggerated we may be dealing with psychological problems but a proper sense of guilt is part of our human condition and helps us understand the faults of others. So before we condemn others, we feel sadness for the person and ask for God's forgiveness. Shame makes us more human and understanding of others.

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