A recommendation from Jesuit Father James Martin to do something positive during Lent caught my eye this year. He proposed “Be Kind” as a focussed goal to develop during the penitential season. In his You Tube video he gave three suggestions for how to implement this objective.
Don’t be a jerk. This was my favourite and most surprising. Recently while walking our dog Cisco, I was in a hurry to get home since it was a very bitterly cold minus ten Celsius February day. A homeless man asked if he could pet him. I answered: “no, I’m in a hurry.” All he wanted to do was touch him, probably to have some contact with a friendly animal. Thinking about it later, I understood Father Martin’s warning: “Don’t be a jerk.”
Don’t talk about people negatively behind their back. This one is kind of obvious. By putting others down, are we not really just trying to make ourselves look superior.
As St. Ignatius Loyola says: Give the benefit of the doubt. He’s not being naïve here, we sometimes have to make prudent judgements about individuals. But apparently Ignatius advised spiritual directors that sometimes it’s necessary in working with a directee that we might not agree with, to give them the benefit of the doubt.
I now remind myself daily to not be a jerk, avoid negative criticism, and give others the benefit of the doubt when appropriate. I’m finding more peace in my life.m