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Don't Do You - March 2018

posted Mar 26, 2018, 4:08 AM by RSO The Fenwick Review

By Greg Giangiordano '18

There are few phrases as damaging as you do you. It’s a phrase that we hear all the time and don’t really think about, and it’s a phrase that I have often parroted. Many times have people approached me and invited me to do this or that, and, when I replied that I wasn’t interested, I followed it up with, “but you do you.” You might ask why this phrase is damaging. Doesn’t it just mean I won’t judge you? And isn’t not judging a good and Christian thing to do?  At its heart, you do you really means as long as it doesn’t affect me, I don’t care what you do. Even if I disagree with what you are doing because I think it is morally wrong, I will tolerate it so that everyone will be comfortable.

“You do you” sums up everything wrong with our culture of tolerance. Many people confuse tolerating someone’s actions with loving them, but they aren’t the same thing. Toleration is one of the easiest means by which we coexist with things we find unpleasant. It is a way of coping with an adverse situation. When applied to other people, toleration involves quietly dealing with the faults and flaws we find in others. It requires nothing more than an uneasy silence for the sake of comfort. Worse yet, when we simply tolerate others, we allow a cold resentment to fester until we are no longer able to reconcile ourselves with that person. We lose sight of his or her redeeming qualities, and simply wish that he or she would just go away. Toleration is the first ingredient in a toxic mental stew that slowly dissolves what would otherwise be a happy relationship. Though a refusal to be explicitly hateful, tolerance is an easy and selfish way to interact with other people, because it places priority on our own comfort than on truth and goodness.

Love is different. Loving another person means selflessly willing the good of that person. Willing is not the same thing as wishing. Wishing is passive, and it requires no more effort than sitting and longing for the wished thing to happen, without actually doing anything to make it so. Willing is the active pouring of one’s energy into making the willed thing happen. Take grades, for example. If it is my will to get good grades, then I will invest my time in studying and applying myself to achieve those grades. I will make it happen, instead of simply letting it happen or hoping it will happen. If we apply the will to loving another person, we then actively try to bring about the good in their life. It requires time, effort, and commitment.

If we love selflessly, we are willing the good of another person devoid of personal interest or gain. In the words of St. Ignatius contained within the Prayer of Generosity, we are giving without counting the cost, fighting without heeding the wounds, toiling without seeking rest, and laboring without asking for any reward. We are letting our own desires die so that the good of our brothers and sisters might be more fully achieved. In this light, selflessly willing the good of another is laborious, strenuous, and difficult. But has any worthwhile goal ever been accomplished by being weak, lazy or selfish? It is only through selflessly willing the good of another person that love becomes authentic.

Some might ask, what is the good that we should will? As Christians, we don’t need to get creative or inventive. We need simply look at the New Testament and Christ’s words at the Last Supper. “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). We are to love one another as Christ loves us, and we see how Christ loves in His interactions with sinners. We see His love in His speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, in His saving of Mary Magdalene from stoning, in His invitation to the rich man, and in His call to Matthew. In all instances, Christ’s love is twofold—there is both forgiveness of past sins and a challenge to live better in the future. This is what it means to love as a Christian. We are called, not to tolerate immoral behavior, but to lovingly forgive each other for our imperfect human faults while at the same time challenging each other to live better. We are called to love as Christ loved, to burn with a zeal and passion for the good of our brothers and sisters, so that we might one day become saints and exist in loving union with God.

Charles Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia, said in a lecture at the University of Notre Dame in 2016, “Life is a gift, not an accident. And the point of a life is to become the kind of fully human person who knows and loves God above everything else, and reflects that love to others. That’s the only compelling reason for a university that calls itself Catholic to exist. And it’s a privilege for Notre Dame to be part of that vocation.” As a college, as a community of people which claims to uphold the faith and traditions of the Catholic Church, we must ask ourselves, are we loving, or are we simply tolerating?