Losing By Default
Whenever I hear someone complaining I like to ask him one question: What are you doing about it? When someone is complaining about their finances, I ask them, “Are you spending your money wisely? Are you working harder?” When someone is complaining about their city or country, “Did you vote responsibly? Did you even vote? Do you even have a stand on issues? Do you know the issues” When they complain about there being so many poor people, or the suffering kids, “Are you helping them by consuming less and giving more? Are you contributing to the problem by paying them low wages so that you can have another toy?” When people complain about their relationships, “Are you the kind of friend that makes those you relate with better? If you’re the more righteous person, shouldn’t you be more capable of serving?” When people complain about their work, “Can you honestly say you’re working at your most efficient? Could it be that some of the burdens are caused by your own mistakes?”
These are questions I ask myself whenever I am complaining myself. They are sobering questions that have helped me think through my own shallow selfishness that prioritizes my needs and opinions yet diminishes my responsibility to act.
The reason why I find these questions so difficult is simply because it means I am willing to consider that the problem is me.
To be honest, I find that 99% of the time, it is me. It is true that I need to be more socially conscious. I need to consume less, whether that be energy, food, clothes, stuff. I need to give more. I need to collaborate more, unite more, serve more.
The good news is this has led me to really search my heart and soul, truly read the scriptures and helpful theological explanations, learn philosophical positions, and really develop personal convictions, not my minister parents’ convictions, or my pastor brother’s convictions, or my company’s convictions, or my friends’, or those of my colleagues, or the church’s, and especially not the mob’s, but my own. Sometimes these convictions align with those I mentioned above, sometimes they don’t. What is important is that they’re mine, meaning, I own them, so I am responsible to live by them.
Let us not lose by default by apathetically ignoring our great privilege to hold our own well-studied convictions and forgetting our responsibility to act based on these convictions.
This is a reminder for me as well. We have no right to complain when our own apathy and inaction continues to contribute to a broken society. A leech is something who uses its abilities to suck others dry. Don’t be a leech. Use your abilities to make others better.
Opinion Is Not Equal to Conviction
The difference between an opinion and a conviction is action. Sadly, it is the conviction of many of us that our opinion is enough, and this is why we don’t act. We need to remember that a quote on our wall or tweet means nothing if we don’t live by it. Just because we retweeted something on love doesn’t mean we are loving. Just because we tweeted something on politics doesn’t mean we are good citizens. Just because we shared a verse doesn’t mean we practiced it. All it means is that at that moment it resonated with us. Until we live out our tweets, verses, and opinions in our daily life they remain bumper stickers that do not transform. Inspiration must be acted out for it to transform.
We have opinions on guys and girls, movies and shows, styles and models, stocks and bonds, what’s hot or not, what’s cool and what’s uncool, what to say and what not, on so many things, but our actions and interests many times betray the shallowness of our convictions.
Don’t worry about people disagreeing with you. A good sign that you don’t really have convictions is when you agree with everyone and everyone agrees with you. Strong conviction will always polarize.
It’s Either We All Win Or We All Lose
I remember someone asking me whether they should support Habitat for Humanity or Gawad Kalinga. Those of you who follow my blog know that I serve on the board of Habitat for Humanity. I told him, while I can personally vouch for Habitat, I encourage you to get to know both groups and make your choice. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team: team Philippines.
I believe we should remember this as we actively participate in the political process, and it’s good that we are participating. We need to remember that we’re on the same team.
I am generally for the RH Bill, and agreed more with the positions of the proponents of the bill BUT having said that as a member of team Philippines, I need to recognize that I’m on the same team as the Catholic Church and the politicians against the bill. Now that the bill is passed responsible citizenship means uniting against ills the bill was meant to defeat. Gloating and demonizing on both sides won’t help anyone, especially not the poor.
If you believe in the merits of the bill, arm yourself with it and do your part to promote responsible reproductive health, particularly in the role of education.
If you disagree, arm yourself with your conviction, and use it to promote responsible reproductive health.
Just because secular society decides on what they believe is a better option, it does not stop or limit the church from continuing to help the poor, teach responsibility, and most of all spread the love of God, the Gospel, which is its true mandate.
The simple point is this: it’s either we all win or we all lose. We may have differences in our ideas but here we can unite and agree, that if we show the same passion in our daily excellences, we will see a greater country.
I guess now we’ll see who is playing politics and who really cares about the poor.
Love Thy Neighbor
Let us get practical: love thy neighbor.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the words “I love you”. These days, who knows what that means? In my experience and observation, it means “I love you until my biggest excuse”.
Yet, amidst our apathy, our selfish individuality, and our rationalization of our unfaithfulness, are stories of people who have made passionate lives work. These people, their stories, inspire us, make us wish we have what they do, and make us wonder how they made it work.
Maybe the answer is already there: they live passionate lives.
Passion, the word, means to suffer. A passionate life, is a life that suffers, not because it has nothing better to do, but because it is madly in love. The best way never to get hurt and suffer is never to love and build your own safe bubble – so we thought.
The tragic events at Sandy Hook remind us that the problem child next door is our problem too. The broken down values, the mental illnesses, the dysfunctions of our neighbors are ours too.
As I said, we either all win or all lose.
My encouragement for us is to love so much and so passionately through our daily excellences. The world is already full of people who want a better world without having to pay with the only currency a better world accepts: our lives.