Evening Examen--Labels

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“Search me O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139.23,24)

Where have I sinned against charity in my thoughts about people today? Where have I dismissed someone with a label? Where have I cursed others without them knowing it? When did I talk about a person or a group in derogatory terms? Where have I failed to value a person as person?

Where did I meet and welcome my Lord today? How can I be more aware of my opportunities to meet Him? What further offering can I make of myself and my goods to further His kingdom on Earth? How can I be better prepared to receive Him?

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Okay, this may open a can of worms best left unopened, but would you please give examples for: "Where have I cursed others without them knowing it" and "Where have I failed to value a person as person"?

How about the person that cuts you off in traffic? The person in front of you with 20 items in the 12-item lane of the grocery store? The person in the dirty t-shirt that smells funny? The person in the purple dinosaur suit that sings those annoying songs?

Steve's prayer reminds me of the Kairos Guy's entry on I-Thou vs. I-It and Fr. Jim's homily on who is in front of the line into heaven.

Dear Smockmama,

Mark hit the nail on the head as far as my thinking goes. I know that any time a label enters my head, I tend to value the person qua person less. I know this is not true of everyone. But if I start thinking of a person as a "homeless" person, homelessness tends to overpower personhood and the person recedes into a label. I am not loving them as I should. Again, I know it isn't true of everyone, but often if we can say that that person is "conservative" or "liberal" or a "progressive" Catholic or some other thing, we tend to insulate ourselves from them. After all, we wouldn't usually apply those labels to our sons and daughters or our mothers and fathers.

But those were my thoughts as I composed the questions for the examen.



Thank you very much for your information.
I must still be thristing for spiritual milk because I still find labels useful. Please pray for God to be gentle with me.

Dear Smockmomma,

One shouldn't get the wrong idea. Labels can be useful; however, they can also be quite misused. Because a person is, say a communist, does not mean that their view of abortion is necessarily wrong (assuming that it somehow coincides with that of the Church). But for some people, the label precludes any possibility of the person being correct about anything. That's the danger.

I know when I tend to label, I often do so to dismiss. "Oh that's just Spongebobism at its worst. . . " and so forth. So I try very hard not to label people. However, labelling ideas, for example, "heresy" seems perfectly in order. As Father Keyes pointed out elsewhere, saying that a hymn is heretical does not impute heresy to the composer of the hymn--perhaps merely fuzzy thinking. It this sense, labelling is fine. One can label an idea "communist," "non-sectarian," "vegan," "pro-peta," or whatever with little or no harm to a person. Indeed in many cases the person may not even be aware that they are holding these ideas. But once a person becomes a label, I don't know if it is possible to show them a love due a child of God. For some it may be. For others, myself among them, I assure you that labelling is the step before the dustbin (I tend only to label those who disagree with me). So perhaps you are further along than I am. I wouldn't evaluate in that way. I just suggested these as possible guidelines for thinking--not all of them will work for every person.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 2, 2003 7:20 PM.

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