No more jerks for Jesus

St. Paul got knocked off his horse, and then he stopped persecuting Christians. Pretty dramatic. From that day forward, he stopped being the guy that helped kill Christians, and started being the guy who saved them.

Some people do experience a conversion so dramatic and easy to pinpoint, you could paint a picture of the exact moment it happened — and many people have, with St. Paul. And by all accounts, his behavior was dramatically different after he got up from the ground, and it remained different until he died.

But it’s far more common for Christians to undergo a conversion that drags on, un-picturesquely, for decades and decades, in fits and starts, with long spells of no progress, with several incidences of backsliding, and with such incremental progress that you can’t discern it at all unless your eyesight has been sharpened by the Beatific Vision.

The fits and starts and barely discernible progress? That’s me — specifically, regarding the one sin that I’m having the hardest time overcoming, which is uncharitable words and thoughts against other people. I’ve been trying to change. I’ve been trying to change for about 20 years now.

So far, no one has made any fine art depicting my conversion. Instead, countless people have gently or firmly objected to the uncharitable things I’ve said in public and in private; and countless people have showed me a more Christlike approach that looks so attractive, I feel the faint stirrings of wanting to imitate it. It’s hard, because it’s just so much easier to be mean.

I get rewarded for being mean far more than I get criticized for it. And I enjoy being mean. I’m really good at it.

But I still can’t completely ignore the words and witness of the people around me who have done a better job of conquering this sin.

Because of them, I have made . . . a little progress. I still lose my temper routinely. And even worse, I still lose my temper, recover it, and then deliberately and coolly choose to be uncharitable anyway, because it feels good, or because I came up with a really funny zinger, or because I tell myself it’s just a little thing and doesn’t matter much. Even though I have read and heard the words, over and over and over again, that it does matter. That if I have not love, I have nothing.

Charity toward others is not a little thing. It’s the biggest thing. But still I struggle, one step forward, ten steps back. It is discouraging. I would rather be knocked off my horse, but who knows? Maybe I would pick myself up, brush myself off, and go right back to being an unfettered jerk. It could happen.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: Book of Hours, Walters Manuscript via Flickr (Public Domain

Liked it? Take a second to support simchajfisher on Patreon!

7 thoughts on “No more jerks for Jesus”

  1. Most of us struggle with this. I certainly do. Remember the line from Raisin in the Sun: when you look at where someone is, consider the hills and valleys it took to get there. God seems to have a special fondness for those who struggle with /for/alongside Him.

  2. Good resolution to be kind, but the way I see it….Our Faith is a Fighting Faith. And now and again if pushed, it’s ok to push back. Sometimes people have not-so-good intentions. To always be serene and passive allows bad intentions to go unchallenged. We may not always deal with things in the calm and kind manner we should….But hey, we’re passionate. Id rather be passionate than indifferent. Besides, we are Christians, not door mats. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s harder to push back than it is than let things go because the former takes courage. And the latter is the complacent option.

  3. I too, have been working on this. It’s not easy and I do have to admit that I feel a twinge when I slide. I am hoping that God notices.

  4. If its any consolation, I’ve been following you online for awhile now and I’m pretty sure I’ve caught you trying to temper yourself on this at least once. At least once or twice when interacting with me personally (we don’t always agree, which is one of the reasons I follow you…I need to get out of my echo chamber now and again).

    So keep plugging away at it. It’s not totally invisible, I promise. <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *