Today, we are constantly encouraged to develop a strong sense of independence and will. Ours is a social world that demands that we be assertive and intentional in dealings with others. Whether in business dealings or political persuasions, the ability to persuade others and stand our ground is significant, lest we be taken as a buffoon or someone out of touch with reality.
Similarly, in professional environments, we value those professional characteristics that are associated with good and effective leadership. It is often the leader who is recognized and promoted to positions of greater authority and responsibility. The leader is perceived as possessing the right level of determination and drive to get things done.
Culturally, this propensity to be assertive and determined in personal and professional lives finds greater expression in the manner in which we are expected to pull our own weight, have clear and fixed political positions, and not bother others with our own limitations or weaknesses.
More than ever, it seems, our public lives are saturated with strong-willed individuals who have fixed ideas and solid opinions in just about every imaginable subject. What is perhaps more alarming is the lack of civility and dialogue when disagreeing. It’s difficult to find conversations where different perspectives are held together in tension and where listening to what others have to say is appreciated.
While there is something laudable about our strong will and independence, there is also something missing or skewed when we hold to our positions and indiscriminately block out any wisdom from others, or when we isolate ourselves from others, simply because of opposing perspectives, ideas or biases.
As social beings, we readily point to our lives with others and discover how important it is to seek the input from those closest to us and those who might have opposing views. Co-workers, close friends or trusted family members often give us what we most need: words of encouragement, consolidation, guidance and wisdom. In our daily interactions, we have learned to value the insights of others.
Equally, we can detect in our faith life the need to open our minds and hearts to what God may be asking of us. Our spiritual journeys require us to recognize that spiritual hungers are not all remedied by our human efforts, alone — no matter how driven or determined they may be. In faith communities, we have witnessed how meaningful spiritual direction and guidance really is for us.
Our faith teaches us that much of the spiritual consolation and guidance we seek and need comes from above (Galatians 5: 18-26). The Spirit of God knows what we most need and provides for us those gifts that enrich our lives. The gifts are wisdom (Romans 11:33), understanding (Jeremiah 24:7), counsel (Matthew 7: 13-14), knowledge (Jeremiah 29: 11), piety (John 15: 15), fortitude (Luke 21:12-17) and fear of the Lord (Luke 12:27).
Let us, then, seek docility to the Spirit of God who gives us what we need for our time. And may we be generous in sharing the fruits of the Spirit with those we encounter and do not always agree with, especially the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Come Holy Spirit, Veni Sancte Spiritus, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love…. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Orozco is executive director for human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.