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Truth, charity and unity in the Spirit

Our culture seems to be obsessed with the art of arguing. The truth of the matter is that we have become quite adept at engaging one another with impassioned perspectives, ready to argue our point at all costs. We can readily find examples of these kinds of argumentative exchanges in social media, particularly in postings on politics and religious convictions. Less accessible and visible, but just as intense, are personal arguments we have with those closest to us.

What is challenging about heated arguments is that they can become confrontational and even aggressive, leaving behind the basic commitment to seek any kind of objective perspective or truth. So, we end up engaging each other with sincerity for what we feel is real while neglecting to perceive the larger context and reality. Given this approach and predicament, we argue simply for the sake of the arguing.

At times, our arguments become so hurtful that we forget the basic principle of charity. In the heat of the moment, we can quickly dismiss any charitable approach as weakness or naiveté, presuming that others will exploit and take advantage of us. Yet, what is needed is precisely civility and kindness, and the ability to step back and treat others as human.

Put differently, what is often missing is the shared dignity that allows each one to recognize the possibility of mutual enrichment. The virtue of charity helps us ultimately cultivate respect and admiration for what each brings to the conversation. Charity allows us to see that our arguments can go beyond personal confrontations to actual dialogue, leading to what is factual, truthful and held in common.

The intuition and understanding that our arguments need both truth and charity can carry us to a better place of common ground and connection. Perhaps more than ever, we need to hold on to the conviction that we do share some common interests — no matter how small — particularly in our current social climate that pulls us apart, leaving us feeling alone and isolated from one another.

Consequently, how we choose to engage one another — through our dialogue, through our sincere arguments and points, through our desires to be truthful and charitable — will make a big difference. In this regard, we can point to our faith for guidance and direction. Our sacred readings remind us that in sharing our convictions with others, we ought to do so with gentleness, reverence and care for what is truthful: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear… For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:15-18).

As we prepare to celebrate Pentecost and pray to grow spiritually, it is worth keeping in mind that the Spirt of God given to us is one of truth, charity and unity (John 16:13). We can take great consolation, also, in knowing that even though we may not always live up to our best intentions and hopes, the Spirit will come to our aid: “The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness…the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches the hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Romans 8:22-27). Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!

Javier Orozco is executive director of human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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