+Bishop Robert Barron is quoted in a recent book co-authored by John Allen entitled To Light A Fire On Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age as offering three principles for Catholics to keep their lives in harmony with God’s stage directions in lieu of being mired in the unwanted drama that afflicts our peace when we choose our own preferred method of directing and acting.
a) Find the center of your life as determine what’s occupying that space.
b) Know yourself for who you are: a sinner.
c) Repeat often: It’s not about me.
Finding the center of your life means to do exactly and simply that: locate those value, needs, and wants that are primordial to your path in life. Then make the firm decision to install Christ in that place of honor and power. For example, if what really drives you or floats your boat are things like friends, reputation, material comforts, power, pleasure, or prestige, you can be 100% certain that rancor, stress, and disharmony will never be far from the surface of your life. When we utilized our own ego in determining what we believe with make us happy, chaos, fear, and conflict will inevitably result in a clash with the wants of others. But if we make the choice to give Christ the first and final word in making our decisions by using his metric of love, we will find our lives enjoying our role in his direction in life’s theater. Rather than taking to social media or wherever to lament the latest ‘insult’ or ‘injustice’ we believe has been offered against honor or values, living by the teachings of Christ instead we will walk in the peace and security knowing we’re taking lessons from the one true ‘master of love’.
Knowing yourself as a sinner might seem counter-intuitive if one is searching for happiness in life since such contemplations tend to engender disquiet in the mind and soul as they wrestle with our infamous ‘Catholic guilt’ as a consequence for our transgressions. But actually accepting one’s moral and religious practices as irredeemably flawed is life-changing in a positive direction in a few ways.
First, on a purely human level, recognizing that we are all sinners both levels the playing field when it comes to any subjective appraisal of our own moral rectitude or expectation of the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the opinion of others about ourselves. It also impels us to grow in our ability and desire to offer the most charitable and loving interpretation possible of them if are suffering as a result of their failings. These are admirable qualities for all people to strive for and are indeed essential to any peaceful and harmonious life and society as would no doubt be acknowledged by both secularists and religious folk alike. Empathy is essential to living a harmonious life in peace with others.
But empathy grows best in the strong clear light of love and faith that comes from seeing each other as equal in the sight of God and each other. Christian faith is our being all sinners aids in growing more empathetic.
It’s not about me is a mantra that keeps us focused not on our own desires and cravings but focuses us on our concern for God and others. Urs von Balthasar, a theologian of note from the mid-20th century expressed it best when he stated that all people live within their own life’s drama. But he argues that we can choose whether to make it an ‘ego-drama’ piece of theatre in which we insist on playing the central role or a ‘theo-drama’ in which we establish God as our director and those he brings onto the stage of our life as the legitimate stars of the play.