I have been reading Elizabeth Scalia’s blog for a year or so now and she always gets me thinking. Lately she has repeated the words of Pope Benedict, “It is good that you exist,” which had me thinking about how many of us long to hear those words. Most people hear those words, maybe not in words but in the love of their parents, of both parents. Or at least, that is how it should be. That is how God set up the family, for there to be a father and a mother who love each other and whose marriage tells each of their children, “It is good that you exist.” But what happens when that isn’t what happens?
When children are raised by a stressed out single mother or father, for whatever reason, but mostly if it is because of divorce, then what do the children hear from that marriage? I can only assume the answer to that question really. I was raised by a single mother, but it wasn’t because she was divorced; my father left before I was even born. I don’t really know why, but never in my life has my father seen my face. He doesn’t know my name or anything about me. He has no idea that I have four kids and a grandchild. None. He doesn’t even know that I exist, much less that it is good that I exist. And that has left a very huge wound in my life.
There are other things that happened to me in my childhood that left wounds including being raised by an over-stressed single mother who saw the memory of the man who promised to love her and abandoned her every time she looked at me. It left me seeking ways to have my existence validated. The countless ways that I sought that validation are all things that people from the outside can look at and judge one way or another. Yes, having sex with a twenty-two year old man when I was fourteen was a sin. Yes, it was a pathetic attempt to fill a place in my heart that only God could fill. Yes going to the Baptist Church where they told me that God loved me, that I could say one prayer asking Him into my heart and He would save me (from all the pain, in my child’s mind) and be my Father, tickled my ears. And it felt good to a child who had rarely been told that she was good. Yes, all the other men who used me for their own ends were liars, but for the little time that they told me that I was good, it was worth all the pain when I realized that they were just saying that to get me to sleep with them. All of it was worth it to find some tiny glimpse at the idea that I was worth being around. That my existence wasn’t an accident. That my life had a purpose, that someone would love me someday and keep me safe.
There are many circumstances that a person could live through that could leave them feeling like that.
How many times, as Catholics, do we get so caught up in a debate about morals that we forget that the person on the other side of that debate may just be hurting and looking for someone to say to them, “It is good that you exist?” How many times when we are debating about homosexuality do we throw charity out the window for the sake of speaking the truth and send the message to homosexual people that it would be better if they didn’t exist? How many times do we stop to think that maybe, just maybe, they are arguing with emotions because we are adding to their wounds. We are making them feel like they aren’t worth having around because they are “disordered”?
Maybe we are saying the truth, like the truth that I was indeed a slut, but maybe we are not getting how that truth sounds to a wounded soul. Not because homosexual people are all wounded, but because on some level all human beings are wounded, some way, some how.
You and I, as Catholics, may or may not understand that what we mean when we say something is “out of natural order.” We are all sinners and all sins are disordered, therefore we all commit disordered actions, but to a person who has heard that he or she is disordered, which is typical of the experience of homosexual people or promiscuous people, such a charge sounds like condemnation. Everyone was created good, regardless of their sins. Are we called to try and avoid those sins? Yes, but not just one group of people.
I read comments from people saying that our opponents should get to know us as people and not assume that we are hateful bigots. Well I think that we fail to see them as people too, which is even worse because we are the ones claiming to follow Christ. I would like to see Cardinals be the first ones to reach out to the LGBT community, not wait for an invitation. I know plenty of those people who do drugs, sleep around, cuss a lot, and are atheists who hate all things Catholic. They do not want our approval for their lifestyle; they want to know that we see them as humans and that it is good that they exist. And it is! God made them good and He cared enough to create them, flaws and all.
It dawned on me, during a therapy session where I was talking about how much I hate Facebook but can’t seem to kick it. I get sucked into Facebook threads when the subject is one I take personally. When I see someone write a comment that I feel personally attacks me, my faith, my beliefs, my family, my race, or someone that I know, I start typing as if I am in a boxing match. Not only am I speaking emotionally, but I’m speaking through my wounds and then when I start getting the “Likes” of people who agree with me, then I get validation that I am good. Good at arguing, smart, or whatever. The problem is—that it is false validation. Speaking through my wounds doesn’t help me heal; if anything it only makes them fester and get infected. It causes me to lose the peace of my soul and it also causes me to add the wounds of others who are just seeking the same thing I am: To hear that it is good that we exist.
Loving our enemies is all about putting down our arguments and seeing the human person, whatever the“them” that they are in the us vs them debate of the day, and telling our enemies that it is good that they exist, even if we disagree with them. God isn’t ever going to tell us, “You know, you were so close to being a saint, but you failed to make that person change their views with your argument and instead you loved them, flaws and all, so it looks like you are going to hell.” No, he is going to be happy with anyone who can see past the flaws of others and love them even when they are wrong. How do I know? Because He looks past my flaws and loves me, even when I am wrong.