You’re just about to RSVP “maybe” to a Facebook invite. Why is it so hard to decide yay or nay? Why are we stuck in the middle, crippled by a fear of missing out? This unending waffling leaves us miserably uncertain. We refuse to commit because we’re constantly waiting on something better. Or we say “maybe” because even though we have no desire to go, having no plans would be worse. Either way, we stay on the fence, lingering in the in-between.
However, it doesn’t end there. This post isn’t simply about our online selves. That “maybe” is symptomatic of a deeper, underlying problem that pervades our culture and our lives. We have a collective issue with responsibility, commitment, decision-making, and objective truth in general. We live in a state of stagnation which oftentimes becomes a sort of sliding down the path of least resistance toward an ever-worsening status quo. Oftentimes what progress is made is in the wrong direction.
Look at the way we live our lives. We have a fascination with extended adolescence. We are afraid of growing up. Our generation is so busy trying desperately to hold onto youth via endless partying to the wee hours, weekend after weekend, day after day. We chase temporary highs and wind up feeling empty and unhappy. We are postponing marriage and children because they tie us down and limit our freedom with responsibilities.
If you’re still not convinced we have a lot to work on in this area, consider our romantic relationships. We call the first part “talking” because we’re afraid of committing to dating. This is madness, since dating by its very nature is indefinite. Premarital cohabitation is the norm and sex is devalued to purely pleasure without responsibility or commitment. The connection between sex, marriage, and family is dismissed as old-fashioned or an unattainable ideal rather than an integral truth, and “safe sex” is promulgated as the standard. Divorce is an all too common occurrence. And then there are “alternative lifestyles” such as homosexual partnerships, polygamy, open relationships, and so forth. The world has no sense of direction. Relativity is the order of the day and it has left everyone lost.
Perhaps the most disheartening area of confusion is life issues. Children are viewed as a right rather than a gift to be pursued through any means possible. In vitro fertilization and other so-called fertility treatments create embryos in a lab that are discarded in addition to ignoring the normal means of procreation. Artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, and egg and sperm donation ignore the right of children to know their parents in the relentless pursuit of the invented right to have biological children. Yet despite these aggressive means to make babies, the means to avoid them are equally intense. Fertility, when inconvenient, is viewed as a disease. Contraception is ubiquitous. Birth control is pushed upon young girls and women as necessary healthcare despite its horrible side effects, destructive impact on relationships, and abortifacient qualities. Abortion is looked upon not as an atrocious genocide of innocent human life, but as a key part of reproductive rights. Then there are a host of sterilization methods that people employ to end their fertility permanently: “tube tying”, vasectomies, and so forth. The end of life is fraught with issues as well with people viewing euthanasia not as suicide but as the “right to die” or “death with dignity.” Pope John Paul II was not exaggerating in the slightest when he called ours a “culture of death.” Life is a gift from God and should be respected and cared for from beginning to end. We are called to build a culture of life; an uphill battle against popular opinion that anything goes so long as it’s not harming anyone per se.
Then there’s our indifference toward the poor and needy in our midst. We’re more than happy to jump on the bandwagon of the current fad cause, but we lose interest quickly and jump onto the next thing, leaving people in the lurch. Oftentimes we neglect what is truly needed and helpful and rather than empowering people and helping them to break the cycle of poverty, we strengthen that cycle. We feel that our affluence makes us somehow the model and we force some of our societal ills along with the good. We must show Christ’s compassion, ministering to the full person, fulfilling not just their temporal and physical needs, but their spiritual ones as well. Jesus’ call to us is clear to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, and so forth. Throughout the world there is intense suffering from war, hunger, disease, lack of clean water, and so much more. We are asked not just to give of our abundance, but to see these children and adults as people beloved of God.
All this is nothing new and it’s high time we do something about it. It’s up to you; you have to make your own decisions. We must fix this problem on an individual level, one person at a time, one decision at a time. We have to be the ones to go against the grain, to stand up for the truth even when it’s unpopular, to choose what’s right and choose it definitively. You’re not alone; we’re in this together.
So what are we to do? How do we begin to effect a change?
PRACTICE DISCERNMENT. Learn to know, recognize, and follow God’s will in your life. Look back on your past for examples of how God leads you. Inform your conscience to know right from wrong and don’t allow media, your peers, or other influences to desensitize you to evil and sin. Remember that the ends never justify the means. Each step along your path should be moving closer to God and deeper in holiness.
MAKE FIRM DECISIONS. Be trustworthy and reliable. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:37, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no.'” Don’t linger in some imaginary waiting room. God has harsh words for those who stay on the fence. Revelation 3:15-16 states, “I know your works, you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm, I will spit you from my mouth.”
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Own up to your mistakes and shortcomings and learn from them. Take credit where credit is due. Don’t hide behind false humility.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. Be a person of integrity who walks the walk. Don’t worry about whether it makes you popular or teased. Don’t set your sights on human admiration for your good deeds. Your Heavenly Father sees what you’re doing and it pleases Him. Speak up against injustice and sinfulness, coming from a position of love and deep care for others, respecting the innate dignity of the human person.
ESCHEW COMPLACENCY. If you find yourself making excuses for your behavior or not speaking up about something, odds are you’re settling. If you feel uneasiness about a situation you find yourself in, it’s probably your conscience nudging you. If you’re feeling smug and self-satisfied because you’re better than others or doing well by comparison, it’s likely blinding pride. All of these are signs that you’re becoming complacent. This is very different from the peace and tranquility of spirit that stems from doing God’s will and His work. You should be ever striving to become the person God made you to be, always growing into a better version of yourself. God’s call is a call to action. As James 2:17 tells us, “Faith without works is dead.”
Go forth and live your life so as to glorify the God who gives you life! I leave you with these words from Pope Francis, “Dear young people, do not be afraid of making decisive choices in life. Have faith, the Lord will not abandon you.”