Be accepting but always helpful

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

This is the attitude to have when dealing with others. We will always have to contend with a great variety of persons, some of whom we click, others we don't. But we have to learn to be accepting of everyone, whoever, however he is, warts and all, but always mindful of our duty to help him in his needs in whatever way we can.

We have to cultivate this attitude because it does not come to us quite easily. We need to discipline ourselves, reining in our personal preferences and idiosyncrasies, our feelings and interests so that they can acquire a more universal, welcoming and friendly mode, whatever the circumstances, whatever the differences and conflicts.

We have to be careful because many times our gifts, talents and other natural endowments, our sense of correctness and propriety can lead us to build our own world of interests and preferences, our own exclusive circle of friends, instead of contributing and strengthening our common good, irrespective of how we feel about this duty. They can build walls instead of bridges.

We have the tendency to apply to ourselves the adage, 'Birds of a feather flock together,' which is unfair to both the birds and us, for the simple reason that we are not birds, and birds are not men. We are expected, nay, obliged, to behave better than the birds. That adage, if made a principle of our life, is highly discriminatory.

We need to learn to be all things to all men, no matter how different others can be from us. In fact, the differences and conflicts, rather than causing discord and division, should trigger the dynamics of love, understanding, patience, mercy, compassion, etc. that leads to the unity proper to all of us, since in the end we are all brothers and sisters, and children of God.

Those differences and conflicts should strengthen the need for dialogue, for more gestures and better ways of affection and friendly contacts. The lines of communication should never be set aside no matter how big our differences are.

Those differences and conflicts should not be allowed to cause feelings of estrangement and alienation, of indifference and evasion from one another. In a certain sense, they should rather provoke the sentiments of attraction, rightly following the law of the magnet.

Saints, holy men and women down the ages have behaved in this way. An anecdote about St. Therese of the Child Jesus, for example, precisely shows how she would treat in a special way another nun in her convent who was particularly hostile to her.

To be sure, this is highly possible and practicable. This is no pipe dream. In the first place, we are assured of God's grace for this task. God is never sparing in this. We just have to be aware that we need to ask for this grace in our prayers, and from there, start to do our part. So, we should pray and constantly beg for this grace.

Then, we are endowed with spiritual powers, namely, our intelligence and will, that would enable us even to transcend our human limitations and natural conditionings, so that our individuality and uniqueness can somehow acquire a universal applicability. We are endowed with enough powers to be able to work as we should in any weather, fair or ugly.

With all these resources, we can actually develop the relevant qualities and virtues. We have to learn how and when to be tough and gentle, strict and lenient, sensitive and insensitive. We need to know when to be patient and impatient, tolerant and intolerant.

We have to be quick to find something good in others and points of unity and common interest even in the worst of scenarios.

These are never lacking if we care to look for them.

Let us avoid getting stuck with the divisive issues, and much less, magnifying them. In this regard, we have to have a good grip on our emotions and temper. It always pays to be calm and sober when dealing with conflictive situations. More than that, we have to learn to remain warm, cheerful and affable in these moments.

We have to learn the art of small talk, filled with sincere friendliness. Even when we are misunderstood or insulted, let us remain calm, because fire is not put off with another fire, but with water. If we are attacked and are forced to defend ourselves, let's do so calmly, never compromising the objectivity of the issues.

We need to accept everyone as he is, always attentive to their needs, defects, mistakes, etc., so we can help them.

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