A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. –Pope Benedict XVI (2005)
Look at America today. We are a culture confused, hurt and broken. Horrified by violence, we see out gun laws to stop senseless killing, then argue for our right to abortion. We use our bodies as objects to service our pleasures (we call them rights). We rely on anything for hope—ideologies, politics, people, stature, pleasure, drugs, power, beauty, independence, security, money—and they leave us angry, depressed and discouraged. Christianity is portrayed as a source of hate, and we confine evil to something we can regulate or ignore, depending on convenience and collective opinion.
There is so much fear and pain. We will do anything to stop death, anger, sickness, injustice, inconvenience, and accountability from entering our lives, and when we cannot, we fall as victims. Regulation is the answer. By shaping perceptions—ours and others—we believe we create justice and justify ourselves.
What I have outline above is not only an 50,000-foot macro view of the external struggles of modern society. It is every one of us—our most intimate struggles with sin, and the maladaptive coping strategies, emotional disorders and neurosis that block human flourishing.
So how can we realistically help someone when the world supports the way of man? Faith and reason. God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (John Paul, 1998).
The gospel is both informative and performative—it can educate and can change lives. (Benedict, 2005). But it is also an invitation, not a given. To help others find clarity around moral decisions or the consequences of their actions, we must live our faith through words and works, so others can come to know God through us, while employing reason and science to assist along the way. Such as:
- Ensure all people are treated with dignity, as all humans are created in the image of God. Offer empathy and love, without judgement or a goal of conversion. Jesus is the way the truth and the light (Jn 14:6).
- Help others from closing in on themselves, as all humans are affected by the influence of sin yet are also rational. Engage clients to explore what they intend, why and they intend to do it through open-ended questions, reframing techniques and offering insight into world views that allow them to see outside of their perceptions. The answers are there.
- Let them know they have a choice, free will. Walk through common challenges and influences—biology, history, culture, etc; the struggles between virtue and vice; vicious circles; psychological irony, etc. so they can understand positive and negative external influences, what has shaped them. Then explore proven strategies to address these issues as well as options such as cognitive and drug therapies, external programs and resources, discussion and prayer to help them address their challenges.
- Strengthen their vocations, as all humans are relational. Help them see the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with themselves and God, their family and friends, and their work by exploring the meaning of love: to will the good of the other for the other, and how to achieve that through forgiveness, humility and service.
- Offer them unwavering hope, as all humans are redeemed. No sin is outside God’s mercy. No darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. (John Paul, 1993). Offer guidance around virtues and vice as a way to stay on the path toward excellence.
The IPS Group. (2015). The theological and philosophical premises concerning the person in the IPS model of integration. Unpublished manuscript. Arlington, VA: The Institute for the Psychological Sciences.
John Paul II (1998). Fides et Ratio. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
John Paul II (1993). Veritatis splendor. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Benedict XVI. (2005). Spe salvi. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.