What Does It mean to Be a Truly Loving Christian?

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci

What Does It Mean to Be a Truly Loving Christian?

by Mary Beth Bonacci

Christmas has come and gone. Are you feeling the glow of another wonderful holiday season with family and friends, basking in the warmth of family togetherness while thanking God for sending His Son? Or are you pop-ping Prozac and thanking God that you have a whole year before you have to go through this again?

If you're in the latter category, don't feel too bad. You're not alone. This is a stressful season. Expectations tend to be high, because Christmas is supposed to be a wonderful season of love. (Right?) The lovely sentiment of buying gifts to show we care for those closest to us has turned into a commercial nightmare of epic proportions. And bringing family together under one roof, even in the best of families, can sometimes lead to a certain amount of tension as adult siblings revert to childhood roles.

It's no wonder the Christmas season is the time period with the highest suicide rate of the year.

In talking to people about this, I've found that the holiday season tends to be hardest on the type of people I call "pleasers". Pleasers are the kind of people we often like a lot. They are constantly sacrificing to make sure that others are happy. They go out of their way to accommodate others. They are very pleasant, never disagreeable. Pleasers are the epitome of good Christians.

Or are they?

What does it mean to be a good Christian? It means to love others AS ourselves. It means to look out for what is best for all human people, because we are all created in the image and likeness of God, who sent His only Son because He wanted what was best for us.

Pleasers may look like they're doing that, but their actual motivation is slightly different. Pleasers want to be liked. They do what others expect of them, whether reasonable or not, in order to gain acceptance. And while this may look like good Christianity, it actually violates the most basic Christian tenet:

Nowhere does Scripture say, "Love your neighbor of yourself." Part of being a Christian is recognizing that you are created in the image and likeness of God. He loves you, and wants what is best for you. Of course, that doesn't mean that God wants you to have all of the Christmas cookies while others don't get any. But it does mean that He wants you to be respected as the image of God that you are.

Pleasers sometimes don't allow this to happen. They tend to be easily manipulated. When others make them feel guilty, or threaten to withdraw affection, pleasers can be made to do just about anything, whether or not it is in their own personal best interest or in keeping with their own dignity. The cardinal sin is to make someone mad, whether that anger is justified or not.

Pleasers are not free to determine their own agendas. In that way, they hurt not only themselves, but the people closest to them as well. Instead of making decisions based on the best course of action, they make decisions based on who is exerting the most pressure on them. So it's the most demanding people, not the most important or deserving people, who end up satisfied.

On the short end of the stick are often family and close friends. After all, we all know that our families will love us no matter what, right? When there's a conflict between family, who love us unconditionally, and outsiders whose approval we're still trying to gain, it's a lot easier to say no to the family. And thus, tension and hurt feelings all around, leaving the pleaser feeling frustrated.

Abraham Lincoln must've said "You can't please all of the people all of the time" during the Christmas season. Never is it more true.

So if you're looking for a New Year's resolution, try this: Resolve to be a truly loving Christian, to and to strive to do the right thing, not just the thing you're pressured into doing or the thing that will make others like you most.

That's the "narrow road." It will help you to be a better Christian. And it will make next Christmas whole lot merrier.

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity.

This article appeared in the January 9, 1997 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1- 800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.

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