Frank discussions, advice, and opinions from a Catholic Director of Religious Education.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Children and the "G" Word
A few years ago I was walking through a class of children as they were drawing pictures of St. Paul. When I cast a quick glance on this picture I immediately entered into DRE Mode. Before I could begin my standard lecture against using the Lord's name in vain, however, I took a closer look and just had to laugh. If you were EVER going to say OMG, this would be the time to do it. Now, whether the child understood the irony of using this phrase in a truly appropriate context is doubtful (especially since St. Paul was riding a John Deere just off screen), but nevertheless he taught me the important lesson of not jumping to conclusions. He also sparked an interesting question: when should we correct others for misusing God's name and what is the best way to do that?
Kids are generally easy. The right look paired with "We don't say that Johnny" works miracles. Yes, catechize them when possible. Yes, praise them when they do well. In the moment, though, when you are trying to keep order in a class, a firm rebuke followed by immediately returning to what you were doing can do a lot to show children what is acceptable behavior.
Adults are a different matter altogether, especially if you can't ever catch them alone. Last year, during Confirmation, the bishop discussed this very subject to my everlasting joy. He suggested uttering a pious saying or prayer whenever someone misused God's holy name. In other words, if someone said "OMG" then you would say (aloud) something like "Have mercy on us" or "Blessed be His name." I really liked this at first, but then it became apparent that it takes a person with a certain natural warmth to say this out loud and not come off like a jerk. With my personality I know that if I said this to another adult, especially one I did not know well, they would actually hear "Have mercy on us...cough, cough... you're a sinner...cough,cough...shun...cough, cough. Oh, and you're kid is a brat."
Exaggeration? Maybe. But I really don't think my constant corrections will do much more than annoy and alienate most people. This is why I tend to take a low key approach with this particular sin. For some time now I have been opting to leave adults alone unless I see that it is a major problem or they are in leadership roles. Instead, if it is a slip here or there, I simply bow my head ever so slightly and think the words "Blessed be God forever." I offer these small prayers for that person, my own sins, and God's glory. I think this small act of love toward God in response to such disrespect must go a long way toward repairing the damage of sin. I also do this during movies, TV shows and video games and it is surprising how much I find myself praying as a result. It has really awakened me to the amount of times our world must misuse the Lord's name and to how important reparation is.
Above all we should practice prudence. What is the situation? Who is being corrected? What is their relationship to you? These are all important questions to consider before resorting to charitable correction. In the end, though, we have to acknowledge that only God can change hearts and pray more fervently for our brethren and our own salvation.