As a child, I thought that, as people grew up, they grew up. I presumed that as children grew into adolescents, and adolescents into adults, they matured accordingly, leaving their childish ways behind and adopting new, more refined, more angelic, more ‘right’ habits and perspectives. This is certainly true to an extent, as we can all witness and attest, however it was a shock to my system when I realised that this isn’t as thorough a transformation as I’d naïvely thought – with anyone, and less so for some than for others.
We are taught to turn to the Lord first and foremost; to do as He would have us do, according to His will. Inherent in this is good, or charity, towards others.
“Every good that a person does to the neighbour is of charity, or is charity. The quality of the charity therefore may be recognised from the three things preceding, namely: 1, To what extent s/he shuns evils as sins; 2, To what extent s/he knows and recognises what are sins; 3, And to what extent s/he has seen them in her/himself, confessed them, and repented. … Consequently the ‘first’ of charity is to look to the Lord and shun evils because they are sins. … The ‘second’ of charity is to do goods because they are uses.” (Charity 7-8, 13 (portions))
As an innocent youngster, I thought that adults were always benevolent, always wishing the best for others – never spiteful, or mean, or rude. As I grew, I came to realise how difficult it is to release some of the childish habits we form in our youth. Some of us work hard to overcome our temptations, striving to be the angels that the Lord wants us to be, while some of us let our baser selves dictate our actions, allowing ourselves to behave, well, child-like.
Take, for example, the adult bullies amongst us. I have recently had some interaction with an adult whom I would characterise as having control freakish, bullying tendencies. She sometimes comes across as a lovely, well-meaning woman, but other times her behaviour is shockingly immature, the way she gives people the silent treatment, intimidates them, threatens to take certain actions if they question her or don’t do what she wants them to do.
On a larger scale, consider the situation with North Korea. I’m not into politics and I really don’t pay much attention to what’s going on there, but I did hear on the radio about the tough new sanctions against them. I realise they’ve been pushing their luck with nuclear weapons, lately, but what intrigues me most is the reaction the United Nations is having against them, the way they’re choosing to deal with it: to ‘punish’ North Korea by withholding privileges, essentially – just like a parent might discipline a child. Apparently their behaviour was thought to be child-like! -and the U.N. decided it needed to play the role of adult.
All that being said, I don’t know how the Lord would have us treat North Korea. “I must not hate an unfriendly or hostile country, but must still love it, bringing no harm upon it, but having regard for its good, in so far as it has good, but not having such regard to it as to confirm it in its own falsity and evil.” (Charity 86) He would undoubtedly have us defend ourselves, but I’m not sure of the best way to handle the situation beforehand, so that it does not escalate into a need to defend ourselves. Nor am I certain of how to deal with bullies, aside from removing oneself from the situation, as I have done with mine. All the while, the Lord reminds us to love our neighbour – and I do feel sad for the bully in my world, for the North Koreans who are ‘acting out’ as well as for the U.N. which is reacting in the way it sees most fit. Above all else, the Lord would have us respond to our neighbour with charity, as we were taught in the first place. We’re reminded to grow up and deal with all neighbours on the basis of their good and their truth.
“I love a Gentile in preference to a Christian, if he lives well according to his religion, if he worships God from the heart, saying, ‘I will not do this evil because it is against God.’ I do not love him on account of his doctrine however, but on account of his life.” (Charity 89)