What kind of person do you want to be?

There was a research study that examined engaged couples right before they got married. They would bring them into a room and asked them to just discuss any- thing and everything they wanted. As the couple talked, the researchers would film the pair, noticing facial ex- pressions, body language as well as tone of voice as the couple talked. They would then evaluate their discussion and finally would track their relationship over the years.

What they discovered was astounding.

The researchers could tell, WITHIN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES OF THE DISCUSSION, whether or not the couple would remain married, with incredible accuracy (70%).

What was it that the researchers saw? In a word, CONTEMPT.

Contempt does not just mean that you simply do not like something. It is much deeper and darker than that.

Contempt means a lack of respect or reverence for something or somebody. It is the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. Imagine feeling that way toward your spouse.

What the researchers saw when they saw a person exhibiting contempt is that the other person was put on their guard. Their bodies were on the defensive as if they were being stalked by a saber tooth tiger. When your body experiences this, cortisol is released into your system and bad things begin to happen. In a word, it is destructive. And exhausting.

The brutal thing about contempt is that it not only destroys the person who is held in contempt (the contempt- ee?), it destroys the person exhibiting contempt (the con- tempter?).  Listen to this quote from a recent article in the New Yorker magazine by a writer named Jelani Cobb:

The bravado, the contempt, and the veneer of stoicism were all strategically worn masks meant to camouflage their fears and their ultimate powerlessness to change the circumstances that reliably produced such a vast toll of needless deaths—including, quite likely, their own.

In other word, contempt bespeaks an attitude of powerlessness and fear and that is never a good place to be.

The Opposite of Contempt

So it is fairly certain that I do not want to be a person who holds others in contempt. So what is the antithesis, what is the antidote to contempt? Well let me tell you about a group of people whose lives exhibit the exact opposite of contempt: our Parish School of Religion teachers.

There is no job in all of Christendom that is more difficult or thankless than teaching PSR. They only get one hour a week to make an impression. And this year, our PSR teachers had to deal with the fact that they were being led by me, since we had no one to replace our Coordina- tor of Religious Education this year. (Happily, we have hired someone for next year!)

That being said, our PSR teachers have done a great job this year and have always done it with a smile. I appreci- ate their generosity, their selflessness, their creativity and, most of all, their patience. I would be remiss to for- get about the contributions of Fr. Gene to our PSR pro- gram this year. Whenever a teacher was ill or couldn’t make class, he was always willing and able to fill in.

Our PSR teachers work to get our children prepared for their Sacraments, teach them about the love of God, pray with them and help them become children of care instead of contempt. It is one of the most noble jobs in the church and so I thank them for all they have done over the past two semesters.  For some of them, this was their first year and they did well. All of them deserve our appreciation, consideration and thanks.

They challenge us to be people of love and not people of contempt.

What kind of person do you want to be?

Fr. Kevin

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