WE have to be men and women for God and for others. That’s actually the objectively proper trajectory of our thoughts and desires. We have to be wary when we get trapped thinking only of ourselves, a constant danger to us.
To be persons for God and for others is written in our nature. The structure and features of our life all demand that we actually need to get out of our own selves, otherwise we get short-circuited.
Our joy, our fulfilment is in God, and because of God, it’s also in others, since loving God always passes through loving others. The gospel tells us that. “The greatest commandment is to love God with all your might... and the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself.”
We need to be prepared to do serious, constant battle against our tendency also to get self-centered and self-absorbed. This, of course, is a very like possibility, easily and quickly verifiable around. That’s because we actually contend with a great number of hostile or negative elements.
First, we have the very understandable basic human need to take care of ourselves. Since birth and during infancy and childhood, our tendency is to be self-centered as we need to be taken care of.
Then, we have our own weaknesses—laziness, softness, attachments, etc.—that keep us thinking of our own selves, our own comfort, our own interests. If these are not corrected, unweaned from them, they become part of our system, and it’s going to be harder every time to get out of them.
Babies need to be fed, bathed, clothed, doted, pampered, etc. Children always have to be watched and supervised. These obviously make them think of themselves, an understandable phase that should be vitally joined, never detached, to our need to think, love and serve others.
We just have to make sure that children, once they reach the age of reason, should little by little be taught to think of others, until they get to understand that it’s when they think of others and ultimately of God that they find their true joy. We should be clear about this right at the beginning, otherwise we will unavoidably spoil them.
This task is not going to be easy. But neither is it impossible. We just have to see to it that all the elements that go into the upbringing of children—parents, home, teachers, school, etc.—are properly equipped to carry out this delicate responsibility.
So important is the need to have the families and the schools undergo continuing formation to be able to cope with new and old challenges! How to form children in virtues to make them more mature and able to face life properly, how to help them make use of their time and overcome their weakness—these should be their constant concern.
In school, while children understandably have to be given a protective and controlled environment, they also need to be exposed to the realities of life. It would be anomalous if they are quite good in school but seem not to remain so at home, and especially outside.
We have to consider that nowadays the environment is saturated with a culture that fosters frivolity and easy-going ways, averse to any form of sacrifice, as if sacrifice is per se bad. We have to find ways of how to tackle this real threat to the proper development of children.
There may be children who can be active, but active in a selfish way—pursuing only their own goals, interests and concerns, and never thinking in terms of God’s will and the common good. This is quite common also.
We should not hesitate to introduce these realities to them. They are not mere theories or abstract values. The reality and immediacy of God’s will and the common good have to be shown to them as early as possible, done through personal witnessing and timely pieces of advice and reminders.
Therefore, a lot of catechesis is needed, something that of course has to be done with a lot of naturalness, always respecting freedom, never using coercion or pressures. That’s why it is also important that warm human relations should be fostered and kept. We have to stay away from simply imparting things through lectures.
We need to spend time and develop the true substance of friendship or paternity or filiation, etc. In these, we cannot cheat for long. It’s an investment worth making, for its dividends will always come, if not here, then definitely in our eternal life.