Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win over those under the law. To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
The reading from this past Sunday inspired me to write about this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I will give my two cents on this and perhaps offer some inspiration to others who wish to follow suit.
To take a few steps back, I wanted to share an incident that happened last week at work. I was (rightly) admonished for being a bit insensitive to the needs of a particular individual and a group of volunteers. The infraction? Well, we had a group of volunteers come in to do some work and I failed to greet, chat and thank them for their work. I was absorbed in my work, as usual. This particular person thought I was insensitive for not going out of my way to do this. On top of that, they also felt a little hurt that I did not acknowledge the work they had done to prepare the volunteers for their task.
With grace I was able to maintain my composure, explained myself and promised to work on this in the future. The challenge with all this is that, 75% of the claims brought up against me were not really valid and 25% I think was very objective and fair. Nothing like being wrongfully called out for something to test one’s humility! At any rate, I explained that they made a very fair comment and that they needed to understand that as a melancholic/choleric, these acknowledgments and compliments are a bit foreign to me. The reason? To be honest, it really doesn’t matter if anyone acknowledges me or compliments me for my work because I am here to do the job and follow the will of God. I am driven not by praise or recognition, but by my duty to God. At any rate, it really is a bit foreign to me when people complain about not being praised or acknowledged for something because I have no care for those things myself. But we are all different!
Now, if I were to leave it at that, it would sound like I am just a cold person. I do admit that I need to work on actively applying the above recommendation because it has come up a few times in my life. Temperament or not, we cannot allow the weak points of our temperament to dominate our relationships with others. Cholerics and melancholics can struggle a bit with the personal and emotional demands of those of that are phlegmatics or sanguines. We tend to be very focused on our work, ideals, thoughts and at times can become oblivious to the needs of those around us.
As I brewed over this incident, the following thought occurred: how am I to bring people to Christ, if they do not see Christ in me? If they perceive me being cold and distant, can this type of person bring people to Christ? The answer is no because Jesus Christ was not like this. If I am stubborn and not adjusting my natural temperament inclinations in order to stand my ground, I think there is a great loss here. If we make small efforts to be kind and warmer to people who like kindness and warmth, we would do more good for the conversion of that individual than to remain in our current state. Now this has to be taken in the right context. I do not become a sinner to bring a sinner to Christ, that doesn’t make sense but where it is possible to be more closely related to the individuals we are dealing with, to be a slave to all in their particular need, I think this is where we can have a greater chance of bringing souls to Christ. This sacrifice that we do out of love for our neighbor is the way we also prove our love for God, as we see in the following quote from St. Theresa of Avila:
We cannot know whether we love God although there may be strong reasons for thinking so, but there can be no doubt about whether we love our neighbor or not. Be sure that in proportion as you advance in fraternal charity, you are increasing in your love of God… – The Interior Castle by St. Theresa of Avila
It seems a small price to pay to heed the admonishment/corrections of others in order that I may show my love for them. And if I show my love for them, this is one of the surest ways to increase our love of God. For, if we cannot love our neighbor that we can see, how can we possibly say we love God who we cannot see? Therefore, we must take it upon ourselves to represent ourselves as Christ to those that need it in a certain way. If it means being warmer and making efforts at greeting and thanking people for their work, even though it may be difficult, we must do so. Look at the great sacrifice of Mother Teresa and how she lived with the poor and destitute. Talk about true love of her neighbor…and God!
As St. Paul states, he became a slave to all in order to win over as many as possible. Let us imitate him who imitated our Lord Jesus Christ!
St. Agatha, pray for us!