The Personalist Project

Here are some possible basic attitudes toward another person's moral being (or our own):

1) Accuser. The accuser looks for evil and points it out, highlights it, draws attention to it. 

2) Indifferentist. The indifferentist doesn't much care about the moral being of others or self and doesn't pay it serious attention.

3) Critic. The critic dispassionately examines and analyzes, seeing good and bad aspects, judging them in comparison with perfection.

4) Lover. The lover searches for "whatever is good" in another person—affirms it, delights in it, and magnifies it. The lover sees that good as the essential part, and the rest as comparatively unimportant.

From the point of view of Christian personalism—considering some basic truths of our existence as human persons—only the 4th is just.

I have in mind truths like these:

1) Each and every one is made in God's image and likeness, infinitely precious and valuable, and greatly loved by Him. 

2) Each person is "an infinite abyss of personal existence" known fully only to God. 

3) Each of us is made from love and for love. Without love we cannot thrive as persons.

As this new liturgical year begins, I'll be working at overcoming habits of unlove toward self and others.

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Comments (6)

Jules van Schaijik

#1, Dec 1, 2015 8:25pm

I like these distinctions Katie. But as to the Lover, are you sure she sees "the rest [i.e. what is not good] as comparatively unimportant"? What if "the rest" lead to a person's eternal undoing?

Ian Skemp

#2, Dec 1, 2015 10:27pm

What would the difference be between a lover and an optimist, if such a difference exists?

Or is your meaning more akin to the story of the Prodigal Son, where the Father is quick to rejoice when his son has returned, rather than eager to chastise him for his transgressions?

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Dec 2, 2015 8:44am

Jules van Schaijik wrote:

I like these distinctions Katie. But as to the Lover, are you sure she sees "the rest [i.e. what is not good] as comparatively unimportant"? What if "the rest" lead to a person's eternal undoing?

 That's a tricky one. I don't know quite how to answer. I guess I'm thinking that from the point of view of practical ethics—having in mind my own Advent intention—it hardly matters.

I'm thinking of "the sin against the Holy Spirit." I mean, I suspect  (and hope) the cases are relatively rare when sin is so deep and entrenched that it overwhelms the essential good of the person as person.

I'm thinking, too, of the Pope saying, in response to a question about a homosexual: "What do you think God sees when he looks at that person?" 

But maybe I'm overlooking something important that you see.

Katie van Schaijik

#4, Dec 2, 2015 8:48am

Ian Skemp wrote:

What would the difference be between a lover and an optimist, if such a difference exists?

 I can think of two important differences:

1) Optimism is a temperamental or psychological quality; love is a moral reality, which is to say, it involves freedom and transcendence.

2) The optimist is focused on the potential or future good; lover is attuned to the real good actually present now in the other (or the self.)

Kate Whittaker Cousino

#5, Dec 2, 2015 10:01am

I don't think the Lover sees the "rest" as unimportant. I think the Lover, in delighting in the good visible in the other, must also feel each wound (and every entrenched sin or vice is a wound to the person who commits it) as something to sorrow over. But I agree that the Lover is one who sees the Good as essential to the person, and the faults and sins as being accidents or privations. 

We've talked before here about the tendency to want to "fix" others. I see that as a trait of the Critic, as you describe her. The Critic sees all the imperfections and wants to manipulate people and situations to create conformity--to at least attain the appearance of perfection. The ways people fall short are problems to be solved.

Whereas, I think the Lover sees those same faults as wounds to be healed, or (in some cases) needs to be filled, and will tend to want to introduce those they love to the sources of Good or Healing that they themselves know best. The foremost of which is, of course, Christ. 

Mary

#6, Dec 2, 2015 9:39pm

I saw a video today in which a young man offered a $20 bill to the viewer. Then he went on to say, we don't know the past of this $20 bill. It could have been used for illegal drugs, to pay for a prostitute, it could have been stolen. We might rip it, stain it, or write on it. But even after all that, it is still a $20 bill and it is still worth $20. He used this to explain that God has given each person a value that is not diminished by what has happened to us or what we've been used for.

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