We are often bitten by the curiosity bug, and may at times find ourselves in complicated and sinful situations out of sheer naivety.
Newsroom(27/08/2022 8:45 AM, Gaudium Press) Who, as a child, has not heard his parents warn him about bad company? And who, as a parent, has not been concerned about the people with whom his or her children associate, considering some of them, as their parents before them did, to be bad company?
But, what leads us to conclude that a person is bad company and can influence those with whom he or she relates? Is this really possible?
Generally, the first thing we take into consideration is appearance. A boy with blue hair, an ear enlargement and skull tattoos, or a girl with scandalous clothing, black lipstick, boots and nose piercing may light up the warning signs of fathers and mothers who value the good behavior of their children.
Other times, it is not the appearance that attracts attention, but behaviour. Young people who drink, smoke and show signs of using drugs are undoubtedly not the ideal company for children who are being brought up with zeal, religious bases and stricter moral standards.
The exterior is a reflection of the interior
On the question of if it is really possible that a person can influence another person and lead him or her to sin, the answer is yes. It is not only possible, but commonplace. A person needs to have a very well formed conscience in order not to allow himself to be influenced by another in his actions. And even mature people, firm in their convictions, and who think that they are immune to the harmful influence of others, are not.
Of course we must look after the welfare, safety, manners and customs of our children, for after all, they are not “ours”: they are children of God placed temporarily under our care, and we will, in the end, answer for that. Although it is commonplace to say that one should not be taken in by appearances, we must acknowledge that appearances can say a great deal about a person.
Of course, there are many people who dress well and apparently behave appropriately. Generally, though, the outside reflects what goes on inside, and someone who needs to belong to a “tribe” and needs to speak, dress, get tattooed and behave like the members of that tribe, is someone who internally holds principles that are not solid.
Modernity itself, based on the philosophy of ‘liquid society’, by the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, has developed the concept of ‘liquid man’, one who is not a fixed person, of one who has no roots, and who changes according to the direction of the moment. A sophisticated way of saying that one follows the rest.
Obviously, parents who have adolescent children should indeed worry if the young man or woman begins to associate with strange people. Better to err on the side of overzealousness than to try to be politically correct, than to not judge by appearances and instead watch their children be lost.
This, however, is only a small part of this thorny issue: sinning due to being under the influence of other people. It is not only children and young people who are susceptible to being influenced. Adults are also influenced, and much more than they might imagine.
So, being a man and having a colleague who has the routine habit of going to the bar after work, even if he were to invite me to join him, I will not accept, because I am not fond of drink. If I have colleagues of the opposite sex and I notice that they are being overly attentive and kind, I won’t let these friendships deepen, in order to avoid falling into temptation and ending up acting badly.
Similarly, for a woman: if she is single, she should pay close attention to the behaviour of her friends, and if she is married, it is not convenient to have close ties with single or separated women, not to frequent the same places. It is essentially a question of logic, of recognizing that we are all fallible and subject to error and, as priests teach us in their wisdom, the more we can avoid situations that could lead to sin, the better and safer we will be.
Dragging others towards sin
However, things are not so simple, and it is in places which we do not even imagine and with people we would never classify as dangerous that we find the subtleties that can drag us into the contumacious habit of sinning. This can happen – and often does – in church, in the family, at work.
When all is well, people will gather to pray or participate in some activity in their community, and suddenly, that respectable, wizened-haired lady drags the other into a corner and says, in a hushed voice:
“Look, I did not want to tell you this, but God is asking me to tell you… Do you know so-and-so? You can’t imagine how jealous she is of you…” or, “Wow, you are such a good person! You trust people so much! Ah, my child, you need to be more suspicious! If you only saw the comments she makes!”
And so on. With a candour apparently worthy of the highest principles, the people we find most venerable can distil drops of the most terrible poison into our lives.
I have given an example of female gossiping, but those who think that gossiping is only an attribute of women are wrong. My mother used to say that there is only one thing worse than a gossiping woman: a gossiping man!
This dedicated, well-mannered gentleman, your friend, suddenly comes along and says: “Hey, I need to tell you something… I was told, and I am not sure, but it seems that so-and-so is taking money from the church’s safe…”. And worse, when they speak ill of priests and look for supporters, they sow discord and involve other people.
Whenever someone comes up to us and says: “Listen, I have something to tell you…” or “I did not want to tell you, but…”, or even: “Are you capable of keeping a secret?”…
It is not easy to resist this type of temptation. We are often bitten by the bug of curiosity or sometimes we get into complicated situations out of sheer naivety. We hear what the other person has to say to us, we end up making some comment and, of course, the person who speaks badly of the other person to you will certainly not speak well of you to the other person. It is worse when the gossip is in writing, on a social network, and what you write or record may be forwarded out of context. A stone thrown and a word said – or written – cannot be taken back…
It is a type of situation that happens often in families. The mother-in-law talking about her daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law talking about her mother-in-law, father or mother who speak ill of one child to another, siblings who speak ill of their parents and, even more tragic, spouses who speak ill of each other to their own children, trying to involve them to choose a side. It is something so subtle, so natural that, when we see it, we are already entangled, led to sin, and sinning.
When you find yourself involved in some difficult situation and feel like sharing it with someone, seek out a priest and open your heart to him, in confession. He is the person best prepared to advise and help you. And if you do not have a priest who can help you, keep the matter to yourself, and ask Our Lady for help. If possible, resolve the matter with the person involved, and do not pass it on to others, do not ask for advice from those who could lead you into an even worse situation.
Under no circumstances should you get involved in matters that are not yours. Conquer curiosity and do not be afraid of appearing disinterested. Better to be a correct antipathetic than a sympathetic sinner. Always carry your rosary in your pocket, and if a gossiper comes along, show him your rosary and make it look like you are praying. You can use the following distraction from the subject by saying: “I have just begun to pray the rosary, and when I finish we can talk”. You can be sure that the person will not wait, as gossips are in a hurry! So, take advantage and really sincerely pray the rosary, thanking Our Lady and your Guardian Angel for having helped you to overcome a temptation.
Compiled by Sandra Chisholm