St. Ignatius Loyola understood that, even when we strive to do glorious deeds, often the motivation is selfish. Or at least it’s self-focused. In his early years, he trained to be a soldier and a knight. He wanted to sacrifice himself for country and for some beautiful lady he could defend and honor. But years later, as he meditated, prayed, and discovered God, who created and loved him, Ignatius dismantled old ways of thinking. Rather than becoming proud and worried about making a good show, a person must develop humility. Rather than focusing on himself and his dreams of glory, he must follow Jesus’ example and move outward, looking at what other people needed and dreamed for.
Being “people for others” means that we are willing to shift focus and actually notice others and care about them. What does that look like on a typical day? Here are just a few ideas.
- When I’m around someone who is behaving badly, rather than think of how the behavior irritates or upsets me, I wonder what might be triggering that person to act like this. A child in the hospital? Job loss? Relationship problems? A string of faulty decisions?
- While working with other people on a project, I resist worrying about how my input is received or how much I am noticed and concentrate on helping each person on the team do his or her best.
- I pray as much—probably more—for others than for myself.
- Rather than turn away and distract myself from others’ suffering, I make some move to help.
- My decisions about time, money, and other resources always factor in how generous I can be, and I come up with concrete plans for sharing.
Being a person for others will always be a challenge, because we are conditioned from an early age to focus on “me and mine.” We might be encouraged to see the world as a dangerous place, to see many people as too different and therefore “other,” and to believe that there is never enough of anything to go around. Jesus requires that we resist this way of being in the world. He asks that, rather than growing fearful, we make an effort to be open. Rather than grasping and hoarding, we are to be grateful and generous. Jesus asks that, rather than operating in a judgmental and self-protective way, we extend to others God’s love and make room at the table for those we might call strangers.