The words stared back at me from my Facebook page, taunting me and complimenting me all at once. I had just returned from a road trip to a football game in my home town with some old friends. The team I was cheering for happens to be the rival team to the city in which I live now. Upon my posting pictures from the game, an acquaintance commented, “You’re awesome, Cara, seriously awesome.” Unfortunately, with short comments often failing to communicate tone, combined with the fact that I only know the commenter on a superficial level, I was left wondering if it was a compliment, or sarcasm, or possibly even the musings of someone who may have overindulged that weekend. The would-be compliment left me agonizing for nights on end regarding the comment’s true nature—and wondering why I let it matter to me so much.
In the midst of my ponderings on the comment, I recalled the Spiritual Exercises and St. Ignatius’s instructions to retreatants in the Presupposition: “..let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity.” (SE 22)
I admit I have a tendency to think the worst in most situations, and this was no different. After struggling with the comment for a few days, I finally did manage to follow the advice of the Exercises and accept the compliment rather than condemn it. The nature of the comment lay only in how I chose to perceive it. I realized that, in pondering its potential malice, I was letting my own doubts and insecurities prevent me from receiving a gift from another.
Finding God in those around us can be related to finding the good in a person or situation. Assuming the best, or seeking out the best, even when the temptation may be to focus on the negative (or the potential negative) is certainly a challenge. But perhaps it will help to remember that being blind to the potential good in a situation only prevents us from accepting and cherishing all that God offers us.
And so, I thank God that I may have had a positive influence on this friend that she would be prompted to compliment me as she did. And if that was not her intent, I pray that my actions in the future might one day prompt such a statement of me to be justified.