Sorry about the picture, but it captures a bit of what I feel compelled to share. Last night, I got back late from dinner with some nephews. And oh boy! I'll spare the details about family arguments over the Catholic faith, but sometimes, as someone humorously noted, on occasion, some persons "need killin'!"
If you've been there, you don't need an explanation. If you haven't, I couldn't provide one for why families blow up. When we got together, things were great, conversations flowed, food was fun, until religion came up--which inevitably it does, in my family. Two of my no-longer Catholic nephews teamed up and conversations soon went out the window to be replaced by heated arguments and hard feelings. I spent some time processing this mess around 2 a.m. when I got back, and landed on several ploys that in the future I wish to avoid by establishing ground rules for religious debates: 1) that people stay on one topic until all are ready to move on (instead of jumping from point to point so as not to be "pinned down"); 2) clarifying what people want out of the conversation (truth, or to be right?); 3) and keeping personal attacks out of the picture ("you were judging me!" etc.). Why has it taken so long for me only now to articulate what has been going on for decades?
Now all of this is somewhat embarrassing to admit when I am avowedly pro-life and against killing babies. When I was young and impetuous (now I'm older and impetuous), I once got into an argument with my mom and yelled at her. I recoil to this day over the memory that I visibly saw her shrink at my anger. I vowed then and there never to "kill" anyone like that again. If only I had a nickel for every broken promise of mine.... Hopefully we can admit that when God gave us the commandment not to murder, he wasn't just talking about ending physical life, but also "terminating" persons. Yes, my siblings and I played the "murder game" as kids where you'd be "killed" by a secretly assigned assassin, but there were rules to the game. And one unspoken rule is that you can't play the game in real life. Which unfortunately, many of us continue to do with even the idle chatter that turns to backbiting that warps into envy and jealousy that becomes wrath and a whole host of deathly, negative emotional choices. As Jesus notes in the fifth chapter of Matthew's gospel:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca (i.e. "good for nothing"),’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
So, what is one to do with all of this? It seems to me the best thing is to avoid the heat of battle in the first place, because it can and does consume lives. Beforehand, set up rules, or at least that's what I can figure while still working through what meteor hit us. Afterwards? Forgive and forgive again, seventy times seven times, as often as you want others to forgive. Here's a little trick my sister taught me in an unclouded moment of familial amicability about that: remember the Road Runner? Zipping along the road pursued by an angry coyote? The coyote always met his downfall, every time outsmarted by his opponent. All the Road Runner would do was step aside and watch the coyote fall...down into the canyons below. There's your secret weapon: take your anger, frustration, negative feelings and moods to the edge of the cliff in your imagination and picture their irretrievable descent as they hit bottom with a "pff" sound. More often than not, those are the guys that need killin'.