An Encouraging Word — The growing popularity of spite

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

Everything is lawful for me, but not everything is beneficial. I Corinthians 6:12

Personal freedom and individual rights are good things, but we do not live on this planet alone. We live in communities and that means that our freedom and rights have to be balanced with the freedom and rights of others.

We have freedom and rights, but we also have responsibilities to the communities to which we belong. Our state motto reminds us of this truth: United we stand. Divided we fall.

I am what has been called “hyper vigilant.” I notice small things that other people routinely miss. It is a curse and a blessing. I get aggravated at things I see that other people don’t necessarily notice. I take pleasure in things I see that other people don’t see.

I get aggravated when I see people leave grocery carts left in the middle of parking spots and capable people using handicapped parking places. I get aggravated when I see people run red lights and drive slowly in the left lane.

I get aggravated when people talk loudly on their cellphones in public places and drop their trash on the ground. I get aggravated when children run loose in stores and food is wasted in restaurants.

I take pleasure in watching old people walking hand-in-hand and parents kissing their babies. I take pleasure in giving people gifts they don’t expect and making surprise phone calls to people from my past. I take pleasure in “good mouthing” people behind their backs and having it get back to them and witnessing “first-in-their-family” college graduates get their degrees.

One of the things that saddens me most about our culture is that we seem to be losing our ability to live as individuals in communities: in families, in presbyterates, in neighborhoods, in parishes, as Americans and as world citizens, without ripping each other to shreds in one way or another.

Instead of “let me help you,” I hear more ”get out of my way.” Instead of respecting communal property, I see more graffiti-marked disfigurement, monument defacement and public facility trashing. I cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV news program without hearing about road rage, frivolous law suits, mass shootings, political mudslinging and hateful name-calling, just to name a few things on my “mean” list. The “ante” spikes up almost daily.

It seems that a lot of our anti-social behavior has unchecked spite at its roots. Spite is the desire to hurt, annoy or offend someone even if it hurts the one doing it. “I’ll show you! I’ll hurt me!”

According to some studies, men are more likely to be spiteful than women, young adults more spiteful than older ones. Those studies say that those who are more guilt-prone or conscientious are less vindictive.

The gradual dulling of our consciences and diminishment of our conscientiousness, could be making us meaner to one another and weakening our communities.

To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog:

Father J. Ronald Knott

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