Daily Archives: July 8, 2011

“You’re Being Uncharitable?” Really? How do you know?

One of the stupidest “argument stoppers” Catholics throw at each other in debate is “you’re being unChristian” or “you’re being uncharitable.” Really? How do you know. It’s really great when people judgmentally accuse others of being judgmental. This is especially true when the debate involves, say, a priest versus a bishop, and one side is saying “the bishop is corrupt” and the other side is saying “the priest is corrupt,” and then one or the other side opts to start using “uncharitable” and “calumny” as debate-stoppers. Well, in a debate like that, it works both ways.

But the “uncharitable” accusation has the problem of defining charity as something superficial. When people say “you’re being uncharitable,” they really mean, “You’re being mean.”

The epiphenomena of an act do not indicate whether it is charitable or not. Charity is a matter of the will.

Certainly, the attitude with which an action is taken is a big part in determining its charitability. People can offer help in a way that is charitable, and they can offer help in a way that is uncharitable–the difference is usually whether it comes with a smile or a snarl. Such nuances are hard to catch in text, however, so we’re left with the bare text itself.

A parent may kick a rebellious youth out of the house out of hatred, or out of love. A person may give another person $100 out of love or out of contempt. A person may admonish another out of charity or anger.

Again, it’s easier to tell when a positive action is done out of love or contempt–a positive act done in love comes with a smile. It’s harder to tell whether a negative action comes with love or contempt. After all, if someone tells us in a sweet voice, “Thank you for your service to this company. You’ve been a great employee, but you’re fired,” we’re going to perceive that as far more contemptuous than a stern “You’re fired, loser.”

The only way to determine whether bad news is being delivered in love is if that bad news is delivered in a neutral tone, with some kind of constructive advice.

Of course, when being the bearers of bad news, we should always do our best to maintain neutrality and offer constructive advice, but that gets hard when the person reacts in anger.