Recently I asked my elementary school aged sons if their friends like to play video games and they all said “yes!” Then I asked, “how do you know?” They each responded “because they talk about it all the time.”
When something adds value to our lives we make it known. Whether it’s a new diet, latest task management app or a great television show, if it’s working for us, we bring it up in conversation with people we think might want to hear about it.
But why does this principle seem to disappear for many of us Catholics when it comes to talking about our faith? Jesus and the Church have deeply impacted our lives, changed them even, but when it comes time to sharing personally about it, many of us still clam up. I think there are four reasons that this happens to you and to me.
+ We are afraid - I am very uncomfortable with the unknown. How about you? There is absolutely no telling how someone will respond if I openly share about my relationship with Jesus and my love for the Catholic Church. Will they agree with my response, tear it to pieces, or just shrug it off? As a people pleaser, there are very few things that scare me more than the awkwardness of being on the opposite sides of a religious conversation with someone else (especially with someone close to me). This fear then often prevents me from being completely authentic with others (friends, family members, and strangers alike).
+ We are ashamed - I suppose there are two ways to prevent a message from getting out - you can either attack the message or the messenger. Fear is about the content of the message. Shame is about the character of the messenger. Fear persuades us from without, but shame condemns us from within. Shame prevents me from sharing, not because of a lack of confidence in the message, but because I am not confident in me, the messenger. Questions like, “I’m pretty screwed up, who is going to listen to me?” stop us from talking openly about our faith.
Shame and fear often work hand in hand. Which of the two are you more likely to listen to?
+ We don’t really believe it’s that important - You want to know what you really believe? Look at what you really do. You make time for whatever you believe is important. Your actions and your *actual* beliefs are aligned. Our actions, more than our intentions, reveal what we truly value. If sharing with someone about your relationship with Jesus rarely happens then there is a good chance that one of two things is true about you.
- Jesus hasn’t risen high enough up the importance ladder in your life.
- Sharing about him isn’t something that you really think is that important.
+ We are too dang busy - Most of us live at the corner of last-minute and throw-me-a rope-I’m-drowning. So, based on the pace most of us live (on top of the first three reasons) it shouldn’t surprise anyone that sharing our faith doesn’t often make the cut. In most of our minds, it’s important, but not urgent. We say, “I’ll get to that later”, “maybe next time I’ll bring it up” or “I need to pray about that some more.” We aren’t too bothered to mention to the Great Clips lady where we go church, but to invest many hours into the long journey, emotionally, and relationally with someone outside of our typical circle of friends is often another question. It might be the very thing we are supposed to do, but we are often too dang busy for that.
But don’t take it from me, take it from Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini (Pope Paul VI). In one of the most searing passages from the game changer he wrote on evangelization (long before it was cool to talk about these things) he says:
“It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame—what St. Paul called “blushing for the Gospel” - or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this grows into trees and produces its full fruit.”
Pope Paul IV, On Evangelization in the Modern World, 1976
Our Church leaders are wise and often understand the realities of what us Catholics are going through much more than we might think. Fear, shame, false ideas, and negligence have been roadblocks for me in sharing my faith, roadblocks that need to be carefully dismantled (crushed) one at a time.
Lastly, when re-reading Paul VI’s quote above, don’t miss it the bomb he is dropping. He is asking if Christians will be saved if they aren’t preaching the Gospel. That’s a serious proposition. A question, when recalled, that stops me in my tracks and returns me to the truths that:
a) Faith wasn’t given to me to be hoarded, but to be generously shared
b) Only when I become a good news share-er, not just a good news bearer, has the good news taken full root in my life.
Questions: Which of these four obstacles get in the way of you sharing your faith with others? What has worked in your life to overcome these obstacles? Share your answers in the comments below or on your favorite social media network.