Religion column: Shades of gray

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2017

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

If the bedrock matters of our lives were clear, then it would be easy to conclude that the perceptions we have, and the decisions we make, are either right, or wrong; either black or white. In truth, very little of what we are, or what we do, or what we want, falls into this description.

Most everything that occurs in our lives becomes a shade of gray. When we get closer to the truth of God, we may see His light, but as Holy Scripture relates, the best we can do is “see through a glass darkly.”

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Some may assert they are generous to a fault; as if being generous is somehow a less-than-Godly condition. In truth, we are not always giving of ourselves. At any particular moment, we allow our egos to interject their voice to the confusion. As Oscar once said, “It’s been a tough week, so I deserve to have this, as it is now my turn to give to me!

We may imagine our emotional lives as being measured upon a sliding scale, or ruler. To the extreme left is indigo black zero and to the extreme right is brilliant white 100.

At every moment, we find our mental set somewhere on this measure.

When we are operating close to the zero mark, then we are putting ourselves well before others. When we are closer to the 100 mark, then we are putting others well before ourselves. If we are honest, as we are called to do, then we acknowledge that the best we can do is be somewhere along the scale, as a shade of gray. Yes, we may be nearly fully in the darkness, or fully in the light, for the briefest of moments, so we feel that the difference of degree is imperceptible, but these are still shades of gray.

Today’s social ills find themselves on this measuring scale; this reliably constant variable of the egocentric human condition. So frequently, we see quite complex issues reduced to this scale of egos and personalities.

Like all of humankind, these matters are not “black and white,” for they have been the compounded, in their complexity by, and let us make no mistake, by ourselves.

There are those who stand up and yell, “You are wrong, I am right and you are too stupid to understand!” Such is the nature of the viewpoint and being at nearly zero on the measure. Even at our most generous, we may find our tempers, nee egos, being raised by such rhetoric. It is a difficult color, this gray.

It could be argued that the emotionally and physically generous are “suckers” for the more self-serving and ego-centric among us. Perhaps this is true. Perhaps this is why the jaded among us retreat to their darkness when they feel they are threatened, or been taken advantage.

The time when our true shade of gray becomes evident, is when we are presented with the darkness of others. It is here we have a choice to make: Do I walk towards the darkness, or do I go forward to the light of forgiveness and understanding, as shown to us by Christ Jesus?

The choice is ours alone and deeply colors our lives.