The Need for Depth

Last week I wrote about how our lives can be superficial (“We Need to Look Into Our Hearts”). Today I would like to talk about how being superficial relates to problems in the world today.

It starts with the question that if we are superficial, without depth, do we have a sense of right and wrong. If we don’t look at things with depth, are we opening the door to relativism? Relativism says there is no set truth. (There is truth. It comes from God. John’s Gospel speaks of truth 22 times. Ex. John 8:32 – “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free“) Relativism says you can believe whatever you want, with the possible limit of “as long as you don’t hurt anyone.” It seems to mean that those who live only superficial lives would easily migrate into relativism.

As I look at some other examples of how being superficial feeds into the problems in our world today, I acknowledge that some may seem like a bigger leap than others. I’m not saying that being superficial is the cause of all the problems but it is a contributing factor and/or can allow us to start down a slippery slope to the problems in the world today.

For instance, you might be aware of someone who doesn’t seem to care about others. They don’t care who they hurt if it helps them gain power, prestige, or material wealth. They may even look at other people at a means to their end. Here, they do not look at the person they are interacting with. They see only a “body” they can use for their gain. They look at the other person in only a superficial way.

Let’s think about shootings. How often do we hear about mass shootings? What about other shootings? It seems like there are more and more shootings. I see this not far from where I serve now. From 2007-2010, I served on the southside of Elmira. I don’t remember there being violent crimes on the southside then. Now, just 13 years later, there are more and more shootings. I would say the same is true in Rochester, NY and a number of other places. Sometimes the shootings are gang-related. Sometimes they are the result of a conflict. Sometimes they are “just for kicks.”

What do these shootings have to do with whether we are superficial or look at things with depth? It involves how we look at other people. Do we see a person? If we see a person with dignity and rights, if we have a quarrel with them, shouldn’t we find another way of resolving the conflict than shooting them? If we see them as persons, we won’t shoot them just because they belong to a different gang. If we see others as persons, won’t that stop shootings that are “just for kicks”? If we look at others with depth, we see that life has values and we will put real effort into resolving conflicts. We will treat them with dignity (In Part I of my series, Treating Life with Dignity and Love, I speak of the origin of the dignity that each and every person has.)

Our sexual behavior can also say a lot about whether we look at other people superficially or with depth. Chastity is not just a matter of no sex outside marriage. Chastity involves how we look at the other person. One can be unchaste with a spouse if a sexual act is only about the physical pleasure (cf. my article “Chastity and Sexuality” and other blog articles on “sexuality”). If our sexual acts are only about the physical pleasure, we are clearly being superficial. A proper understanding of sex sees it as an expression of a deep love between a husband and a wife who have committed themselves to each other in marriage.

To see sex as done for physical pleasure only objectives everyone involved. It objectives the other(s) as only a means to your physical pleasure. That physical pleasure is only superficial, fleeting and gone in a moment. In engaging in sex for physical pleasure, you also objective yourself. You are looking only to fulfill a superficial desire for physical pleasure. When a sexual act involves love and commitment, you see much deeper. You see a soul, not a means to an end (means = other person as an object, end = pleasure). How do you want people to see you?

When you find yourself interacting with another person, look beyond the moment. See them as God sees them. 1 Samuel 16:1-13 tells the story of God’s selection of David to be king. How does God pick David? In 1 Samuel 16:7, we read “But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart.”


Fr. Jeff

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