A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

The Company We Keep

Posted on: November 16, 2015

As my parents told me, so I’ve told my son to choose his friends carefully because the company we keep affects others’ opinion of our character—for better or for worse.

Consider this passage from Sirach 27:11-14*:

The talk of the godly man is always wise,

but the fool changes like the moon.

Among stupid people watch for a chance to leave,

but among thoughtful people stay on.

The talk of fools is offensive,

and their laughter is wantonly sinful.

The talk of men given to swearing makes one’s hair stand on end,

and their quarrels make a man stop his ears.

The strife of the proud leads to bloodshed,

and their abuse is grievous to hear.

Just as we need to be selective about what we read, watch, and listen to, so we need to think about the character and behaviour of the people we socialize with and their influence on us.

We wouldn’t want our kids to spend time with teens who cut classes, take drugs, pick fights, or bully others. But do our friends think drinking to excess or picking up strangers is a fun way to spend a Friday night? Do they freely admit to cheating on their spouse or regularly watching porn, or do they often make racist or sexist comments?

If we see this kind of behaviour but hesitate to say anything because we’re worried about being (or being thought of as) judgmental, isn’t there a risk that we might eventually come to view the behaviour as acceptable? Something we might do to fit in—or even consider normal?

We know we’re all sinners and we all do things we regret; none of us is in a position to condemn anyone else, and none of us is above needing others’ prayers that we would make good (or better) choices. The danger lies in reaching a point where we don’t feel regret or see the need to make a course correction. We need to remember that we’re called not to conform to this world but instead to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

If we don’t allow our children to play violent video games, watch certain reality shows or listen to profanity-laden music but we do these things ourselves, we aren’t setting a good example. And if we encourage them to think about their choice of friends even as we socialize regularly with others who don’t share or who may even ridicule our values, we’re setting a “do as I say, not as I do”standard for them to follow.

May we find the courage to speak up among our friends; to distance ourselves when we need to; and to work to develop new friendships based on common ground such as membership in the same faith community, a commitment to the same charitable causes or common political or social justice goals, or volunteer work at the same school or community organization.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

 

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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