This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend our Diocesan Youth Conference — the first such gathering of the young Church in our diocese in some years. As part of the weekend I gave a small breakout talk discussing reputation management online. One of these sessions was attended by a young man who, it was obvious, didn’t want to be there. He made off-hand remarks and asked incessant questions throughout my presentation, seeking to gain some attention and (it seemed to me) to derail my train of thought.
I wondered to myself, if this was going to be his attitude, why he came in the first place and whether it wouldn’t have been better for him to stay at home. He seemed to be doing just enough to get by — going through the motions of the weekend without really engaging in it.
The answer to my question came an hour later. Our keynote speaker was Justin Fatica of Hard as Nails Ministry. He gave a powerful message about respecting oneself and others — about not putting other people down because they aren’t like us. He encouraged the participants to be honest about what was holding them back and what they were struggling with in life: abandonment by a parent, drugs, sexual abuse, cutting, depression, etc. It as obvious that many of the teens in the room connected with what he was saying — they dealt with many of these issues every day.
As Justin asked the youth to come forward to be prayed over by some of the adult leaders, I was amazed to see the young man from my session rise to his feet as one of the first to step up. He spent a long time with one of the sisters who had come with his group — and when he turned around I was startled to see that he had been crying.
I don’t know what that young man struggles with in his life, but I was ashamed of the earlier thoughts I had harbored. Why should I have condemned him for doing the minimum? For all I knew it was all he was capable of doing at the time. Certainly there have been times in my life when I didn’t think I could do much more than get by. Why should I assume him to be any different?
Doing the minimum is nothing to be ashamed of, and I shouldn’t expect everyone to follow my standards. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” (Matthew 7:2)