Selflessness, Respect and Discipline

Many Filipinos, if not all, get up in the morning*, brave the chaotic morning rush and work almost tirelessly to help themselves and their families have a better life or maintain an already good one. (*timeframe relative to people’s jobs – this also applies to those who go to work in the afternoon, evening, midnight or dawn)

This brand of filial selflessness is something that I really like about our culture. But in the midst of everything, I’ve observed that some of our basic social values seemingly get lost or are deemed insignificant compared to our individual priorities, namely respect for strangers and surroundings, and discipline. Yes, we are highly respectful to our elders and work or school superiors, but not to people we encounter and commute with, nor to the environment.

So many times have I seen people here cutting lines (or allowing friends to cut in line), shoving other people without apologizing, not giving enough space on the train for entering or alighting passengers, not following designated signs and nonchalantly throwing small pieces of trash on the ground unless there is a strict person of authority lurking around and disciplining them. Many of us have been used to such behavior that we already think those things are normal and we don’t “get in line” unless we are told to.

I’ve also experienced really bad displays of customer service that reflect the lack of basic respect and discipline. I’ve waited in line for an hour for a bus without the bus company explaining or apologizing to us for the delay.  This happened twice. I’ve said “excuse me”, or have had to clear my throat just so a couple of sales staff chatting with each other would entertain me. This has happened to me many times.

My question now is why? Why does it seem that many of us can be selfless for our families, friends and other loved ones, and selfish to everyone else?

Is it because of the dog-eat-dog-world mentality that many of us and our elders have that have forced us to care just for ourselves, families and friends, but not for those outside our social circles nor the world around us? Are we really all so angsty and jaded?

Is it because the messages that we only treat masses or services as rituals and we let our spiritual leaders’ messages on respect and discipline fly over our head after we head outside the church?

Is it because our state-sponsored basic education system previously did not cover good morals and right conduct?

Is it because many of us are enjoying the freedoms that democracy bought us, freedoms that were almost absent during the Marcos era?

I am sure that there are psychological and sociological reasons for it.  Yet despite these reasons, I think that this is something that we can still improve on and turn around.

Our country would be so much more fun to be in if we can be a little more selfless, respectful and disciplined towards others.

A Life of Discipline, Responsibility and Desire

To live a Christian way of life, is to live a life of discipline, responsibility and desire.

There’s something really remarkable about the current Catholic pope, Pope Francis. For many, his words and actions may seem revolutionary due to the largely elitist history of the Catholic Church. Many people have returned to the Catholic faith because of him. Evangelicals, people from other faiths and even agnostics and atheists have new found respect for Catholics because of him. Jesus Christ is truly working through him and his disciplined and largely responsible way of living.

Living one’s faith is not constrained to the attendance of masses or Sunday services, the recital of certain prayers or complete memorization of the Bible. Praying religiously, attending masses and reading the Bible are important. But what is more important is that we truly understand the meaning of God’s Word, and consciously desire and act on that desire to live out His messages to us, most especially His message of Love, which requires so much discipline and responsibility.

I remember the day that I ceased putting images in my room, and ceased venerating saints. I realized that I had not cultivated a real faith-based spiritual relationship with the God that I worship, but the vessels used to “get to Him”, so I stored them away so I could concentrate on building my relationship with God without them. What remains with me are Bibles.

From then on, I realized that living the Christian faith requires responsibility. It requires constant self-examination, and a constant desire to be the bigger person in all situations by being more understanding and loving toward other people. It ultimately requires one to be humble and admit that he or she is a sinner, and only through Jesus Christ can he or she be strengthened to live beyond sin. For example, it is only through Christ I can find the strength to not judge and accept and love people whose beliefs I strongly disagree with.

Living the Christian faith requires so much discipline as well. To be constantly responsible, one must remain disciplined enough to keep being open and engaged, and not fall back to our old ways and prejudices. To be constantly trusting in God, one must remain disciplined  and patient, and constant in expressing gratitude and their praise, even in times of hardship and seeming hopelessness. The desire to live the Christian faith is fueled by one’s relationship with God, and even before that, the grace that God gave us. Because God loves us, we are driven to be good people to others, as much as He loves us.

I am not in any way active in any ministry, nor a student of Christian and Catholic theology. Rather, what I have written above are based on my reading of the Bible, my reading of the Doctrine of Justification, as well as messages from Catholic leaders like Pope Francis and Jesuits, as I am a graduate of a Jesuit university. I’m a simple liberal Filipino Catholic, and this is my humble belief, which I understand will be disagreed upon by others.

But this is how my eyes see my faith, and this is how I will live it.

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