esterday, I was sitting at the dance studio, waiting for my daughters to be done with their ballet lessons, when I overheard two women in the common area speaking about work. The two of them presumably worked together, and did something like social work or early intervention home visits. All I know is that they were badmouthing their clients and complaining about all of the people and children (!) with whom they spend time. I was quite annoyed, as I found it very unprofessional, and a horrible example. I thought, “What if people overheard me talking like that about the people with whom I work?” Actually, that’s not a bad thing to consider.
My wife, Julie, frequently says that being married to me is like being a celebrity, without any of the perks of being a celebrity. What she means is that she gets recognized everywhere she goes (or at least, she used to when we lived in a small town), and she doesn’t necessarily recognize the person with whom she is speaking. I’ve noticed this, too. People pretty often say to me, “Hey, you’re the music guy, right?”
I’ve also noticed that people have assumptions about my behavior that may or may not be based on my reputation. For example, I once cursed during a choir rehearsal (not at the choir, mind you; for all my flaws, I have never in my life even yelled at a choir). I’m sure it was part of a joke or something, but the members’ eyes got very wide. I could see, “Swearing? Andy swears? I thought he was a professional Choir Boy!”
Actually, I curse far more than I should. It’s been a terrible habit for a long time. But the choir doesn’t realize that. They, and most of the other parishioners, only see me in one context: at Mass, trying to worship and help others to worship as reverently and beautifully as possible. There’s the rub: like it or not, I am an example. No, no one’s individual faith is going to be destroyed because I swore that one time (goodness, I hope not, else I’d be single-handedly responsible for countless damnations). However, there is such a thing as giving scandal, and he behavior of those who are associated with the Church stands out.
Now, this is something that we should all be concerned with as Christians: we are the Light of the World, Salt of the Earth, City of God. One of many lessons we’ve learned from the Abuse Crisis is that the Church should (rightfully) be held to a higher standard. But, like it or not, when you work for the Church, people see you differently than if you hold a strictly secular profession. Tough luck. That’s life.
On that note, please pray for your priests. If I, doing what little I do to build up the Church, feel a bit of pressure in watching my behavior, how much more so do the priests who are on the front lines of the spiritual battle? My burden is extremely light compared to theirs.
Yesterday’s encounter at the dance studio reminded me that people are always watching and always listening. Sometimes our state in life means that more people are watching and listening more than we are comfortable with. Not that we need another motivation to live holy lives, but this is one more reason to think before you speak or act.