HERE I WAS IN A CROWDED ROOM at our local Community Health Centre, hoping my boys were being suitably well-behaved, trying to think how to represent my volunteer mothers’ group with the local health professionals. I recognised a nurse I had sat next to a few years ago, with a crinkled face and purple hair, whose twinkling smile drew me in like a tractor beam. After the usual questions about the baby in my arms she said “I have the best job in the world.”
She is a Child and Family Community Health Nurse. Her job is to keep in touch with new mothers, checking up on the baby and generally supporting them. I can imagine that a job looking after babies is pretty sweet, but the “best job in the world”?
“I get to watch people grow.” Of course she got to measure babies growing, but this was only a small part. She described how she watched the parents get stronger. Faced with the demands of a new baby, they had to confront their own short-comings and grow. While helping new parents with all the obstacles that pop up along the way, she could see these people, already physical adults, mature into real grown-ups.
What is it that we mean by “growing up”? In a world where “youth” ranges in age from about 13 right up to 35, we seem to have forgotten about helping people grow. So much is dumbed down so as not to present any obstacles to youth. We bend over backwards to make things easy for young people — and not-so-young people.
Think about things that make you feel like saying “Oh, grow up!” Things like emotional outbursts, over-reactions, cowardice, smutty jokes and gossip. Generally they are cases when passions or emotions get the better of reason.
Michael Voris says Feelings are Meaningless, but that may be over-stating the case. Our feelings or emotions can help us do right when guided by reason. We can even do our work better when our heart is in it. Human passions and emotions are running riot in the world today, but they were made to serve the rational animals.
Where the world has confusion, the Church has clarity. The psychologist Dr. Conrad Baars uncovered a gold-mine of good thinking on the relation between emotions and reason in St. Thomas Aquinas. I quote him at length in Integrating emotion, reason and will. With time and patience and love, humans can learn to handle their emotions and this will help them live more authentically human lives.
Plant an act; reap a habit.
Plant a habit; reap a virtue.
Plant a virtue; reap a character.
Plant a character; reap a destiny.
(remember the roots of the word “Virtue” are in manliness and power)