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Dismayed over the ubiquitous view that peddles “safety” as the highest value, Amanda Woodiel offers a Christian alternative.

I am not a risk-taker. I read reviews for a $10 bike pump before I purchase. I avoid speaking up in front of others because I don’t want to make a fool of myself. I don’t cook dinner without a recipe. I found myself praying the following ludicrous prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament this morning, “Lord, show me which risk you want me to take.” 

I want even my risk-taking to be safe. Sigh. 

As you can see, I am no stranger to seeking out emotional and financial safety. Even so, I am deeply dismayed by what has emerged to be one of our culture’s primary values: “be safe.” Everywhere I go, I see this admonition: Be safe. For your safety and ours. Stay safe. 

I don’t remember safety being a Christian virtue. Focusing on being safe in this context implies a view in which other human beings are seen first and foremost as a threat. This is so diametrically opposed (diabolically opposed?) to the fundamental Christian idea of viewing everyone as wearing the “face of Christ.” We are supposed to honor others as bearing the image and likeness of God Himself. We are supposed to recognize other human beings as being indispensable on our journey to holiness and to heaven, not as instruments of our death. (Persisting in the latter view may well lead to our own spiritual death, which is far worse than a physical one.) 

Jesus was not safe, and he didn’t preach “safety above all.” There is no Beatitude that begins “Blessed are the safe.” He didn’t tell His disciples to love their neighbors--as long as it’s safe. He did not prioritize his own personal financial, emotional, and physical safety. If He had, He would have had a place to lay his head, He would not have hung out with Judas, and He would have avoided crucifixion. 

We are called to be His disciples in everything. No, I’m not just talking about Covid, although I’m talking about that too. We can exercise the virtue of prudence (making good judgments) while not ascribing wholesale to the idea of “safety” as highest priority. We can instead choose to embrace the virtue of fortitude. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) defines fortitude as follows:

“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” (CCC 1808, emphasis mine)

The question we have to ask ourselves (and where prudence comes in) is: what is a “just cause”? For me, that means I have decided that I will not let fear deter me from any act of charity that comes into my purview and is within my capability. It means I will offer my neighbor tomatoes from our garden even though they may be rejected for being “tainted.” It means I will say kind words to strangers who look different from me. It means I will tend the sick, help the helpless, feed the hungry, bury the dead, comfort the sorrowful, celebrate with those who marry, and do all of those very human acts which necessarily involve other humans.

I will choose love over the prevailing view of “safety” when a choice between the two must be made.

I have decided that I will not let fear deter me from any act of charity that comes into my purview and is within my capability. #catholicmom

Copyright 2020 Amanda Woodiel
Image: Pixabay (2017)