Bishops and Ugly Babies

(photo: Shutterstock image)

Never call a man’s baby ugly. This is among the best advice I’ve ever received.

It was a few years ago. I was working as an electrical engineer at a large company and was on the usual project - underfunded, undermanned and behind schedule.  And it was especially bad for my task in particular. Long story short, I needed a whole lot more money to do what was required and necessary for the project.

They just didn’t get it - management, that is. Or at least I thought so. And since I’m not shy, I let them know it every chance I got!  In my gut I knew the best way to get them to “wake up” was to call attention, in front of everyone, to what a horrible job program management was doing. I was very good at even doing so in (what I thought was) a “respectful” manner.

Finally, the program manager himself called me in for a meeting to discuss my task. That’s when he gave me this friendly advice:  “Never call a man’s baby ugly.”

Huh?  It took me a moment. But then I realized what he meant.

See, I needed some help from him on a part of a project that he spent 80 hours a week away from his family trying to accomplish.  It was his baby.  And for some reason I thought the best way to get him to help me was to start out by insulting the job he’s doing.

“Hey man, your baby is UGLY!  Can I have 5 dollars…please?  What?!  WHY?! I said please?”

Oh, and it turns out he totally understood and was aware that my task needed attention. In fact, he’d already been working to improve it.  He also already knew about the list of ten other things I “needed” to inform him of and how terrible they were going.

He already knew which balls had been dropped. And I came to find out that there were good reasons they were still on the floor as the solution was being worked out.  I just didn’t have all the information.  He didn’t need somebody to keep yelling at him about the dropped balls. He needed people to help pick them up.

I had seen myself as the bearer of truth (bad news) on that project - I knew everything that was wrong with it. It turns out, for all my good intentions, I was also really annoying and making a situation I didn’t know everything about much more difficult.

Last week I wrote a post about how some of the bishops have said they are “troubled” by some of the hurtful language and uncharitable attacks found on Catholic blogs.

Many people were critical of the remarks and thought it was just one more way the bishops are trying to quell the voices of Catholics who disagree with them. They were suspicious that the bishop was talking to them, instead of to those angry Catholics who react by calling people’s babies ugly and then justifying it in the name of St Michael’s sword or Jesus’ throwing out of the moneychangers or “always speaking the truth.”  But the goal is not just to “speak the truth” at all costs. The goal is for people to hear the truth and be converted.

I’m not saying there’s not a time for righteous anger and outright war. They are often blunt, but effective, tools. Calling people’s babies ugly is not effective.

From what I gather, we have a whole lot of amazing bishops in our Church. We have an awesome Pope. These leaders are doing a lot to fix many of the problems you may be passionate about.

Sure, you can sit back and tell everyone else what is wrong with the world (or the Church). Anyone can do that. But you’re not doing as many favors as you think you are.

Instead - whether it’s at work, at home or in our Church - be a part of the solution. Go out and support the bishops who are doing the right things. Support our pope. Instead of showcasing our ugly, sinfulness, let’s share the beauty, goodness and truth of our Faith. And never call a man’s baby ugly (even if it is).