REFLECTION: Adaptation and consistency PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 February 2015 14:25



This is a question whose answer we have to figure out everyday. We are asked to adapt ourselves as much as we can to every person and to every situation of our life, and this can expose us to a dizzying variety of possibilities.

A quick look around would readily show that with all these fast-paced developments today, we can see a multiplying number of differences among ourselves not only in terms of age, character, temperament, social and economic status, but also of outlook, lifestyles, cultures.

There are also work-related differences as the field of professions continues to subdivide itself. There are the intellectual type and the manual labor type, the techie and the artistic, etc.

This is not to mention that political and ideological factors also generate a widening variety of statuses that need to be adapted to if we are to live in some degree of harmony. Thus, we have what are called the conservatives and the liberals, and in terms of the so-called sexual orientation, there are the straights and the gays.

And in terms of the moral and spiritual life, we can have the saintly and the sinful, the pious and the irreverent, the simple and the complicated, the humble and the proud, the generous and the greedy, the sincere and the hypocrites, etc.

But as St. Paul would put it, he had to be all things to all men. To the weak he became weak. To those under the law as if he was under the law, etc.  (cfr 1 Cor 9,21ff) And yet it was not as if he did not cling to something consistently. There was always something consistent in all his efforts of adaptation.

How can we achieve this ideal? How can we adapt to every person and situation and yet remain consistent as we ought? What would comprise our consistency? What things can be discarded to be adaptive, and what things ought to be kept regardless of circumstances in order to be consistent to our identity and dignity? What principle should we follow? What motives should drive us?

These questions should move us to pause, reflect and study the very word of God that contains the answer to them. If we look more at that Pauline passage, for example, we can see that the very motive of St. Paul’s adaptability is the salvation of souls.

“I became all things to all men, that I might save all,” St. Paul said. So, it is our salvation that drove him and should also motivate us in all our efforts to adapt ourselves to every person and to every situation of our life. It is the eternal salvation of man that would give consistency to the changing demands of adaptability.

Our adaptability should not just be a function of an exclusively practical and worldly value and purpose like convenience, or the pursuit for wealth, power and fame. Of course, these motives can be legitimate as long as they play an instrumental role, always subordinated to the necessary motive of our eternal salvation.

To be sure, this necessary motive of our eternal salvation does not mean that just about anything can be ok. There are laws, there are standards. Ultimately, our salvation would depend on whether we love God and everyone else.

But that love has a specific substance. It is about following the commandments of God. It is about respecting and following the nature of things, and especially of our human nature, and the essential things of men—belief in God, honoring parents and authorities, respecting life, our sexuality, marriage and family life, respect for truth, etc.

We have to be wary of our tendency to interpret the present call of the Holy Father for mercy and compassion and his description of God as a God of surprises to mean that just about anything can be done or is permissible.

Yes, God can forgive anything. He will always have the last word, the final judgment. But we cannot preempt him by going against what we already know as laws coming from God himself through Christ in the Holy Spirit and now authoritatively taught by the Church.

Some quarters claim that some of our Church laws and doctrine are like those pharisaical legalisms and traditionalisms that nullify God’s word and spirit. This is always a possibility, but we have to look closely at this issue and not just make blanket assertions that often are mere rationalizations of illegitimate and immoral causes.

What is clear is that to be adaptive and consistent, we need to be vitally united to God who is love and truth himself.