Though there is such a close relationship between the person and his acts, we should try our best just the same to distinguish between the two.
True, how the person is somehow determine how he acts. And how a person acts reveals the kind of person he is. We can even say that the acts of a person help make a person be how he is. This was articulated by that Scholastic axiom, “agere sequitur esse” (acting follows being).
And yet we need to distinguish between the two. That is simply because a person is more than the sum of all his acts. He is not totally identified by his acts. There is something in him that transcends the kind of acts he makes. And that is simply because no matter how a person acts, whether good or bad, he is, first of all, a child of God, an object of God’s love and therefore also of all of us.
That is why Christ told us, nay, commanded us that we love everybody, even our enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy,’” Christ said. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5,43-44)
And his reasoning is quite interesting. By doing so, he said, “you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous…” (Mt 5,45)
This is, of course, very difficult to do, considering the way we are. But if we just have to be consistent with our Christian faith and do whatever is needed to achieve that state, it for sure can be done. More than anything else, God’s grace is always there to enable us to do what would seem impossible for us to do.
But yes, we really need to submit ourselves to intense self-discipline if only to conform our natural, or shall we say, our wounded natural ways to God’s ways. And what would this self-discipline entail?
Well, in the first place, we should really try our best to recognize the image of God in everyone of us, irrespective of how one is, since all of us are created in God’s image and likeness. We have to learn how to go above our differences and conflicts without, of course, ignoring them. But precisely because of these differences and conflicts, we should be more moved to love one another instead of hating each other.
We should never allow ourselves, for example, to be dominated for long by anger and hatred whenever we are wronged by someone or whenever we see someone clearly in error in some point, issue, or aspect of our life. In this, we really need to discipline our emotions and passions and enliven some more the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
Especially in the area of politics where we cannot help but take partisan positions, we should not allow our disagreements with others to take such a serious turn that we fall into hatred. Rather, what we ought to do is, first of all, to pray, offer sacrifices, and see what can be done to enter into a civil discussion or dialogue so our differences and conflicts can be sorted out well.
We should never let the sun set down on our anger. (cfr Eph 4,26)*