A popular consideration that many people nowadays make when they try to understand someone who has a different view from theirs is to try to figure out “where that person is coming from.” I hear that expression very often these days. It’s a laudable gesture that is meant to keep a meaningful dialog with others.
Of course, the expression, “where he’s coming from,” is a reminder of the basic principle that a person sees, understands and reacts to things according to the way he is. An old Latin adage already expresses this phenomenon. “Operare sequitur esse.” Action follows being. One behaves the way he is.
If that person is male or female, rich or poor, a socialite or a farm worker, a liberal or a conservative, a racist or a feminist, etc., these conditions are somehow reflected in his views and his over-all actuations. In other words, we all have our biases and preferences. Some can be valid and legitimate. But others may not. It is the latter that we have to be most careful about.
To see where one is coming from is, of course, a very logical consideration to make. But then again, we do not work by logic alone, since we can also be very logical in our error.
Logic does not go the distance. We need to go metaphysical, considering things way beyond the many conditionings that describe person. We have to go to the original and the ultimate objective truth about ourselves and about where we come from before the conditionings add their trappings on it.
And this original and ultimate truth about where we come from is that we all come from God. All creatures, of course, come from God, but in our case, we come from him in a very intimate way since we are created in his image and likeness, meant to share the very life of God.
We just did not come from our parents. We are not merely biological creatures. We are not simply products of our social and historico-cultural environment. We also are spiritual creatures who are very intimately linked to our Creator God. We are not merely the image and likeness of our parents. We, first of all, are the image and likeness of God.
While it’s true and correct to consider the personal, social, cultural background, etc. of a person to know where he is coming from when he expresses his views, we should not neglect the most basic consideration of the truth that we all come from God.
We are supposed to be God’s image and likeness, reflecting in ourselves as much as possible God’s goodness, love, mercy, wisdom, etc. In our dealings with others, in our discussions and exchanges, we should not forget that we all are children of God, we all are brothers and sisters, meant to love one another as Christ has loved us. (cfr. Jn 13,34)
As a consequence, we have to learn how to see the image and likeness of God in everyone, no matter how unlovable a person is to us. And also, we have to remind ourselves, that in spite of our personal idiosyncracies and peculiarities, we are also the image and likeness of God who are meant to see, understand and react to things the way God sees, understands and reacts to them.
For this, we have to look closely at the teaching and example of Christ who is the fullness of the revelation of God. He is “the way, the truth and the life” for us. We are patterned after him and we have to follow him to be what we ought to be.
And Christ makes himself alive in us through his word and the sacraments. Thus we cannot overemphasize the need to study the gospel, the catechism, etc., and to have recourse to the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, to figure out where everyone is coming from.
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