Saturday, July 25, 2009
This past week, when we were walking home from the park, we passed someone on the sidewalk, and I greeted him with a "hello." Maia asked me, "Why do you always try to be nice to people?"
Hmm... well, that's an easy question, right? And, sure enough, I had an answer on the tip of my tongue: "Because I want other people to be nice to me, too." But I stopped myself before I said it because it struck me not just as a version of the "golden rule," but as a sort of Kantian universalization justification. And I don't really want Maia to be stuck in categorical imperatives. This also could have a utilitarian edge to it; we are nice to people because it's useful to us when they are nice back to us.
So then the next answer I thought of was that God wants us to be nice to other people. But this struck me as some kind of "divine command" theory answer. That we just do whatever God tells us to do, and it's not always rational. So I skipped that answer too.
I knew Maia was going to get impatient if I delayed too much on this answer, so finally I said, "God first loved us, so we share our love with others. One of the ways we do this is by being nice to the stranger we pass on the sidewalk. It's one thing we can do to become good and holy people."
After I had answered, I mentally critiqued my response. I had wanted to include something about God's love, but I also wanted to throw in something that seemed virtue- and sanctification-oriented. In the end, I was generally satisfied. I probably overthink this, Theologian Mom that I am, but I do want my girls to know there is a rationale for why we live our lives the way we do, and I want that rationale to be obviously and thoroughly Catholic.