Have you ever been in a relationship—professional, personal, or familial—in which you felt as if you couldn’t do anything right? When faced with overbearing personalities who tend to critique/criticize every minute detail of my actions, I become hypersensitive. Nerves take over. Common sense flies out the window. I become so concerned about “getting it right” according to another individual’s measure of success that ordinary guidelines—even the most familiar and practiced—get overlooked or lost under the pressure to perform according to another’s expectations.
One example is the first time someone tried to teach me to drive a car with a manual transmission. The person was impatient and domineering. Just having him in the car with me made me nervous. I was so focused on receiving his approval that even if I was able to coordinate everything required—knowing when to shift, timing the precise pressure on the accelerator, and the release of the clutch together with the physical mechanism of changing gears—on a hill while avoiding a pothole—my moment of pride would be interrupted by the realization that I just ran a red light or used a turn lane to drive straight ahead.
Succumbing to pressure and allowing others to define our path to success often gets us in trouble. In every facet of societal norms, our culture is imperious and preoccupied with assigning “right” standards. Perceived “political correctness” too often drives the conversation of what might truly be right and wrong. We can avoid the stress of measuring up to society by following the basic tenets of our faith: God is in charge, Jesus leads by example, and the gospel values, the Church, and its leaders instruct us.
This election year, we may struggle with how to separate politics from our faith. American bishops speak to this in Faithful Citizenship: “Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require a division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices. It protects the rights of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.”
Thus, if we follow in the footsteps of our faith and curb outside pressure, we will get “it” right. Transmitting the Christ-aligned convictions into gear will shift us smoothly and steer us straight.