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Jutta Burggraf, Ph.D. in Psychopedagogy, and Enrique Sueiro, Ph.D. in Biomedical Communication, University of Navarra.

Being and appearing to be defenders of life

Tue, 02 Mar 2010 08:19:25 +0000 Published in Newspaper (Navarra)

The Degree of coherence between rhetoric and reality facilitates a decisive social diagnosis today. Hence the decisive importance of knowing both reality and the language to communicate it. Well lubricated, this binomial better identifies two states as close as deficient in public opinion (to be without seeming and to seem without being) and promotes the ideal (to be and to seem). In addition, greater knowledge makes it possible to join causes that generate unanimity or almost total support. Paradoxically, under cover of the same values of justice and life, some defend measures, such as the death penalty or war, that others of us reject.

How many ways of seeing and living life? As many as there are people. Against life on principle? Hard to find. Defending life and, in fact, attacking it? No. Do only those who claim to do so defend life? Neither. Improve without change? Impossible.

Dynamic principles. A defender of life in the 21st century probably embodies certain harmoniously integrated attitudes. Among many other examples, he supports the expansion of rights, especially for the weakest. He opposes everything that threatens life, such as war, the death penalty, euthanasia, violence against women, terrorism, abortion and hunger. He argues that the social consensus of aberrant practices, such as slavery for centuries, does not mitigate their perversion. It defends that each person is the owner of his or her own body, but not of the body next to or inside it. It advocates respect for animals and condemns the barbarities committed against them. He is involved in the defense of the environment. He applauds his government when it succeeds in reducing traffic fatalities. He reminds the fanatics that no one can be forced to do good, that there is no sinner without a future and no saint without a past, that those who despise freedom hardly believe in God. He listens more than he speaks and understands more than he condemns. He prefers the yes to the no, the and to the but, the also to the neither, the award to the punishment, the more to the less. The ideal defender recognizes that he also errs and, precisely for this reason, if he errs, he tries to make his errors new.

Sympathetic listening. We tend to talk too much in trying to attract others to our way of thinking, when they should speak first, since they know more than we do about their problems, struggles and sufferings. It is necessary to create a climate in which they can express themselves without millimetrically limiting their words and show their weaknesses without fear of being censored. Paradoxical is the case of Mary, a desperate teenager who had become pregnant and was under strong pressure to have an abortion. For weeks she searched financial aid not knowing where to turn. When I spoke to her and asked her why she had not gone to a friend who was a fervent supporter of a pro-life association , she replied: "Impossible. I can't talk to her about these issues. It would be a scandal for her. Our friendship would end. When someone is in the depths of pain, is it not precisely the friend who must fight for and with that person? Be in solidarity with others, especially when they are guilty, says a French proverb. The scathing or cynical comment does not financial aid, but sinks the other even deeper into misery. On the other hand, if grade has a real interest, a genuine concern for his person and status, he may react favorably. Understanding has a healing effect.

Open-mindedness. In the face of the massification and anonymity of our times, we need warm places, spaces where we can feel at home. With friends comes trust, the experience of home. For many, friendship is their home and their homeland in the midst of a land without a homeland or a home. How enriching it is to have friends from other political parties, other professions, religions, nationalities and cultures. To be and to seem open opens a sea without shores. Treating and loving the most varied people broadens the mind and widens the heart. Someone like this receives much and submission more. He is the one who can best guide those who seem to find themselves at a dead end.

Science and freedom. Whoever defends life always wants to know more, without fear, seeks the truth, is oxygenated by his own and other people's freedom. He is committed to science, while being aware of realities as certain as they are scientifically unprovable, such as affection. Coercion can avoid evils (death of innocents), but it is an inadequate means to lead someone towards the good. A violent change is usually neither deep nor lasting. This is illustrated by the fable of the sun and the wind in their argument about which was stronger. The wind said, "See that boy wrapped in a cloak? I'll bet you I'll make him take off his cloak before you do." It began to blow with enormous force until it became almost a cyclone. The more it blew, the more the boy wrapped himself in his cloak. Finally, the wind ceased and he declared himself defeated. Then the sun came out and smiled at the boy, who, soon after, overheated, took off his cloak. Gentleness is more powerful than fury. The heart is a way to reach another person's reason. If she rejects us, we can do nothing. If she perceives that we really love her, that she is special and important to us, and that we want her to be fully happy, then the possibility of a friendly relationship arises, in which each listens to the other and everyone learns from each other.

Motivating and disappointing can be achieved by what you say, what you do, what you don't say and what you don't do. Repeating hackneyed phrases often undermines listening. We should not forget that words and even the best examples wear out with overuse. Pro-life arguments, used frequently and in so many contexts, can end up deactivated. We need a creative fidelity to common principles, so that we are and appear to be defenders of life, of all life.