There are some popular sayings we sometimes repeat such as “Facts don’t care about your feelings” or “Facts are facts, whether you like them or not.” Both sayings are quite clever! They also are true, as far as they go, but both really mean the same thing: Shut up and do what I say.
A fact does not care about anybody’s feelings, but that’s only because a fact is not a person. In the same way, rocks don’t care about your pain. But we don’t just throw them at people’s heads to make that point. Facts don’t care about your feelings, but we should. This doesn’t mean we must abandon truth in favor of sympathy – quite the contrary!
Blessed Frédéric took great consolation in knowing that “while defending the truth with all my might, I never offended anyone.” In our polarized time, this seems like a remarkable thing to say, and it turns out that our times are far less contentious and polarized than Frédéric’s.
Facts don’t care about your feelings. Rocks don’t care about your pain. Yet it can be so easy sometimes, during encounters with the neighbor, to become too focused on the facts. You have been evicted, and a shelter is the best place for you to go right now. That’s a fact. Many of the problems you face are the consequences of your own bad decisions. That’s a fact. Your debts are insurmountable. You need a plan for next month. Money won’t fix your problem. Fact, fact, fact.
It also is a fact, whether we remember it or not, that the neighbor’s problems can feel overwhelming. Some of them may garner nobody’s sympathy. The facts can make people feel very isolated, forgotten, helpless, and small, because facts, like rocks, don’t care about your feelings or your pain.
We do our neighbors no good by simply repeating to them the facts of their situations. The poor, our Getting Ahead training emphasizes, are experts in their own situation. They have already been hit in the head by their rocks. Like the Good Samaritan, we are not there primarily to focus on the facts; the passersby knew the facts. We are there to pour oil on the wound, to speak in a soothing tone, to offer a smile or a tear, to pause from our own lives and problems and truly share the neighbor’s.
Our virtue of simplicity calls us to speak not merely truth, but the Truth; the One Fact that stands above all others; the Fact that counts the hairs on our heads; the Fact that wipes away all tears; the Fact that transcends all worldly suffering.
Let he who is without challenges, has made no bad decisions, and has never needed help cast the first rock, and let us instead try to build Christ’s church upon it.
We serve in hope, and that’s a fact.
In light of the facts, how can I best convey hope?