There is always more to the story: The difference between reacting and responding

Nicholas Sandmann, a Covington Catholic High School student, is pictured during the 2019 March for Life in Washington, D.C. Sandmann and his classmates received negative attention after media coverage falsely portrayed their actions. (CNS photo)

“As we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”  —2 Cor 4:16-18

Once, there was a man who tried to rape an 11-year-old girl; when she refused, he stabbed her to death. He received a 30-year prison sentence, but there is more to his story. 

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [His] disciples that are not written in this book” (John 20:30). Jesus is the most influential person in history; if there is more to his story than is contained in the Bible, then how can the actions, character, or life of another person be any different? No one is just a headline, just a chapter, or just a book. 

Fake news 

There is a lot of talk these days about fake news, misleading information, and lies in the media. Personally, I have little trust in many news outlets as a result. How are we supposed to know what is true and what is not? How is it possible that so many good men and women hold polar opposite views of the world, social issues, politics, groups, and so on? Being a Catholic is hard. We have a duty to our families, our neighbors, and our world to witness the truth. So many people don’t know what, or Who, truth is. What do we do? How can we unleash the Gospel?  

Our responsibility 

Sometimes when we react to a story or headline, without all of the information, it can do a lot of damage. I am guilty of jumping on the bandwagon of a story because everything seems to be as it appears. Why would I question what I see? Do I really need to fact check before everything I speak or post? Not everything needs to be fact-checked, but we should be ready to admit when we rashly jump to conclusions, and make amends if necessary. 

A perfect example is Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic student who (quite literally) did nothing to make nationwide headlines during the 2019 March for Life. Many of us, myself included, were quick to judge what we perceived to have taken place. Little did we know that he was painted to be something he was not. Has that ever happened to you? People have perceived me inaccurately on an individual level. How would you feel if it happened to you on a national platform? We all know it’s possible. God advises against participation in such behavior.

“But keep away from foolish and ignorant arguments; you know that they end up in quarrels. As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth” (2 Timothy 2:23-25).

The missing component 

There is a significant difference between reacting and responding. God wants us to respond, not react. “People with quick tempers cause a lot of quarreling and trouble” (Proverbs 29:22). Satan has taken advantage of our hurts, our empathy, and our love for God’s children to manipulate our minds to hate others. There is no commandment to hate ignorant people; these are the people God wants us to love the most. 

There is a difference between reacting and responding. Reactions are often quick and without thought but full of emotions, while responding is hearing what has been said and offering wisdom that leads others to God. The missing component in our world is conversation, which differs from two simultaneous monologues. “Every good conversation starts with good listening” (Unknown).

There is more to his story 

Alessandro Serenelli tried to rape Maria Goretti when she was nearly 12 years old, and stabbed her to death when she refused. She refused because she did not want Alessandro to commit the sin of rape. When Alessandro was released from prison, he stood with thousands upon thousands of people at Maria’s canonization. His conversion came by way of his victim who forgave him on her deathbed, stating, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli ... and I want him with me in heaven forever.” 

Forgiveness and hope 

Who do you need to forgive? What is stopping you from seeing the saint in the sinner, like Maria saw in Alessandro? God knows your pain, your past, your fears, and you. He is inviting you to love those who are hardest to love in your life, knowing their story instead of a headline. “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future” (Oscar Wilde).

Mary Morasso is a mother and parishioner of SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Sterling Heights. She holds a bachelor's degree in pastoral theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary and has taught theology at the high school level.