We are very often influenced by the culture into which we are born and through which we experience life. Again, the prevailing culture can be for the benefit of society or contribute to its breakdown. Unfortunately, when surveying culture at large, we can readily identify elements which contribute to personal brokenness and familial ‘disintegration’. Much of this brokenness and disintegration can be traced back to a prevailing culture of individualism which is characterised by ‘self-interest’ and focused on the ‘I’; obvious signs of a culture turned in on the ‘self’. Pope Francis comments on this reality:
“This culture in which we have to live is very self-centred, introspective, with a very large dose of narcissism, of contemplating oneself and thus ignoring others. Narcissism produces sadness because you constantly worry about making-up your soul every day, to appear better than what you are, pondering whether you are more beautiful than the others. It is the sickness of the mirror… break the mirror!” (4 September 2017)
Break the mirror! What a visual and empowering answer to a culture turned in on itself! Pope Francis suggests that we also “look outward, to look at others” and that we laugh a bit at ourselves as it will be good for our souls! This is the secret at the heart of culture change. That we turn away from ourselves and look at the other in order to ‘know’ them through a giving of our very selves to them. The beautiful paradox here is that in giving of ourselves to the other, i.e. in making a sincere gift of ourselves to another, we come to know our own selves and become who we were called to be from all eternity!
This then is the foundational outlook that underpins the good of culture and society. It is the foundation upon which a society is imbued with an inherent respect for the inviolable dignity of every human life. When we look out for the good of the other and see that other as a human person with a unique life story and one who is irreplaceable and created in the image and likeness of God, we start to change the culture at least in our own immediate sphere of influence. This is how we go about establishing a culture of life and helping to “build a civilization of love”. (Pope Francis 28 July 2013)